Havana is the capital of Cuba, informally referred to as the Island of Liberty. The appearance of the city corresponds to the nickname of the state: an atmosphere of cheerfulness, adventurism and a thirst for adventure reigns here. The sights of Havana reflect the history of Cuba’s struggle for liberation, but the capital is beautiful not only for its historical heritage but also for the vibrant modern rhythms of the metropolis.
- 1 Top 28 Things to Do in Havana
- 1.1 1. Old Havana
- 1.2 2. Old Square (Plaza Vieja)
- 1.3 3. Capitol
- 1.4 4. El Morro Fortress
- 1.5 5. Museum of the Revolution
- 1.6 6. Ernest Hemingway House Museum
- 1.7 7. Havana Cathedral
- 1.8 8. Cathedral Square
- 1.9 9. National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana
- 1.10 10. Grand Theater of Havana
- 1.11 11. Boulevard Prado (Paseo del Prado)
- 1.12 12. Colon Cemetery
- 1.13 13. Fortress of La Fuersa
- 1.14 14. Saint Francis Square and the Minor Basilica of Francis of Assisi
- 1.15 15. Malecon Embankment
- 1.16 16. National Botanical Garden
- 1.17 17. Plaza de Armas (Plaza de Armas)
- 1.18 18. Rum Museum
- 1.19 19. Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabana
- 1.20 20. Jose Marti Memorial
- 1.21 21. Monastery of Santa Clara
- 1.22 22. FAC (Gallery of Contemporary Art)
- 1.23 23. Palace of Captain Generals
- 1.24 24. Fortress of San Salvador de la Punta
- 1.25 25. Fusterlandia Museum
- 1.26 26. Cabaret “Tropicana”
- 1.27 27. Sculpture – Havana Christ
- 1.28 28. John Lennon Park
Top 28 Things to Do in Havana
1. Old Havana
The city was founded in 1519, so its history goes back more than 500 years. The territory of Old Havana and all its sights, numbering about a thousand, are included in the list of objects protected by UNESCO. It is here that most of the interesting places in the Cuban capital are concentrated.
The most ancient buildings are three fortresses-forts: La Fuerza, La Cabana and El Morro. The structures were supposed to protect the city from attacks from the sea. Later, elegant mansions in the traditions of Baroque and neoclassicism, sometimes with elements of the Moorish style, began to be erected in Havana.
The narrow cobbled streets were once crowded with at least 3 thousand colonial-style buildings, and about 900 of them have survived to this day. But there are enough of them to feel the spirit of the glorious port city: it is not for nothing that Havana is called the most beautiful island capital in the world.
Address: La Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba.
2. Old Square (Plaza Vieja)
Plaza Vieja is indeed one of the oldest squares in Cuba, but when it was founded at the end of the 16th century, it was called Plaza Nueva – New Square. It was renamed Staraya in the 19th century when it lost its significance as the main resting place for the Havanese.
In the architectural ensemble of Plaza Vieja, baroque, neoclassical and modern styles are intertwined: such eclecticism is a characteristic feature of Cuban culture.
Interesting objects here:
- art Gallery;
- photo library;
- center for visual arts.
All of them are located in the magnificent old mansions that adorn the square.
Address: Plaza Vieja, Havana, Cuba.
The appearance of the Capitol in Havana is very similar to a similar building in the United States and even slightly larger in size. It was built in 1929, but the parliament did not sit here for long. Later, the building was converted into a conference room. It also houses a library, a history museum and a ministry of science.
The Capitol is made in the Renaissance style typical of monumental buildings. The 92-meter dome is inferior in size only to the Roman Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. It is decorated with a replica sculpture of the statue of Mercury in the Bargello Palace in Florence. Gardens are laid out around the building, and the entrance to the Capitol is decorated with bas-reliefs on historical subjects.
Address: Capitol Havana, Havana, Cuba.
4. El Morro Fortress
The list of what to see in Havana includes the El Morro Fortress – one of the symbols of the capital. The fort is located on a seaside cliff, which explains its name: El Morro translates as “hill, hill”. Another name is the Fortress of the Three Magi.
El Morro was built in 1589 to defend against attacks from the British fleet. During the years of its existence, the fort practically did not receive any injuries. The majestic ensemble, like centuries ago, gives the impression of power and strength. In the middle of the 19th century, it was supplemented by a lighthouse that harmoniously blended with the look.
