You’ll never be bored in Havana. This colorful and vibrant metropolis is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and its palaces in Spanish architectural style are particularly fascinating. Although they are decaying and crumbling, these buildings still show their grandeur.
Roadsides always show a succession of food street stalls and kiosks and you can hear Cuban music at every step, coming from the windows of the houses as well from the historical places of the city centre . But the city main attraction are some big and colorful American vintage cars roaming the streets, that nowadays are shown put exhibitions by their owners and offered tourists for fairly expensive taxi services.
Havana has three millions inhabitants and it is a World Heritage site since 1982. The city main attraction is Habana Veja, the historic old town, that is made up of loads of narrow lanes winding between high Baroque and neo-classical buildings. There you will walk on a road pavement that is made up of ancient stones and you cross the city squares where once wealthy burghers parked their carriages. They are still there and they are now used to carry tourists on sightseeing tours of the city.
The old town is a living tribute to the rise to power of Havana, as each era has left its traces there. Plaza de Armas, Castillo de Real Fuerza and Los Oficios and Los Mercaderes streets all date back to the 16th century, when Spanish conquistadors settled in and governed the island. At that time when Cuba was the first supplier of sugar in the world and Spanish lived in condition of financial prosperity. They had magnificent palaces with long wooden balconies and princely portals built.
Il Castillo del Moro was built by Spanish to protect their wealth from pirates and was designed by the Italian architect Battista Antonelli. You can visit it from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. buying an entrance ticket.
Do not miss the wonderful view you can enjoy there, maybe while sipping a delicious pina colada. This is a typical Cuban cocktail you can get at any food stall, on the roadside a few steps away.
At the bottom of the castle there is a nice street market selling basically souvenirs about the brave revolutionist Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
Calle Obisco is a lovely street going across the old town from Parque Central, a magnificent square that is located a short distance from the Capitolio (the former Parliament) to Plaza de Armas.
In the old times this was the main business road in Havana. Now Cubans go for a walk amid its cafés, restaurants and shops. When there, you cannot miss a visit to the Ambos Mundos, the hotel where the great America novelist Ernest Hemingway loved to stay, to admire his pictures hanging on the walls.
Within walking distance from this hotel there is an ancient chemist’s that has been recently renewed and that is definitely worth seeing.
It is entirely made of wood and drugs are put in ornamented cruets.
Parque Central is the main meeting place for tourists as both colorful taxi cabs and tuk tuk stop there. On this square you will find both Hotel Parque Central e Hotel Inglaterra, two of Havana most famous hotels. The latter one was set of a well known movie starring Antonio Banderas.
Museo de la Orishas is just a few steps away from there. This museum is dedicated to the Santerìa and it was the former residence of the Bacardi rum dynasty. Bacardi building was abandoned in 1930 during the revolution and it became then state property.
Among the ancient buildings of Plaza de Armas you will find a lovely antique book market and street artists improvising their performances one after the other. Another beautiful place to visit is Plaza de la Catedral. This square is characterized by the limestone façade of an enchanting church, whose construction was begun by the Jesuits and finished by the Spanish.
Nearby you will find the Bodeguita Del Medio, where you will have the chance to relish a good mojito, while listening to the legendary Cuban salsa.
Plaza de San Francisco was restored not long ago so enjoy its view from San Francisco Church and then head towards the Rum Museum, that is located a short walk from there.
The Museo de la Revoluciòn is one of the largest museums in the city centre and reproductions of revolutionsts Che Guevara and Cienfuegos are shown in exhibition together with the Memorial Granma, the 18 meters long boat the rebels in 1956 landed on this island with.
The promenade along the harbor comes alive at night with people and lovers walking up and down. Not surprisingly it is called the pier of Enamorados as couples go there to indulge in their effusions. There you will have the opportunity to enjoy a great view on the Statue of Christ, too.
Going on west along the coastline you will get to Vedado district, that was built in accordance with modern urban studies in the 19th century and where Russians built some regular and pretty tacky buildings. Nevertheless they still catch the eye.
A tour in Havana consists much more in visiting hotels than monuments. As for the latter ones, the only place of some interest is the majestic Colon cemetery, whose graves include the tomb of Ernesto “Che” Guevara photographer.
Go ahead in the direction of Quinta Avenida, the most elegant street in the Caribs. At the sides of the hill you will see the most chic town houses in Havana. It is rumoured that Fidel Castro, too used to live nearby in Miramar district but tourist guides are not allowed to say where for safety reasons
Havana never ceases to surprise. Playa del Est is a beach located east of downtown, it is almost 60 kilometers long and it is the inhabitants favourite weekend destination. In case you want to get there with local buses, you really need to be patient, as nobody knows what time do they stop. Anyway we assure you they do exist, as we actually took them. If you prefer to play it safe, just grab a cab.
Traveling south of the city you will find the charming place of Ernest Hamingway, a house the writer bought in 1940. Now it is a museum where his pictures, papers and hunting trophies are on display.
Everything is still intact as it was then, providing you a with a unique chance to immerse yourself in his life.