Havana Attractions and Landmarks
Botanical Gardens (Jardín Botánico)
This is one of the best trips offered by Cubanacan in the island. Once you are in the Botanical Gardens, simply breathe in the beautiful scenery, with all its Caribbean species, and particularly Cuban ones. Pay special attention to the Japanese Garden, with its fountains and waterfalls: a perfect excuse to stop and have a rest. At the end of the trip there is a visit to Expocuba, followed by an excellent traditional Cuban lunch at the Don Cuba restaurant. Disabled access is available. Avenida 5ta y 68, Miramar, La Habana, +53 7 33 2047.
Callejón de Hamel
This project, dating back to 1990, highlights the prevalence of African influences on Cuban culture. It was initiated by the sculptor and painter Salvador Gonzáles who, together with a group of friends, decided to paint a mural celebrating Afro-Cuban culture, reclaiming a public space as a forum for what they see as both a cultural example of community-based art. A rumba group gathers at the spot at noon every Sunday, and musicians as important as Clave y Guaguancó and Los Muñequitos de Matanzas have been known to attend. The last Friday of each month is Ballad Night, with poetry and traditional music. One Saturday per month is dedicated to children's entertainment, and puppet shows, comic theatre and clowns abound. Disabled access is available. e/ Aramburu y Hospital, Centro Habana, La Habana.
Built in 1929 as the Senate and House of Representatives (and said to be a replica of Washington DC's Capitol), this colossal building is recognizable by its dome which dominates the city's skyline. Inside stands the largest indoor bronze statue in the world representing Pallas Athena. Nowadays, the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural (the National Museum of Natural History) has its venue within the building and contains the largest natural history collection in the country.
Behind bronze doors whose panels depict scenes from Cuba's history, lies an enormous gallery called the Hall of Lost Steps. Under the dome, there is a replica of a 28-carat diamond that marks Havana's centre (for measuring distances from the capital). There is a lot to see if you wander around the rest of the building - the semi-circular chamber where politicians used to sit as well as the endless marble corridors and Italian Renaissance ceilings. You can have your picture taken by one of the photographers outside of the edifice, whose cameras date from the 1920's, or even check your emails back at home at the Capitol's very own internet cafe.
In the surrounding areas of the Capitol, there are a few attractions worth visiting, among them, the Partagás cigar factory, the Parque Central (Central Park), and the Teatro Nacional (National Theathre) with its baroque façade. Admission: US$3. Disabled access is available. Calle Paseo del Prado, e/Calle Dragones y Calle San Jose, La Habana
Casa de Las Américas
This Cuban institution for Latin American and Carribean culture was born with the revolution and has been in existance for over forty years. Multidisciplinary in nature, its annual programme includes talks, workshops and prizes for literature, as well as art, photography, musicology and print exhibitions.
The galleries in the main building house one of the finest collections of Latin American art. There are three separate exhibition spaces and a specialised library. Disabled access is available. 8am-5pm Mon-Fri. Calle 3ra. y G, El Vedado, La Habana, +53 7 55 2706 al 09, +53 7 33 4554.
El Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro
This symbolic building was constructed by the Spanish between 1589 and 1630 at the entrance to the harbour in an attempt to protect it from incursions by enemy fleets and pirate ships. One of Havana's most iconic monuments, it was defended to the death by Luis Velasco against the British when they took Havana in 1762. Velasco chose to die alongside his troops rather than surrender. It is particularly beloved by the city's inhabitants for its lighthouse, which was added in around 1845. Admission: 4.00 US. Disabled access is available. Carretera de La Cabaña, Habana del Este, La Habana, +53 7 63 7063
Castillo San Salvador de la Punta
This small fortress, at the western entry point to the harbour, played a crucial role in the defence of Havana during the first centuries of colonisation. Built in the 16th century, the four-sided construction gives visitors coming into Old Havana from the port an idea of the architecture this area of town has in store for them. The fortress still houses some twenty old guns and other military antiques. Disabled access is available. Esquina de Prado y Malecón, Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100
Cementerio Cristóbal Colón
Another interesting fact is the legend of the Milagrosa (the Miraculous Lady). She was a woman that died giving birth along with her baby. They were buried in separate graves and later on, when her grave was opened, they found the baby in her arms. A lot of devout catholics leave offerings by her grave. Disabled access is available. Calle 12 esquina Calle 23, Vedado, La Habana.
China Town (Barrio China)
Havana has an active Chinese community and a number of Chinese restaurants. A lot of Chinese restaurants can be found in Centro Havana at 10 Cuchillo Street. The strip contains 10 restaurants that serve a full spectrum of Chinese dishes.
The food in the restaurants in Chinatown is excellent in both quality and price.These restaurants are private family owned businesses, unlike most restaurants in Cuba that are government controlled. This results in a much greater concern to serve the customer. Meals are served within minutes of ordering and great attention is given to the preparation of the food.
