The island of Cuba is nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean (basically where the two meet). This Caribbean island is close to the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Florida. Which makes it an interesting stop for travelers?
Havana is the capital of Cuba and it is famous for its Cuban rum, the ever-popular daiquiri cocktail and yes the song “Havana” by Camila Cabello. (OK yes and Cuban cigars – naturally when you’re in Cuba.) Cuba is also the place where you’ll find the best ever mojitos.
But it is also very famous for its vintage cars; a famous sight throughout the city.
This city with its 16th century Spanish Colonial architecture also sees the normal daily appearance of thousands of vintage cars. Therefore it is a popular Instagram spot for the perfect “Cuba-photo” or “Havana-nights photo”.
Many of the buildings in Old Havana are sort of “crumbling” and in dire need of restoration (or so you would think). However, some of these buildings are exactly the ones that make for beautiful photo backdrops. There are also quite a few colorful buildings that contrast against its ‘bare’ neighbor, which makes for awesome photos.
The towering Capitol Building is a favorite photo opportunity that lays waiting, if you can get the right angle down an alley, you’ll have a fantastic photo.
My first impression of the city was that it is a very old and ‘tired’ city. To me, the people in the street-art-filled alleys looked tired. However never judge a book by its cover: it all depends on exactly where in Cuba you travel as the majority of the people in Havana are very happy and friendly. There is also the beautiful side of Cuba with its colorfully painted buildings, the views of the ocean, the street cafes; it is all here.
The first thing you will immediately notice is the vast amount of ‘vintage’ cars everywhere. It’s like a trademark of Havana, Cuba. You can take a taxi in one of these old cars or go on a city tour in one. (Do however make sure you book with a trusted guide, as per our links below, to be safe. If you book tours with a trusted guide, you will not have to stress about transport in a city like Havana.)
Then, people playing games in the street like dominoes and checkers was actually wonderful to see. People are more likely to showcase the “most run-down looking” areas on photos of Cuba, but there is a beautiful side ready for you to explore. Just take your pick.
These are very much the places to hang out.
The Plaza Vieja (lit. ‘Old Square’) is located in Old Havana. Stop here for a quick coffee and to view some interesting architecture. You will often also find some form of live entertainment on the squares. The city’s oldest plaza (Plaza de Armas) is beautiful. This lovely plaza, surrounded by restaurants and numerous second-hand book stands is also the place where the city was founded. It is a book lover’s heaven. Many years ago it was the place where the military would have parades, and hence the name Plaza de Armas (Arms Square).
Do stop at the Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales, an 18th-century baroque Palacio, and the former governor’s palace. It houses the Museo de la Ciudad, dedicated to the city’s history. This is quite an impressive place to stop.
Nearby Plaza la Catedral is where you will find the beautiful Cathedral of Havana (St Christopher). The Catedral de San Cristobal is where Christopher Columbus’ remains were kept between 1796 and 1898 before they moved it to Seville Cathedral.
Lastly, visit Plaza de San Francisco de Asís which was named after a nearby convent.
Looking for fresh fruit and veg, go to the market on 19 y B in Vedado (Agromercado de 19yB). The market stocked with fresh organic products is known to be one of the best open-air fruit and veg markets in the city.
Almacenes San José is the place to visit for Cuban art, ceramics, handmade jewelry, and more)
Second, to order is their famous mojito what else…
If you “lost your heart in Havana”, as the song says, you might still be able to get a bit of Havana @ home.