Havana: Neighborhoods

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Vedado, Miramar, and Beyond

In colonial days this area was placed off-limits—that is, vedado ("vetoed," or forbidden)—to provide jungly protection from the pirates that attacked Havana from the west. Trespassers, whether friend or foe, faced a stiff penalty: loss of an arm or a leg. The forest has long been replaced by fast-moving traffic, skyscrapers, and wide streets, but the name remains. Although a walk through this neighborhood involves long distances and won't be as pleasant as one through La Habana Vieja, don't veto it entirely—there are plenty of leafy-green side streets and noteworthy sights.

Vedado is a good area from which to wander west along the waterfront Malecón to the fortress-restaurant Santa Dorotea de Luna de la Chorrera, at the mouth of the Río Almendares. From here you can either tour the forest—the Parque de Almendares on the west side of the river—or continue southwest on a drive through the Miramar district, with its beautiful mansions, famous hotels, good restaurants, and legendary nightclubs. Vedado is also a good jumping-off point for the Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón, Havana's showcase cemetery crammed with heroes, legends, and elaborate memorials. The monolithic Plaza de la Revolución, farther south, is another short taxi hop from Vedado.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Cuban magnates and American businessmen built their houses in Miramar, which begins west of the tunnel under the Río Almendares and ends at the Río Jaimanitas. Unless you're eager for some long-distance hiking, it's best to tour this part of town by rental car or taxi. Public transport here is scarce, as indicated by the mobs of school children pidiendo botellas (hitchhiking; literally "asking for bottles," as in favors or baby bottles).

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