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Havana Highlights of the capital of Cuba

by Flitter Fever
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Havana or La Habana, the capital of Cuba. You must have an idea about it. Classic cars, music, cigars… So, what to see in Havana? I’m not trying to rewrite the travel guides here, only highlighting my personal favorites and recommendations such as bars and restaurants.

Most attractions are based in Havana Vieja (old town), Havana Centro and Vedado. Vieja is the most attractive for tourists, neat looking neighborhood and feels quite safe at night. After sunset, take a taxi back from Havana Vieja to your accommodation in Havana Centro or Vedado.

Callejon de Hamel

Street full of local, colorful and weird art in Habana Centro. Live music and rumba on Sundays. Be aware: uninvited guide will ask for money.

Plaza San Francisco & Plaza de Armas

Stroll past the book stalls and enjoy the lobster and live music at La Mina restaurant (Plaza de Armas).

Parque Central

Sip a mojito at Telegrafo Hotel, or sleep there too if you want, with roof top pool! From here it is convenient to take a ride with an old timer, there are plenty of them lined up at the park. Tip: check the color and fabric of the seating as one time it made my pale pink dress blue…

Plaza Vieja

Enjoy the architecture of this beautiful square from the terrace of bar restaurant La Vitrola. You might like their mini croquettes. Often live music next door.

Cocktail bars

  • Floridita is probably the most famous cocktail bar of Havana. Hemingway used to come here, his statue is at the bar. Floridita is not cheap and can be crowded but offers high quality drinks and live music. It’s located close to Parque Central. You might like to take a ride with a fun yellow three-wheeler taxi from here, back to your hotel or the next bar!
  • La Bodeguita del Medio is another famous cocktail bar. Apparently Hemmingway said that his favorite mojito came from La Bodeguita, and his favorite daiquiri from Floridita… Happy tasting! The walls are full of writings from visitors. Upstairs there is also a restaurant (not really good but OK).

Malecon

Malecon is a long boulevard between the city and the sea. Many streets and squares end up at Malecon, it’s the artery of Havana. A smart orientation point when going in or out of the city. On the sidewalks you will see many people and some interesting art works. There are even small beaches on the side walk!

Hotel Nacional

Hotel Nacional is a state owned accommodation. This is a good place to get some cash CUC. If you have enough money you could also consider to sleep here. At least you can enjoy the historic architecture and take a ride with an old timer through the city from here. We also had lunch in the garden restaurant (but it was rather disappointing to be honest, like most food in Cuba).

Paseo del Prado

Walking boulevard from Parque Central all the way to the Malecon with lots of local art for sale.

Plaza de la Revolucion

Big wide square with 109m statue of José Martí, governmental buildings, and wall images of national revolution heroes Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. Plaza de la revolucion is also where Fidel Castro and the Pope held speeches.

Plaza de la Catedral

Check out your travel book for more places to visit including museums. Many travel guides write about Heladeria Coppelia (ice cream) but we felt it was nothing special at all. Before going to Cuba you might want to check out Tripadvisor for the better restaurants in the city as we found it quite a challenge to find a good restaurant that serves tasty food. And as mentioned in my earlier blog with practical tips for your perfect Cuba trip; without internet you are at the mercy of co-incidence to get some ‘good food’.

Where to stay in Havana

My favourite place to stay in Havana, or actually all of Cuba, is a casa particulares. This is like a Cuban version of Airbnb. If you speak Spanish, you can arrange it yourself via email, or ask a travel agent to organize it for you. The average pricve we paid is EUR 18 per night, so a true bargain!

In Havana, we stayed at Sarita Rooms, a lovely old lady who runs a B&B in her home in Havana Centro. More details, plus all other casa particulares we stayed at in Cuba, in my previous post My favorite casa particulares in west and central Cuba.

Arrival Havana airport

After the arrival of your flight at José Martí International Airport (IATA: HAV) in Havana, it is highly likely that you will have to wait a few hours for your suitcase to appear on the luggage belt at the baggage hall. Let the holidays begin!

Before leaving the airport, make sure you trade enough cash euro for cash CUC to cover your complete costs (accommodation, gas, food, etc.), or at least until you come back to Havana or Varadero. More about Cuban money in my blog My practical tips for your perfect Cuba trip.

Before going to Cuba, ask your Havana accommodation host for a driver to pick you up from the airport; he will be waiting with your name sign at the arrivals hall. Better pay a few CUC more to the host than getting ripped off by a local taxi driver is my humble opinion…

More Cuba

My advice is: the better you are prepared for your Cuba trip, the more realistic your expectations will be, and the bigger the chance you will enjoy your Cuba trip to the max. For more information, check out my earlier blog posts about Cuba with lots of tips:

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