You can enjoy an entire meal (with the exception of the more exotic dishes), including soup, fried rice, a main dish and a drink for no more than US$4. Disabled access is available. Average cost per person: $5.00. 10 Calle Cuchillo, Centro Habana, La Habana.
Convento de Santa Clara de Asis
One of the oldest and best of the Spanish colonial monasteries on the island, this building is now home to the Centro Nacional de Restauración, Conservación y Museología or CENCREM (National Centre for Restoration, Conservation and Museum Studies).
Founded in 1644 it has, despite its peaceful history, given rise to many tales and legends of unrequited love and hidden treasure. No evidence has ever been uncovered to back up these stories. In 1919 it was sold to the Cuban government. As well as operating as a museum, there is a gallery showing contemporary Cuban art. Admission: $3.00 US. Disabled access is available. Calle Cuba No. 610 e/ Sol y Luz, Habana Vieja, La Habana, +53 7 61 2877 / 61 5043 / 33 5696
El Cristo de La Habana
Havana's statue of Christ blesses the city from the other side of the bay, much like the famous Cristo del Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro. Carved from marble by Jilma Madera, it was erected in 1958 on a platform which makes a wonderful spot from which to watch the sun go down. You can reach the statue by road, or via the picturesque boat which crosses the bay. A 24 hour snack bar operates at the base. Disabled access is available. Loma de Casablanca, La Habana
Havana City Tour
This tour is organized by the company Cubanacán. There are two departure points to choose from, one in Old Havana and the other from the hotel. It is a complete tour, with visits to the main tourist sites in the city, including the Museo de los Capitanes Generales, a tobacco factory, the Casa del Café y del Ron. Disabled access is available. Calle 5 e/ Avenida y 68, Miramar, La Habana, +53 7 33 2047 (Information) +53 7 33 2715.
Hemingway Tour (Finca La Vigía)
This trip is perfect for those interested in Hemingway's stay in Cuba. Starting at the Finca La Vigía, with a visit to the house where Hemingway lived, now a museum, the next stop is Cojímar, the village that is supposed to have been the inspiration for one of his books, The Old Man and the Sea. Finally, there is a visit to the Marina Hemingway tourist area, a truly beautiful hotel resort. Disabled access is available. 5ta Avenida y 68, Miramar, La Habana, +53 7 33 2047 (Information), +53 7 33 2715.
Infotur is a tourist service that can be found in many places throughout Cuba. They provide tours, excursions, transport around the Island, postcards, maps, printed guides, posters, magazines, newspapers and souvenirs. They also sell pre-paid phone cards which are good to stock up on since a $10.00 card only gets you a few minutes when making an international call. They can confirm airline flights as well. Disabled access is available. 521 Obispo, La Habana.
Even though it begins in Old Havana, the Malecón (the pier) is an area that was the face of Havana in the 50s. Havana was then trying to emulate the great American capitals. The pier wall is the ideal place to enjoy the salty sea air, sit down and admire the sunset. Some of its best spots are the view of El Morro, the dock where you can go by boat to Casablanca and the area adjacent to El Vedado. Disabled access is available.
José Martí Memorial
The José Martí Memorial is a museum dedicated to the life of this famous revolutionary writer and poet. The museum displays many of José Martí's personal belongings. Entrance fees cost 3 pesos for the first floor for nationals and 5 pesos for the entire museum. The view of the city from the top is fantastic. The price for tourists is $2.00 for the first level and $5.00 for the entire museum. It is here that Fidel Castro gives his most important speaches. Disabled access is available. 9am-4.30pm daily. 41 Paseo Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, +53 7 82 0906
La Muralla de La Habana
First section: Calles Égido and Desamparados. Puerta del Arsenal. Second section: Garitas del Ángel, opposite the Museo de la Revolución. Third section: La Maestranza, Avenida del Puerto. These walls, finally completed in the 18th century and considered by many at that time to be a pointless and expensive project, are an imposing remnant of the city's colonial past.
Originally intended to afford Havana's citizens protection from marauding pirates and bandits, they were constructed with several gates which were closed at night. With the expansion of the city, however, parts of the walls were demolished, starting as early as 1603, until only those sections standing today remained intact. La Habana Vieja, La Habana. Disabled access is available.
Museum Tour of Havana
This tour departs from the main Cubanacán offices and makes its way towards Old Havana, the historical centre of the city. The first stop is the Museo de Capitanes Generales, followed by the Capitolio Nacional and ending in the Museo de la Revolución. It is perfect for those who aren't staying in Havana for long but wish to get to know its history a little better. Disabled access is available. Avenida 5ta y 68, Miramar, La Habana. 53 7 33 2047.
Parque de 21 y K
This Vedado public park in central Havana is a traditional meeting place for the city's lovers. Its pretty shaded walkways are also frequented by street musicians, artists and poets who often end up here at the end of a long night on the town, or in search of inspiration. Tourists are not immune to its charms either. Disabled access is available. 21 y K, El Vedado, La Habana.
