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What to visit in Havana city?

 

Havana is probably the most exciting city in Latin America managing to be both seedy and stylish. Havana city owes its growth and prosperity to the almost natural perfection of its harbour. The Spanish, in the course of their conquest of Central and Latin America, earmarked the city as the ideal stopping-off point for their ships. In order to protect their vessels from English, French and Dutch attack, the Spanish built a wall around the city and constructed huge fortresses at the entrance to the harbour.

As Cuba’s political and economic center, it has become the focus of Cuba’s youth culture; the place where you’ll find the most magnificent hotels and the liveliest discotheques, where the Revolution seems to have come full circle and, uncannily, recreated the world of Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana.

Havana is an exhilarating place, but it can also be exhausting. There is a neurotic, anxious edge to life here, quite unlike anything you’ll find in the rest of Cuba.

 

The heart and soul of Havana is the old town Habana Vieja, declared a Heritage of Mankind Site in 1982 by UNESCO. It was keen to preserve the beauty of its architecture and promote the historical importance of its role within the region.

The following are just some of the interesting places to visit: Plaza de Armas, centered on a statue of the patriot Cespedes, considered as the Father of the Country and encompassed by shaded marble benches and second-hand booksellers, is the first public square built in the city. Plaza de la Catedral is perhaps the most beautiful square in the Caribbean which is surrounded by examples of the finest baroque architecture in the country. El Templete, small neoclassical temple which marks the spot where the first Mass was said in 1519. Castillo de la Real Fuerza is one of the oldest forts in the Americas, it holds modern art exhibitions downstairs and the battlements afford good views over the harbour. Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the seat of government and governor's residence was transferred from the fort to the built. The presidential palace and then the municipal palace until Castro seized power it is now Museo de la Ciudad de la Habana. Museo de Arte Colonial, fine palace constructed in 1720, its yellow courtyard and little-altered architectural features are complemented by a large collection of 17th- and 18th-century furniture. Calle Obispo is Old Havana's most important and smartest thoroughfare, pedestrian zed with missile heads as bollards.

 

Central Havana

 

Along with Habana Vieja, Centro Habana is the most populated and overcrowded part of the city. It is a tumbledown residential / commercial area, the city's main shopping street, Calle San Rafael, traverses it from the Parque Central westwards. The large Partagas tobacco factory, directly behind the Capitolio, is the biggest export factory in the country, with 200 rollers turning out 5 million cigars a year.

Walking around this area you understand why Havana is sometimes referred to as a City of Columns; almost every buildings displays either one or a mixture of the Corinthian, Doric or Ionic types of this structure.

 

Vedado

This part of the city is occupied primarily by office blocks and hotels; business is centred on La Rampa. Directly east on Calle San Miguel between calles Ronda and Mazon is the fine Museo Napoleonico, this mansion is house of a remarkable collection of Napoleonic memorabilia. Vedado's top sight is undoubtedly the Cementerio de Cristobal Colon. But the most important collection of buildings on this part of the city belongs to Plaza de la Revolucion complex where is located Plaza de la Revolucion Square itself with stunning Jose Marti Memorial and main State, Party and Government buildings surrounded by different ministry office buildings  National Library and National Theater buildings.

 

Marina Hemingway

 

Located at the exclusive residential neighborhood of Marina Hemingway, near Habana’s International Conference Centre, to the West of Habana city, you can find Acuario Hotel and Paraiso and Pilar villas. Boasting a four stay category, they offer multiple choices for practicing any kind of water activities, providing comfortable and modern accommodations.

 

Playas del Este

 

The beaches east of Havana are known as "Playa del Este". They are just 20 minutes from Downtown Havana, and include from West to East: Bacuranao Beach, Tarara Beach, El Megano Beach, Santa Maria del Mar Beach, Boca Ciega Beach, Guanabo Beach, Veneciana Beach and Rincon Beach. Choose from 7 km of white sand beach...

Playa Santa Maria del Mar is a pleasant non-touristy beach, but packed with Habaneros at weekends. It has white sand with remains of coral and shells. Its waters are crystal clear with different shades of green and blue. Underwater, Santa María shows a beautiful landscape of coral reefs, shellfish and lively colored fish. It is an experience to dive in these waters, due to the abundance of the fauna and its irregular landscape.

