Of my top recommendations for your Cuba holiday, one of the most bucket-list valid is definitely visiting Havana. Explore the array of things to do Havana for a curious traveler!
There are so many unique experiences and things to do in Havana, and must-see attractions you don’t want to miss! Alas, unless you have unlimited time to spend you are going to have to prioritize.
If the city buzz is what gets you going, you can choose Havana as your Cuba base, explore the city, and visit other destinations in central western Cuba on day trips during your vacation.
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Things To Do Havana Bucket List?
Editors Pick Top 3 Tours Of Havana!
- Old Classic American Car Tour! This is the absolute best way (although “touristy”) to get a feel for the whole of Havana while traveling in style!
- Vinales Valley Private Tour in a classic American car! You will visit a tobacco plantation, go horseback riding, and explore the stunning Cueva del Indio, Mural de la Prehistoria, and more!
- Private Classic Car beach day trip! Even though Havana city is amazing, you probably will appreciate a lounging beach day (rated 10 out of 10), at Playa del Este or even Varadero!
Is Havana Cuba Worth Visiting?
Yes! Yes, yes, yes, Havana Cuba is definitely worth visiting! Even if you don’t really like cities, Havana is a city worth visiting.
This capital city is simply unique, one of a kind, with its particular architecture, history, and details all around the city. Even if you don’t stay for super long, please come visit!
This guide to things to do Havana will show you the most famous places, tours, and activities to help you plan your vaycay time!
Soo Many Amazing Things To Do Havana!
When you are planning a trip to Cuba, exploring the capital Havana is a must-do! There are so many things to do in Havana, the main question is how to prioritize your time!
But be aware, that there are very few activities you can book online before going to Cuba unless you use a Cuba-certified tour operator to organize them for you before your arrival.
Your List of Amazing Things To Do Havana!
1. Walk The Malecon At Sunset
The stonewall and boardwalk that is called El Malecon is an 8-kilometer-long structure that follows the sea starting at the end of Paseo del Prado by the Old City, ending a little past the Vedado district.
El Malecon is a very social place for habaneros. People come here every night to chill, but especially on Saturdays.
This is a place for dating, fiesta, and socializing, where people bring rum and sub-woofers, listen to music, dance, watch the sunset and spend the evening – one of the must-do things to do Havana!
One of the first things you will notice in Havana are the elegant bright colored classic American cars roaming the streets, as they have been since the first half of the last century!
This is not just a really cool way to travel (some of these are regular taxis), but also a great way to get an overview of the whole city while traveling in style and comfort.
A beautiful car will pick you up at your hotel, and take you around the city to see the Malecon, Vedado, John Lennon Park, Plaza de la Revolucion, Colon Cemetary, and more.
If you like to enjoy grandiose stage shows, the classic Tropicana Cabaret with dozens of dancers, sparkling costumes, and a mix of Caribbean and Cuban dance styles might be perfect for you! (If not, you might be bored or overwhelmed).
The show was inaugurated in 1939, is nicknamed “paradise under the stars”, and will take you for a two-and-a-half-hour journey into the rhumba, salsa, mambo, danzon, and more.
Included in the ticket is enough rum to last you the night while immersing in the classic ambiance of Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and Edith Piaf, the elegant heroes of the 1920ies.
Is food one of your passions to explore while traveling?
Then you probably will enjoy this Havana street food tour, making stops to try typical local fried foods like churros (sweet!), chiviricos, and traditional Cuban pork!
You will also test traditional foods with a Cuban twist like popcorn, hot dogs, and peanuts, and to go along with it a guarapo (sugarcane drink), and strawberry syrup-flavored crushed ice!
For the afternoon tour, you will also stop by the famous Coppelia Ice Cream parlor (that some love, and some don’t), to test the cooling merchandise.
5. Visit The Havana Fortresses
There are several fortress structures in and around Havana, from remnants of fortifications that do not exist anymore, to the grand fortresses that have guarded the city for centuries.
