Havana

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. El Malecón

    Promenade/Boardwalk

    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

  • 2. Finca Vigía

    House/Mansion/Villa

    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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  • 3. 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

  • 4. Castillo de la Real Fuerza

    La Habana Vieja | Museum/Gallery

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

  • 5. Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro

    Habana del Este | Museum/Gallery

    Begun in 1589, Havana's landmark fort is named for the Reyes Magos—the Magi or Three Kings of Bethlehem, who are the patrons of its chapel—and...Read More

  • 6. Castillo de San Carlos de la Cabaña

    Habana del Este | Museum/Gallery

    In 1762 Lord Albemarle took El Morro for the English after a 44-day siege. A year later, Carlos III recovered Cuba in exchange for Florida and...Read More

  • 7. Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta

    Habana del Este | Military Site

    On a point (hence, the name) directly across from El Morro, La Punta took 11 years to build (1589–1600), under the supervision of the same Italian...Read More

  • 8. 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

  • 9. Parque Coppelia

    Vedado | Park (National/State/Provincial)

    Named for the 1870 ballet by the French composer Léo Délibes, this Vedado park and its ice-cream emporium are Havana institutions. The Star...Read More

  • 10. Parque Lenin

    Habana del Este | Park (National/State/Provincial)

    This vast amusement park was popular with Cubans before the 1992 collapse of the Soviet Union. The penury of the Special Period, however, has...Read More

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