This square was the city's first open space, around which the most important political, military, religious and civil institutions were located. The palaces that surrounded it during the 18th century are worthy exponents of Cuban Baroque architecture. Beside it stands the Templete, a small but distinguished Greco-Roman style temple, built to pay homage to the site of the first council of the emerging town of San Cristóbal de La Habana and where the first public mass took place.
The internationally renowned Cathedral Square, originally called Plaza de la Ciénaga (Swamp Square) was built on a marshland plagued with underground streams and very close to the bay, whose waters also penetrated the area. Work on the buildings began in the last quarter of the 18th Century. The church of the Jesuits was granted the category of cathedral in 1789. No one has ever referred to it as Swamp Square since. The two hundred year old cathedral stands in a beautiful square. It is open for services and was declared National Monument.
This cemetery holds the largest concentration of statues in the country and its finest funerary monuments. There are works representing many different styles of architecture and the cemetery is therefore seen as an outdoor museum. Classified as a National Monument, its magnificent entrance is one of the most outstanding Cuban works of the 19th century.
Situated in the historic Plaza de la Revolución, this memorial consists of two key elements: an enormous marble sculpture of the National Hero of the Republic of Cuba and a star-shaped obelisk at the base of which are four exhibition halls and a function hall. At the top of the memorial is the city's highest viewing point.
The metropolitan esplanade that runs along the coast for some 12 kilometres, from the entrance to the Bay of Havana (Castillo de La Punta) to the fort of La Chorrera, beside the mouth of the river Almendares. The earliest plans for the construction of this magnificent avenue date back to the beginning of the 19th century. Along it is a series of lookout points, esplanades and parks with geometrical layouts. It is one of the most popular places among the people of Havana.
Situated in the former Presidential Palace, this museum has an extensive display of objects relating to the epic struggle for the country's freedom. Its outdoor areas feature the Granma Memorial, where visitors can see, protected by an enormous glass case, the boat on which Fidel Castro and more than eighty combatants returned to Cuba from exile in Mexico to recommence the fight for the country's independence.
This museum, the finest dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte outside of France, is housed in a small Florentine palace built in line with plans for a villa designed for the Medici family. It houses more than 7,000 pieces: weapons, military equipment, furniture, Sèvres porcelain, paintings, coins, books, personal items used by the Bonaparte family and even the death mask of the prisoner of St Helena, brought to Cuba by his last doctor.
The National Capitol, one of the most emblematic buildings of the Havana skyline, occupies an area of 38 875 m² It was the seat of the legislative body of the Republic since its inauguration on May 20, 1929. At the moment, it is the venue of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. Inside is the diamond that marks kilometer zero of the Central Highway, at the entrance to the majestic Salon de los Pasos Perdidos (Hall of the Lost Steps) and directly in front of the colossal Statue of the Republic (17,54 m) by the Italian sculptor Angelo Zanelli, which is considered the third highest indoor statute in the world.
This museum houses Cuba's most important art collections, as well as European and Cuban paintings dating from the 18th to the 21st century and ancient art. Its valuable assets are divided into two buildings: Cuban Art, just a short walk from the Museum of the Revolution, and Universal Art, in the magnificent building that was once occupied by the Asturian Centre, opposite the Central Park.
During the latter decades of the 16th century, this square was called the Plaza Nueva (new square), but from the 18th century onwards, once the Plaza del Cristo had been built, it began to become known as the Plaza Vieja (old square). The most remarkable feature of this square are the buildings around it, with their unquestionable historical and artistic importance of having been the blueprint for a style of architecture which, along with certain developments, subsequently spread throughout the city and characterised the Cuban architecture of the 18th century.
Currently the venue of the Office of the Historian of Havana, the palace was built in 1776 and has been given several functions: official residence of the Spanish governors, Presidential Palace and Municipal Palace of Havana. The City Museum currently occupies part of the sumptuous halls that exhibit valuable treasures such as: the first Cuban flag, personal effects of the heroes of Cuba: Jose Martí, Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo together with a priceless collection of colonial furniture, carriages and other works of art.
Eastwards, less than half an hour from the city centre, through the bay tunnel, lie several beaches of fine sand, stretching for 9 km: Bacuranao, El Mégano, Santa María del Mar, Boca Ciega and Guanabo. Tourist accommodation and facilities of various types are dotted along the coast.
