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.
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.
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 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.