Havana Sights

To see La Habana Vieja and its many colonial palaces and Baroque churches at their best, plan to tour on foot. Although you could spend days here, you can easily see the highlights of Old Havana in two days. Make the fortresses across the bay a side trip from La Habana Vieja, and save the sights farther east, as well as the Playas del Este, for another day. Centro Habana also has many historic sights,

and it is here that you will truly see the sprawling everyday life of Cubans. The Capitolio, Chinatown, and Parque Central are must-sees for tourists, but a stroll in the southern reaches of Centro Habana and its dusty streets are an eye-opener. A tour of Centro Habana can begin and end at the Hotel Inglaterra and Parque Central. El Malecón, from La Punta all the way to La Chorrera fortress at the mouth of Río Almendares (Almendares River), is an important part of Havana life and a good hour's hike.

Vedado stretches from Calzada de Infanta to the Río Almendares and is difficult to explore on foot. Taxi rides to objectives such as the Museo de Artes Decorativos or UNEAC can be combined with strolls through leafy streets filled with stately mansions. Miramar, which stretches southwest across the Río Almendares, was the residential area for wealthy Habaneros and foreigners before the Revolution. A tour of its wide, tree-lined avenues is best made by car.

The streets in La Habana Vieja and Centro Habana have been, in European fashion, given such poetic names as Amargura (Bitterness), Esperanza (Hope), or Ánimas (Souls). Note that some streets have pre- and postrevolutionary names; both are often cited on maps. Throughout the city, addresses are also frequently cited as street names with numbers and/or locations, as in: "Calle Concordia, e/Calle Gervasio y Calle Escobar" or "Calle de los Oficios 53, esquina de Obrapía." It's helpful to know the following terms and abbreviations: "e/" (entre) is “between”; esquina de (abbreviated "esq. de") is "corner of"; and y is "and."

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Havana Sights

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Antigua Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

The restored San Francisco de Paula Church stands in a plaza at the edge of the harbor at the southern end of the Alameda de Paula. Built...

Cafe O'Reilly

  • Store/Shop/Mall

This newly opened café, housed in a beautiful old colonial building, complete with original tiles, is quickly becoming one of Havana's...

Camera Obscura

  • Local Interest–Sight

On the northwestern corner of Plaza Vieja, located on the top floor of the early 20th-century Villa Gómez, you'll find the city's fascinating...

Casa Natal de José Martí

  • Museum/Gallery

On January 28, 1853, Cuba's padre de la patria (father of the nation), José Martí, was born of Spanish parents in this humble house.

Casa Simón Bolívar

  • Museum/Gallery

Housed in an elegant colonial mansion, this museum is dedicated to the life of Simón Bolívar, a Venezuelan military leader who was...

Casa de Africa

  • Museum/Gallery

This museum showcases a collection of art and various cultural artifacts from all over Africa. There's also a room dedicated to the ...

Casa de Asia

  • Museum/Gallery

Housing an array of cultural treasures from all over Asia, this two-floor museum is well worth a look. It showcases a collection of exquisite...

Casa de la Obrapía

  • House/Mansion/Villa

This house is named for the obra pía (pious work) with orphans that was carried out here in colonial times. Its elaborately wrought...

Castillo de la Real Fuerza

  • Military Site

Constructed in 1558 by order of Spanish king Felipe II three years after an earlier fortress was destroyed by the French pirate Jacques...

Catedral de la Habana

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

Cuba's Cervantes Prize–winning novelist, Alejo Carpentier, may have borrowed from St. Augustine when he described the city's cathedral...