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35 Essential things to see and do in Havana, Cuba

Havana is the capital of Cuba and is a must on any trip to Cuba, despite the fact that many organized trips do not include it in the itinerary. Cuba is a perfect destination to organize yourself and discover its capital, towns, other cities such as Trinidad, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos... Do not settle for an organized trip to an all-inclusive resort. If you are still not sure how to organize your trip, here is a complete guide to travel to Cuba.


Havana is very special, it is a small city full of life through the streets, with a good vibe and with many things to do. The ideal is to dedicate two days to it and in this post I will tell you about the 35 essential things to see and do in Havana.


Imprescindibles que ver y hacer en La Habana (Cuba)

35 ESSENTIAL THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN HAVANA, CUBA


1. Start by visiting Havana doing a free tour


One of the best things to do in Havana is to get to know its people and the good atmosphere. It is part of its charm. A great option to learn more about the history of the country and about Havana is to take a free guided tour with a local guide. You will learn about key historical episodes and you will see the essential places of Havana. Remember to tip the guide at the end of the tour, he sure deserves it.


You have several options of free tours to do in Havana:



2. Visit the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater in Havana


The Alicia Alonso Theater is an essential visit to do in Havana. It is the headquarters of the National Ballet of Cuba and has various rooms that you can visit with a guided tour. The building is neo-baroque in style and was inaugurated in 1915. You can also get tickets for any show for 750CUP.


3. The Capitol, an essential thing to see in Havana


The Capitol of Havana is one of the most photographed places in all of Cuba. This imposing building was built in 1929 to house the Congress. But when the Revolution triumphed in 1959, it was dissolved and became the headquarters of the Cuban Academy of Sciences and the National Library of Science and Technology.

Its enormous dome of more than 90 meters high is reminiscent of the Pantheon in Paris or even the capitol in Washington DC. To be able to visit it you must book the guided tour, it costs 10 euros.


Imprescindibles que ver y hacer en La Habana (Cuba)

4. Stroll through Old Havana, something essential to do in Havana


Havana has a very special charm. One of the best things to do is wander the streets and get lost aimlessly in Old Havana. Its history, the colonial architecture, its colors, the balconies with flowers... everything is beautiful. You will be able to listen to the musicians sing and play the guitar, painters improvising wonders of art...


5. Have a mojito in La Bodeguita del Medio, an obligatory stop to make in Havana


La Bodeguita del Medio is the most famous bar to have a mojito in Havana, and it has become an essential stop to make in the Cuban capital. There is usually quite a queue and it costs twice as much as the other nearby places where they also offer cocktails.


6. Find the Callejón de Hamel and enjoy the art that surrounds it


A very interesting visit to do in Havana is the Callejón de Hamel. It is an open-air Afro-Cuban art gallery, as well as a social project that promotes culture in the neighborhood. This passage is about 200 meters long and is full of graffiti, sculptures made with recycled materials, phrases from artists and thinkers... All of this refers to gods of the Yoruba religion, of African origin.


7. Stroll along the Malecón, Havana's promenade


The Havana promenade is more than 8 kilometers long and is one of the most romantic and melancholic places to see in Havana. At almost all hours you will find people sitting talking with friends, children playing ball, people having a beer, fishing or even swimming.



Imprescindibles que ver y hacer en La Habana (Cuba)

8. Take a ride in a classic car


In front of the Gran Teatro de La Habana there are many classic cars. And although it is not the only area where you will find them, it is where you can take the typical emblematic photo of Havana with the classic cars. These cars were mostly imported from the United States during the 1940s and 1950s. When the Revolution came, Fidel Castro prohibited the arrival of more American vehicles or spare parts. For this reason, from the year 1959 the Russian Lada arrived instead of the Chevrolet, Ford, Buick, Pontiac...


To get a good price, it is advisable to book online, since you try to make reservations right there, they usually increase the price a lot. The price is around 70 euros per car (up to 4 people).



Imprescindibles que ver y hacer en La Habana (Cuba)


9. The Cathedral of Havana


The Cathedral of San Cristóbal de La Habana is located in the Plaza de la Catedral, in Old Havana. Construction began in 1748 by the Jesuit Order. Later, they were expelled from the New World, leaving their work paralyzed. Eleven years later, Bishop Felipe José de Tres-palacios y Verdeja, acquired the land projecting in his imagination the construction of the cathedral. Currently, it is considered one of the most beautiful and sober religious buildings of the American Baroque, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1982.


