Havana: Cuba’s Capital – the Top 10 Places of Interest
Is there a better place to enjoy a cocktail than Cuba? After all, the island is famous for its delicious rum, which is perfect both on its own and as a mixer. Apart from that, there is a lot to see in Cuba, especially in its capital, Havana. The city is characterized by many historical buildings and monuments, which serve as reminders of the island’s history and especially the Cuban Revolution.
Are you planning a trip to Havana? In that case, we’ve got your back! Let us introduce you to Cuba and its capital. In addition, you’ll also find a list with our top 10 sights in Havana, so you can be sure you won’t miss any on your trip. Vamos!
Havana in a Nutshell
The island nation of Cuba is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea. Christopher Columbus actually chose the name “Juana” for the island. Its current and also original name derives from an indigenous language. Did you know that Cuba is often compared to a green caiman? This is because – with some imagination – the main island’s outline faintly resembles that of a crocodile. Besides the main island, Cuba also has a smaller island, the Isla de la Juventud. This is Spanish for “Isle of Youth”.
Cuba’s capital is Havana, and it’s home to over 2 million people. You’ve probably heard its name before. Not only is it the second-largest city in the Caribbean, but it also features in one of Camila Cabello’s most popular songs and the famous Havana Club Rum is named after it. While you’re here, you should, of course, drink some local rum but don’t forget to try Cuba’s national dish as well. Congrí consists of rice and red beans. You can eat it either on its own or as a delicious side dish with pork. You’ll definitely enjoy it!
Cuba’s capital and its famous bars are in the northwest of the main island. Don’t worry about bringing a winter coat. Cuba has a tropical climate and temperatures rarely drop below 10 °C. Despite the ever-warm weather, you shouldn’t visit the island between May and October, as this is the hurricane season. Instead, we would recommend traveling to Havana between November and April.
During this time of the year, the city also hosts many interesting and often international events, such as the Jazz Festival, the Film Festival, and the Cigar Festival. The easiest way to explore Havana is by bus. The city’s public transport system is very large and runs smoothly. Alternatively, you can use one of the yellow rickshaws to get around.
The Top 10 Places of Interest in Havana
All of this sounds very promising, doesn’t it? If you want to learn more about the capital of Cuba, then stay tuned. Here are the 10 places in Havana you shouldn’t miss out on. Have fun!
Plaza de la Catedral
In the past, this square was famous for its many floods, with some locals even describing it as a swamp. Luckily, the problem was solved and the beautiful Havana Cathedral was constructed there in 1727. The Plaza de la Catedral is one of four main squares in the capital. It’s also the perfect place to try some delicious Cuban food. The nearby Museum of Colonial Art is a great first introduction to Cuban history.
We highly recommend going inside the cathedral. It’s called the Catedral de San Cristóbal, in memory of Christopher Columbus. If you prefer your architecture to be symmetrical, then the cathedral’s two towers might bother you, as they are of different sizes. Once you’re inside the Baroque basilica, however, you will soon forget about this imbalance. The cathedral houses several chapels, Italian statues, and frescoes painted by Giuseppe Perovani, including one of the Last Supper.
Plaza de la Revolución
Most of the capital’s festivals take place here. But even when there aren’t any events going on, the Plaza de la Revolución is still well worth a visit. Take your time looking at the many monuments here. Can you spot the memorial dedicated to José Martí? It consist of an almost 110-meter-tall tower and an 18-meter-tall statue. The Cuban author and national hero José Martí received this honor because of his role in the country’s fight for independence.
The ministries at Plaza de la Revolución are also very interesting – not necessarily because of their function or architecture, but because there are two huge portraits on their walls. They depict two Cuban revolutionaries, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. In our opinion, the minimalist artworks make a nice contrast to their surroundings and add a special charm to the square.
The Havana Capitol
The Capitol is, like many other sights, located in Havana’s Old Town, la Habana Vieja. The building has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for almost 30 years. The Capitol was built in 1929 and used by the Cuban Congress for three decades. Since then, the building – which resembles the Capitol in Washington, D.C. – has been renovated and opened to the public. Its dome is particularly remarkable. With more than 60 meters in height, it was once the third-largest dome in the world.
