Havana is a city that managed to slowly grow on us, a step back into the 1950’s with streets that sometimes look almost war-torn but still retaining a special charm. And when learning more about the city and its history (such as the revolution and of course – RUM!) we started to enjoy it more and more, making us sad to have to leave at the end of our trip.
There are of course many things to see throughout the sprawling city, and never enough time to cover them all. From historic sites important to Cuba’s Revolution, to parks dedicated to a western musician- here is what we managed to find on our Havana adventure.
this ‘boardwalk’ is quintessential to your experience in Havana, and is definitely one not to be missed. Whether you walk along parts of its length (it goes for many kilometres) for free, or drive it within a taxi, bici-taxi, or classic car, you will see fantastic views of the ocean and parts of fortresses and old town.
A recommendation is to take a few beers and go down at dusk, around the time when the locals are doing the same!
A Classic Car Tour
This seems like the ultimate cliche, hopping into a classic 1950s car and making your way to see some sites in the city.
At first we were against it with the ‘touts’ annoying us at every turn, though when we were able to negotiate the price down to 30CUC total (from 60) for an hour with 4 people, it ended up being more economical than expected.
In the allocated hour we were able to cover many sites we would otherwise have not had time for (including the Malecon), all whilst being driven around in an awesome purple Pontiac.
Tip: if you want to save your money you can also take old classic cars as colectivo taxi’s around town. They usually follow semi-set routes going in one direction and will generally take money in CUP.
Cristobal Colon Cemetery
So named comfort Christopher Columbus, we were able to see this whilst on our classic car tour.
The site here is quite large with many elaborate grave sites that make for interesting viewing.
Plaza de la Revolution
This plaza is flanked by the offices of the army and other military personnel, making it an important area for Havana and Cuba.
Take in the largeness of the square, surrounded by portraits on the military buildings of important figures of Cuba (including Ché).
John Lennon Park
Come to this park to see the only statue in Cuba dedicated to a western musician.
The story goes that with American music initially banned, kids would come to this park and illegally listen to music including the Beatles. When John Lennon released imagine, it resonated with the Cuban people so much that eventually the Cuban government (in more recent times) erected a statue in tribute.
This may be one of the smallest ‘Chinatowns’, taking up around 2 blocks of space and filled with Chinese restaurants run by Cuban people.
Ignoring these overpriced establishments, in the main street bordering it you will find many small cafeterias and fast food joints selling cheap food that for Cuba is quite tasty (and that is saying something).
Tucked away on the edge of old town towards the university, Hamel Street is a kooky walk-through location that houses many artists and small bars.
Take in the bathtub seats and amazing artwork and then grab a mojito afterwards at one of the bars.
Tip: ignore the Cuban guys who attempt to guide you through Hamel Street or take a picture for you, they are looking for money from you.
El Loco Loco
This is a restaurant we visited on our first night near the university.
Whilst it was obviously slightly more expensive than street food, this is a great budget option if you’re sick of the same thing and want a nice sit down experience.
The restaurant itself is located upstairs in a large house, giving a nice atmosphere and view of the street below.
Coppelia (ice cream)
Coppelia is an ice cream spot that is located all throughout Cuba, but the biggest location can be found in Havana.
Make sure you have your national money (CUP) with you and head over to this locals joint that serves a ‘salad’ of icecream (or 5 scoops) for 5CUP (the equivalent of 0.20 cents). Pick a location that has the flavours you want and order away!
Tip: Ignore touts near the entrance that try to say you can’t go into Coppelia, they are merely saying you need CUP to enter (which hopefully you have).
Go See a Baseball Game
Whilst we weren’t able to get to a game (none where scheduled at the time), we highly recommend taking in Cuba’s national pastime!
Usually tickets cost no more than 3-4CUC, and you can see world class players in an old school stadium. To find the schedule head to http://baseballdecuba.com/ and then hopefully your Casa host can help arrange it for you if a game is on.
Walk the Old Town
Saving the best until last, the old town of Havana gives you several sites and shopping opportunities that will take up the majority of a day.
The pedestrian only streets where souvenirs can be had lead into many sights including Floradita bar (where Earnest Hemingway wrote and drank), Basilica Menor de San Francisco (where you can climb the bell tower for 2CUC),
the Havana Club museum, old fortresses, and many more.
Havana will definitely grow on you, especially if you are interested in their sometimes troubling history and their Revolution.
For us, we weren’t able to see everything we wanted, and were limited in what we could do based on us being there after Fidel Castro had passed away. This means that unfortunately there are no recommendations for awesome drinking locations or salsa bars, as they were all closed as a sign of mourning.
Do you have any suggestions on places like this for future visits? Let us know below!