The final layout of the temple consists of three naves with a practically square floor plan and houses a total of eight side chapels differentiated by thick pillars. Whose construction was largely through the use of coral rock from the Gulf of Mexico that today allows you to see remains of marine fossils.


10. The Plaza de Armas, one of the most beautiful squares to see in Havana


The Plaza de Armas is the oldest square in the city and an essential thing to see in Havana. Right here, in this square, Havana was formally founded in the year 1519. For centuries this square was the administrative center of the city, which is why it is surrounded by historical buildings.


11. Plaza Vieja, one of the most beautiful places to see in Havana


Plaza Vieja is one of the most beautiful squares to see in Havana. It is full of colours, music, a good atmosphere... Although they call it the “old” square, the reality is that it was recently restored.


If you want to have the best perspective of the Plaza Vieja you must go up to the roof of the Gómez Vila building. It is in a corner of the square and offers a good view of the entire city. In addition, there is a camera obscura, predecessor of the current cameras.


Imprescindibles que ver y hacer en La Habana (Cuba)

12. Attend the nine o'clock cannon shot, an emotional ceremony to see in Havana


Attending the cannon shot at 9:00 p.m. is an essential thing to do in Havana. It is a ceremony with centuries of history that consists of firing a cannon to balance the clocks of the entire city. It has been done since the 18th century from the fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña. Originally, it also served to notify the population to remain confined within the walls that surrounded the city to avoid pirate attacks.



13. Shows to see in Havana


There are several Cabaret shows, music, plays that you can do in Havana. It is a good way to add activities (especially at night) to your days in the Cuban capital.


Shows you can do in Havana:



14. Enjoy the views from the Castillo de los tres reyes del Morro


When Havana was still a Spanish overseas province, the castle of the Three Wise Men del Morro was built. This castle is located on a hill just in front of Old Havana and from there you will have incredible views of the city. On the hill you will also find two restaurants and an art gallery. A good option to go to the castle is at sunset.


Imprescindibles que ver y hacer en La Habana (Cuba)

15. Visit the house of Che Guevara


In 1959 Fidel Castro ordered Che Guevara to move from Santa Clara, where the Cuban revolution began, to Havana. Che stayed in a house that can still be visited. You will be able to see his office, the room where he slept, photographs with personalities of the moment, personal belongings of Che Guevara...


16. The Christ of Havana


Next to the Che Guevara house-museum is a huge marble statue of a Christ. It was the work of the Cuban artist Jilma Madera in 1958 and symbolizes protection of the city. The statue measures 20 meters and is the second tallest figure of Christ in the world, behind the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.


17. Visit the Museum of the Cuban Revolution


To learn more about the history of Cuba, I recommend that you visit the Museum of the Cuban Revolution that you will find in Havana. The exhibition shows the history of the Cuban revolution that overthrew President Batista in 1959, as well as the life of Che Guevara.


18. The Plaza of the Revolution


This historic square is an essential stop to see and do in Havana. It is one of the largest squares in the world and serves as a mass meeting place during celebrations or commemorations. This was where Fidel Castro gave speeches for hours and also where he was fired when he passed away. In the center is the monument to José Martí, a 112-meter tower that is the tallest building in the city.



Imprescindibles que ver y hacer en La Habana (Cuba)

19. Have a daiquiri at El Floridita, something typical to do in Havana


In La Bodeguita del Medio you can read "My mojito in La Bodeguita and my daiquiri in El Floridita" by Ernest Hemingway. The writer gave a lot of fame to these two cocktail bars located in Havana. El Floridita is known as the cradle of the daiquiri. There you can have a cocktail next to a statue of Hemingway at the bar. And although the price of the daiquiri here is higher than that of the neighboring bars, it is something original to do in Havana.


20. Snorkel in Havana


If you are a lover of the sea and snorkeling, in Havana you have the chance to swim next to a sunken ship at the end of the 19th century, as well as see the incredible marine life that has been created around it.



21. See the tribute to Gaudi in Fusterlandia


If you like art, Fusterlandia is another visit to do in Havana. It is a "town" of more than 150 houses decorated by the Cuban artist José Fuster. Tiles reign there, in the purest style of Gaudí's famous modernist trencadis. This project was a personal dream of Fuster, who began by giving color to his own house and has ended up creating an artistic project for the community.


