If you want to step back in time to 50 years ago, there’s no place better than Havana, Cuba. With Havana’s plethora of 1950’s classic cars still driving the roads and its old school thinking, you’d figure you just stepped off a trolley back to a simpler way of life.
I’ll be honest, it’s been a few years since we checked out Hemingway’s old haunts, but one of the beautiful things about Cuba is that they’re not big on change.
For people who like the classics, Havana is a great place to be. With its vibrant colonial buildings and romantic atmosphere, it’s not hard to see why the Caribbean’s largest and most lively city is loved by Habaneros (inhabitants of Habana) and tourists alike.
For over 500 years, Havana has been the center of attention in the Caribbean. From swashbuckling pirates, to a rampant slave trade, to mafia-run gambling joints, to the center of a revolution, Havana has grown, prospered and claimed a few things for its own.
The city is not only rich in history and architecture, but also has more monuments than you can count and a Latin culture that’s thriving.
For those who love the good things in life, Havana is the home of salsa and mambo music, Cuban cigars and Cuban rum. At night, the city comes alive with music and laughter that isn’t only infectious, but warms the soul and makes you forget the days worries.
Hit hard by the Socialist reforms of the late 50’s and the trade embargo from the US, Havana has seen hard times, however it keeps on trucking. One thing you won’t see in Havana are oversized resorts or Disney-like amusement parks.
Havana likes to keep it real and the whole city shares that vibe. It’s a busy place only because the people are living their lives the only way they know how, by working hard and taking the time to enjoy some of the best things in life: Good friends, good music and good rum.
Whether you’re flying to Havana as part of a holiday to enjoy the white powdered beaches of nearby Veradero or coming to the city for the sole reason to have a daiquiri or mojito at Hemingways favorite watering holes like the beautiful Hotel Ambos Mundos, you’ll find plenty to do in town.
One of the best areas in Havana to check out is Habana Vieja (Old Havana) with its UNESCO World Heritage status and old baroque and neoclassical buildings. Its narrow winding roads made it one of the most heavily fortified cities in all the Americas and as you walk its cobble stoned streets you can feel the history surround you.
Some of the best sites in Old Havana are:
- The Plaza Vieja (Old Square) with its long history of bullfights, executions and fiestas.
- Castillo del Morro (El Morro Castle), a picturesque fortress that guarded Havana Bay from pirates like Sir Francis Drake.
- Catedral de San Cristóbal (Havana Cathedral), a big and beautiful cathedral built in the 1700’s in the center of Old Havana.
- Plaza de Armas, the main touristic square popular for it military ceremonies and past military events that took place there.
- La Cabaña, an impressive fortress on the east side of Havana Bay with its historical nightly (9 pm) firing of the guns.
- El Capitolio (National Capitol Building), designed after the Pantheon in Paris and home to the third largest indoor statue in the world, the 55 foot tall Statue of the Republic.
The most popular avenue in the city, especially at night, is The Malecón. The long esplanade is a great place to catch a sunset and go for a long walk along the water. It’s also one of the most romantic walks in the city with its monuments, statues and well placed lights. During the day, the The Malecon’s old seawall is also popular with local fisherman trying to catch the evening meal.