Guanabo is a charming seaside town with a magnificent beach and a nightlife provided by many discos.

A list of important historical and cultural places, museums and old streets that you can visit in Havana

Squares

In the second half of the 16th century the Spanish governorship moved from Santiago de Cuba to Havana for good. From that moment on Havana harbor became the most important in the island, because of the creation in 1561 of the fleet system and due to the fact that this harbor was an obliged stopping place on the way to the Peninsula. The population and the city grew out and beyond that narrow stripe bordering the bay.

Plaza del Cristo (Cristo Square)

By agreement of the town council, in March, 1640 the Plaza del Cristo was created. The project also included a hermitage and a calvary at the same place where a boundary cross, marking the end of the fourteen crosses or Stations of the Cross during Lent, was located. In that way the dimensions of the plaza were planned according to the character of the processions that were to take place in it.

Plaza de la Catedral (Cathedral Square)

The area where the Plaza de la Catedral is located used to be, according to 17th century records, a marshland renewed each year during the rainy season. At the place where the plaza was created, and due to its surface’s properties, the waters became stagnant, so that the place was known at the beginning as Plaza de la Ciénaga (Swamp Square).

Plaza Vieja (Old Square)

Considering the decision taken by the keeper of the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, in the first half of 16th century, to use the Parade Ground for military practices, the neighbors of the town insisted to the town council on the need to create a new public square for their amusement.

Plaza de San Francisco (San Francisco Square)

Called San Francisco because of the convent next to it, this square was conceived in 1628, with the objective of supplying water to the ships trading with the metropolis. For many years it also served to stockpile the goods arriving from the harbor. Chronicles of the time say that the square had a busy commercial life.

Plaza de Armas (Armas Square)

The first known public square of Havana was located on the spot that, later on in the 16th century, was occupied by the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. To place it, they took an adjoining lot to the south where at the time there was some poor housing. Some acts from that period (between 1559 and 1577) consign that the square was large, clean and that it was known as Plaza de la Iglesia (Church Square) because it was next to the Parroquial Mayor (Main Parish Church).

 

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Descripción: Cannons at the entrance of La Cabaña.

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The Chocolate Museum: an option to taste

Inspired in the Royal Museum of the Real Square in Brussels, Belgium, and born thanks to the support of Madame Jo Draps, its director, this singular place in Havana offers a tour through the history of cacao, its harvesting, production and commercialization.

Pharmaceutical Museum (Taquechel Pharmacy)

The French Pharmacy was funded in 1882, on the former Arms Square, known today as Liberty Park, and turned into the Pharmaceutical Museum in 1964.

Alejandro Humboldt Museum

The main objective of this institution is to preserve research and promote the historical legacy of the wise German Alejandro Humboldt. It was inaugurated by the Office of the Historian of Havana in October 31st, 1997, in a 18th century building.

Museo de Armas (Gunsmith’s Shop Museum)

This gunsmith’s shop, founded in 1934 under the name of Gunsmith Company of Cuba, was attacked on April 9, 1958 by members of the July 26 Movement led by Fidel Castro as part of the actions to overthrow Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship.

The Scale Model of Havana

Only inferior to a similar one in New York, the Scale Model of Havana is, due to its dimensions, the second largest in the world. The 727 square kilometers of the city are represented in relief in an area of 22 meters of length and 10 meters of width.

National Museum of Music

A beautiful small palace built at the beginning of XX century, with a elaborated prevalence of the eclecticism with neoclassical elements. The house was in its time center of interesting gatherings of outstanding artists like Federico García Lorca, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, Eduardo Zamacois, María Guerrero and the musician René Dumesnil.

Convento de San Francisco de Asis

One of the first monastic orders that arrived in Cuba was that of the Franciscans. Around 1570 they were already the protégées of one of the first notables of the town who, at the time of his decease, donated all his possessions with the aim of building a monastery for the order by the harbor of Havana. In 1574 alms began to be collected for the construction. In 1575 the building license was requested of the king and of the Royal Court of Santo Domingo. Finally, by 1584 the work was already advanced, so that we conclude that it was finished before the century was over.

