Havana recently reached 500 years since its founding. A symbol of resistance and adventure, the capital of Cuba looks like a sunken treasure waiting for everyone to discover.
There are many stories and stories that make it an exciting city, full of charms, where the past leaves its traces among the present. The squares and colonial buildings were gradually rebuilt and new places open doors to art, gastronomy, entertainment, everything that allows you to live and be happy.
Everywhere you can witness the melting pot that created Havana, from original peoples, slaves, pirates, French and British, to Chinese and, of course, Spaniards. This has historically made it one of the most important cities in the New World.
Today, Havana is a city surrounded by an aura of magical realism.
a city of art
Havana’s artistic culture is one of the biggest surprises for anyone visiting the city, even though it is something very typical. Cuban artists have been quietly challenging cultural elites ever since native José Nicolás de la Escalera began painting black slaves in the 18th century.
Today, the work of Escalera and many others is displayed at the National Museum of Fine Arts. But all over the city it is possible to witness this artistic fervor, namely in the painted murals of a thousand and one themes and in the Fábrica de Arte Cubana, place of small artistic events.
10 unmissable spots in Havana
Newly opened, Havana’s most impressive hotel is small, with just four rooms, but each has been carefully crafted by a local designer and represents different styles: eclectic retro, art deco, 1950s vintage and contemporary.
There is a bar serving cocktails and tapas, as well as a shop selling handmade soaps and unique jewelry. And best of all is the terrace, which offers fabulous views of the Malecón, Havana’s famous seafront promenade.
El Bosque is located between the neighborhoods of Vedado and Miramar and is the true lung of Havana, where there are trees over 300 years old, wrapped in vines that look like green monsters rising from the ground.
It was a space conceived in the mid-1930s by the French landscape architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, known creator of the gardens of the Eiffel Tower on the Champs-de-Mars, and intended to be a “fusion of nature, architecture and city”. After the 1959 revolution, it was expanded to include Parque Almendares, where many children’s attractions are available.
Niels Reyes is one of the most exciting artists of current Cuban art and highly valued in large metropolises such as New York and Beijing.
His work is exhibited at Galería Artis 718 and Collage Habana and focuses on portraits that represent the human condition.
Nazdarovie is a top restaurant in the Cuban capital that aims to make Russian flavors available to thousands of Soviet expatriates.
Patrons include ambassadors from former Soviet republics, and the venue is decorated with vintage propaganda posters and huge matriosque dolls. There are also memorabilia from some of the many Cubans who studied in the USSR, which give it a special atmosphere.
Museum of the Revolution
This emblematic museum located in the former Presidential Palace, built between 1913 and 1920, was used as a residence by a series of Cuban presidents.
It is a place of great beauty, most notably the gleaming Salón de los Espejos which was designed to resemble the eponymous room at the Palace of Versailles.
The museum presents a sometimes ragged but always compelling story, told in both English and Spanish and painted with many examples of propaganda. On the central staircase of the palace, there is a bust of José Martí where it is still possible to see the bullet holes made during a failed attack on the palace, in March 1957, by a group of revolutionary students with the intention of assassinating President Fulgencio Baptist.
Cristóbal Colon Necropolis
Havana’s main cemetery is considered a national monument and is one of the largest in the American continent. It is famous for its impressive religious iconography and elaborate marble statues.
And no, it doesn’t have to be a sinister ride, rather an educational and emotional moment through Cuban history. Buy a map at the entrance that shows you the tombs of various Cuban artists, sportsmen, politicians, writers, scientists and revolutionaries who rest there for all eternity.
Fusterlandia is a project that has been running for around 20 years that covers several suburban blocks with extravagant but highly stylized public art.
The centerpiece is Fuster’s own home, Taller-Estudio José Fuster, a sizeable residence decorated from top to bottom by art, sculpture and – above all – mosaics of every color and description.
Gran Teatro Alicia Alonso
The neo-baroque Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso was created as a Galician social club between 1907 and 1914, it features highly ornate and even somewhat exuberant architectural details.
It is the official stage of the National Ballet Company of Cuba and the main venue of the biennial International Ballet Festival, so elegant contemporary dance performances and Spanish-influenced choreographies are frequent.
Established in 1559, Plaza Vieja is Havana’s most eclectic, where Cuban baroque nestles perfectly alongside Gaudí-inspired art nouveau. This was the site initially used for military exercises and later served as an open-air market.
Today, it plays host to bars, restaurants and cafes, a primary school and some of the best stained glass windows in Havana.
Castle of the Holy Reys Magnos del Morro
This wave-shaped fort with an iconic lighthouse was erected between 1589 and 1630 to protect the entrance to Havana harbor from pirates and foreign invaders.
It is perched on top of a rocky cliff above the Atlantic and is a classic example of Renaissance military architecture, which impresses with its grandeur.
Havana: technical sheet
At the Cuba’s official tourism websiteyou will find all questions related to your trip to Cuba.
Cuba generic data
- Language: Spanish;
- Population: 11.2 million inhabitants;
- Location: Caribbean. Central America;
- Extension: 110,861 square kilometers.