Sightseeing in Havana – An Insider's Guide

If it's your first vacation in Havana, head straight for the magnificently restored Old Havana (La Habana Vieja). Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, much of the area has been lovingly restored to its former grandeur. It's a colonial wonder, a mess of colors and packed with atmosphere, its an oddly fascinating mix of architectural styles.

The area is a treasure to walk, and with Vedado today is the liveliest part of town today. It has four magnificent 16th-century beaches. Look at the dormant Plaza Vieja (right). There are many museums and galleries nearby and many of Havana's most spectacular sights.

The impressive craft market, Fria de la Artesana, just behind Iglesia de Paul on Calle San Pedro, is not to be missed. It sells every Cuban craft imaginable, equipped with CADECA, fruit juice suppliers, kiosks and a cozy sitting area where you can relax with a drink and enjoy the view of the harbor (but keep in mind that it closes on Mondays).

Get off the main move, call Obispo, and you will see a completely different side of the Old Town: a well-established residential area with about 70,000 people. Take a coffee break at Caf El Escorial on Plaza Vieja. Alternatively, avoid tourists and head to La Barrita, the impressive art deco Bacardi building on the Avenida de los Misiones. At Parque Central, the busy main square, watch the world from the veranda at the Inglaterra Hotel. Head to the small cafe of the Telgrafo Hotel, a quiet getaway with a cascading fountain overflowing with colorful mosaics. Or enjoy one of the best Havana Haites at the NH Hotel. In terms of culture, check out the Museo de Bellas Artes Museum, Havana, the excellent international art museum, just off Parque Central and just yards from Obisp. Enter the room at the Ambos Mundos Hotel, where Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his world-renowned literary works as he stood up at his desk.

Visit the colorful, inimitable Arte Corte, a barber shop that also presents itself as a museum-cum art gallery. It features a nice range of antiques and some intriguing paintings by Cuban artists, including several Pepit owners. Calle Aguiar # 10, between Pena Pobre and Avenida de las Misiones.

If all the wanderings around you are fueling your appetite, Caf del Oriente is the best restaurant in the area for lunch right now. It is a cozy, well-air-conditioned oasis with an airy interior and stackable service. Calle Oficios # 112, corner Calle Amargura. Tel. 860 6686.

A seaside promenade 8 km from Havana is by far the city's favorite pastime. Overlooking the vast expanse of water that separates Cuba from Florida, the famous part is a place for dreamers, lovers and friends. It is the spiritual heart of the city and the nerve center of its social life, a daily occurrence. Most nights are crowded with people taking in the dark sea air; by day it is a place to pause. One of the best views of Malecn is from the elegant garden on the terrace of the Nacional Hotel.

If you want impressive panoramic views, check out La Torre. The view from the 33rd floor to Havana's tallest apartment building is stunning. What makes it so special is that you can walk around the building, from the bar to the restaurant and enjoy the 360-degree view of the bay and the city. Edificio FOCSA, calle 17, corner calle M, Vedado. Tel. 832 2451.

The neighborhood itself, Vedado, is perhaps the most fascinating of Havana. No vacation in Havana would be complete without a visit. It is functional, diverse and alternative. You could easily miss the charm of its most lively avenue, Avenide 23, called La Rampa, if you only see the rather dark lower end that stretches from Malecna to the picturesque Yara Cinema. Yara is located at the world's most cosmopolitan intersection, the Havana Cultural Institution.

The heart of La Rampa starts beating west of Yara. Here, and in the streets next to it, you will find relatively few tourists – a welcome change from other parts of the city. The overall ambience is the dizzying 1970s. From mulattoes dressed in all white (exponents of the Afro-Caribbean religion of Santerra) to reggaetin lusters with their massive sunglasses, the area is a corneo-copy of color and personality. Watch the world pass along with the locals in the popular sidewalk, La Rampita.

On really hot days, Havana can feel like a pressure cooker. So instead of suffering from the dead heat downtown, head for the beach. The best beaches in Havana are Tropicoco (also known as Santa Mara del Mar) and neighboring Megano. They are located about 20 km east of the city in the Playas Del Este area (eastern beaches).

The area is immensely popular with locals and visitors alike for its turquoise Atlantic waters and friendly, chilled atmosphere. Tropicoco is the tourist of the two. Megano is much more serene, with fewer people. At Tropicocoa Club Nautico, you can rent diving, pedal boats and boats for bananas, kayaks and catamarans.

The charm of the area is that it is still relatively undeveloped, except for seemingly random groups of villas, strict Soviet-style hotels, and cheap & nbsp; & nbsp; 39; happy meals. Just a few meters along the coast and you will always find your little piece of sandy loneliness.

