- Fortresses Castillo de los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos del Morro and Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña
- Old Havana - with its countless historical buildings
- City tour with an American vintage car from the 50s
- The famous Malecón waterfront of Havana
- The emblematic Capitolio - Havana's White House
- Making party in Vedado - visit the famous clubs here and feel like in the in the 50's!
- Playas del Este - perfect beaches near the city
- The impressive Necropolis de Colón cemetery
- The friendly locals - the Habaneros
Havana - the capital city of Cuba - is a beguiling mix of history, architecture, music and culture.
The streets are full of American vintage cars, cigar smoke and an always lively crowd. Everywhere you hear son, salsa or thumping Reggeaton sounds.
The largest city of the Caribbean islands casts a spell over the visitor from the first moment, leaving no one indifferent.
The most important sights of Havana can be found in the beautiful historic center of Old Havana and in the more modern Vedado district. Further west lies the exclusive Miramar Playa with its magnificent villas.
However, the so original charm of the locals - the Habanaeros - makes the difference. With their insatiable lust for life, friendliness and serenity they provide this magic atmosphere making Havana vibrating 24 hours.
A walk along the Malecón waterfront gives a first impression of the great contrasts and morbid charm of Havana.
Half-decayed buildings are next to brand new or newly restored. American road cruisers from the 40s and 50s pass by hooting. Musicians sit on the seawall and make classics of Cuban music sound, dozens of anglers wait patiently for the big catch in the scorching heat.
Then dive into the hustle and bustle of the old town of Havana (Habana Vieja). Behind every corner is waiting a magnificent colonial facade, an old fortress or a nice sidewalk café. It's so much, that you do not want to put back your camera in your pocket anymore.
Take your time for this unique concentration of historical sights.
Significantly less tourism can be found in the adjacent Centro Habana district. Most visitors finish their tour by the famous Capitolio, but just a few meters further you have the chance to know the real Cuban life.
The district with the highest population density in all Cuba zone is bursting with bustle, spontaneity and joie de vivre.
Only a few meters from the major attractions here pulsates the real life of Havana.
Take a tour!
After about 20 minutes walking west, you reach the modern Vedado district.
Wide busy roads replace the narrow street canyons and large hotels, cinemas, clubs and stylish vilas characterize this zone of the city.
This is where the cultural heart of Havana beats and where at night the La Rampa area next to the Hotel Habana Libre becomes the largest party mile in Cuba.
The nights in Havana are long and full of dance shows, romantic boleros, salsa and reggeaton music.
Behind the western end of the Malecón waterfront, on the other side of the Río Almendares river, lies Miramar, the most prestigious.
In a spacious, park-like ambience are distributed luxurious hotels, magnificent villas and the best restaurants and clubs.
Here you can easily have an idea of the prerevolutionary high society life.
East of the city, just a few kilometers from the city limits, you have the beaches of Havana - the Playas del Este.
A deep blue sea and the white sandy beach lure the visitors. A great opportunity for a refreshing detour.
Of course, you also have the choice to live here and make trips to the city center.
Havana has many faces and more than one down town. Each area has its own charm.
This 500 years old Caribbean metropolis offers you countless sights, a lively culture full of music and dance.
The hospitable, open-minded locals who, despite adversities, make life a party to which the tourist always is invited.
This city with its unique character is the crown jewel and certainly the coolest place to be in the Caribbean.
Districts of Havana
Havana was founded in 1514 as San Cristobál de La Habana, but not until 1519 inaugurated by Diego Velázques at the current location.
The fist years are marked by numerous pirate raids. The first defenses were built in 1561, when the Spaniards made Havana the central collection point for their ships, loaded with valuable goods from the American main land colonies.
Havana - from then the New World linchpin of the Spanish Empire - quickly became the largest fortress in the Americas.
From here, the Spanish ships laden with gold, silver, precious stones, cocoa and spices made their way to the European motherland.