This is another of those wonderful trips organised by Cubanacán on the island. This trip through Lenin Park will take most of the day. It is a relaxing walk, through all the open green spaces. You can even choose to go horse-riding if you feel like it. The tour includes a visit to Expocuba and a delicious traditional Cuban lunch at Don Cuba Restaurant. Disabled access is available. Avenida 5ta y 68, Miramar, La Habana, +53 7 33 2047.
Playas del Este
This is one of the most popular places in Havana to enjoy a sunny day on the beach. The best beaches are the ones at Santa María, only twenty minutes away from Old Havana. It is well-worth visiting them, particularly if you are not going to be on the island for long. They are close enough to go and come back in the same day. Relax, and enjoy the white sand. The locals are friendly and there is a range of small hotels to choose from should you decide to stay the night. Disabled access is available. Avenida Máximo Gómez a Vía Blanca, Carretera de Campo Florido, La Habana.
Plaza de Armas
The Plaza de Armas Park is a large park and centre of local and tourist activities located in the heart of Old Havana. There is a beautiful water fountain in the middle of the square, some benches, trees from different parts of Cuba, including palm trees and a large variety of flowers. In the centre there is a statue of the Cuban patriot hero Cespedes.
The park is well lit by many gas lamps. In the daytime there are people selling Spanish books, many of which pertain to the Cuban revolution of 1959. In the evenings the park fills with life as many locals and tourists go to the restaurants and bars that surround the park and is a nice place to sit and enjoy the evening perhaps with a bottle of rum. The square is very safe as there are many police walking around 24 hours a day to provide assistance. Disabled access is available. Habana Vieja, La Habana.
Replica of La Habana
This small scale replica of Havana is second only to that of New York. This ambitious project, with its cedar wood buildings and paper streets represent an area of 144km2. The city was meticulously measured and photographed block by block by a group of architects, designers and model makers who didn't miss a tree, lamppost or set of traffic lights. Admission is 3.00 US. Disabled access is available. Calle 28 No. 113 entre 1ra y 3era, Miramar, La Habana, +53 7 33 2661/ 22 5506.
San Carlos de La Cabaña
Constructed between 1763 and 1774, and one of the best examples of colonial fortifications, this building was closed to the public until recently, as it still formed part of a military zone. It became notorious in the 19th century when the moat, the Foso de los Laureles, was used by the firing squads which shot patriots. The poet Juan Clemente Zenea was amongst those killed here. During the first half of this century it was employed as a military prison.
After the Revolution, Ché Guevara used it as his headquarters, but it is now best known for its Fortification and Weaponry Museum and for its 9.00pm canon firing ceremony. This is carried out by soldiers in historic attire and was the signal used in the eighteenth century to herald the closing of the city gates. Admission: $3.00 USD (from 10am-6.00pm), $5.00 USD (after 6pm) Disabled access is available.
The people of 19th century Havana, inspired by the concept of origins and beginnings, erected the Templete, which is a monument that pays homage to the place where the foundation of the town of San Cristóbal de la Habana was celebrated in 1519. The monument consists of bust of Christopher Colombus and three canvases painted by Juan Bautista Vermay. It is Neoclassic building, typical example of colonial architecture.
Close to the Templete, there is a column which replaces a silk-cotton tree, under which the first mass and the first Council of Havana were celebrated. Disabled access is available. Plaza de Armas, Habana Vieja, La Habana.
Viñales Valley Day-Trip
The Pinar del Río province is famous for its beautiful landscapes, hills and tobacco plantations, among other things. This trip is an opportunity for you to get to know the famous Valle de Viñales, including a trip to the tobacco factory and the Guayabita del Pinar rum factory. Before going back to Havana you will have the chance to savour the delicious Cuban cuisine at Rancho San Vicente. (It is also possible to go on this trip by helicopter.) Disabled access is available.
Enjoy all that the natural world has to offer right in the heart of the city. Of special note are the rhinoceros, monkey and rare bird enclosures. Children will love the pony rides and appreciate frequent stops for ice cream and sweets at the little stalls dotted around the zoo. Disabled access is available. 26 y Santa Teresa, Nuevo Vedado, La Habana, +53 7 81 8915, +53 7 33 5582.
The National Zoo is situated on the outskirts of Havana and many of the animals housed here roam freely in areas which resemble their natural habitats. For safety reasons visitors are transported through these particular areas on a small train, which allows close up views of the daily life of the animal kingdom at large. Traditional enclosures in the rest of the zoo mean you can wander at will through the hundreds of species on show here. Admission: $3.00 US. Disabled access is available. Carretera de Capdevila, Km 3 y * Boyeros, La Habana, 14200, +53 7 44 7613, 44 7637 / 57 8775