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What to see and do in Santiago de Cuba and surroundings

Santiago de Cuba was an unexpected surprise. With a great architectural variety, a lot of atmosphere and some beautiful places to discover.

Travelers generally arrive in Cuba through the Havana airport and do not usually go near this area of ​​the island.

After several days of touring the country we were already a bit exhausted and we wanted to rest, but Santiago de Cuba was waiting for us with a longer list of places to visit than we thought.

Without a doubt, it was a success to include this city in our itinerary.

In this post I tell you about what to see and do in Santiago de Cuba and surroundings. At the end of the post I include a recommendation for accommodation and some more tips.

What to see and do in Santiago de Cuba


The first thing I recommend is that you take a guided tour of Santiago de Cuba. I like this type of guided tour a lot because that is when the history of the place is best known.

Caceres Park, an essential place to see in Santiago de Cuba

I recommend you start here. It is the heart of the city and where there is a lot of atmosphere. As a general rule, Cuban squares are always full of people who come to hang out with friends and family. At this point are some of the most emblematic buildings of the city. Here is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, which dominates the entire square and is impressive. Next door is the Archdiocesan Museum. You can also visit the Museum of Cuban Historical Environment.

Although I recommend you start your tour of the city from here, you must be back before dark! in the afternoon is when the square comes alive. Enjoy an ice cream sitting on one of the park benches and let yourself be surrounded by the good atmosphere.

Tivoli neighborhood

This neighborhood is one of the least popular among tourists and is characterized by its steep streets and alleyways and its little houses that look out over the sea.

The beginnings of this neighborhood date back to the 17th century when the Spaniards who came to this part of the island and had fewer resources settled in this area. It finished developing and adopting its identity with the arrival of French immigrants and their slaves fleeing the Haitian uprising. In this neighborhood is also the house where Fidel Castro lived from 1931 to 1933.

Go up the stairs of Padre Pico, this staircase leads to this neighborhood. This neighborhood is located at the highest point of the city and from here you will have spectacular views of Santiago de Cuba.

And although the neighborhood itself does not have anything emblematic to visit, its staircase, its streets, its simple houses full of life and the atmosphere that exists all day makes it worth spending a couple of hours to get to know this part of the city.

What to see and do in Santiago de Cuba

Go up to the Balcón de Velázquez, one of the best things to do in Santiago de Cuba

Seeing Santiago de Cuba from the Balcony of Velázquez is one of the coolest things to do. This viewpoint was built in the 16th century to observe maritime traffic and prevent pirate attacks. Today it is more of a popular stopover for tourists. Admission is free but they charge you for taking pictures or video.

Moncada Barracks

The Moncada Barracks, today is the 26th of July School City. This building was, in the middle of the 20th century, the military headquarters of the city.

Its history is closely linked to the evolution of the country because the Cuban Revolution began here. On July 26, 1953, the guerrillas rose up against the Fulgencio Batista regime in this building. On its façade you can still see the holes left by the bullets during the clashes. Currently, in addition to hosting a school, inside it is also the Museum of History July 26.

If you are interested in the history of the Cuban revolution you can take a tour of the city that is very interesting:

The square of mars

Here is the bust of José Martí. This square had been used as a training ground and also as a space for conspiring during the Revolution. At present it commemorates the fighting essence of the people of Santiago. In addition to the bust of José Martí (democratic republican politician, writer, journalist, philosopher and poet), there is also a bust of Camilo Cienfuegos. The latter was one of the best-known Cuban revolutionaries along with Fidel Castro.

Stroll along the Malecon, one of the best things to do in Santiago de Cuba

Approaching the Malecón is an essential stop to make in the city. You can come in the afternoon, walk along the promenade, enjoy the atmosphere, have a beer or eat an ice cream and from here you will have a movie sunset.

The Santiago de Cuba Cemetery

In this Santa Ifigenia cemetery is where José Martí, the legendary Compay Segundo and many of the activists who fought in the Cuban Revolution are buried. Since December 2016, the remains of Fidel Castro have also been found there. You can visit it for free or you can also take a guided tour.

What to see and do in Santiago de Cuba

The Castle of San Pedro de la Roca del Morro

This military fortress is on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba. It was built in 1638 to protect the city from possible naval attacks. It takes about half an hour to get there and the views are amazing.

You can get there by taxi or shared bus. Ask your hotel for the best option.

Right next to it there is a beautiful beach, the beach of the star. So if you want to go to the beach during your stay in Santiago de Cuba this is a good option because it is close to the city.

Granma key

This small islet is very close to the Castle and can be reached by boat. Cayo Granma was home to rich people with large and luxurious houses. With the Revolution, these houses were expropriated and Hurricane Ike was in charge of demolishing many of them in 2008. Currently, some families live on this islet who mainly dedicate themselves to fishing and selling souvenirs to tourists.

The island is very small and you can cover it in just half an hour.

Cayo Granma is reached by a small boat that costs 1CUC (1 Cuban peso for Cubans). You can go directly from Santiago to Cayo Granma.

The National Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre

This cathedral is located in the town of El Cobre on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba, about half an hour away by car. On the way to this town we drive along a road full of vegetation, we will look where we will look and we pass by the beautiful lake of Parada. The town itself doesn't have much to see, you can barely walk through it in two hours, but the journey here is beautiful and the natural environment that surrounds it makes you feel at peace. It is ideal to spend a quiet morning and disconnect a little from so much visit and travel.


Ideally, you should look for accommodation in the center and if it is close to Parque Cáceres, better. It's the best area! Although as it is the best option, hotels are usually always full.

We stay at the hotel Cubanacan Casagranda.

You can see accommodation offers in Santiago de Cuba from here: Accommodation offers in Santiago de Cuba.


I hope you enjoy your trip to Cuba a lot and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.

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A hug and see you soon!


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