Getting Oriented

In the middle of Havana Province and edged by the Straits of Florida to the north, the city of Havana is officially divided into 15 municipalities, which themselves often contain various neighborhoods. For the purposes of touring the city, it's best to divide the city into six main areas.

Moving from east to west (and, roughly, from old to new) you'll find Habana Vieja, with its many historical charms; Centro Habana, with the scenic Paseo de Martí (Prado), the Capitolio, and the 7-km (4-mile) seaside Malecón; Vedado, which is reminiscent of both Manhattan and Miami; and Miramar, with its grand mansions. Across Havana Harbor are the fortresses—El Morro and La Cabaña—and the Cristo de la Habana statue, as well as the municipality known as Regla and other sights in Eastern Havana.

Habana Vieja. The highlight of any trip to Havana will be a stroll through Habana Vieja with its colonial palaces, Baroque churches and historic plazas. Parts of this district have been meticulously restored, while others remain in crumbling disrepair.

Centro Habana. This is where habaneros go about their lives. Children play baseball, and from the dusty urban streets you can witness gleeful singing, dancing, and the regular commotion of life in a setting of urban sprawl.

Vedado. Vedado is a vast area that hosts a great mix of historical landmarks, hotels, restaurants, and nightlife. Taxi rides to attractions such as the Museo de Artes Decorativos or UNEAC can be combined with strolls through leafy streets filled with stately mansions.

Miramar. Miramar is an upscale neighborhood where you'll find few, but interesting attractions. The vast neighborhood has a series of oceanfront resorts and hosts the Miramar Trade Center.

Eastern Havana. The small towns to the east of the city have become somewhat of an extension of Havana itself, but still manage to retain their own charm. They're best visited to discover more about Cuba's Santería religion or to follow the Hemingway trail.

Playas del Este. This 9 km (5 ½ miles) string of white-sand beaches—popular with tourists and locals—lies about a half-hour drive from Havana and makes for an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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