You haven’t seen Cuba unless you visit Havana. Many people fly directly to all inclusive resorts in Cuba and skip Havana; even if it is expensive to do a day trip, it has to be done because that is where you can soak up some culture. Most all inclusive hotels are built for tourists which means you cannot always get this.
Havana is full of history and culture. I was hoping to see more street corners with people playing dominoes or dancing away but I didn’t. I guess the longer you have there the more time you get to explore.
Places to see
- The Four squares Plaza de Armas, Plaza de la Cathedral, Plaza San Francisco de Asis and Plaza Vieja. They are easy to walk to all in a day.
Plaza Vieja aka Old Square has a good selection of bars and restaurants overlooking it. The square is picturesque and perfect for photos.
Plaza San Francisco was the original trading market, it is near the cruise ports. The square had a pretty basilica.
Plaza de Armas: One of the first hotels opened here. We stopped for a drink as part of our tour. It was five CUC for a cocktail which in Cuba is a lot.
Plaza de la Cathedral: This has a beautiful Cathedral and Havana’s biggest one. You can enter without any fees. Around the square you get women dressed up in old traditional Cuban dress. If you want photos with them or get caught taking photos of them get ready to give them some money. There are also a couple of ladies selling the traditionally made Cuban dolls in the square. Personally I found them a bit spooky. The doll has two heads; one black and one white to show the diversity of Cubans.
- Parque Central: This is a bustling park where locals come and discuss baseball and use the WiFi. It is a memorial place too, for the medical students massacred there in 1871. From the park you can access the famous El Capitolio and the National Theatre.
Overlooking the park are some of nice hotels and the Grand Theatre. The main hotels here have lovely roof top gardens that overlook the park.
- El Capitolio: This is the National Capital Building of Havana. It is an important landmark and is close to many restaurants, sites and shops. It is currently undergoing renovation, we were told government staff are to be moving back into the building once it’s done (they are currently located by Plaza de Revolution). The National Theatre which shows great ballet is not far from here.
- Calle Mercaderes: A beautiful buzzing street with many shops, hotels and museums. You have to have a stroll down this street to get a good feel of Old Havana, Havana Vieja.
- John Lennon Park: This park features a life sized statue of John Lennon. It was revealed on the 20th anniversary of his death. Even though the Beatles were banned from Cuba in the 60’s/70s, Castro built this bronze statue and told reporters “I share his dreams completely. I too am a dreamer who has seen his dreams turn into reality.”
- Obishop is a street in Old Havana: It was the first street to be formed. You can find a range of shops, restaurants, markets and bars. This is where we found the Coconut and Sugarcane Juice stall. The coconut was 2 CUC and sugarcane 1 CUC.
- Plaza de la Revolution. Here you will see a huge square with an image of Che Guevara and Jose Martí, the state office is here too. You can get taxis to the square or most tours cover it. You cannot cross the roads whilst in the Square. All around the square is heavily guarded.
- Morro Cabana Historical Military Park : This is on the other side of the sea. You can get scenic views of Havana from the park. On this side of the sea they fire canon shots at 9pm every night. This was to mark the closing of the city gates. I am not sure if the latter is still the case however the shots are still fired.
- Hotel National: This is a famous hotel which many celebrities visited and it has great views of the Malecon. You can walk in and have a cocktail with a view for 6 CUC. If you can find a bar on the Malecon visit that instead.
- Malecon is an 8Km stretch of road running alongside the sea. Cubans go here for their leisure time, fishing and apparently on their first date. There is a good section on the Malecon with a decent pavement to walk on. Opposite the seaside there are bars and restaurants you can visit.
- Rum factory: Bacardi moved from Cuba after the revolution. The building is still there and worth checking out. Havana has many other factories that make Havana Rum. They were shut when we were there so we couldn’t go.
- Cigar factory: We did not get to visit the factory because they are shut in January however would have loved to see how they roll cigars and work in there
- China Town: It is worth walking to China town and the surrounding area just to get a better feel of how the locals live and to soak up the atmosphere. The cigar factory is not far from here either. The only Chinese thing about this area now are the historic buildings. It is near Hotel Saratoga too which is where President Obama stayed.
Hope you enjoyed reading my post.
Have a read of other poston Cuba. CUBA; Handy tips before you go
Coming shortly: Havana Part 2; Food and Tours and Havana Part 3; Accommodation
Havana Part 2 now live