Monumento a José Martí | Monument to José Martí
41 Paseo, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 820906
This is a fascinating museum and memorial dedicated to the life and work of a renowned revolutionary, writer and poet. The collection consists of many of Martí's personal belongings, along with documents pertaining to the island's revolution. There is a recommendable view from the top floor, which also happens to be the highest point in the city. In fact, it is in front of this very plaza that Fidel Castro gives his most important annual speeches – the Plaza of the Revolution.
La Catedral de La Habana | Cathedral of Havana
Empedrado 156, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 617771
A fine example of 18th century ecclesiastic architecture, the façade is full of columns, niches and other baroque embellishments, in contrast to the asymmetry of the spires. Close to the sea and dominating one of the main squares within the old city walls, it was once inhabited by Jesuit priests until they were evicted, the building then to be consecrated as Havana Cathedral in 1789. On the inside there are copies of paintings by Rubens and Murillo on the altars, and at the top end of the choir section one can see part of frescoes by Italian artist Giuseppe Perovanni. Some of Columbus' remains were kept here between 1796 and 1898, and there still is a finely crafted sculpture of Saint Christopher, Patron Saint of Havana, which dates from 1632 and was made by Martín Andújar in Seville, Spain. Admission is free.
El Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro | Castle of the Three Kings of Morro
Carretera de La Cabaña, Habana del Este, La Habana, 19120 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 637063
The Spanish raised this fort next to the harbor entrance between 1589 and 1630, with the objective of warding off attacks by pirates and enemy fleets. It has since become one of Havana's most iconic monuments. In 1762, when the British invaded the city, the castle was defended to every last man, for Luis Velasco, who was in command of the besieged garrison, preferred to die rather than surrender. However, local inhabitants are particularly fond of the place thanks to its lighthouse, an addition that was built around 1845.
Parque Central | Central Park
Boulevard, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba.
Framed by majestic-looking early 19th century buildings, this park (also known as Parque Jose Martí) dates back to 1903. It is a large park surrounded by some of Old Havana's finest restaurants and hotels, including the hotels Sevilla, Plaza and Inglaterra. There are many exotic trees and royal palms in a well-landscaped garden environment. Well lit and quite safe, many people come to sit and relax with friends, while enjoying a drink and listening to the music that drifts over from the local clubs and nearby theatre. Admission is free.
Parque Lenin | Lenin Park
Avenida 5ta y 68, Miramar, La Habana, 11300 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 332047
The tour to this park takes the best part of a day. Most people come to walk around the green areas, with the added possibility to go horse-riding. At the park's entrance there is a monumental statue to Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, otherwise known as Lenin; within the park itself there are places to hold a picnic, along with a zoo and aquarium. The tour ends with a visit to the ExpoCuba exhibition centre, followed by a traditional Cuban lunch at the Don Cuba restaurant. Call for pricing.
Museo Nacional Palacio de Bellas Artes | National Museum Palace of Fine Arts
Trocadero entre Zulueta y Monserrate, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 620140
Visitors to this museum will be able to enjoy one of the largest collections of visual arts in Cuba. Highlights among the exhibition rooms include the Cuban painting and engraving section, displaying works dating from the 16th to the 20th century. Another section is dedicated to European art, with original pieces by such masters as Rubens, Murillo and Goya, to name but a few. One of the most significant collections of Egyptian, Greek and Roman art in Latin America is also housed here. The building itself has been completely renovated and transformed, both within and without. The display rooms were re-opened to the public to coincide with Havana's Biennial Celebration.
Lanchitas de Regla y Casablanca | Small Boats of Regla and Casablanca
Muelle de la calle Luz y Avenida del Puerto, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba.
These popular little boats, which run back and forth from Havana to Regla and Casablanca, have replaced the paddle steamers that were introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century. Today, they are a quaint form of transport, a bit like floating buses if you were, transporting local residents from one sector to the other, along with their bicycles and all sorts of curious belongings.
Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de La Caridad | Parish of Our Lady of Charity
Salud y Manrique, Centro Habana, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 610945
Located in the Chinatown district of Havana, this 18th century construction with a Romanesque façade, has two side naves and a bell tower. The French painter Camilo Cuyás made a copy of the "Birth of Christ" by Mengs specially for the church; and Juan Bautista Vermay – first director of the Cuban Academy of Painting – copied a fresco of St. John the Baptist by Rafael for the baptistery, also adding the "Virgin of Guadeloupe." In 1927 the church was given its present status and one of the altars was dedicated to the Patron Saint of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, whose saint's day is celebrated on September 8th: on this same date, celebrations are also held for the Afro-Cuban deity Ochun.
