Why you should visit Havana
- Unique opportunity to experience an on-going tropical revolution
- Ride a classic American car along the promenade at sunset
- Gen up on Cuba’s recent rebellious history in the mammoth Museum of the Revolution
- Lose yourself in the music and cigar-smoke filled cobbled alleyways of Old Havana
- Stay in a beautifully restored colonial mansion in the heart of this UNESCO city
- Eat in paladares for fantastic home-cooked fare
Our specialists ‘Must Do’
So many to choose from! However, dusk is a magical time in the Old City and a valuable hour that’s not to be squandered. Stroll through the old quarter from Plaza Vieja, through Plaza de Armas to Plaza de la Catedral to really appreciate the beauty of this 500 year old city centre and its magnificent Spanish colonial architecture and pastel hued buildings by the yellowing light of early evening. Continue (via a mojito or two) to the Malecon (promenade) for sunset, a magnet for lovers, families and fishermen generating a party atmosphere.
As the sun sets over the imposing outline of Hotel Nacional at the far end of the promenade, dive back into the city and make your way to Parque Central where Habaneros gather to animatedly discuss the latest baseball results. It’s then a few blocks to La Guarida Restaurant. An elegant sweeping staircase within a dimly lit Havana tenement building deposits you outside an innocuous wooden door surrounded by hanging laundry. If you’ve been smart enough to make a reservation, this will magically open to welcome you to a rambling series of charming dining rooms and one of Havana’s best dining experiences.
A little more about Havana
Havana’s dramatic history from Spanish colonisation in the sixteenth century to the brave new world of the Castro dynasty is etched into the buildings, plazas and avenues of one of the Caribbean’s most charming city centres. Habana Vieja (Old Havana) is the old port and heart of the city, filled with fine colonial buildings and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
Outside of the old quarter there are some suitably Soviet style highlights including Plaza de la Revolucion, where Castro used to deliver marathon speeches overlooked by the Jose Marti Monument. Take the elevator to the top for fantastic views of the city and of the huge image of Che Guavara along with the slogan “Hasta la Victoria Siempre”.
Heading west along the Malecon from Old Havana, you pass through Vedado, a Las Vegas style playground for Americans during the fifties, and then the elegant suburb of Miramar with its impressive historic mansions. Both are areas worth spending time in for their historic significance as well as a little fun, boasting some tremendous music clubs, bars and cabarets.
Havana is rapidly becoming a creative hotspot. New and exciting galleries and exhibitions are regularly being unveiled and there are a great range of museums (including the huge Museum of the Revolution). However, this is a fabulous city to discover by foot and this is certainly the best way to get to know the cultured, educated and welcoming residents of this fantastic city.
Did you know?
The Granma, the boat that carried Castro, Guevara and 80 of their comrades 1,200 miles from Mexico to Cuba was only designed for 12 people with a maximum capacity of 25. After a miserable journey through rough conditions, when it seemed likely that they would sink, the group finally made it to Cuba although fewer than 20 made it to the Sierra Maestra with Castro. This group went on to ferment and to win the revolution. Today the Granma is preserved in a glass case at the Museum of the Revolution. Every year Cuban schoolchildren board a replica of the Granma and re-trace its voyage from Mexico to Cuba.
When to go
There are cultural events happening in Havana year-round. It’s a good idea to check listings for the period that you plan to be in Havana (although many events are not promoted until close to the time). The big party is carnival, which takes place in Havana every July and August. The driest time to visit will be between January and April. December and early January can be cool.