The oldest fortifications belong nowadays to the most important sights of Havana:
- 1581: Castillo de la Real Fuerza (in Old-Havana Vieja near the water - museum)
- 1590: Castillo de la Punta (in today's Centro Habana on the western side of the entrance to the bay of Havana - museum)
- 1610: Castillo de los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos del Morro (with lighthouse, east, directly to the entrance to the Bay of Havana - museum)
- 1646: Fortress La Chorrera (today a restaurant at the end at the water in Vedado)
- 1665: Torreón de San Lázaro (tower at today's Parque Maceo in Centro Habana - not accessible)
- 1767: Castillo de Atarés (near the port, not accessible)
- 1774: Fort of San Carlos de la Cabaña (next to the Castillo del Morro - museum)
The fist urban center was built around the Plaza de Armas in Old-Havana. Here was concentrated the administrative and business life of the young city.
This beautiful square with its magnificent buildings is now an integral part of every city tour.
From here, the city has evolved to the west becoming the metropolis it is today.
The Spaniards did not find the hoped-for gold in Cuba. The immense wealth of the following centuries bubbled from a very different source - sugar.
Together with tobacco, precious woods, coffee and cocoa, the white gold provided an unprecedented boom and richness, making Havana one of the most flourishing cities in the New World.
Still, today this is reflected in an extraordinary rich architecture.
In the second half of the 19th century, the desire for autonomy in the Spanish colony Cuba is getting stronger. After two independence wars it seemed so, that the moment had finally come.
But at this so decisive moment in the Cuban history, the great neighbor USA intervened and declared war on Spain.
After a triumphant victory over the Spanish troops, the US occupies Cuba. Even after their retreat, the North Americans had a decisive influence for many decades on the destiny of the island.
Havana became a plaything of the Mafia. Huge hotels and casinos were built, making the city a pleasure district for rich Americans.
The victory of the Cuban revolution in 1959 put an end to the bustle. The hotels were nationalized, the casinos closed and the beautiful villas given to ordinary Cuban people.
Until the disappearance of the Soviet Union in 1991 Havana is the social model city of Cuba.
The drying up of the financial blessing from Moscow plunges the country into a deep crisis that puts the Cuban people to a hard test (known as the Periodo especial).
When Fidel Castro in the mid-1990s re-opens the country for tourists and and make concessions to the private economic sector, things start to pick up again.
Today tourism is the main source of income and every year millions of tourists come to Havana.
For tourists relevant districts are next to each other right by the coast.
From east to west these are:
- Old-Havana (the historic center Habana Vieja)
- Centro Habana (here is the Capitolio, for example)
- Vedado (modern city center, party area, green residential area)
- Miramar Playa (luxury villa district)
For orientation the waterfront (Malecón) may serve.
Tip: Havana Bus Tours red buses run on 3 routes (T1, T2, T3) throughhout the city (including the Playas del Este beaches).
For just 5.00 CUC you get a day ticket and can stop pas often as you can hop in and out.
These who have little time, focus on Old-Havana and Centro Habana, where the must-see sights are located.
Vedado and Miramar impress with class and elegance. Here you can enjoy great flair, culture and architecture.
In the evening you should have diner in one of the very nice restaurants and after visit a show in a nightclub.
Our guide informs in detail about all areas in Havana and helps you to set your priorities.
Sights in Havana
Old-Havana (Habana Vieja)
Old-Havana has by far the highest density of sights. Spiked with lavishly restored colonial buildings, churches, museums, galleries, cozy bars and cafés, fine restaurants and sumptuous hotels, the historic city center of Havana overwhelms the visitor with impressions.
If you want to see everything, you need several days or even weeks.
The landmarks are the four most important (and beautiful) squares in Old Havana:
- Plaza de Armas - Havana's oldest square - lots of greenery and pleasant open air restaurants
Buildings: Templete, fortress Castillo de la Real Fuerza, Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, Palacio del Segundo Cabo
- Plaza Vieja: spacious with nice colonial architecture - gastronomy with live music
- Plaza San Francisco
Church Iglesia San Francisco, Mooring Terminal Sierra Maestra, House of Commerce Lonja de Comercio, Fountain Fuente de los Leones
- Plaza de la Catedral - with churches, cafés and restaurants
Cathedral and several palaces of important noble families - one is now the Museum of Colonial Art
Together with the busy Calle Obispo street these are the most frequented points where most sights and tourists can be found.
Nevertheless, there is still a lot more to discover everywhere and the more time you dispose of, the better.
Impressive architecture, interesting museums, small bars, where you can have a Mojito (e.g. the favorite places of Hemingway) and romantic restaurants are the rewards for a long walk through the old town.