Galería Mariano | Mariano Gallery
Calle 15 Nº 607 entre B y C, Vedado, La Habana, 10400 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 552702
Housed within one of the eclectic little mansion houses dotted around the old Vedado district, this gallery offers an impressive collection of Caribbean and Latin American handicrafts, which invoke the inheritance left by the region's indigenous peoples, and the cultural influence of both Europe and Africa. Exhibits such as the trees of life, black clay pieces from Quinchamalí, and decorated and embroidered dolls from Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations, have been collected by the Casa de las Americas since the early sixties, and are exhibited in such a way, so as to underline the cultural significance of each object, and the original setting for which they were intended. Those who wish to purchase replicas of these pieces, should pay a visit to the gallery's shops.
Museo de Música | Museum of Music
1 Capdevilla, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 619846
For those interested in Afro-Cuban musical traditions and rhythms, this museum offers a display of various typical Cuban musical instruments, some of which date back to the early nineteenth century. Moreover, there is also a large collection of traditional and modern instruments from both Cuba and elsewhere, including woodwind, horn, string and percussion instruments. These last include tribal drums used in religious ceremonies.
Convento de Santa Clara de Asís | Convent of Saint Clara of Assisi
Calle Cuba Nº 610 entre Sol y Luz, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 612877
One of the oldest, largest and most characteristic of the Spanish colonial monasteries on the island, this building is now home to the Centro Nacional de Restauración, Conservación y Museología or CENCREM (National Center for Restoration, Conservation and Museum Studies). Founded in 1644 it has, despite its peaceful demeanor, given rise to many tales and legends of clandestine love affairs, punished transgressors and hidden treasure. When the building was sold to the Cuban government in 1919, no evidence was ever unearthed to back up these rumors.
Las Manos | The Hands Gallery
411 Obispo, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba.
The Manos ("Hands") Art Gallery sells a variety of crafts and goods made by local people. Many of the objects on sale are inspired by the island's Afro-Cuban culture. Among the items on offer are cigar cases, African-style masks, and leather goods such as handbags and other small articles made from this material. Prices vary greatly, and purchases can only be made in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC).
Muralla de La Habana | Ancient Wall of Havana
La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba.
The Havana Wall is an imposing relic of this extraordinary city's colonial past. Originally intended as a defense against marauding pirates and corsairs, the plan was to encircle the city with an impenetrable barrier, the doors of which would shut at a certain hour. Nevertheless, the wall could not stop Havana from extending beyond this boundary. In 1603 the construction was partially demolished. The following sections are still intact: between calles Érgido and Desamparados – the "Puerta del Arsenal"; "Garitas del Ángel," in front of the Museum of the Revolution; and "La Maestranza" on Avenida del Puerto. Admission is free.
Complejo de Piscinas Baraguá | Baraguá Swimming Pool Complex
Avenida Monumental Km 4 1/2 Villa Panamericana, Habana del Este, La Habana, 11700 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 974221
This swimming pool complex is like an oasis, found at the end of the tunnel which delimits the city's metropolitan area. It is the venue for many important national competitions in swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming. The pools are heated and the side walls made of glass, so as to give a clearer view of the synchronized swimming events. Many will remember that it was right here in 1991, that Mario González became the first Cuban swimmer to win the breaststroke competition in the Pan-American Games, then being held in Cuba. Famous local swimmers such as Anthony Nesty and Silvia Poll also achieved some of their best times and medals here.
Museo Camilo Cienfuegos | Camilo Cienfuegos Museum
228 Pocito esquina Lawton, La Habana, 11390 Cuba.
Camilo Cienfuegos was a famous revolutionary who fought alongside Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara. This museum is in the actual house where he was born, and displays some of his personal possessions. Around a year before the Cuban revolution, the plane that Cienfuegos was flying in over the ocean his plane crashed. On the date of this tragic event, the 28 of October, it is customary for the island's children to cast flowers into the sea. This particular revolutionary and son of Spanish anarchists, is also known as "the hero of Yunguajay," a municipal district of Las Villas. It is prohibited to take photographs within the museum.
Zoológico Nacional | National Zoo
Carretera de Capdevila, Km 31/2, Boyeros, La Habana, 10800 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 447613, 578054, 441870
In the countryside close to Havana, one can see a wide and exotic variety of animals from all over the planet, roaming freely within areas similar to their natural habitat. Visitors to the zoo are transported on a special train and can observe these wild beasts quite safely from a close distance. There are also other areas that are safe enough to walk around while admiring numerous other members of the animal kingdom.
