If you’ve heard of Cuba, you’ve heard of Havana. The Spanish colonial city never fails to capture the hearts and imagination of travellers. Although stuck in time from any modern metropolis, Havana still thrives as a major tourist destination due to its vintage persona.
From colourfully old-fashioned buildings to poor shantytowns, Havana isn’t short of character. Throw in those iconic 1950 Chevrolets; the honesty of the locals, a few Mojito’s and the history of this town and Havana will never fail to enlighten you.
With recent changes within the international trade restrictions Cuba has faced for years, the death of their communist talisman Fidel Castro and the promise of new beginnings, the time to visit Havana and Cuba, is now. Things to Do in Havana? Here we go.
Visit the Old Town
‘Pueblo Vieja’ is where everyone begins their Havana experience. The best entrance to old Havana is Calle Obispo (Obispo St). Here you’ll stumble across traditional Cuban houses, bars, salsa dancers, street performers, cigar shops and more. Some of the Old Town’s major attractions are the Catedral de Cristobal, Plaza Vieja and Castillo de la Real Fuerza.
Opodo tip: Find a local ‘ paladar’ small restaurants dotted around the Old Town. They are fine and intricate in design but serve authentic local Cuban food.
El Capitolio (National Capitol Building)
Definitely one of the things to do in Havana: El Capitolio. On any overlooking view you see of Havana, the El Capitolio is always in it. Now home to the Cuba Academy of Sciences, El Capitolio was once the HQ of the Cuban congress. If you think you’ve seen a building in similar design before you’d be right – The Capitol in Washington D.C is almost a like for like.
Inside there are a variety of halls but it’s the décor that impresses most. From renaissance art to bronze statuses it’s argued that the interior boasts the true artistic finesse of El Capitolio. Go and see judge for yourself!
Major Revolution Sights
The Cuban Revolution is something everyone should know about when entering Cuba as it’s essentially put Cuba where they are today. To find out more of the revolution you must visit two of the major attractions that still tell about it – Plaza de Revolution and Museum de Revolution.
The Plaza de Revolution – not difficult to miss with the flag of Cuba and Che Guevara’s giant face marked on it – was the place where Fidel Castro would regularly hold rallies, including the first in the late 50’s before the success of the revolution. This is definitely a cult attraction as it exudes so much historical significance in Cuba’s recent history.
The Museum de la Revolution is situated in the Old Town and used to sit the Cuba presidents prior to the revolution. Today, it is used as a museum exhibiting mostly the Cuban revolution and on from that in 1959.
Havana is by the sea and Malecon is the esplanade hat marks as a centre between ocean and land. It also runs the breadth of the entire city. Many locals come here to hang out regularly whilst visitors tend to wander for sunset. You’ll even find the Malecon holds local festivals too. Iconic to the locals of Havana, the Malecon has a special vibe in and around the Vedodo neighbourhood – full of nightclubs, salsa bars, comedy clubs and more. When looking for things to do in Havana, el Malecon should be on your list.
‘El Morro’ is the 16th – 17th century castle that guards the entrance to Havana Bay. If you’re walking down the Malecon, you’ll see the castle across the sea. A symbol of Havana’s maritime past, the castle today is used as a museum and provides aan opportunity to look into the history of Havana’s former seafaring ways.
Opodo Tip: Morro Castle provides an epic view of Havana, so make sure you get panoramic mode ready!
La Bodeguita Del Medio
Obama’s visited, it’s been mentioned in movies like Miami Vice – La Bodeguita del Medio is apparently home to Havana’s best mojitos. With its rustic décor but a breezy Latin vibe epitomised by regular Cuba singers, despite its popularity you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled across a local bar.
Floridita Bar is on Calle Obisdo and is named after Ernest Hemingway who was a famous American writer. Hemingway often visited this bar when he lived in Cuba and today, showcases lots of the writer’s memorabilia. One of the great things about Floridita’s is that it still has its original design, dating back to the 1940’s. For a bit of nostalgia and a refreshing cocktail, you have to pop by here.
Opodo Tip: Take a visit to Hemingway’s old house, Finca Vigia, which has now been converted into a museum.
Because Cuba hasn’t been able to import new cars since the 1950’s, classic cars are a real thing in the country and non-more so in Havana. One of the biggest clichés of Cuba, you’ll often see the Chevrolets roaming around as the norm and of course many want to experience the ride! Although the shells of the cars are the same, the mechanics and parts that make the car go are new. Don’t be surprised to find USB ports, air conditioning and the finesse of a modern car.
You can take a hail a Chevrolet taxi or take a guide tour inside these classics.
Things to Do in Havana – our extra Opodo Tips:
Ropa Vieja – that bizarrely translates to ‘old clothes – is a shredded beef dish that is popular in Cuba.
Baseball is popular in Cuba and you can go see a real live game in Havana at the Estadio Latinoamerica.
The Colon Cemetery is $5CUC to get in but is worth the visit. Grand in its appearance with statues, monuments and tombstones respecting the deceased, many of who were prominent figures.