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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  • 1. Catedral de la Habana

    La Habana Vieja | 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 as "music...Read More

  • 2. El Malecón


    Havana's famous Malecón, sheltered by a sea wall, runs west for 7 km (4 miles) from La Punta (where it's also known as Avenida Antonio Maceo...Read More

  • 3. Finca Vigía

    Historic Home

    Even those convinced that they've outgrown their thirst for Hemingway will feel a flutter of youthful romanticism on a visit to Finca Vigía...Read More

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  • 4. Museo de la Revolución

    Centro Habana | Museum/Gallery

    Batista's Palacio Presidencial, unsuccessfully attacked by students on March 13, 1957, was converted into the Museum of the Revolution after...Read More

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  • 5. Museo del Ron Havana Club

    La Habana Vieja | Museum/Gallery

    Housed in an elegant 18th-century mansion, this is one of Havana's best museums. A stop here provides a look at the history of Cuba's sugar...Read More

  • 6. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes—Colección Cubano

    Centro Habana | Museum/Gallery

    Havana's fine-arts museum occupies two separate buildings, each of which deserves careful exploration. The original location on Calle Trocadero...Read More

  • 7. Plaza de la Revolución

    Vedado | Plaza/Square

    This plaza in upper Vedado may seem grandiose and soulless, but it has several monuments with a lot of heart. Since the Revolutionary victory...Read More

  • 8. Acuario Nacional

    Miramar | Zoo/Aquarium

    At the national aquarium, you can learn about many of Cuba's 900 species of fish. Dolphin shows are very popular, and there are also sea lion...Read More

  • 9. Antigua Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula

    La Habana Vieja | 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 between...Read More

  • 10. Asociación Cultural Yoruba de Cuba

    Centro Habana | Museum/Gallery

    The Asociación Cultural Yoruba provides a close look at African culture. The bigger-than-life orishas (Yoruban deities) on display are all...Read More

  • 11. Bacuranao


    Lying 18 km (11 miles) east of Havana, this tranquil crescent of sand surrounding a quiet lagoon is the first you'll come to along the Playas...Read More

  • 12. Biblioteca Nacional José Martí

    Vedado | Plaza/Square

    Along Plaza de la Revolución's northern edge is the National Library, which, with 2 million volumes, is Cuba's largest. You must call in advance...Read More

  • 13. Cafe O'Reilly

    La Habana Vieja | Store/Mall

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

  • 14. Callejón de Hamel

    Arts/Performance Venue

    This neighborhood project, directed by and featuring the painting (note the vivid street murals) and sculpture of Salvador Gonzalez Escalona...Read More

  • 15. Camera Obscura

    La Habana Vieja | Other Attraction

    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...Read More

  • 16. Capitolio

    Centro Habana | Notable Building

    Modeled after Washington, D.C.'s domed Capitol building, Havana's Capitolio was built in 1929 and is rich in iconography. The statue to the...Read More

  • 17. Casa de Africa

    La Habana Vieja | 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 orishas...Read More

  • 18. Casa de Asia

    La Habana Vieja | 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...Read More

  • 19. Casa de la Obrapía

    La Habana Vieja | Historic Home

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

  • 20. Casa Natal de José Martí

    La Habana Vieja | 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. When...Read More

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