Carretera del Rocío, Km 3, Calabazar, Arroyo Naranjo, La Habana, 19230 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 446251
Cuba's biggest exhibition centre with events taking place throughout the year, ever demonstrating the country's latest advances in the fields of science, economics, sports and the arts, among others. The twenty-five pavilions can be seen at their best during the "Havana International Fair," held annually in October and November. And so that visitors do not get too exhausted with so much to see at ExpoCuba, there are numerous bars and restaurants that offer a refreshing respite.
Maqueta de la Ciudad de La Habana | Scale Model of the City of Havana
Calle 28 Nº 113 entre 1ra y 3era, Miramar, La Habana, 11300 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 332661
This scaled-down model replica of Havana is the second biggest in the world, bettered only by the one made of New York. It reproduces 144 square kilometers of city, with buildings made out of cedar wood, and streets of colored paper with sponges used as highlights. A team of architects, designers and model-makers was formed to work on this project. The group meticulously measured, photographed and recorded every part of the city block by block, including its trees, pavements, lamp-posts, traffic lights and much more. A true marvel!
Casa de las Américas | House of the Americas
Casa de las Americas, Calle G esquina 3ra, (Vedado), La Habana, 10400 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 55 2706
Since its inception in the 1960s, nearly all of Latin America's great writers and essayists have attended this annual awards ceremony. Past juries and guests of honour of this significant event include Garca Mrquez, Luisa Valenzuela and Mario Benedetti. Accompanying activities include the publishing launch of prize-winning books from the previous year and the chance to acquire some of the latest publications on the literature scene, as well as literary seminars, exhibitions and concerts.
Casa de Africa | House of Africa
157 Obrapía, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 615798
This museum is located within the old historical quarter of the city. Visitors will not always find all the display rooms open, but there are two exhibition sectors perpetually accessible to the public. One of these holds a collection of various objects that were contributed by museums in the Republic of South Africa, the other has a small display of Afro-Cuban artefacts. By its own definition, Cuban society represents a cultural mix or fusion, with an African influence visible in all of its arts forms, including music, painting, dance and literature.
El Templete (Site of the founding of the City of Havana)
Plaza de Armas, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba.
It was the inhabitants of 19th century Havana, motivated perhaps by the origins of all around them, who erected this shrine with a bust of Christopher Columbus and three paintings by Juan Bautista Vermay. The monument marks the exact place where the settlement of San Cristóbal de la Habana was founded in 1519. Together with this building – one of the first examples of a neo-classical style from the colonial architectural period – stands a column to represent the original ceiba tree under which the first mass and Council of Havana were held.
Galería Villena | Gallery Villena
Plaza de Armas, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba.
This gallery, found to one side of the Plaza de Armas, is set apart from the Ruben Martínez Villena Public Library, although it is under the same administration. Formed by arcades and glass panels, it is considered to be one of the most modern of its kind in Havana. Found within a restored building, the gallery offers both Cuban and foreign contemporary artists, the chance to not only exhibit their work, but also sell it.
Plaza de Armas | Square of Arms
La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba. Phone: Not applicable
This square is located in the city centre close to Havana Cathedral and the sea. It abounds with plant life and is lined on all sides by marble benches. Curiously, the lamps that light the square – which are many – are not powered by electricity but rather gas, just like in times long past. During the day the square is frequented by second-hand booksellers and at night by a whole host of people, many of them attracted by the surrounding restaurants and bars.
Palacio de los Capitanes Generales | Palace of the Captains General
Calle Tacón, entre Obispo y O'Reilly, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 612876
Bare stone, fitted together in blocks, forms walls and columns that enclose the arcades, so preserving the palace's old-fashioned air. This particular building, apart from having been one of the biggest colonial structures of its time, was also Havana Town Hall for 176 years. The main courtyard and galleries on two levels, lead to different display rooms in what is now the City Museum; tours begin with a visit to the old Council Chamber and the palace quarters, and end in exhibition rooms that depict the War of Independence from Spain, and the early years of the Republic.
