3 Best Sights in Cardenas, Western Cuba

Museo Oscar María de Rojas

Fodor's choice

This beautifully restored museum, housed in an elegant, colonnaded 1918 building, is worth a visit for its wide-ranging exhibits on everything from archeology to ethnology to numismatics to colonial weaponry. Perhaps most interesting is the re-creation of the original exhibition space, as it would have been presented 100 years ago, in a high-ceilinged hall with an upper, wooden gallery. Lots of natural light illuminates the quirky, Victorian-era potpourri of natural-history exhibits, from bugs, butterflies, polymitas (snails with multicolored shells), to preserved fleas in nuptial dress, viewed under a magnifying glass. Antique buttons and buckles, pen nibs, death masks, a Masonic lodge throne in the shape of a peacock—you never know what oddity you will come across. On the historical side, there are the usual photographs of Cárdenas heroes of the wars of independence and the Revolution and a gruesome reminder of the risks rebels took, in the form of the garotte used to strangle victims to death. The museum has a beautiful, bright inner courtyard displaying some lovely, early 19th-century furniture, as well as an ornate horse-drawn hearse.

Calle Calzada 4 y Calle 13, Cárdenas, Matanzas Province, 42110, Cuba
sights Details
Rate Includes: CUC$5, Mon.–Sat. 9–6, Sun. 9–1

Museo a la Batalla de Ideas

Inspired by the diplomatic battle to repatriate Elián González, the five-year-old rescued off the coast of Florida in 1999, this museum, in a restored, neoclassical-style firehouse, is an ideological examination of the opposing Battle of Ideas between Cuba and the United States. Inaugurated in 2001 by Fidel Castro himself, the concept is a perfect example of how any threat to Cuba's sovereignty quickly becomes a rallying cry for unity in Cuba and grist for the propaganda mill. Other exhibits focus on the history of Cuba's battle to achieve and maintain its national sovereignty, displaying such wide-ranging "artifacts" as two English cannonballs fired in 1756, and the cross given to Elián by Reverend John Brown Campbell.

If you can read Spanish, the museum provides an excellent insight into the official Cuban mind-set.

There's a great view of the town and the harbor from the roof terrace.

Av. José Martí 523, Cárdenas, Matanzas Province, 42110, Cuba
sights Details
Rate Includes: CUC$2, CUC$5 extra for camera, Tues.–Sat. 9–noon, 1--5, Sun. 9–1

Parque Colón

You can sightsee in one of the horse-drawn carriages (less than CUC$10) that wait for hire in the plaza facing the town's central park, which also has the oldest statue of Columbus in the New World (erected in 1858). Overlooking the statue, the mid-19th-century Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción is oddly framed by two conical towers and is in desperate need of repair. However, the Neoclassical cathedral is known for its stained glass windows, best admired from inside. To enter, walk around the church to the back door at No. 359. Don't miss the tiny chapel in the conical tower at the northeast corner.

Av. de Cespedes, e/Calle 8 y Calle 9, Cárdenas, Matanzas Province, 42110, Cuba

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