This plaza in upper Vedado may seem grandiose and soulless, but it has several monuments with a lot of heart. Since the Revolutionary victory of 1959, it has been the official parade ground for events ranging from the annual May Day celebration to the 1998 visit of Pope John Paul II. A political, administrative, and cultural hub, the square is surrounded by army, police, Communist Party, and other ministries. In better days Castro's whereabouts, which were always a mystery,
included visits to these government centers, though he was just as likely to be coaching the national baseball team, resting in one of his many secret Havana residences, or off fishing on the Península de Zapata. It's hard to miss the giant etching of Che Guevara on the Ministerio del Interior (Ministry of the Interior) at the plaza's northwestern edge. It bears the words "hasta la victoria siempre" ("always onward to victory"). On the square's western edge, across Avenida Carlos Manual de Céspedes, is the Teatro Nacional, Cuba's most important theater.
The highlight of the Plaza de la Revolución is the Museo Memorial José Martí at its center. It consists of a massive granite sculpture of the national hero—in a seated, contemplative pose—on a 30-m (98-ft) base and a 139-m (456-ft) tower constructed of marble from La Isla de la Juventud (where Castro was imprisoned for his attack on the Moncada Barracks). The museum contains first editions of Martí's works, drawings, maps, and other memorabilia. Also on display are the original plans for both the monument and the square. You can also climb to the top observation deck for some views of the city. Plaza de la Revolución, Vedado, Havana. 7/882–0906. 3 cuc for museum, 3 cuc for tower observation deck. Mon.–Sat. 9–4:30.
Just east of the etching of Che Guevara, you'll find the outstanding Museo Postal/Filatélico on the ground floor of the Ministerio de Comunicaciones (Communications Ministry). Plaza de la Revolución, Vedado, Havana. 7/882–8255. 1 cuc. Mon–Thurs. 8–5:30, Fri. 8–4:30.
Along Plaza de la Revolución's northern edge is the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, which, with 2 million volumes, is Cuba's largest library. Plaza de la Revolución, Vedado, Havana. 7/855–5442. 3 cuc. Mon-Sat. 8:15–7.