If you wish, you can climb to its top. The El Morro complex also sells souvenirs and organizes exhibitions. It is pleasant and simple to walk through the territory that preserves the memory of the naval history of Cuba.
Address: Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro, Havana, Cuba.
5. Museum of the Revolution
The Museum of the Revolution in the center of Havana is housed in the former Presidential Palace, a beautiful neoclassical building dating back to the 1920s. It was transformed into a museum after the overthrow of Batista. At the same time, it lost some of the interior details, including Tiffany lamps and forged elements, but the interior decoration still deserves admiration.
The exposition of the museum, located in 30 rooms, has 9 thousand items. The main part is made up of exhibits from the period of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. But the exhibition covers the history of Cuba as a whole since the founding of the colony.
Exhibits include clothing and uniforms, photographs and newspapers, weapons and equipment. The most notable rooms are the Hall of Mirrors and the presidential office with authentic 1940s furnishings.
Address: Museum of the Revolution, Avenida Bélgica, Havana, Cuba.
6. Ernest Hemingway House Museum
The famous American writer Hemingway spent 20 years in Cuba: it is not surprising that many objects dedicated to him have survived on the island and in Havana in particular. One of them is the writer’s house-museum, which he bought in 1940: the work “The Old Man and the Sea” was created here.
After Hemingway’s suicide, the house passed to the government, and a year later, in 1962, a museum was opened in it.
The writer’s life has been carefully restored: there are bookshelves with thousands of tomes, Hemingway’s personal belongings, his weapons and the typewriter for which he worked. The favorite boat, “Pilar,” is exhibited in the courtyard of the museum. Nearby there is a small cemetery where the writer’s pets are buried.
Address: Finca Vigía, Havana, Cuba.
7. Havana Cathedral
The main temple of Havana – the Cathedral of St. Christopher – is an amazing structure. The building is small in size in the Baroque style and has a remarkably unusual shape of facade. The exterior trim is quite simple yet graceful.
On either side of the cathedral, there are two towers: on the left is the bell tower, and it is somewhat wider than the turret on the right. This was done so that water from the square could freely flow down the street to the right of the building. The temple was founded in 1748 and acquired the status of a cathedral at the end of the 19th century when the bishop’s residence was moved to Havana.
The interior decoration boasts frescoes, sculptures and paintings. In addition, the remains of the discoverer Christopher Columbus were kept in the cathedral for more than a hundred years. They were later transported to the Seville Cathedral in Spain.
Address: Havana Cathedral, Empedrado, Havana, Cuba.
8. Cathedral Square
The Cathedral of St. Christopher adorns the Cathedral Square, formerly called Plaza de Cienaga or “swamp square”. It appeared in Havana in 1578, and now it has acquired an important tourist value.
Among its main attractions is the palace of the Marquis de Arcos from the middle of the 18th century: for many years, a post office was located here on the ground floor. Also, on the Cathedral Square, there are many old mansions of the Spanish aristocracy, built in the XVII-XVIII centuries. Once here, it is worth visiting the Victor Manuel Art Gallery, the Museum of Education and the Museum of Colonial Art.
Address: Cathedral Square, Havana, Cuba.
9. National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana
The Cuban Fine Art Collection occupies two buildings in Havana. The first is an old palace built on the site of a former market. It was given to the museum after reconstruction in 1913. The building is so beautiful outside and inside that it is worth coming here, at least to admire the decoration.
The second part of the exhibition is displayed in a relatively modern building built-in 1953. In total, there are 1,200 pieces of art in both buildings. Most of the exhibition includes canvases, sculptures and prints by Cuban masters from different periods. But there are also works by world-famous artists, for example, Rembrandt and other Dutch and Flemish painters. There is also a cafe and a gift shop on site.
Address: National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana, Havana, Cuba.
10. Grand Theater of Havana
The Grand Theater of Havana has existed since 1838. It is now housed in a magnificent Baroque building, built-in 1915. Countless statues and a charming corner tower make the façade recognizable. Its interior is also beautiful: the marble staircase and velvet seats create an impression of refined luxury.
The theater lives up to its name: it really is one of the largest in the world and can seat 1,500 spectators – only in the main hall. Celebrities such as Anna Pavlova, Maya Plisetskaya, Sarah Bernhardt and Enrico Caruso have performed at the Bolshoi Theater in Havana; it is also considered the birthplace of Cuban ballet. It also hosts exhibitions, film screenings and concerts by contemporary performers.
