Havana (Old Havana), Cuba
Mapa de Havana (Old Havana)
Havana, capital of Cuba, is a city of paradoxes and contradictions. Its main attractions are the beauty of its historical center, the exceptional architecture, the revolutionary and Cuban iconography (from the Malecón to the Plaza de la Revolución Square, as well as La Giraldilla), and its vast cultural offerings. he history of Havana is a fascinating one. Here you will find interesting museums, impressive restoration projects, and an excellent music culture ranging from street music to cabaret.
One of the best things you can do in Havana is watch daily life in the city unfurl: children playing baseball in the street, street musicians, a man trying to start up the engine of his 1955 Plymouth, etc. The locals of Havana, as opposed to the locals in many other parts of the world, do not only survive, they project, create, debate, and live with a passion seldom found anywhere else.
Another great attraction is its lively nightlife and musical landscape. Life in Havana, after all, is a cabaret in itself, where all musical styles are represented. You will be able to enjoy the vast offer of live concerts and improvised recitals.
If you really want to get to know Havana, you’ll have to spend at least three days there, even though we would advise you to stay a week. The areas that group together the most places of interest are: La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), Centro Habana (Central Havana), and Vedado. Old Havana is the city’s most intriguing masterpiece, whereas Central Havana, to the west, offers the most candid and revealing insight into Cuba. Vedado, the most lavish area, was a former mafia domain and nowadays is full of hotels and restaurants whose excellence make this the ideal spot for nightlife.
During your first days in Havana, it’s a must to visit Old Havana with its four Colonial squares, most important museums, and other must-see attractions such as: Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum), Colonial Art Museum, Rum Museum, Plaza de Armas Square, San Cristóbal de La Habana Cathedral, Edificio Edificio Bacardí Building, San Francisco de Asís Convent, or the Castillo de la Real Fuerza Castle. The historical center of Havana is a 4 kilometer-squared area full of history in every corner. Here you will find many monuments and museums catering to all tastes, so setting out a clear route beforehand could be a good decision as, otherwise, it may be impossible to see everything and you could miss out on visiting some of the essential spots. It would be a good idea to begin by visiting the Museo de la Maqueta de la Habana Vieja (Old Havana Scale Model Museum), which gives the best general overview of the historic centre of Havana.
During your third or fourth day there, depending on how much time you are planning on spending in Old Havana, an excellent idea would be to visit the Old Havana Port, near Plaza de San Francisco de Asís Square, to board the ferry that will take you to Morro-Cabaña Military-Historical Site, with its two majestic fortresses: Morro Castle, and San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress.
During the following days, why not visit Vedado, and Centro Habana? You could even stop at the Hotel Nacional on your way to try an authentic mojito on its terrace, visit the University of Havana, the Plaza de la Revolución Square to see the Ché Mural, and the Memorial Monument honoring José Martí. Other very interesting places to visit would be the Capitolio Nacional de Cuba, the Museo de la Revolución Museum, and the National Museum of Fine Arts. Many travellers find it amusing to see life unfold in the Barrio Chino (Chinatown). Should you like lively nightlife, you can enjoy yourself in the many jazz clubs, bars, and cabarets in the area.
Weather-permitting, in the outskirts of Havana, you will find many cities and picturesque towns where life has a different ebb and flow. The most interesting of these places are: the neighbourhood of Miramar, mainly noted for its Aquarium; Marianao and Cubanacán, in the Playa municipality; the areas of Regla and Guanabacoa; the towns of Cojímar, Casablanca, with the vast Cristo de La Habana Statue; Santa María del Rosario; the Hemingway Museum, in San Francisco de Paula; the area of Parque Lenin, with the National Zoo and Botanic Garden; and the Playas del Este (Eastern Beaches), where some of the best beaches in Havana can be found.
February is one of the best times to visit Havana, just when the International Jazz Festival takes place. During summer, the heat in Havana can be suffocating, so October is often a better choice, it being a quieter month with many attractions such as the Ballet Festival. The most crowded and lively month is by far December, when the New Latin American Cinema Festival takes place.
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