Havana (La Habana) is an amazing and unique place to experience the Cuban history and lifestyle. As a capital of Cuba it hosts the Cuban government, various ministries and business headquarters.
|Tito El Bambino – El Amor|
I recommend starting exploration of Havana from Castillo del Morro (Morro Castle), a picturesque 16th century fortress, that guards the entrance to Havana bay. Sitting near its cannons you can enjoy marvellous view of the city and its Malecon (a broad sea-front promenade), Old and Centre part of Havana. Next to the Morro Castle there is Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, commonly known simply as La Cabaña. It is a big 18th century fortress complex with several small museums. Every night at 9pm a beautiful ceremony of the cannon shot (ceremonia del cañonazo) takes place, where solders in costumes from colonial times signal the closure of the city wall doors and nightfall.
To experience a little sea adventure you can take a local ferry from the ferry terminal at the foot of the hill where the statue of Christ (Jesus Christo) stands. It will take you to the old colonial part of the city right to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral “Our Lady of Kazan”. Then you can drink Aztec hot chocolate, mixed with black pepper and nutmeg in Museo del Chocolate close to the Basílica Menor de San Francisco de Asís, a wonderful example of eighteenth century architecture. The Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis has a 42 metres (138 feet) high bell tower that provides visitors with a stunning view out over Havana and out to sea.
Plaza de Armas, first known public square of Havana, situated in the heart of the old city and it is always packed with tourists. There are some cafes with terraces close to the square where during the lunch time local bands play “Guantanamera” and the other famous Cuban songs. In a few steps of Plaza de Armas there is El Templete, a monument that pays homage to the place where the foundation of the town of San Cristóbal de la Habana was celebrated in 1519. Near the enterence to the monument there is a column which replaces a silk-cotton tree, under which the first mass and the first Council of Havana were celebrated.
From Plaza de Armas you can walk along Calle Obispo (Obispo street), perhaps Havana’s most vibrant street, that will take you to the Parque Central (Central park). The narrow roadway throngs with life, history, architecture and entertainment. In the old pharmacy in Obispo it is possible to buy the Nonix, juice from the famous noni fruit. On the same street there is the famous El Floridita bar, the favourite place of Ernest Hemingway, where the Daiquiri cocktail was created and now you can taste it with fried bananas there.
The Capitolio building is the main tourist spot in the centre part of the city. Built in 1929, it looks like Washington DC’s Capitol, but the government had been set there only until 1959. Nowadays, it is the National Museum of Natural History, where you can give one CUC (Cuban convertible peso) to the workers and they will allow you to make a picture inside the President office on the chair where Fulgencio Batista, the last Cuban president, was sitting before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution. Behind the Capitolio there is Partagas Cigar Factory that sells cigars in their well-stocked shop, La Casa del Habano, there also you can see how cigars are made from the tobacco leaves.
The best view of the city is from the highest point in Havana – Memorial José Martí, 109 meters (358 feet) marble tower situated on the Plaza de la Revolución (Revolution Square).
Coppelia ice-cream restaurant serves the most delicious ice-cream in Cuba and it is very cheap if you buy it in with Cuban national pesos at the back part of the restaurant.
The best place to meet sunset in Havana is in the Malecon. This sea-front street stretches for 8 km along the coast and represents the Cuban lifestyle. In the morning there some foreigner joggers run here along the Atlantic Ocean. During the day some small bands and single musicians play Cuban and other music, fishermen try to catch some fish, locals walk with dogs and tourists admire significant colonial and modern buildings restored and painted in all imaginable and unimaginable colours. On Fridays and Saturdays nights you will hardly find a free place to sit or stand. The whole Malecon is crowded with locals and tourists as if half of the city is going to spend the night here. Young people are kissing, drinking, dancing, talking and fighting with lots of tourist which tries to become part of the Havana`s nightlife.
Around midnights lots of night clubs host famous and not yet famous live-music bands. I recommend to spend a nice evening in the Jazz Café or Havana Café in Vedado distinct; to dance salsa in Casa de la Musica, Café Cantante Mi Habana or Salón Rosado de la Tropical.