Address: Great Theater of Havana, Marty Avenue, Havana, Cuba.
11. Boulevard Prado (Paseo del Prado)
The Paseo del Prado is Havana’s main street and walking area with excellent infrastructure. The Prado Boulevard was designed in the 18th century, and the final improvement took place when the Capitol was built on it. The street is decorated with architectural monuments, sculptures and graceful lanterns.
The Prado has many establishments – cinema and theaters, bars, cafes and hotels. Among the latter is Inglaterra, built-in 1875 and famous for its luxurious interior decoration. On the Paseo del Prado, there is the Floridita bar, famous for the fact that Hemingway loved to drop in: his bronze sculpture sits in the corner of the hall. Prado Boulevard is always a lively place: Havanese and tourists walk here, street artists work, children and teenagers play.
Address: Paseo del Prado, Paseo de Martí, Havana, Cuba.
12. Colon Cemetery
The most beautiful cemetery in Cuba is named after Christopher Columbus: it was planned that the great discoverer would be buried here. The territory occupies 60 hectares and is completely covered with all kinds of marble tombstones, monuments, sculptures.
Almost every object is a real work of art, despite the fact that they are all made in different styles and genres: from ancient traditional tombs to pyramids and spheres.
Colon Cemetery is famous for the fact that the path of famous Havana leaders of politics, culture and sports ends there. For example, the chess player Capablanca and the writer Carpentier are buried here. Although the cemetery is close to the city’s attractions, the place is very quiet, well-kept and provides an interesting contrast to the sparkling life of Havana.
Address: Colon Cemetery, Havana, Cuba.
13. Fortress of La Fuersa
La Real Fuersa or “castle of royal power,” was founded in 1577. The impregnable structure was surrounded by a ditch along the perimeter, the walls were 4 m thick, and the stairs were completely absent: the garrison climbed up the rope ladders.
In the 17th century, the tower was built up and decorated with a weather vane with a female figurine. It is believed that depicts the wife of Governor de Soto, who ruled Havana for several years while her husband was away.
Since 2010, the Maritime Museum has been operating in the fortress. The exposition covers all periods of Cuba’s maritime history, including pre-Columbian times. Part of it is dedicated to the history of the Royal Dockyard, which built over 200 ships. Tourists will get acquainted with a four-meter copy of the largest ship of the 18th century, “Santisma Trinidad,” and go down into the hold to admire the ancient navigational instruments.
Address: Castillo de la Real Fuerza, O’Reilly, Havana, Cuba.
14. Saint Francis Square and the Minor Basilica of Francis of Assisi
The square was created in 1628 in order to improve the water supply for the fleet and make way for the unloading of ships. Today, the main decoration of St. Francis Square is the eponymous monastery with the highest church in the city.
Its 42-meter bell tower has served as a reference point for sailors for years. From the top, you can admire the beautiful scenery of Havana. Today, the temple building serves as a museum of colonial art. The exposition introduces church utensils and artifacts, as well as the funeral traditions of the colonial nobility.
The interior space keeps traces of history in its unplastered walls; exhibitions and music concerts are also held here. The square in front of the facade of the church is decorated with a sculpture of a saint and a marble fountain with lions installed in 1836.
Address: Saint Francis Square, Havana, Cuba.
15. Malecon Embankment
The Malecon embankment runs past 14 city blocks. Therefore, a walk along it is also an acquaintance with the history and appearance of Havana. Colonial masterpieces are replaced by unassuming Soviet-style houses and, finally, modern buildings. It was built at the turn of the 20th century.
The most iconic sites on the waterfront are the San Lazaro Watchtower, the former Riviera hotel gang, monuments to Cuban independence fighters, the American Embassy and Fort La Fuerta. Malecon is a beautiful promenade and one of the favorite places of the townspeople. Here you can still see fishermen going out to fish for food. Also, the embankment is the center of Havana’s nightlife. It is especially beautiful at sunset when the setting sun floods the coastal buildings with crimson.
Address: Malecon, Malecon, Havana, Cuba.
16. National Botanical Garden
The territory of the attraction covers 600 hectares, and the total number of species of plants growing here exceeds 4 thousand. Therefore, the National Botanical Garden of Havana is not only a tourist destination but also a research center. Interestingly, the Cuban flora occupies no more than 20% of the total number of plants: the rest is the climatic zones of different countries of the world.