Casa del Arabe | House of the Arab People
Oficios 8 entre Obispo y Obrapía, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 615868
This is the only place in the country that offers somewhere for Muslims to pray, and is open to all believers in Allah, whether they be Cuban or from abroad. It also houses a collection of religious objects, along with studies of the Koran. Each room is beautifully lined in wood, which has been decoratively inlaid with mother-of-peal; and the centre includes an exhibition of elaborately decorated, gold and silver-plated Islamic weapons from the 18th and 19th centuries. However, the museum's star exhibit is the so-called "Desert Rose," a rare calcareous formation that resembles a flower, and is found on sand formations once all humidity has evaporated.
Estadio Latinoamericano | Latin American Stadium
Zequeira Nº 312, Cerro, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 706526
Introduced on the island at the end of the 19th century, over the course of time baseball has become Cuba's most popular national sport. The National League season lasts for around six months, during which more than ninety matches are played; the best players are then selected for the national team, so as to compete in international and Olympic championships. As well as some of the National League matches, the Stadium usually hosts Cuba's most important international games. Accommodating more than 55,000 spectators, this is a well-built complex, and includes coffee shops, conference rooms, broadcasting and press boxes and medical services.
Convento de San Francisco | Convent of Saint Frances
Cuba y Amargura, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 338938
The building where the current church and convent of Saint Francis of Assisi stand dates back to the 16th century, which was when the main religious orders established themselves in Havana. Since 1842 it has been run by the Third Order of Saint Francis that dates from the first half of the 17th century; it was then that Augustinian monks first arrived in Cuba. The architecture has a marked ornamental Mexican feel to it; the building now has a multiple role as museum and venue for all sorts of concerts and other cultural events.
Galería Carmen Montilla Tinoco (Gallery)
Oficios 162 entre Amargura y Teniente Rey, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 338768
Found within an old fashioned colonial building that still conserves vestiges of its original architecture, and facing the San Francisco Convent, is the gallery of Venezuelan painter Carmen Montilla Tinoco, described as a great friend of Cuba. Apart from her own work, she also offers exhibition space to other Latin American and Cuban contemporary artists. One outstanding piece is the mural entitled "Flora and Fauna" by local ceramist Alfredo Sosabravo, placed in the doorway of Carmen's delightful patio.
Callejón de Hammel | Hammel's Alley
Entre Calle Aramburu y Hospital, Centro Habana, La Habana, 10400 Cuba.
Initiated by the sculptor and painter Salvador Gonzáles, this project dating from 1990 highlights the importance of African influences on Cuban culture. The idea was to create a cultural platform within the community. Every Sunday afternoon a rumba session is held and important groups such as "Clave y Guaguancó" and "Los Muñequitos de Matanzas" take part. The last Friday of each month is turned over to recitals of ballads, poetry and traditional music and one Saturday each month the focus is on children's entertainment with clowns, puppet shows and performances.
Biblioteca Nacional José Martí | José Martí National Library
Independencia esquina 20 de Mayo, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 555442
This impressive-looking library rises up in front of the Plaza de la Revolución. Jealously guarding the country's literary heritage, the building is divided into four different reading rooms, two libraries, one theatre, three galleries, a video projection room, a cafeteria, and a special service designed for researchers. Among the more important events are book launches, history talks and literary contests.
Zoológico de La Habana | City of Havana Zoo
Calle 26 y Santa Teresa, Nuevo Vedado, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 818915
Located in a central neighborhood of the Cuban capital, this zoo offers a glimpse of the natural world right in the heart of the city. Highlights among the animal inhabitants are the rhinoceros, monkeys, hippopotamus and some colorful and rare tropical birds. There is no shortage of sweets and ice-cream stalls to keep your little ones happy, along with the chance to sit them on the back of a small pony for a trot around the park.
Cristo de La Habana (Havana Jesus Christ Statue)
Loma de Casablanca, La Habana, 10100 Cuba.
Havana's statue of Christ blesses the city from the other side of the bay, much like another well-known effigy of Jesus that gazes down on Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. This particular marble sculpture is the work of Jilma Madera, and was erected in 1958 on a rise in the land that offers the perfect place to watch the sunset. Access is either by road, or across the bay in a boat. A 24-hour snack bar operates close to the statue's base.
Jardín Botánico | Botanical Gardens
Avenida 5ta y 68, Miramar, La Habana, 11300 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 544108
Havana's Botanical Gardens is one of the most pleasurable destinations on the island offering a breathtaking landscape of plants from all around the Caribbean, and particularly from Cuba. Highlights include the Japanese Garden replete with fountains and waterfalls: a perfect place to stop and have a rest. Facilities include a cafeteria and toilets, as well as lodgings and catering. The trip comes to an end with a visit to the ExpoCuba exhibition center, followed by a traditional Cuban lunch at the Don Cuba restaurant.
