Cuba is always the answer if you’re looking to explore a new side of the Caribbean or maybe you would like to go years back in time! We have all heard about the capital, Havana or how the Latin Americans call it ‘La Habana’. The city of old cars, where nothing is taken for granted, where people assume less and where life has another meaning. Cubans themselves refer to their country, the place where fertile land is still very abundant.
Things to do in Havana
I am here mentioning a list of places which one must see when in Havana. We were there for four days in the center, we actually suggest that you book your stay in La Habana Vieja (also known as Old Havana). We booked via Air B n B and we were welcomed by a cuban couple Yeni & Roly. We booked a shared room with a private bathroom in their very modern apartment. The hosts were so helpful and went off their way in several ways to make our stay memorable.
El Paseo del Prado
Make your way, towards the path called El Paseo del Prado which eventually leads to the famous promenade which people call El Malecon. Make it a point to be there during sunset time, as that is the perfect time to capture the best sunset shot of this picturesque area of Havana city. You can also note how kids are free to play in this area, we might think that its unsafe for them but in reality one can note how people are peaceful and free from the busy life we have. Locals meet around El Malecon, they chat, they bring their packed meal along with them and they enjoy themselves together.
If you take the Paseo del Prado leaving behind El Malecon and keep walking straight, you will reach an avenue with a big building which looks like the United States Capitol, however this is not its replica. I suggest you visit this area at least twice, try to make it during the day so you can go around the area freely taking pictures of the colorful old cars. Moreover during the night, the lights of this Capitol and those of Hotel Inglaterra which lies in this same avenue, they create a lovely atmosphere.
If you are facing El Capitolio, then behind you, you must see a small garden which leads you to a narrow street called Calle Obispo, its narrow streets create a warm atmosphere where one can enjoy a lovely meal with cuban music in the background, grab a bite or just stop for a Kristal beer or Tukola. This street is also known for its live cuban music and ropa vieja gourmet which is one of the cuban delicacies, mostly typical of Havana.
La Bodeguita del Medio & La Floridita
Two bars which are for sure worth visiting are the famous La Bodeguita del Medio and La Floridita. The first one is famous for my favorite cocktail ‘Cuba Libre’ rum with coca-cola whilst La Floridita is famous for ‘Daquiri’ (in fact cubans refer to it as ‘La Cuna del Daquiri’) which is also based on rum with lime or any other citrus. These two bars were remarked by the famous writer Ernest Hemingway, in fact one can see his bronze statue placed upon entrance where the live music singers sing at La Floridita.
Plaza de la Revolución
One cannot visit Havana and not taking a picture in the most revolutionary square of all times. The name of the square says it all, La Plaza de la Revolución, where ever year on the 26th July people gather to commemorate this important revolution. Many tourists stop in big square so they can take a shot with Ernesto Che Guevara and also Camilio Cienfuegos (which nowadays people mention the resemblance of Bin Laden and Camilio Cienfuegos).
More squares in Havana
Havana is also named for the great Plaza de las Armas which I suggest you visit during the day to enjoy and appreciate its architecture of baroque style, its surroundings and also the open-air library which attracts literature lovers from all over the world. The trees in this old square, create a lovely atmosphere and shade for tourists and locals to rest whilst smoking a cigar on one of the wooden benches. On the other hand, if you pay a visit during a late afternoon or during the night, then this square changes to an afro-cuban dance floor, where lovers dance, friends dance and let along even new acquaintances dance. Others just opt to enjoy a seafood dish or a vegetarian dish in one of the restaurants found in this Plaza de las Armas.
Some restaurants and bars recommendations
As you are strolling around this UNESCO World Heritage City, one has to experience some particular Cuban tastes, starting from the typical local rum to ropa vieja which is one of the typical dish consisting of marinated shredded beef. Here is a short list of restaurants and bars around Havana center, which we suggest you visit throughout your trip.
‘Kilometro Cero’ which is a modern local bar just in beginning of Calle Obispo serving some tapas and also the local Havana Club and beers.
‘La Mina’ which is a restaurant with a terrace which is also found in the middle of Calle Obispo serving seafood, ropa vieja, chicken, pizza etc;
‘El Cheverongo Restaurant’, specializing roast pork
If you are looking for a modern bar with typical chill out modern music where you can enjoy some snacks and drinks/cocktails then I suggest you visit ‘Bar Cabana’.
Around Havana by an almendrón- 1950’s car
Almendron is the proper name for a 1950’s car (the word derives from ‘an almond shaped car’) which you can easily find in the main hub of Havana. Obviously in Havana there are no hop on and hop off tour buses, however getting on of these cars for an hour will surely turn out to be the highlight of the day. The only problem, you can encounter in this case is to choose which car and which color. Alemndron drivers speak fluent English, so it’s not a problem if you don’t speak Spanish. We got our almendron just infront Hotel Inglaterra. The driver was very gentle and he guided the tour by explaining the main facts about the main buildings of the city, including some main past events and other important historical facts. The trip also takes you to China Town in Havana and also stops you for about 15 minute to explore la Plaza de la Revolucion.
We must say that this was very descriptive and interesting!
Tip: The maximum price you should pay for this is 25 CUC (cuban currency) an hour for a couple (i.e. two persons).