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Havana: Cuba's Capital

Cuba cars Havana
Capitol Building Havana Cuba

Havana: Cuba's Capital

story by: Tom Ricketts

‘La Habana’ is easily the largest city in Cuba and the nations capital. Cool off with an icecream as you explore the Morro Castle and walk along the famous Malecon admiring its panoramic views. Pick up a piece of art or crafts in the bustling markets and side streets. Sip on a refreshing mojito in a hidden square surrounded by ornate buildings and grandiose cathedrals. Visit the many monuments and museums dedicated to the Cuban Revolution and its hero’s. And as the lights go down it’s time to try out your Salsa, Mambo and Cha-cha skills at one of the city’s many restaurants, bars and nightclubs. All of this, and more, makes Havana an absolute must visit when in Cuba!

The city’s UNESCO World Heritage listed Old Havana is the heart of the city. Thanks to relatively little development, and recognition of needing to protect its heritage, Old Havana is the second largest historic centre in the America’s and is home to some truly beautiful buildings. The Spanish Colonial buildings of Old Havana have survived, albeit in various states of disrepair. In fact every visitor to Havana is charged a tax (hidden away in your flight taxes) which goes to the restoration of Old Havana. So in the meantime you can have a wonderful gleaming façade on one building while the building next door is crumbling away. You can spend a day wandering through the old lanes, some of which hide great cafes and restaurants. These are perfect spots for people watching or waiting out the random parades and celebrations that burst into the streets with dancing and music, and then disappear as quickly as they arrived.

Back when times were good and everyone was getting along, the Cubans actually looked up to their neighbours in the north, the United States. This is evident in some of the larger buildings in the city such as the monumental El Capitolio, a near exact replica of the Capitol Building in Washington DC. However the buildings that perhaps stand out the most are of Soviet influence, and its distinct brutalism style. The vast Plaza de la Revolución is home to one particularly notable example, the Ministry of the Interior Building with a massive silhouette of Che Guevara on the side. As you explore the city you’ll spot many more propaganda pieces promoting the Cuban Revolution and celebrating the defeat of the Americans at the Bay of Pigs. This is best seen at the Museum of the Revolution which holds, among many other things, the remains of the US bomber shot down over the island during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Most of the city’s major hotels are located at one end of the Malecon, a long avenue and sea wall that runs along the city’s harbour. This is also the city’s nightlife district. Choose to have you dinner in one of the hotels fine restaurants, or simply head out to see what the street vendors have on offer. Whatever you decide, be sure to wash it down with some Cuban rum and get into a dancing mood. Cubans are serious about their dance and there’s no holding back in the clubs as couples salsa and mambo away all night. The atmosphere is electric, the music is lively and the mood is high. It’s a night out you’ll definitely not forget. 

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