A Square Building Is Surrounded By A Flower Bed Sightseeing in Havana – An Insider’s Guide

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Sightseeing in Havana – An Insider’s Guide

If it’s your first vacation in Havana, head straight to the gorgeously restored Old Havana (La Habana Vieja). Now much of the UNESCO World Heritage site has been lovingly restored to its former grandeur. It’s a colonial marvel, a riot of color and full of atmosphere, an extraordinary mix of architectural styles endlessly fascinating.

The area is a treasure trove to stroll through, and along with Vedado, is the liveliest part of the city by day. It has four grand plazas dating back to the 16th century. Check out the sleepy Plaza Vieja (right). There are many museums and galleries in the area and many of Havana’s attractions.

Just behind the Iglesia de Paula on Calle San Pedro, the Fria de la Artesana, an impressive handicraft market, is not to be missed. It sells every Cuban craft imaginable, including CADECA, fruit juice vendors, kiosks, and an airy seating area where you can relax with a drink and enjoy the view of the harbor (note, however, that it’s closed on Mondays).

Step away from the main drag, call Obispo, and you’ll see an entirely different side of Old Town: a well-established residential area home to roughly 70,000 people. Take a coffee break at Café El Escorial on Plaza Vieja. Alternatively, avoid the tourists and head to La Barrita in the impressive Art Deco Bacardi building on Avenida de los Misiones. On Parc Central, the busy main square, watch the world go by from the veranda of Hotel Inglaterra. Head to the small café at Hotel Telegrafo, a quiet escape with a fountain cascading over colorful mosaics. Or enjoy one of Havana’s best mojitos at the NH Hotel. For culture, check out the Museo de Bellas Artes, Havana’s finest national art museum, just off Parque Central and a few yards from Col Obispo. Pop in to visit the room at the Hotel Ambos Mundos where Ernest Hemingway penned some of his world-famous works while standing at his writing table.

Visit the colorful, offbeat Arte Corte, a barber shop that doubles as a museum-cum-art gallery. It has a beautiful assortment of antiques and some intriguing paintings by Cuban artists, including several by the owner Pepito. Calle Aguiar #10, between Pena Pobre and Avenida de las Misiones.

If all that wandering around makes you hungry, the best restaurant in the area right now for lunch is Cafe del Oriente. It is a pleasant, well-air-conditioned oasis with an attractive interior, and service to match. Calle Oficios #112, corner of calle Amargura. Telephone. 860 6686.

Havana’s 8-km long seafront promenade is the city’s favorite hangout. Overlooking the expanse of water that separates Cuba from Florida, the famous stretch is a destination for dreamers, lovers and friends. It is the spiritual center of the city and the nerve center of its social life, a round-the-clock phenomenon. Most nights it is crowded with people and the sea breeze blows; During the day it is a place to pause. The best view of the Malecón is from the charming terrace garden at Hotel Nacional.

If you like an impressive panoramic vista, check out La Torre. The view from the 33rd floor of the tallest residential building in Havana is breathtaking. What makes it so special is that you can walk around the building from the restaurant to the bar and enjoy a 360-degree view of the bay and the city. Edificio FOCSA, calle 17, corner of calle M, Vedado. Telephone. 832 2451.

The neighborhood, Vedado, is perhaps Havana’s most charming. No vacation in Havana would be complete without a visit. It’s fun, diverse and alternative. If you see the derelict underbelly that stretches from the Malecon to the picturesque Yarra Cinema, you can easily miss the appeal of its most vibrant thoroughfare, Avenida 23, aka La Rampa. Located at the city’s most cosmopolitan junction, Yara is a Havana cultural institution.

The heart of La Rampa begins to beat west of the Yarra. Here, and on the streets away from it, you’ll find relatively few tourists – a welcome change from other parts of the city. The overall vibe is 1970s. From white-clad mulattos (progenitors of the Afro-Caribbean Santera religion) to reggaeton hustlers with their oversized sunglasses, the area is a cornucopia of color and personality. Watch the world go by with the locals at popular sidewalk bar, La Rampita.

On really hot days, Havana can feel like a pressure cooker. So instead of braving the downtown heat, head to the beach. The best beaches in Havana are Tropicoco (also known as Santa Mara del Mar) and neighboring Megano. They are located about 20 km east of the city in the Place del Este (Eastern Shores) area.

The area is very popular with locals and visitors for its turquoise Atlantic waters and friendly, chilled-out atmosphere. Tropiccoco is the more touristy of the two. Megano is quieter with fewer people. You can rent snorkeling gear, pedal and banana boats, kayaks, and catamarans at Club Nautico’s Tropicoco branch.

The charm of this area is that it is still relatively undeveloped, apart from villas, neat Soviet-style hotels and cheap ‘n’ cheerful eateries. Just a few yards from the shore and you’ll always find a piece of sandy solitude.