Visitors prefer the tropics and the charming Japanese garden – a quiet and peaceful corner of wondrous nature. The Archaic forest is also interesting, where the flora is represented by the oldest fossil plants. Having worked up an appetite, tourists can look into the restaurants located on the territory – there are as many as seven of them. And those who want to take a piece of the garden with them as a souvenir should go to the store with a huge selection of plants.
Address: Jardin Botanico Nacional, Havana, Cuba.
17. Plaza de Armas (Plaza de Armas)
Plaza de Armas was founded in the year of the founding of Havana – 1519, which makes it the oldest in the city. As the name suggests, its foundation is connected with military objectives: military drill and parades took place here. The square is surrounded by colonial-style buildings made of the same limestone as the Cathedral.
The most interesting are the 18th Baroque building, which today houses the Museum of Havana, the Book Institute, the Santa Isabel Hotel – the former residence of Santoveña, the El Templete chapel in the neoclassical style. There is a flea market in Plaza de Armas, where you can find quite rare items and souvenir shops. Dance shows are held in the square on weekends.
Address: Plaza de Armas, Havana, Cuba.
18. Rum Museum
Cigars and rum are two unofficial symbols of Cuban culture. And if tourists visit the Partagas tobacco factory to get to know the first one, then you can learn more about the history of the famous pirate drink in the Havana Rum Museum. Over a million visitors come here every year.
The history of rum began in the 16th century. A lot of sugar cane grows on the island. The by-products of sugar production – molasses and molasses – are converted into strong alcohol by fermentation and distillation. During a tour of the museum, guests not only get acquainted with the history but can also personally observe the process of making a drink.
Of course, it is not complete without tasting different varieties of rum. And on weekends, the museum hosts performances by Cuban musicians and dance evenings.
Address: Museo del Ron Havana Club, Havana, Cuba.
19. Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabana
The fortress of La Cabana was built in the 18th century to strengthen the defensive power of the older fortification of El Morro. At that time, San Carlos de la Cabana became the most reliable fortress in Cuba, which was facilitated by the 12-meter thick walls, a suspension bridge and a system of trenches.
For many years, until the fall of the Batista regime, a prison functioned there. The rebels, led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, then set up a revolutionary headquarters here.
Now La Cabana is a museum complex combined with El Morro. Of particular tourist, interest is the commandant’s museum, where Che Guevara’s personal belongings have been preserved. Also, on the territory of the complex, there are souvenir shops and food outlets, and in the evenings at 21:00, a solemn cannon ceremony takes place.
Address: San Carlos de la Cabana, Havana, Cuba.
20. Jose Marti Memorial
The leader of Cuba’s struggle for liberation from Spain, poet, writer and publicist José Martin, is a figure revered by all Cubans. Therefore, a memorial complex in his honor was founded on Revolution Square in Havana in 1958.
The memorial is a stele, in the lower part of which there is a museum-archive: Marty’s personal belongings, his letters, documentation and photos are kept here. Exhibited in the museum and exhibits related to the history of the square, as well as objects of modern art.
There is an observation deck at the top of the 110-meter stele. The entrance to the stele is decorated with a white marble sculpture of the figure 18 m high. Its pedestal is used for delivering speeches. Demonstrations and concerts are held on the territory adjacent to the memorial.
Address: Jose Marti Memorial, Avenida Paseo, Havana, Cuba.
21. Monastery of Santa Clara
The monastery was founded by nuns from Cartagena in 1644, making it one of the oldest in Havana. Initially, girls from low-income families were taught here, later a charitable hospital was equipped. Then the building was given to the Ministry of Public Works, and only in 1982, it was given the status of a historical object.
At the end of the 20th century, a large-scale restoration was carried out in it, during which a lot of interesting things were discovered in the old building: secret windows and entrances, paintings on the walls, carved decorative elements and even crypts.
Today, on the basis of the former monastery, there is a hotel: its guests are waiting for an extraordinary feeling of living in a place breathing with antiquity.
Address: Convento de Santa Clara, Havana, Cuba.
22. FAC (Gallery of Contemporary Art)
Fabrica de Arte Cubano, or FAC, is a contemporary art gallery in Havana, located in a former oil factory. The gallery was founded recently – in 2014 but has already won the love of Havanese and tourists.
This is the real quintessence of the creative life of the Cuban capital, where you can admire all kinds of works of modern painting, photography, sculpture and literature. It hosts themed parties and shows, performances by musicians, buffets; there are two dance floors. The bars offer cocktails at attractive prices. There is a restaurant on the roof of the former factory.