On our special page about Old Havana you find all the information!
Central Havana (Centro Havana)
The main attractions in Centro Habana are located in the eastern part, which borders on Old-Havana. The dividing line is the boulevard El Prado, which leads north to the Malecón waterfront.
The most magnificent buildings are: the Capitolio (White House of Havana), the Gran Teatro theater, the Hotel Inglaterra and the Hotel Telégrafo are next to each other.
Just a few meters behind the Capitolio begins the Barrio Chino - where formerly the numerous Chinese population resided.
The nice Chinese restaurants here are definitevely worth a visit.
Tobacco lovers should visit the cigar factory Real Fábrica de Tabaco Partagás, located opposite to the beack side of the Capitolio.
In order to know the real Cuban life, just turn into one of the side streets. Neptuno and Concordia lead right into the heart of Havana's most densely populated urban district.
Let the busy crowd drive you over the narrow sidewalks and experience the colorful, chaotic and noisy everyday life of the Cuban metropolis.
Many of the houses here are on the verge of collapsing, but it's here, away from the glittering hotels, where you still find the essence of Havana with an unadulterated atmosphere full of energy, zest for living and spontaneity, that will impress the visitor deeply.
Vedado is the modern face of Havana. It was built at the end of the 19th century as the area for the better-class people, tired of the toon narrow old city center.
Wide roads, ventilated by a fresh sea breeze lead through this green district with many of the most important hotels, clubs, restaurants and cultural institutions af the Cuban capital.
Tourism is concentrated in the La Rampa area - around the Hotel Habana Libre.
Here all around the clock something is going on. During the day, the museums, shops, galleries, airline offices, banks and markets attract people.
After sunset, numerous restaurants, bars, discos and nightclubs open their doors and entertain party people until dawn.
If you want party, Vedado is the place to be.
Most of the houses were built in the early to mid 20th century, including the two tallest buildings in Cuba - the Habana Libre Hotel and the Focsa building.
The venerable Hotel Nacional, which has been visited by many famous and infamous personalities, is another famous landmark.
Other sights are:
- La Coppelia - the largest ice cream shop in Cuba
- Necrópolis de Colón - the largest cemetery in America
- University of Havana
- Plaza de la Revolución square
Miramar Playa is the westernmost and most luxurious district of Havana.
Lush mansions, parks and wide streets characterize this area give evidence of a very wealthy past.
But still today, there are excellent hotels and restaurants in Miramar, and also some of the city's most exclusive clubs (like the Casa de la Música Miramar).
On the western end lies the Marina Hemingway, where you can spend a nice evening in one of the restaurants and clubs by the waterfront.
Right next door there is also a diving center.
If you spend your holidays in Havana with children, you should visit the Delphinium of Miramar Playa. The shows are absolutely worth seeing.
Miramar also attracts many business people who appreciate the internationally acclaimed hotels. In the surroundings you will find the Pabexpo Havanas Exhibition Center.
Although Miramar is certainly not the typical Havana vacationer's experience, the well-preserved, magnificent colonial buildings and pleasantly relaxed ambience are worth a visit to Miramar in Havana.
The neighborhood is a pleasant contrast to the hectic city center.
Beaches in Havana
The beaches of Havana - Playas del Este - are located 20 km east of the city center.
Almost 10 km of white sand beach lined with hotels, apartments, restaurants and some open-air discos make the coast the ideal destination for Havana visitors who want to combine the sights of the capital with a beach holiday.
In addition to swimming and sunbathing, there are many ways to get active:
- Boat rentals
- Windsurfing and kite boarding
- Bicycle rentals
The Playa Santa María beach is the most popular with hotel guests and the one in Playa Guanabo with individual travelers.
Those who are tired of the big city bustle will find relaxation here. Staying in a nice apartment by the beach is the most relaxing kind of visit to Havana.
If you are traveling with children, here you will find the necessary balance to the hustle and bustle of downtown Havana.
Beaches in Havana Cuba - Playa Santa Maria del Mar
At the 8 km long beach Playa Santa Maria you will find many (middle class) hotels. If you are looking for all-inclusive holidays, this is the right place.
The tourist infrastructure here has everything to offer a beach holiday: restaurants, nightclubs and bars.