In the floor directly below the dome, you can see the “Star of Cuba”, whose faux diamond marks the country’s Kilometer Zero. The Capitol is also home to some interesting sculptures, a beautiful garden, and a beautifully decorated entrance hall in the Renaissance style. The whole Capitol is simply amazing!
Do you want to spend your evening among locals? Then head to the Malecón! Admittedly, the 5-kilometer-long waterfront promenade is not as picturesque as it appears in photos. But it’s nevertheless a great place to meet new people, so take your chance to make some friends here. In addition, it’s also a nice area to stretch your legs and to simply enjoy the view of the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro on the other side of the port.
Museum of the Revolution
To delve even deeper into Cuba’s history, go to the Museum of the Revolution at the Plaza de la Revolución. This museum is located in the former presidential palace and is therefore quite impressive even from the outside.
The museum presents the events of the revolution very well. It arranges them in chronological order, making them easy to follow. Besides the interesting permanent exhibitions, the museum also houses the beautiful Golden Hall and a wonderful Mirror Cabinet. The latter is said to be a replica of the world-famous Versailles Palace in Paris.
Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro
For a great view of Havana, check out the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro. Built in the 16th century, it was originally meant to defend the city against pirate attacks. You can learn more about the history of the fortress in its museum, which we would recommend to anyone who wants to know more about the island’s past!
You will also find the Twelve Apostles – or rather, twelve cannons named after the apostles – in the Castillo. They used to announce the closing of the city gates at the end of each day. This tradition has continued, and you can hear a shot every day at 9:00 p.m.
La Bodeguita del Medio
La Bodeguita del Medio is a bar. You’re probably wondering why we would include a bar in our list. The answer is quite simple. La Bodeguita del Medio is the alleged birthplace of a world-famous Caribbean cocktail, the mojito! According to legend, the bar has always served the drink since it first opened in 1942 – but whether or not this is true is still up for debate.
Not only regular travelers like to visit the place, but also famous people from all over the world. For example, Ernest Hemingway used to spend a lot of time here. To learn more about the writer, take a guided tour of his first home in Havana, a hotel room at the Hotel Ambos Mundos. If you want to continue following in Hemingway’s footsteps, we recommend you visit the Finca Vigía, which was another one of his residences in the city.
Calle Obispo is a nice little shopping street – it’s perfect for buying souvenirs. It connects the Plaza de Armas with the El Floridita restaurant. Plaza de Armas is the oldest square in the capital. In the past, it was used for military and political purposes. Today, you can spend your time browsing through its open-air bookshops. The street is also home to two wonderful pharmacies, which will take you back in time. Don’t forget to go inside to admire their beautiful wooden shelves full of porcelain pots.
John Lennon Park
After a long day of sightseeing, you might want to rest a little. Why not exchange the streets of Havana with their colorful old timers for the peace and quiet of John Lennon Park? Just choose one of the many benches here and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere. Perhaps you would like to sit next to John Lennon himself! The former member of the Beatles is most famous for his song “Imagine”, and you can find some of the lyrics in this park.
The Lennon statue used to wear the iconic glasses until they were stolen. But don’t worry! There’s always a security guard nearby to place a pair of glasses on the statue’s nose, so that they won’t be missing in any of your photos. It sounds like a great job, doesn’t it?
The Playas del Este near Havana
Another good way to escape the crowds in the city center is a trip to the Playas del Este. These beautiful sandy beaches are about 15 kilometers away from Havana, and they are perfect for taking some time out.
The Playas del Este are picturesquely beautiful, as the colors of the white sand and the turquoise sea harmonize perfectly. In combination with the palm trees swaying in the wind, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported right into a postcard. We sure you’ll have a marvelous time here – especially if you take the chance to enjoy a mojito or two!
Here’s the short version of your to-do list in Havana: sip a mojito in Hemingway’s favorite bar, stroll through the Plaza de Catedral and the Plaza de Revolución, and chat with the locals at the Malecón. Don’t forget to visit the museums in the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro and the Museum of the Revolution to delve further into Cuba’s history. To clear your head, relax in John Lennon Park or at the Playas del Este.
Doesn’t that sound like a good plan to make your trip unforgettable? It’s time to start planning your adventure – just remember to avoid the hurricane season! If you keep that in mind, there’s nothing stopping you from having a fantastic time in Havana. So what are you waiting for?