Old Havana

Anastasia Travelsia
18 янв
Old Havana has a lot to show off. Explore by yourself Old Havana and Central Havana. This is best done on foot. Spending a few hours in each location for understand what is real life in Havana.

Life Hacks

In practice, when you exchange USD to CUC (Cuban Pesos) in Cuba, you will have to pay a 10% penalty. This means that 100 USD will automatically be worth 90 CUC. Furthermore, there is a standard 3% exchange fee (which all currencies pay). At least, you will get only 87 CUC for each 100 USD you exchange. So better using for exchange there EUR than USD.

How to get to the center?

You can book the taxi here (Taxi page).The driver will then take you to Havana, dropping you off at your casa particular or hotel. Or you can find the taxi by yourself when you will arrive. Usual price there 15-20 CUC to the center. Also, there is public transfer from terminal 2 to Havana center. You need to find the bus station from terminal 2 and waiting for P12 buses. The price is only 1 peso.

About Wi-Fi. There almost no rental apartments have Wi-Fi. 99.9% of people in Cuba do not have it. The only way to get internet is to connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot. There are a few of these places available, mostly in parks and along the waterfront. It costs 1.50 CUC per hour and you have to buy a Wi-Fi card to use it.

National Capitol Building

Old Havana is beautiful. This was the first neighborhood in Havana. It is very old and very small. There are 3 or 4 nice streets. The rest is just poverty and buildings which are crumbling.

You should start to discover Havana from the Capitolio. 

It was the organization of government in Cuba until after the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and now it is a home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences.

Its design is compared to that of the United States Capitol. Completed in 1929, it was the tallest building in Havana until the 1950 year.

Gran Teatro

Next to the Capitolio, you will see the Great Theatre of Havana. The theater hosts many international events throughout the year and is home to the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. During the 19th and 20th century performances took place on its stage by artists of the highest rank, such as Ole Bull, Enrico Caruso, Fanny Elssler, Jenny Lind, Anna Pavlova, Antonia Mercé, Ruth Saint Denis, Ted Shawn, Teresa Carreño, Vicente Escudero, Maya Plisetskaya, Clorinda Corradi, Sarah Bernhardt, Carla Fracci and Alicia Alonso.

Castle of the Royal Force

Then take Calle Obispo to Castillo de la Real Fuerza. This important street goes back to 1519, only four years after the founding of Havana. It’s lined with shops offering handicrafts, art and books, plus bars, restaurants and holes-in-the-wall selling cheap pizzas and ice-cream. The most famous and best to eat here is bar El Floridita. This legendary Havana bar, one of many regularly frequented by Hemmingway.

At the end of the street, you will get a marble statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, the man who set Cuba on the road to independence in 1868.

Behind the statue, there is the Castle of the Royal Force. Originally built to defend against attack by pirates, it suffered from a poor strategic position, being too far inside the bay. The fort is considered to be the oldest stone fort in the Americas and was listed in 1982 as part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Beyond the drawbridge, the castle today houses one of Havana’s finest museums—the Museo de Navegación (Navigation Museum). This stupendous collection includes model ships, from Roman triremes to an astounding 3-meter-long model of the Santisima Trinidad (a Spanish 130-cannon galleon built in Havana in 1769 and sunk during the Battle of Tragalgar in 1805).

Today, this spacious, paved square is dominated by the 18th-century basilica on the south side, with its impressive tower, the Lonja del Comercio (1909) on the north side, and the Aduana (1914, Customs House) and Sierra Maestra cruise ship terminal on the east side.

Sculpture Conversation

The beautiful contemporary bronze sculpture titled ‘La Conversación’ looks out over Plaza San Francisco. Made by French artist Etienne and donated by Vittorio Perrotta to the City in September 2012, it represents the need for dialogue in contemporary society.

Plaza de Armas

In colonial times, the square was the site of military parades, musical concerts, and formal evening promenades, and it maintained its political and administrative role until the mid-20th century. It is surrounded by buildings spanning four centuries.

The Malecón

The Malecón, first named Avenida del Golfo, is Cuba’s most famous sea-side avenue. It is a place where couples come to make amends, especially at sunset, in the company of children and fishermen. It is Havana’s outdoor lounge.

Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro

It has two bastions, Tejada and Austria, and a semi bastion on the elevation, facing the sea. Another interesting feature are the holes in the back walls through which prisoners were fed to the sharks. This fortress was the main defensive construction in the Havana harbor until La Cabaña was completed 1774. Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro is one the symbols of Havana and one of the most visited places by both tourist and locals. Along with a deep moat and two batteries, the additional defense was originally provided by an ocean-side tower, replaced in 1844 by a lighthouse called the Faro del Morro.

Paseo del Prado

The best way to return to your hotel is walking through Paseo del Prado.

In the end of 19-century important buildings and other constructions began to be erected on either side, which made the area more appealing, and by the early 20th century, it had become the most popular location among well-off families.

In the late 1920s, as part of the expansion of Havana led by the French landscape artist Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier and a team of French and Cuban collaborators, the Paseo del Prado got the bronze lions, lamp-posts and marble benches we see today. Calle Prado is divided into four well-demarcated sections: the Paseo, Parque Central, the area in front of the Capitolio and Parque de la Fraternidad. It was not until 1904 that it officially became Paseo Martí.

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