It is a 30 minute taxi ride from the city centre. Do not pay more than 20CUC and agree the fare in advance. A special tourist bus service runs every 30 minutes from 9 am to 7 pm daily. It stops in front of Hotel Inglaterra on Parque Central and takes passengers to Megano (there is a choice of three stops at the beaches, Tropicoco being the first). A return ticket costs 3CUC. Children under the age of six travel free.

Located in dusty Centro Habana, it is the spiritual home of the capital’s Afro-Cuban culture. This is the small pedestrian street where he is every Sunday, from noon to about 3pm. Hot live music sessions provided free of charge by leading rumba bands are becoming increasingly popular. The event attracts huge crowds, and all-white converts to the Afro-Cuban (Santera) religion add an extraordinary color. The neighborhood itself is quirky and alternative – an urban art project with brightly painted houses, eye-catching street graffiti, weird and wonderful shops and fascinating sculptures made from scraps. Look at the beautiful colorful houses in front of the entrance. Calle San Lazaro, between Coll Hospital and Aramburu.

Just five minutes from Parque Central, Havana’s domed Capitolio Nacional is a carbon copy of the Capitol in Washington. It is one of the most unusual and unusual buildings in Havana. Resplendent in marble and gold, it was completed in 1929 by a 5,000-person building crew under the supervision of Cuban dictator Gerardo Machado after more than three years of work. The 11 meter bronze statue of the Republic is the third largest statue in the world. At its base is a diamond that marks kilometer zero, from which the distance from Havana to the rest of Cuba is measured by highway. Admission is 3CUC.Corner of Call Industry and Call Barcelona, La Habana Vieja.

Havana’s most affluent suburb, Miramar, offers a fascinating glimpse of just how upwardly mobile it is habaneros live Fifth Avenue is the city’s most handsome (and traffic-filled) thoroughfare, while the parallel Third Avenue is charming for its quiet, comfortable neighborhood feel and relative lack of tourists. One of the most popular haunts for Havana’s growing middle class is the Centro de Negocios in Miramar.

A mix of office buildings and shopping centers punctuated by outdoor tiled walkways, including one of Havana’s few five-star hotels, the Mela Habana, is a very pleasant area a few hours away. Facilities include four cafes/restaurants (all called ‘Amelia’), a cool new wine bar called ‘Halo’, a supermarket, pharmacy, several boutiques and shops selling clothes, shoes, sports gear and jewellery. In the corner of the small Commodore Center, the emphasis is mainly on clothing, as well as perfumes and jewelry.

The large swimming pool and saltwater bathing area at Hotel Copacabana in Miramar is a secret. On weekdays, it’s blissfully quiet, usually just a handful of tourists and their Cuban friends and/or lovers. On weekends, it is full of Cubans and hotel guests.

Admission for non-residents is 10CUC. You get 8CUC credit which you spend on eating and/or drinking at the poolside bar. First Avenue, between Col 44 and Col 46, Miramar.

The University of Havana is a beautiful, dimly lit daydream of a place that overlooks the streets running down. Its grounds are surprisingly neglected by tourists and all the better for it. The library consists of a series of rooms. The main library, Rubán Martínez Villena, dates from 1936. It’s a quaint place with long, chocolate brown reading desks and colorful tiled floors.

Sit by the window for a while on a very hot day. Feel the breeze and the leaves rustle and you’ll wish you were a student again. (Just don’t spoil the experience by using unsanitary toilets!). Calle O, Vedado between Avenida 23 and calle 25.

A Soviet-style asphalt square surrounded by mostly government buildings, the Plaza de la Revolución is Cuba’s political nerve center. The best time to see this hauntingly impressive site is at night, when its most striking feature – the two bronze silhouettes of revolutionary icons Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos – are spectacularly illuminated. Another major attraction is the Memorial y Museo a José Mart, a tribute to Cuba’s leading revolutionary. To the northwest of the plaza is the home of Cuba’s national theater, El Teatro Nacional. The same building houses one of the city’s favorite live music venues, Café Cantante Mi Habana. Corner of Avenidas Paseo and Carlos Manuel de Cspedes, Vedado.

What was, pre-Castro, the largest Asian community in Latin America is now down to a handful of streets in Centro Habana. This is El Barrio Chino: Chinatown. It’s tastefully unfussy and just a few minutes’ walk from Park Central. Chinese food lovers should check out Tien-Tan Restaurant on the pedestrianized Calle Cuchillo, perhaps the best Asian restaurant in the area. And, if you have a particularly sweet tooth, call dulceraOn the corner of Calle San Nicolás and Calle Zanja (Dragons) to sample some of the tastiest pastries in Havana.

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