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. 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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  • 2. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. Edificio Bacardí

    Centro Habana | Notable Building

    Built in 1930, the former Bacardí rum headquarters (the family elected not to brave the Revolution and now makes rum in Puerto Rico) is an Art...Read More

  • 7. Estudiantes de Medicina

    Centro Habana | Memorial/Monument/Tomb

    A fragment of Havana's early ramparts commemorates the spot where eight medical students were unjustly executed for independence activism by...Read More

  • 8. Fábrica de Tabacos Partagás

    Centro Habana | Factory

    Tobacco is a fundamental part of Cuban life, and a look inside a cigar factory makes for an interesting trip—despite the high entry fee and...Read More

  • 9. Iglesia del Santo Angel Custodio

    Centro Habana | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    This prim little white church is a required visit for literature buffs hot on the trail of scenes from the novel by Cirilo Villaverde (1812...Read More

  • 10. Memorial Granma

    Centro Habana | Memorial/Monument/Tomb

    A glass enclosure behind the Museo de la Revolución shelters the Granma, the yacht that transported Castro and 81 guerrillas back to Cuba...Read More

  • 11. Monumento Máximo Gómez

    Centro Habana | Memorial/Monument/Tomb

    This bronze equestrian monument honors the great military leader of Cuba's 19th-century wars of independence. It was erected in 1935 in modern...Read More

  • 12. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes—Colección de Arte Universal

    Centro Habana | Museum/Gallery

    The collection is housed in the splendid Centro Asturiano finished in 1928 (in answer to the Centro Gallego across the Parque Central), a building...Read More

  • 13. Palacio de Aldama

    Centro Habana | Historic Home

    Just past the Parque de la Fraternidad Americana's southwest corner is this Italianate mansion built in 1840 by the Spanish merchant Domingo...Read More

  • 14. Parque Central

    Centro Habana | Park (National/State/Provincial)

    Across from the Hotel de Inglaterra and the Gran Teatro de la Habana, this park has always been a hub of Havana social activity. Centered on...Read More

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