Obrapia (House of Charity)

After a meticulous work, by November of 1983 one of the most beautiful colonial mansions in the Historic Center of Old Havana, the House of Charity, was completely restored.

San Salvador de la Punta Castle

La Punta just like El Morro was designed to protect the entrance to the Havana Bay that became an important and strategic entranceway to the harbor since the settlement of the town.

Castillo de la Real Fuerza (Castle of the Royal Force)

The authorities of the island took steps in order to have a new fortress. In 1558 arrived in Havana the engineer Bartolomé Sánchez, appointed by the king Felipe II. The construction of the fort was delayed because of disagreements among the governor, the neighbors whose lots were expropriated for the works and the engineer himself. The arrival of a new master builder on the same year had a sorry ending. It wasn’t until 1577 that the Real Fuerza was finished, thanks to the work of black slaves and Mexican money.

Rum Museum

An ancient three floor colonial residence, placed at El Puerto Avenue, in Havana, is the venue of the Rum Museum . Historians affirmed it was built in the 17th century (1772- 1780), and that it was owned by the Counts Mortera. Due to its historical values was declared Cultural Patrimony of Havana by the UNESCO in 1982.

Numismatic Museum

The most ample collection of Cuban coins is exhibited in this museum, placed out of the old Monte Piedad, very close to the Plaza de Armas, downtown in old Havana.

Jose Marti House

In this a small house was born José Martí Pérez, Cuban National Hero and leader of the independence, one of the more outstanding personalities in the Spanish and Latin American literature in the 19th century. It is a museum since 1945, and it was declared National Monument in 1949.

Colonial Art Museum

The house belonged to Don Luis Chacon, three times Military Governor of Cuba. The building was finished around 1622, and is considered as the first one rebuilt at the square, in the 18th century majestic style, which prevails in the present environment of the place.

National Museum of Natural History

Thanks to its privileged location, in the Plaza de Armas, in the Old Havana, this institution inherited a Cuban tradition of the 18th century. It is characterized by an historical environment and an intense cultural and tourism life.

Sarrá Pharmacy

The Catalá, Sarrá and Co. society opened the drug store La Reunión in May 1853, at 41 Teniente Rey Street. It was one of the most elegant and prestigious pharmacies of Havana. At the beginning of 20th century it was considered second in importance world wide and the first in Cuba.

Víctor Hugo House-Museum

The number 311 of the narrow O’Reilly street, in Old Havana, reopened on March 16th, 2004. The house was rescued from ruins after a meticulous restoration work, and was turned into Víctor Hugo House-Museum, to honor the French writer, although he never lived or even travelled to Cuba.

Perfume Museum

The perfume is one of the Cubans' secular devotions. From the times when the grandmothers perfumed the wardrobes with tender mint and vetiver leaves and the families gathered in the interior patios under the aroma of the tropical plants. Perfume was a delicious resource in the middle of the Island's climate, where summer is a permanent season. That's why perfumes have a museum, near a quiet patio of a Seville ambiance, with a fountain, a small reservoir of water and a grapevine.

Carlos J. Finlay Historical Museum of Science

The building from 1678, former Real Academy of Medicine,Physics and Natural Sciences of Havana, became the museum since 1868. Some years later it had the first museum in Cuba, inaugurated in May 19th,1874, and sponsored by the Real Academy. It was also a convent of the order Agustinos, the first Anatomic Museum in the country and the first school of engineering in Cuba.

Automobile Museum

The Automobile Depot is divided in two exposition rooms, which share the entire collection composed by 30 promenade cars, two rigid trucks, a funeral carriage, a special vehicle, seven motorcycles, a semaphore, three fuel pumps and two didactic imitations.

National Museum of Fine Arts

The National Museum of Fine Arts holds a rich collection reaching over 47,000 Cuban and universal pieces. It’s rebirth took place in July 2001 in three magnificent buildings, the original building, the colonial Barracks of Calvalry and the Asturian Center. The history of this museum has been eventful since its first and precarious building in 1913, located on Lucena Street until it was moved to the building finished in 1955 that hosts this institution since then.

The Habano Museum

Unique in Cuba, The Habano Museum is located in an old building from the 18th century in the Havana Historical Centre, this institution was founded in February 26th, 1993.It is the only one in Cuba dedicated to preserve and show collections related to the culture brought by tobacco.

