It is possible to walk between all of the places of interest in Havana, but do you really want to be walking 22 km a day in the midday Caribbean sun? I would definitely recommend the open top bus tour instead. This is the first place that I have ever used these tourist busses but in Havana it is the best way to explore. However, do not just sit on the bus, get off and explore each stop to understand the real Havana. There are local busses but you need to use local currency (CUP) and it is difficult to work out the routes if you are not fluent in Spanish.
Since the revolution Havana has been packed full of museums, sculptures, artwork and galleries. Within the last three years this artwork has been taken to the streets by Yulier P.; the Banksy of Cuba, clearly influenced by Picasso and Gaudi; keep an eye out for the alien like creatures that can be found on most street corners.
If you prefer you art in traditional forms, rather than directly on walls then visit the Museo de Bellas Artes Cubano which showcases a huge collection of Cuba’s home grown talent.
For a day of culture head to the Museum de la Revolucion and the Plaza de la Revolución. The nearby Necropolis is a hauntingly beautiful place to visit, each family tomb ensconced in heavily decorated white marble. Some of Cuba’s most famous people are buried here, as well as Ernest Hemingway’s dogs. Perhaps the most interesting tomb to visit is that of Amelia Goyri de Adot. Considered an unofficial saint, her tomb is now the site of a steady stream of pilgrims asking for help to solve their problems.
In Havana not all museums are historical. For those looking for an excuse to indulge whilst learning, head to the museum of chocolate, tobacco museum and the museum of rum. All located close to Mercaderes Street in Habana Vieja. If after all that, you feel that you have not yet had enough of the good things in life, try the churro stand outside the chocolate museum or locate the micro brewery Factoria Plaza Vieja on the next road over.
If only for the fact that they are two of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen, it is worth heading over to the El Capitolio, Gran Teatro, Castilo de la Real Fuerza and La Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana.
El Capitolio – used as the Cuban National Parliament building until the revolution in 1959, it is equally impressive, its grandeur and size imposing over the surrounding area. Used as the Cuban Academy of Sciences, it is due to reopen in 2018 as Cuba’s National Assembly. it is possible to visit some of the rooms inside as well as visit the impressive bronze sculpture of a woman; symbolising the guardian of virtue and work. El Capitolio can be found at the top of Paseo de Marti in Habana Vieija.
The nearby fort of Castilo de la Real Fuerza is well worth the visit, as is the nearby Catedral; said to be the only Baroque Cathedral that is so distinctively asymmetrical.
The Gran Teatro is the home of Cuba’s Ballet Nacional, as well as being an event space for concerts and art galleries. Originally, this was a smaller building known as the Teatro Tacon, however when Spanish immigrants moved to Cuba following the revolution, a larger, more ornate structure, was built around the existing theatre space. The Gran Teatro is a minutes walk from El Capitlio
Perhaps the best place to take a ride in one of the hundreds of pristinely restored American 50’s classics is from the Park Central. Bargain hard as they will start the prices high, but this is a great way to experience some of the famous sights of Havana whilst looking super cool!
Hang out in a bar
Whilst the party may not start until later on, it is not unusual to sit in a bar drinking an ice cold mojito from midday onwards. Not only is this a great excuse to escape the heat of the day, but it will help you get in the holiday mood. If you are heading to the Museo de la Revolucion then air conditioned delight of ChaChaCha Bar on the road to the right as you come out of exit, is great. It is touristy and a little more expensive, but a nice place to hang out for an hour.
A trip to Havana would not be complete without checking out some of Ernest Hemmingway’s old haunts. El Floridita is a shrine to Hemingway, and is where he drank many a daiquiri. In truth it is overcrowded, the service is terrible, the drinks are overpriced disappointing and the memorabilia takes over much of the small room. The best thing however is that many of the best local bands are booked to play here so there is some great local music, although no space to dance.
La Bodeguita del Medio was another of Hemingway’s favourite drinking spots, a government run restaurant and bar, and the closest thing to a chain that Cuba has with 3 others found across Cuba, and some as far afield as the Ukraine and Romania! The walls are covered in signatures from everyone who has ever visited as well as some interesting artwork. Like everywhere in Habana Vieja there is some great music to be found but the drinks are overpriced and I found the manager’s behaviour to be rude and harsh – he called the Police saying that a local was illegally street trading by offering a match to someone smoking a cigar!
You can also do a tour of the outside of Hemingway’s estate, but cannot go in – it is pretty much just a tour of the outside of the building and grounds and not worth the money in my opinion.
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