Museo del Ron, Fundación Havana Club | Rum Museum, Havana Club Foundation
Avenida del Puerto 262 esquina Sol, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba. Tel: +537 62 4108, +537 61 8051
This is a remarkable tour of the Havana Club Foundation's installations, which recreate a traditional rum distillery. The journey begins where barrels are made, then on to the presses, the sugar depot, the fermentation and filtration stages, the ageing process, and finally blending and bottling. At the end of the tour visitors are able to sample some unique tasting brews, including Silver Dry, Añejo 3 years, Añejo Reserve, Añejo 7 years, or Añejo 15 years and the Solera San Cristóbal de La Habana. The Havana Club bar offers a selection of Cuban cocktails accompanied by some fine local music; souvenirs and excellent rum can be purchased from the Foundation's shop, and there is even a contemporary art gallery. Admission is free.
Cementerio Cristóbal Colón | Christopher Colombus Cemetery
Calle 12 esquina Calle 23, Vedado, La Habana, 10400 Cuba.
The beauty and magnificence of this cemetery has made it famous throughout the Latin American continent. Established in 1876, it holds nearly a million graves, many of whose headstones have been embellished by major Cuban sculptors such as Ramos Blancos, among others. The AfroCuban religious practice of "santería" is common throughout the island, and this cemetery is no exception; thus it is not unusual to find colorfully dressed rag-dolls lying next to the graves, placed as offerings to one or other deity. And a popular local legend tells the story of the Milagrosa or Miraculous Lady, who died in childbirth along with her infant; although they had originally been buried separately, both were found – some time later – lying in the same grave, now a shrine for devout Catholics.
Basílica Menor de San Francisco de Asís | Basilica of Saint Frances of Assisi
Calle Oficios, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba.
Located in an old convent dating back to 1734, is this combination of both museum and church. The spacious building itself is a wonderful example of eighteenth century architecture, with a display that includes many old paintings, some of which come from abroad. There are a number of religious statues and artefacts, and thanks to excavations near the main entrance, visitors can now see the catacombs that lie beneath the church. There are two items in the collection deemed of prime importance: a crystal statue of Jesus given to Fidel Castro by Mother Teresa, and a set of chairs used by President Castro and Pope John Paul II when he visited Cuba 1997. If you wish to take photographs there is an additional fee of 2 CUC added to the entrance charge, and 10 CUC if you want to video the mass.
Centro Wilfredo Lam | Wilfredo Lam Center
San Ignacio y Empedrado, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 613419
The building which houses this centre, located opposite a corner of the Cathedral, was once a palace belonging to the Peñalver family, and is typical of an old colonial residence. Some of the rooms on the ground floor, the library and the second floor are used for touring exhibitions by both contemporary artists as well as some of the big names in the arts world. This place also constitutes one of the venues for the Arts Biennials that are regularly held in Havana, the objective of which are to promote contemporary art stemming from developing nations. Call for pricing.
Museo Obrapía | Obrapia Museum
158 Obrapía, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 613097
The Casa Obrapía is devoted to the famous Cuban author Alejo Carpentier. It also contains a large selection of furniture and domestic items that would have been found in a colonial house in 17th century Cuba. The museum is a hundred years old and is near the Casa de Africa in Old Havana. Admission fee applies and extra for taking photographs.
San Carlos de La Cabaña | Fortress San Carlos de La Cabaña
Carretera de La Cabaña, Habana del Este, La Habana, 19120 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 637063
Built between 1763 and 1774, this is one of the largest colonial fortresses in the Americas. During the 1800s the surrounding moat was used by firing squads to shoot independence patriots – poet Juan Clemente Zenea was amongst those executed here. It was then used as a military prison until the triumph of the Cuban revolution, when it became Ernesto Che Guevara's headquarters. Today it houses the Fortresses and Weaponry Museum. A canon firing ceremony is held daily at 9pm.
Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón | Church of the Sacred Heart
Reina y Belascoaín, Centro Habana, La Habana, 10400 Cuba.
The finely built spire of this church, one of the best examples on the island, stands out among the buildings of Havana. Opened in 1923, it is currently administered by Jesuit priests. Inside there is an ornate altarpiece constructed of marble and bronze with decorative inlay, made in Madrid by a priest named Father Granda. And within the pointed arch of the entrance porch, there is a sculpture of the Sacred Heart of Christ, seemingly inviting the faithful into this Catholic church.