You can rent jet skis, go diving, sailing, kite surfing, windsurfing, book catamaran rides or just lazing at one of the many beach bars and enjoy the sun.
Beaches in Havana Cuba - Playa Guanabo
Playa Guanabo is the easternmost stretch of beach on the Playas del Este.
Approximately located 27 km from Havana city, Guanabo offers the best conditions for private vacationers.
Apartments with garden, many restaurants and small bars and clubs form a pleasant contrast to the monotony of the big hotels.
Public pools in Havana
If you are looking for refreshment within the city, have a look on the swimming pools in the big hotels.
Even if you are not a hotel guest: for about 20 CUC you can also use the facilities, and spend a great day at the pool.
The price usually includes a drink at the pool bar and a snack.
Here is the list of the hotels with pool in Havana:
- Hotel Nacional (pool is next to the imposing main building)
- Hotel Saratoga (on the roof terrace)
- Hotel Meliá Cohiba (on the roof terrace)
- Hotel Sevilla
- Hotel Riviera
- Hotel Deauville
Havana is unique and the most important tourist attraction in Cuba. Tightly crowded you will find countless sights from the eventful 500-year history of the city.
Although Havana struggles with many problems, it still has much of its elegance and size.
Together with its cheerful, proud and hospitable population, the city irresistibly captivates the visitor and makes the visit unforgettable.
- "El Morro" Fortress
- Waterfront "El Malecón"
- "Calle Obispo" Street
- "Castillo de la Real Fuerza" fortress
- "Edificio Bacardí" building
- Hemingway's "Bodeguita del Medio"
- Museum of the Revolution ("Museo de la Revolución")
- Museum of Fine Arts ("Museo de Bellas Artes")
- Museum of Decorative Arts ("Museo de Artes Decorativas")
- Centro Habana
- The Capitol of Havana - "Capitolio"
- Tobacco factory "Real Fábrica de Tabacos Partagas"
- China town "Barrio Chino"
- "Hotel Nacional"
- University of Havana ("Universidad de La Habana")
- Cemetery "Necrópolis Cristobal Colón"
- Miramar & Playa & Marianao
- Dolphinarium "Acuario Nacional de Cuba"
- Marinas "Marina Hemingway"
- Playas del Este
- Playa Baracoa
- Playa Habana
- Playa de Santa Fe
- Playa de Jaimanitas
- Playa de Viriato
- Playa del Triton (Playa)
- Playa del Chivo
- Playa Bacuranao (Playas del Este)
- Playa Tarara (Playas del Este)
- Playa Veneciana (Playas del Este)
- Playa de Guanabo (Playas del Este)
- Playa de El Rincón
- Centro Habana
- Playas del Este
- La Lisa
- 10 de Octubre
- Arroyo Naranjo
- San Miguel del Padrón
- José Martí (HAV) (International & National) - about half an hour from the city by car. Taxi costs about 20 CUC. There is no bus connection. Rental car is the only alternative.
- "Terminal Central Zoológico" - Central Bus Station. Busses to all the tourist destinations in Cuba.
- "Terminal Central de Omnibús" en la Ave Independencia n° 101 - ASTRO Buses are mostly used by Cubans, but tourists are allowed as well. Smaller and musch fuller busses. Prices a but lower the Viazul.
- "Estación Central de Ferrocarriles": The train station of Havana. Train in Cuba is a bit adventure. Many breakdowns and you have to keep an eye on your luggage.The main connection is between Havana and Santiago. There is a slower and a faster train ("Tren especial" or "El Frances"). Normal train costs 30 CUC and the faster one 60 CUC to Santiago de Cuba.
- Aeropuerto La Habana José Martí
- Hotel Capri, Hotel Comodoro, Hotel Sevilla, Hotel Meliá Cohiba, Hotel Nacional, Hotel Riviera, Hotel Triton Neptuno, Hotel Copacobana, Hotel Plaza, etc.
- Playas del Este: Villa Panamericana, Hotel Tropicoco, Marina Tarará, Villa Mégano
- Old Havana: where the Calle Obispo street starts
- Centro Habana: Parque Fe de la Valle behind the Capitolio (corner Galiano/ San Miguel)
- Vedado: La Rampa (between the Malecón waterfront & the "Yara" cinema)