It's a 30-minute taxi ride from downtown. Do not pay more than 20 CUC and arrange the fare in advance. The special tourist bus service runs every 30 minutes from 9am to 7pm daily. It stops opposite the Inglaterra Hotel on Parque Central and takes travelers to Megan (there is a choice of three beach stops, the first being Tropicoco). A return ticket costs 3CUC. Children under six travel free of charge.

Located in the dusty Centro Habani, this is the spiritual home of Afro-Cuban culture in the capital. This small pedestrian street is located every Sunday, from noon to about 3pm. Feverish live music sessions led by leading rum bands are gaining in popularity. The event draws big crowds, and the whites completely converted to Afro-Cuban (Santera) religion add an exotic flare of color. The area is vibrant and alternative – an urban art project with fluttering painted houses, striking street wall walls, quaint and wonderful shops, and striking sculptures made of waste. Look at the beautifully painted houses opposite the entrance. Calle San Lazaro, in between Hospitals and Aramburu.

Just a five-minute walk from Parque Central, Havana with the dome of the Capitolio Nacional was copied at the Capitol in Washington. It is Havana's most extravagant and extraordinary building. Gleamed in marble and gold, it was completed in 1929 by a construction crew of 5000 after more than three years & # 39; act, overseen by Cuban dictator Gerardo Machado. The Republic's 11-meter bronze statue is the third largest statue in the world. At its feet is a diamond that indicates the kilometer zero, from which the freeway from Havana to other parts of Cuba is measured. The entrance is 3CUC. Corner of calle Industry and calle Barcelona . La Habana Vieja.

Havana's most powerful suburb, Miramar, offers a fascinating look at how it moves up angry pepperoni live. Fifth Avenue is the most beautiful city avenue (though crowded), while the parallel Third Avenue attracts a quieter, cozier setting and relatively shortage of tourists. One of the most popular persecutions of the middle-class Havana class is the Centro de Negocios in Miramar.

A mix of office buildings and a shopping mall suspended in open-air pedestrian corridors, along with several Havana five-star hotels in Mela Habana, is a very comfortable vacation area for a few hours. Among the amenities are four cafes / restaurants (all called "Amelia"), a cool new wine bar called "Halo", a supermarket, pharmacy, several boutiques and shops selling clothing, footwear, sports accessories and jewelry. Around the corner at the smaller Comodoro Center, the emphasis is primarily on clothing, as well as perfumes and jewelry.

The large saltwater swimming pool and bath at the Copacabana Hotel in Miramar is a somewhat kept secret. It is pleasantly quiet on weekdays, usually with a handful of tourists and their Cuban friends and / or lovers. On weekends, it is packed with well-abandoned Cubans and hotel guests.

Admission for non-residents is 10 CUC. You get the 8CUC credit you spend at a poolside bar for food and / or drinks. First Avenue, between kale 44 and cal 46, Miramar.

The University of Havana is a beautiful, shady daydream of a place that recklessly looms over the crowded streets below. Her tourists are surprisingly neglected, and they are getting better for him. The library consists of a series of rooms. The main library, Rubn Martnez Villena, dates from 1936. It's a marvelous place with long, chocolate-brown reading tables and colorful tiled floors.

You sit by the window on a very hot day for a while. Feel the breeze blowing and you probably wish you were a student again. (Just don’t ruin the experience by using fairly closed toilets!). Calle O, between Avenida 23 and calle 25, Vedado.

The Soviet-style asphalt square surrounded by mostly government buildings, the Plaza de la Revolucin is the political center of Cuba. The best time to see this strikingly impressive place is at night, when its features are most strikingly illuminated – the two bronze silhouettes of revolutionary icons Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. Another great attraction is Memorial y Museo a Jos Mart, today's revolutionary of Cuba. The northwest side of the Plaza is home to the El Teatro National Theater, Cuba. In the same building is one of the city's favorite music venues, the Caf Cantante Mi Habana. Corner of Avenidas Paseo and Carlos Manuel de Cspedes, Vedado.

What was once the largest Asian community in Latin America before Castro comes down several streets in Centro Habani. This is El Barrio Chino: Chinatown. It is deliciously unbiased, and only a short walk from Parque Central. Chinese food lovers should check out Tien-Tan Restaurant on the Cuchillo Walking Walk, probably the best Asian restaurant in the area. And if you have a particularly sweet tooth, name it dulcera at the corner of Calle San Nicols and calle Zanja (Dragones) for a sample of some of Havana's most delicious pastries.