Havana, the capital of Cuba is not only one of the most populated cities in Latin America, it is also a very historic city. The city was founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar back in 1519 and has since then been inhabited by many different ethnicities including Spanish, African slaves, Jews and Chinese immigrants.
A unique city, it’s the home of one of the kindest and most talkative people in the world, it’s full of historical heritage, and has a one-of-a-kind atmosphere that makes you want to celebrate and explore its most unknown spots. Even the crumbling buildings in its historic center are charming.
The historic center Habana Vieja and the forts that used to defend is one of the UNESCO Sites In Cuba since 1982, but the attractions of the city are much more than a group of classified heritage sites.
When visiting Havana, you have to include all the must-sees in the city. Those include Paseo de Martí, Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta, Old Havana, the Havana Cathedral, and Castillo de la Real Fuerza. Havana is the largest city in the Caribbean and the capital of Cuba.
In addition to all this, beach-goers will love the 15 km of beaches with beautiful coral reefs. Don’t skip the Lenin Park in the city center that makes you feel like you’re surrounded by nature and at an urban spot at the same time.
Havana is a very interesting city, a mix of tropical and colonial vibe. The old part of Havana is gorgeous, and this was the sixth city founded by the Spanish on the island. Expectedly, UNESCO classified the Old Havana (Havana Vieja) neighborhood as a World Heritage Site in Cuba. There are about 1,000 monuments of cultural interest in the city.
Quick travel tips to visit Havana:
- Wake up early to be the first in monuments, museums, and other landmarks;
- Take a free walking tour;
- The sunset by the famous La Cabaña hill is gorgeous;
- Although it’s a tourist cliché, take a stroll on the Malecón (promenade) in Havana;
- To know when to go to Havana gather all information about the seasons and the local climate. The best time to visit Havana is between the warm season, from May to October, and the dry season, from November to April;
- Street food is incredibly cheap and you can have a full meal for under 1 Euro;
- After a day exploring the streets of Havana, you can watch the sunset from the bar outside the charming Hotel Nacional, with a gorgeous sea view, while drinking a pinã colada or a daiquiri;
- Paseo de Marti or Paseo del Prado, the avenue that goes all the way to Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta, is the main tourist area of the city;
- Every day at 9:00 pm you can attend the cannon ceremony, Ceremonia del Cañonazo, on the other side of Bay of Havana near the Fortificaciones y Armas museum and Plaza de Armas;
- Go up the San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress.
Castle of Royal Force
Castle of Royal Force was built between 1558 and 1577 on top of a previous fortress that was severely damaged during an attack by French corsairs. It’s one of the oldest forts in America. Its four-point plan it’s typical of the Renaissance military engineering and it inherited some of the features of Spanish castles from the Middle Ages. Speaking in military terms, the building was a fiasco.
It was too small to be practical and too far away from the Bay of Havana to prevent enemy ships from entering. Thus, it was used as the governor’s official residence, with several modifications over time. The National Archive was established here from 1899 onward, and the National Library from 1938 to 1957. After the 1959 Revolution, it became the headquarters of a department that supervised the museums, later there was an attempt to create a military museum, and finally, in 2010, it became the Maritime Museum.
The Havana Cathedral is in the historic center of the city, at Cathedral Square, one of the most picturesque squares in the Cuban capital. The full name of the church in Spanish is La Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana. It was finished in 1777 and the predominant style is Baroque with Tuscan influences.
It has two bell towers, the one on the right is wider as is usual in typical Baroque religious buildings. The Jesuits were in charge of the construction, who, ironically, were ousted from the island by King Charles III ten years before the church was finished. The interior is richly decorated but the frescoes are copies from others you’ll find in Italian churches.
National Capitol Building
The National Capitol Building of Havana was built between 1926 and 1929 and housed the Cuban Congress until it was dissolved following the 1959 Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro. The Neo-Classical and Art Nouveau building was designed by Eugenio Rayneri Piedra and inspired by the Capitol in Washington, but the dome is based on the one at the Paris Pantheon.
Inside you can visit the third largest statue inside of a building in the world, Italian Angelo Zanelli’s Statue of the Republic. For a long time, the Capitol was used as the headquarters of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Development but it’s being prepared to house the National Assembly of Cuba again.