Galería Zaida del Río | Zaida del Río Gallery
Oficios 6, esquina Obispo, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba.
On the third floor of an old colonial house, where several other modern artists share their respective galleries, one finds the personal gallery of painter, illustrator, potter and engraver Zaida del Río, who comes from Villa Clara. Del Río's work has travelled the globe, and she has also illustrated both magazines and books. Her skill is to portray the deepest, most desolate aspects of the spirit; and according to Cuban writer Miguel Barnet, her women are multiple representations of herself in different masks and guises.
Marina Tarará | Tarará Marina
Vía Blanca Km 19, Habana del Este, La Habana, 11700 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 971462
If you enjoy the sea, either for swimming or for diving, one of your best options in Havana is this marina. Here there is a chance to go snorkeling around a coral reef, or scuba diving in deep sea waters (provided, of course, you have an international diving license and have taken an introductory diving course). Otherwise, you could go sailing either in a crewed yacht or by yourself on a hired boat. Another recommended possibility is a "seafaris" adventure: maritime excursions with a specialist guide in watersports. Call for fee schedule.
Santuario de San Lázaro | Sanctuary of Saint Lazaro
El Rincón, Santiago de las Vegas, La Habana, 19270 Cuba.
Almost on the southern edge of the capital, in the El Rincón neighborhood, is this church located next to an old Leprosy Hospital. A mass pilgrimage takes place here each year on December 17th (Saint Lazarus' day), when the faithful arrive on foot or crawling on their knees, often dressed in sackcloth. The common belief is that the saint is exceedingly generous with his miracles, and once inside the church, candles are lit and prayers offered to the image of Saint Lazurus, identified by Afro-Cubans as the deity Babalú-aye.
Museo de Autos Antiguos | Museum of Antique Automobiles
13 Oficios, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba.
This museum has a display of vintage cars, along with horse-drawn carriages that date from the late 18th and early 19th century; there is also a collection of tractors and steam engines. It is only a small display of approximately thirty vehicles. Admission and photography fees apply.
Iglesia de La Merced | Church of Mercy
Cuba 806, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 638873
Until the middle of the twentieth century, this was one of the most ornate churches in the whole city. Its origins date back to 1637, the year in which the so-called "Monks of Mercy" began to build their convent, a task that would carry on for the next hundred years. It was then left to the Pauline Fathers to put the final touches to the interior decoration, completed in 1867. Esteban Chartrand painted the walls and backdrop of the Lourdes Chapel, and other painting work was carried out by Pidier Petit, Juan Crossa, Manuel Lorenzo and Aurelio Melero. On September 24th, known as the "Day of Mercies," both Catholics and followers of the Afro-Cuban cult "Santeros" gather in the church, many dressed in white, and pay tribute to the deity Obbatalá.
Galería Roberto Fabelo | Roberto Fabelo Gallery
Oficios 6 esquina Obispo, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba.
This gallery, belonging to painter and illustrator Roberto Fabelo, occupies a room on the second floor of an old colonial house, which was once the San Francisco de Sales school for orphaned girls; the La Mina cafe and restaurant is located on the ground floor. Fabelo is considered to be one of the most original artists on the contemporary Latin American scene. He uses this space to display some of his own work, and sometimes for shared exhibitions with other artists. His paintings are executed in a mannerist style, skillfully evoking Archimboldo and Duchamp, and revolving around the themes of the pyramid and power, the court and miracles, desire and obsession.
Teatro para Niños Cinecito | Children's Movie Theater (Cinecito)
68 Boulevard, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 638051
The Cinecito is a small theatre with daily matinee and evening shows for children, ideal for when it is raining. Entertainment consists of subtitled North American cartoons, along with Spanish and Mexican animations. There are also puppet show performances. Admission prices are in Cuban pesos only: cost for kids is about two cents , and for adults approximately three cents.
Casa-Museo Lezama Lima | House of Lezama Lima Museum
162 Trocadero, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 634161
This museum offers a collection of personal belongings pertaining to the world-famous Cuban writer and poet Jose Lezama Lima (1910-1976), author of the novel "Paradiso" (Paradise). Among the objects on display are a collection of paintings, and some of the writer's own publications. Popular among tourists, this is not an expensive museum to visit, and guided tours are also available.