Havana's most stylish avenue is a tree-lined boulevard with four lanes, running through the district of Miramar, in the west of the city. With a spacious walkway running down its centre, full of gardens and benches, it is flanked by magnificent mansions that once belonged to the upper middle classes of the republic, displaying architectural styles ranging from eclecticism to the earliest examples of modern architecture, passing through Art Deco and its derivations. Today, Miramar is an area designed to accommodate tourism, with beautiful hotels, excellent restaurants, the National Aquarium, nightclubs, shops… In 1999 “Quinta Avenida and its surrounding areas” was declared a Protected Zone due to its undisputed historical and cultural assets.
The castle is located in Old Havana, in an attractive area of important architectural, urban, cultural and social values. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is also the oldest fortress of the former fortification system of Havana. A replica of the La Giraldilla, the symbol of the city, can be seen on the highest tower of the castle (the original is in the Museum of the City).
The largest of the military structures built by Spain in the Americas, this fortress was completed in 1774 and its presence formed an effective complete deterrent against the country's enemies. The polygon, occupying an area of around 10 hectares, consists of bastions, ravelins, moats, covered walkways, barracks, squares and stores. This fortress hosts the spectacular nightly ceremony of El Cañonazo de las Nueve (cannon fire at 9), one of Havana's longest-held and most attractive traditions.
The San Francisco de Asís Church and Convent is the current scenario of the richest cultural traditions. As the City Historian has said: “to collect, restore, conserve and exhibit are the classic principles that govern there.... so as to save from the offenses of time the endangered heritage.” The construction of the current set dates from 1738, and it replaced a more modest one completed in 1591. Since it was closed to worship in 1841, the building has seen the most diverse uses. After a restoration that brought back its original values in the nineties, the architectural group has harbored, also, a concert hall and the Holy, Sacred and Religious Art museums.
This square dates back to the first half of the 17th century. Its location, just a few metres from the bay, led to it becoming an important trading square over the years. On its paved area stand two noteworthy buildings: the Monastery and Basilica of San Francisco de Asís, which today houses the Museum of Religious Art and a concert hall. It is also where the century-old Lonja del Comercio (Chamber of Commerce) is located, inspired by Spanish Renaissance architecture and topped by a dome on which a sculpture of the god Mercury stands.
The Cannon Blast ceremony is one of the oldest and attractive traditions of Havana. In colonial days, the shots signalled the closing and opening of the gates of the walled city and the rising of the chain across the entrance to the harbour. The tradition of firing a cannon every night at 9:00 pm was kept even after the wall was torn down and is still used for checking your watch.
An iconic work of what is known as Cuban Baroque and the most remarkable of our colonial churches. Having undergone a series of renovations, its facade is one of the most important in the history of Cuban architecture. Religious services are held here. It has been declared a National Monument.
This small neo-classical style construction was built in the second half of the 18th Century. It is located in Plaza de Armas on the site where the first public mass was celebrated and also the site of the first town council of the nascent town of San Cristóbal de La Habana. The Templete resembles a Doric temple and houses three commemorative canvasses by the famous French painter Juan Bautista Vermey. One of the walls exhibits the plate that declares Old Havana a World Heritage Site.
Perhaps the most iconic of all Cuban fortresses. Its construction began in 1589 and was completed in 1630, playing a key role in the defence of Havana against raids by corsairs and pirates. A few years after its construction, a lighthouse was added to the Morro. Standing 45 metres above sea level, it has become an unmistakeable symbol of Havana.
For more than seventy years, Tropicana has been the most recommended venue for those wishing to experience the traditions, flavours and rhythms of the Caribbean. Every night, its "Under the Stars" show features one hundred dancers and musicians who treat their audience to a spectacular performance among the palm trees and aerial ramps. But Tropicana is much more than just an enormous open-air nightclub. Tropicana also means history, tradition and, above all, excellent cuisine.
When the sun sets, Havana is lit up with the fabulous colours of its rich and varied culture. Film, theatre, music, dance or the simple pleasures of strolling through the city’s streets together form the canvas of an exceptional nightlife.
Cabarets such as Tropicana, Habana Café at the Meliá Cohíba Hotel and Turquino at Tryp Habana Libre are ideal for combining dinner and entertainment with excellent shows and the best dance music performers in Cuba. Places like the Cuban Art Factory are perfect for discovering the latest contemporary trends in the island’s culture. And the clubs La Zorra y el Cuervo, El Gato Tuerto and Dos Gardenias allow you to spend an unforgettable evening listening to Cuban music genres that include jazz, filin and bolero.
If you’re planning to dance in Vedado, there are many nightclubs to choose from, although Malecón is always a great option if you want to truly experience an evening of Havana rhythm.