Address: Fábrica de Arte Cubano, Calle 26, Havana, Cuba.
23. Palace of Captain Generals
In the ensemble of the Plaza de Armas, the palace of the captain-generals, built at the end of the 18th century, occupies a prominent place. The building is made in the style of the Cuban Baroque, in the plan, it is a square. The arcade and graceful balconies give it its splendor.
Initially, the house served as a government residence, located on the second floor – the first was occupied by the city prison. The prison closed in 1834, and the residence ceased to function in 1898 after Cuba gained independence.
Today the palace has the status of a museum. Inside, you can admire the colonial decoration of the premises and many artifacts from different historical eras.
Address: Palacio de los Capitanes Generales Casa de gobierno, Cuba Tacón, Havana, Cuba.
24. Fortress of San Salvador de la Punta
The construction of another significant fortress in Havana was completed by 1600. Initially, it served as an arms depot. From 1630, a chain began to be pulled between it and El Morro to block enemy ships’ path through the strait: fragments of the chain can be seen even now.
In 1997, the fortress of San Salvador underwent a comprehensive restoration, and the object was turned into a museum. Here you can admire models of old sailing ships and amazing finds raised from the sides of sunken ships.
Numerous documents, drawings, drawings and ancient instruments, such as astrolabes, are also presented in the museum. The fortress also offers a beautiful view of the Malecon embankment in Havana.
Address: Fortress of San Salvador de La Punta, Malecon, Havana, Cuba.
25. Fusterlandia Museum
Jose Fuster is a Cuban artist based in the Haymanats district of Havana. His house, like the entire district, is essentially a whole workshop, which has become a bright and memorable object of the capital.
During the 18 years that Fuster has lived here, he decorates his house with mosaics – this is one of the main hobbies of the master. He was inspired to create the project by Park Guell in Barcelona, where he visited during a trip abroad. Not only Fuster’s dwelling is decorated with mosaics, but also neighboring buildings, bus stops and even street poles.
The Fusterlandia art project inspired many Havanese and they joined the work decorating the parks. Jose himself loves visitors and finds time to greet each guest, but during his absence, tourists are met by his son Alex.
Address: Fusterlandia, Havana, Cuba.
26. Cabaret “Tropicana”
Tropicana is the most famous cabaret on the island, founded in 1939. It flourished in the 1950s when American tourists flooded into Cuba. At the same time, gambling was legalized here. Today, Tropicana is still thriving. Palm trees and other tropical plants are planted around the cabaret.
Guests will enjoy bright dance and music shows, the number of participants in which reaches up to 200 people. Also at their service – a restaurant with wonders of Cuban and other cuisines of the world. And hardly any entertainment establishment in Cuba is complete without rum: visitors will taste a strong cane drink, as well as various cocktails based on it.
Address: Tropicana Club, 72 A, Havana, Cuba.
27. Sculpture – Havana Christ
On the territory of the La Cabana fortress, there is an object that has become one of the most iconic for Havana and all of Cuba. This is a sculpture of Havana Christ, 18 m high, made of Carrara marble – many of the monuments of the Colon cemetery are also made from it.
The statue is installed next to the fortress walls on a hill near the harbor. Therefore it is visible from afar, from different parts of the city. The author of the statue is Cuban Hilma Madera. The history of its creation is interesting.
In 1958, an attempt was made on the dictator Batista, he was seriously wounded. His wife vowed that if her husband survived, she would use her own funds to build a statue of the Savior. And so it happened, and the sculpture took place among the best objects in the capital.
Address: Sculpture – Jesus Christ, Havana, Havana, Cuba.
28. John Lennon Park
The legacy of The Beatles has left a mark in almost every country in the world. But it is rather unexpected to see a monument to one of the band members in Cuba, where the Beatles were banned. John Lennon Park was laid out in 2000; Fidel Castro himself was present at the opening ceremony, who had not previously expressed love for the team.
The territory of the attraction is small. The main and, in general, the only decoration is a sculpture depicting a musician on a bench in a relaxed position. Citizens and tourists are delighted with the monument and constantly sit down to him for memorable photos.
It is interesting that a caretaker is constantly on duty nearby, putting on Lennon’s famous round glasses when tourists appear. After the guests leave, they are removed. It is a forced measure: glasses are constantly being stolen by fans of souvenirs.
Address: John Lennon Park, Calle 8, Havana, Cuba.
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