Finca La Vigía (Hemingway's House)
5ta Avenida y 68, Miramar, La Habana, 11300 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 332047
This is a obligatory trip for all those who wish to follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, the great North American writer, when he visited Cuba. Start the tour at La Vigía Estate with a visit to the house where Hemingway lived, a building that has now been converted into a museum; the next stop of call is Cojímar, the village that supposedly inspired his novel "The Old Man and the Sea." Finally, the tour comes to an end in the Marina Hemingway, a beautiful resort complex replete with hotels and numerous watersport options.
Castillo San Salvador de la Punta | Castle of San Salvador de la Punta
Esquina de Prado y Malecón, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10100 Cuba.
This small fortress, found at the western entry point to the harbor, played a crucial role in the defense of Havana during the early colonial period. Built in the 16th century, the four-sided construction gives visitors heading into the old city quarter, an idea of the architecture that characterizes this part of town. The fortress, which still houses a score of old artillery pieces and other relics of the past, has now been completely restored, including the original moat.
Centro de Buceo La Aguja | Scuba Diving Center
Residencial Turístico "Hemingway," Avenida 5ta esquina 248, Santa Fe, Playa, La Habana, 19100 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 297201
This coastal diving centre located to the west of Havana, has around thirty spots to practice this fascinating sport, with depths ranging from between 5 to 35 metres. All the necessary equipment is provided so that visitors can admire Cuba's off-shore marine platform, which drops down in steps into the yawning abyss of the Atlantic Ocean. Here practitioners have the chance to explore ancient shipwrecks and contemplate some quite remarkable marine fauna. The centre organizes group excursions in taxi-like boats, seating eight divers at a time, and there are also diving courses that offer internationally recognized certificates. Finally, and just to be on the safe side, all the boats are insured by the local "Cubana de Seguros" company, which also offers a range of policies to divers. Usage fees apply.
Museo Postal | Postal Museum
Plaza de la Revolución, frente a la Estación Nacional de Omnibus, La Habana, 10400 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 705193
Found close to the Plaza de la Revolución, this museum offers an instructive way to spend a couple of hours. Its rooms give an insight into the history of the postal service both in Cuba and the rest of the world, aided by a considerable philatelic collection. Visitors can see old writing materials and valuable documents, such as the accounts book belonging to the Cuban postal service's first administrator, dating back to 1765. The collection also includes an example of a "Penny Black" (the first postage stamp in the world), as well as the world's first airmail.
Barrio Chino | China Town
10 Calle Cuchillo (área), Centro Habana, La Habana, 10600 Cuba.
Havana has an active Chinese community which has spawned a good number of restaurants specialized in traditional Chinese cuisine. These private, family-owned establishments tend to be excellent in both quality and price, offering expeditious service to their customers. Diners can enjoy a full meal – apart from some of the more exotic choices on the menu – that will include a bowl of soup, fried rice, the main course and a drink average 4 CUC.
Malecón (Great seawall surrounding Havana)
Desde la Habana Vieja hasta Miramar, La Habana, 10100 Cuba.
Although it begins in the old quarter, the Malecón is, above all, the face of fifties Havana – a city striving to match the great capitals of America. Whether in the bay area, with a view of the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro and the ferry to Casablanca, or along the edge of the Vedado district, the sea wall of the Malecón offers a great place within the Cuban capital to go for a walk and fill your lungs with fresh, salty sea air.
Nuestra Señora de Monserrat | Our Lady of Monserrat
Galiano y Concordia, Centro Habana, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 631889
This church was built on the land known as "the Marquise's pleasure," a reference to the widow of the second Marquis of Arcos: its architectural style reveals a late transition from baroque to neo-classical influences. Opened in 1843, it has a robust, octagonal bell tower capped by a dome. The wedding of Jose Martí's parents, Doña Leonor Perez and Don Mariano Martí, took place here, as well as the subsequent baptism of their celebrated son.
Museo de la Revolución | Museum of the Revolution
Calle Refugio 1 entre Monserrate y Zulueta, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 624091
Housed in what was once the presidential palace, this is quite a considerable collection of objects of major historical relevance, covering the period from the liberation struggle from Spain to the Cuban Revolution. Exhibits include documents, photographs, videos and two impressive life-size sculptures of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. Outdoors you will find the Granma memorial, being the embarkation that brought Fidel Castro and eighty other revolutionaries back to Cuba after being exiled in Mexico; the boat is protected by a huge glass urn and guarded by soldiers. At the entrance you can see a burning chamber, placed at the foot of a list of all those revolutionary martyrs who perished during the campaign.