22. Stroll through Centro Habana


In addition to Old Havana you will also find the center of “modern” Havana. It is one of the best areas to stay due to the wide variety of accommodation, restaurants, shops... This is where the locals come to life, there are children playing ball, people sitting in doorways to connect to WiFi, businesses for locals...



23. Try street food in Havana


Trying street food is one of the best things to do in La Haba. There are stalls with hamburgers, hot dogs, stalls that sell slushies with flavored syrup, suckling pig sandwiches, sweet buns, banana tostones, ice cream...


24. Walk along the Paseo Del Prado


The main pedestrian avenue of the city, the Paseo del Prado, leaves from the Capitol. This promenade is full of buildings in bright colors and with lots of trees, it is a pleasant promenade to walk and disconnect.


25. Stroll through the Colon Cemetery, something strange and curious to do in Havana


For some, visiting a cemetery may sound like a strange and disturbing plan. Although visiting the Colón Cemetery is something curious and recommendable to do in Havana. There is the necropolis of Christopher Columbus and it is a true work of art. It is incredible on an architectural level, since as soon as you enter you will see a monumental marble monument and a beautiful chapel. The tombs are decorated with very elaborate sculptures.


26. Visit Viñales, one of the best excursions to do in Havana


An essential excursion to do in Havana is the Viñales Valley. You can do it for free or with an organized excursion. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a valley and rounded hills covered with vegetation and caves that can be visited.

It is the region that produces the most tobacco on the island, so you will be able to see how the famous cigars are rolled.




27. Visit the Casablanca neighborhood, an essential thing to see and do in Havana


In the Casablanca neighborhood you can find the Castle of the three kings of El Morro, the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña, the Casablanca pier, the Havana Havana... It is one of the most beautiful and essential neighborhoods to see in Havana . You have the possibility of taking a free tour of the Casablanca neighborhood.


28. Find the Bacardi Building


In Havana you will find several art deco buildings in the city due to the North American influence during the 30s and 40s. The first was the Bacardí building, it was inaugurated in 1930 as the headquarters of the famous alcoholic beverage company. That is why it has a bat, symbol of the company, on its highest point. Currently, the building houses offices of a real estate agency.


29. Visit the Palace of the General Captains


In the main square, there is what was the residence of the governors in the days of the Spanish colony and one of the most representative buildings of the Cuban baroque. It is currently a museum dedicated to extolling the Cuban independence deeds. Inside the palace there is a throne for the Spanish monarchs that has never been used.


30. The square of San Francisco


Another of the emblematic squares to see in Havana is the Plaza de San Francisco. Formerly the city market was located there until the monks complained about the noise. Later this market was moved to the Plaza Vieja after the monks complained about the noise. In the square is the Lonja building.


31. Visit the Hotel Nacional, a historical place to see in Havana


The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is probably the most famous hotel in Havana since it was inaugurated in the year 1930. Its luxurious Art Deco style design impressed celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Marlon Brando… During the 1940s and 50 was the meeting place for the Italian-American mob.


32. Fall in love with the inner courtyards of Havana


One of the things that I liked the most to discover in Havana are the interior patios of many of the buildings. They are amazing, a little oasis in the center of the city. Many of them are flanked by colonial buildings, full of plants and trees, creating a very calm and magical atmosphere. You should keep in mind that these patios belong to the neighborhood and are not open to tourists, but if you find a neighbor at the door, or the door is open, you can always take a look, respecting at all times.




33. Visit Havana's Chinatown


The door of the Chinatown of Havana is what most attracts attention. It is located behind the Capitol. At the beginning of the 20th century, Havana had the second largest Chinese community after San Francisco. They arrived in Cuba at the end of the 19th century through work contracts as sugarcane collectors. Subsequently, they returned to their country of origin during the 1950s.


34. Excursion to Soroa, a beautiful natural environment to see in Havana


If you want to add nature to your stay in Havana, I recommend you take the excursion to the Soroa waterfall, nestled in a biosphere reserve full of tropical plants, wild orchids, coffee plantations, waterfalls and natural pools.



35. The Ciénaga de Zapata National Park


Ciénaga de Zapata National Park has one of the most important ecosystems in Latin America. It has the largest wetland in the insular Caribbean. There you can do hiking trails, enjoy the flora and fauna. Here are 258 species of birds, 15 species of mammals and 43 types of reptiles.



Imprescindibles que ver y hacer en La Habana (Cuba)

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