The House museum Osvaldo Guayasamin

The House -museum Oswaldo Guayasamín has three permanent expositions to honour and preserve the memory of this painter of Ecuador and Latin America.

The House of the Arabians: the Moorish spirit in Havana

The huge old house hosting this museum, placed in the very heart of the ancient part of Havana, is the materialization of the Moorish spirit that influenced with strength the Cuban architecture since the18th century. The arches of red bricks, the shape of the ceilings and their galleries, the ample interior patios decorated with plants and flowers, are a synthesis of the examples of the constructive style inherited by Spain from the Muslim Arabia, the masons that arrived to Cuba.

African Museum (Collection from 38 countries)

It is located in an old colonial palace in Old Havana, and it was inaugurated in 1986. It holds valuable collections from 38 countries of this continent. It is enriched with the important Afro- Cuban collection of the researcher Don Fernando Ortiz and the African Collection of the President Fidel Castro.

Asia House

Built in 1688, the former see of an influencing Dominican cleric in the 18th century, it was turned into a slum in the 20th century until its restoration in 1997, the Asia House-Museum devotes itself to remember the bonds with the Asian world and its culture.

Captains Generals Palace’s

One of the most important architectural monuments in Old Havana, of a neat Baroque style, is the ancient Captains Generals Palace’s, venue to the Spaniard Colonial Government in Cuba for over 100 years and main civil construction in the Plaza de Armas. It is located in the historical site of the city 50 meters from the seashore.

Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro (Morro Castle)

From the 16th century on, the advantages of the natural rocky elevation that lay by the bay’s entrance, called El Morro, became evident. At the beginning two lookouts were posted in this place to watch over the area. They had a slate roofed hut. In 1563, the authorities built a stone and mortar watchtower. The arrival of Tejeda and Antonelli gave El Morro a new importance. Alongside Antonelli worked his nephew Cristóbal de Roda as the engineer’s assistant. He takes the credit for drawing the first layout of Havana in 1603. In December 1588 the king appointed a keeper in charge of the fortress that was to be called ‘de los Tres Reyes’ (‘of the Three Kings’).

Fortaleza San Carlos de la Cabaña (The Hut Fortress)

Restablished the Hispanic dominance in Havana, one of the first dispositions of the king Carlos III, with regard to the protection of the city, was the construction of a colossal fortification, the largest erected until then, in America, on “La Cabaña’s” hill. The project, undertaken by Silvestre Abarca, with plans by two French engineers, was finished in eleven years, between 1763-1774. Simultaneously, " El Príncipe” and Atarés” Castles.

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Descripción: Cannons at the entrance of La Cabaña.

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Enna street is at the back of the Templete, being its length of some ten meters, what makes it the smallest street in Cuba.

Streets of Old Havana

The arrangement of the Havana streets was signed by the gradual process of the city’s growth, starting from its epicentre, in the surroundings of the Arm’s Square.

Cuba Street

Cuba Street, that also could be called The Street of the Churches

Amargura (Sorrow) Street

Amargura was the street of the processions and the religious retirement in the XVIII century.

Callejón del Chorro Street (Water Lane)

The area where the Plaza de la Catedral is located used to be, according to 17th century records, a marshland renewed each year during the rainy season. At the place where the plaza was created, and due to its surface’s properties, the waters became stagnant, so that the place was known at the beginning as Plaza de la Ciénaga (Swamp Square).

Tejadillo (Tile Street)

Parallel with Empedrado street, had a single house roofed with tiles during many years of the XVII century, for what was know this way.

Muralla (Wall) Street

Muralla was one of the first ways of Havana, which was denominated in its beginnings as Real Street.

Compostela Street

Compostela street, named in honor to the Bishop Diego Evelino de Compostela , has its beginning at the foot of the atrium of the Santo Angel Custodio Church, a splendid construction crowed by beautiful Gothic domes.

Empedrado (Paved) Street

It was denominated this way, for being the first street of the village that was paved with smooth round stones, in the first half of the XVII century

Obrapia (Piety) Street

Called by the beautiful mansion lifted in 1665 at the corner with Mercaderes

 

 

 

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