Espacio Aglutinador (Center for alternative art)
Calle 6 entre 25 y 27, Vedado, La Habana, 10400 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 302147
This centre for alternative art is located in the home of Sandra Ceballos, a young graphic artist who has become one of the leading lights of the Cuban arts scene, organizing exhibitions of fellow contemporaries, retrospective displays by well established artists, and poetry recitals. Her small, friendly and informal exhibition space is a magnate for a great number of art enthusiasts, attracted as much by the shows as by the charismatic hostess. Admission is free.
Casa de Asia | House of Asia
111 Mercaderes, La Habana Vieja, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 639740
The collection in this museum consists of works of art derived from the Asian culture, among which are found paintings and sculptures. The Chinese, especially those originally from the Canton district, make up the island's third most significant ethnic group. For a modest sum, visitors are able to see some quite intriguing objects, demonstrating the importance of Asian culture in Cuban society, reflected not only in the island's cuisine, but also in its inhabitants and local customs.
Parque de las calles 21 y K | 21st and K Street Park
Calle 21 y K, Vedado, La Habana, 10400 Cuba.
This park, in the middle of the Vedado district, has seen many a lovers' tryst or tiff. Its tree-lined paths, surrounding a pretty, flower-filled central space, have offered shade to street musicians, artists and poets, who often end up here at the end of a long Havana night or come in search of inspiration and to cool off on a sunny afternoon. Needless to say, many of the tourists who wander around the city, also find the park irresistible.
Museo Nacional del Deporte | National Museum of Sports
Avenida Boyeros y Calle Bruzón, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 814696
Located close to the Plaza de la Revolución, and in front of the main bus station, this museum was constructed in 1991 to coincide with that year's Pan-American Games, then being held in Cuba. The permanent collection includes medals, trophies, sporting clothes and equipment, as well as photographs. Special objects include Che Guevara's rifle circa 1967; the chess set, chairs and clock belonging to Capablanca; Ramon Fonst's early 20th century foils; boxer Kid Chocolate's dressing gown and gloves; Javier Sotomayor's trophy and running shirt; and Felix Savon's boxing gloves, among much more. The Museum also hosts temporary exhibitions on themes such as the Olympic Games, Women in Sport and the Pan-American Games.
Acuario Nacional | National Aquarium
Avenida 1ra. Nº 6002 esquina 60, Miramar, Playa, La Habana, 11600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 225872
The renovation work that was carried out on this aquarium, planned back in the 1980s, has certainly enhanced its overall appearance. A variety of tropical and subtropical marine species can be seen swimming in the newly refurbished tanks which, thanks to their decoration and lighting effects, offer an excellent recreation of the ocean depths. Located on the edge of the coast, this children's heaven has numerous attractions; these include a tortoise tank complete with beach, and the inevitable dolphin show in a setting that recreates Cuba's continental marine platform.
Club de Golf de la Habana | Golf Club of Havana
Carretera de Vento Km 8, Capdevila, Boyeros, La Habana, 14200 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 333918
Golf, whether as a pastime or serious sport, requires peaceful and pleasant surroundings. These and more can be found at the Havana Golf Club. After a round, visitors can either soothe away all the tensions of the game in the swimming pool, or brag about their hole-in-one at the bar, where each member has a personalized glass. Eating options include a barbecue lunch, or dinner in a fine restaurant. If your companions do not share your passion for swinging the clubs, they can either play tennis on one of the five courts available, or take to the bowling green.
El Guiñol (Havana Children's' puppet theater)
Calle M entre 17 y 19, Vedado, La Habana, 10400 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 326262
All the local young people know "El Guiñol Nacional," thanks to its theatre and circus performances using puppets, dummies and clowns. Since it was established in 1963, in what was once the cinema of the unusual FOCSA building, the company has offered a ceaseless production of plays based on children's classical literature, always working with the best local writers and actors. On Tuesday nights they also present a comedy show for adults.
El Capitolio Nacional (former National Capitol Building of Cuba)
Calle Paseo del Prado, entre Calle Dragones y Calle San Jose, La Habana, 10600 Cuba. Tel: +53 7 620353
Built in 1929 to house the island's Senate and House of Representatives, and with a dome that dominates the Havana skyline, this building looks rather similar to the Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. Inside there is a statue of Athena, the biggest indoor bronze effigy in the world. There is also an enormous and historic gallery called the Salón de los Pasos Perdidos (The Hall of Lost Steps); a 28-carat diamond that marks the exact centre of the city; and the headquarters of the Cuban Natural History Museum, housing the country's largest natural history collection.
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