5.1 El Morro “The Rock”
The El Morro castle is situated on the tip of the entrance to Havana bay, across from the end of the Paseo del Prado overlooking the sea outside Old Havana.
This castle was built in the 16th century to protect Havana from frequent vicious attacks from the sea at the time that was a problem.
El Morro, the rock, is a landmark with its looming tower where the lookout could control any ships approaching the shores of the city.
The fortress is part of the Old Havana World Heritage Site, inscribed in 1982 for its historical importance in the European conquest of the New World and its unique mix of architecture.
Today it is a museum and tourist attraction, where you can walk around the centuries-old buildings and let yourself be drawn back to times past.
5.2 Fortaleza De San Carlos De La Cabaña
La Cabaña fortress is situated across the bay of Havana from the Old City and is part of the fortification structure with El Morro.
When it was completed in 1774 La Cabaña was the second-largest colonial military installation in the New World, right behind the slightly bigger St. Felipe de Barajas fortification at Cartagena, Colombia.
After the Cuban revolution in 1959 La Cabaña was appointed a prison for traitors, where among others the infamous Che Guevara served as the head of the prison for a period.
It is estimated that several hundred Batista supporters were executed in Cuba after the revolution during the tribunals.
In 2021 it is a quiet place, the peace only interrupted by visiting tourists and the cannons firing every night at 9 pm, which can be heard all over the city!
One of the things to do Havana is actually to take a breather on the beach just outside the city!
To the east of Havana, in Habana del Este, there are several beautiful beaches only 15-20 minutes from the center of the city. These are known as Playa del Este.
Where there are beaches there are also hotels, so if you would prefer to stay outside of the city center this is an option. Or you can get a taxi out and back for the day.
This area does not attract all that many foreign tourists compared to other areas like Varadero or the Cuban Keys.
Have the chance to hang with more of the locals here, and make an effort to get to know the Cuban culture and people!
Also read: Take a road trip from Havana to Santa Clara!
When you need a bit of a breather from the buzzing city, one of the places to visit in Cuba outside Havana is Las Terrazas which is perfect for that!
Around an hour outside Havana, you find this almost hidden oasis designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in the hills in Pinar del Rio.
You have to get up early though, and at 7 am (!) you will be picked up, and taken to the Sierra del Rosario mountain range.
Here you will explore a 19th-century coffee plantation farm, and the extensive gardens and traditional Cuban architecture at Hotel Moka.
Stroll the streets of Las Terrazas, before you go to the Soroa orchid garden, Castillo de las Nubes, and finally, the stunning Soroa waterfall where you can cool down at the end of the day!
8. Visit El Cristo De La Habana
Just beside the La Cabaña fortress, when you watch from the Old Havana side of the bay, you have a clear view of one of Havana’s most prominent sculptures.
The statue of Christ, El Cristo de la Habana where he is overlooking the whole city.
About 20 meters tall, the white Jesus of Nazareth was built from 67 blocks of marble that were brought from Italy after being personally blessed by Pope Pius XII.
The statue was inaugurated on La Cabaña hill on December 24, 1958. Just fifteen days before Fidel Castro and his comrades entered Havana in what we all now know as the world-changing Cuban Revolution.
It is easy to stop by and view the statue at the same time you are visiting La Cabana fortress, just a few hundred meters away!
Ernest Hemingway is one of the most famous habaneros extranjeros who lived in Havana on and off for 30 years.
Hemingway first visited Cuba in 1928 when he was actually on his way to Spain. He stayed for a few days, and that was the first time he was a guest at the Ambos Mundos hotel in Obispo Street, Old Havana.
The Ambos Mundos was where he would stay whenever he returned in the next decade, and he had his favorite room there which still has his name on it.
He returned to Cuba in 1932, and 1939, before he and his wife bought the estate Finca Vigia, the lookout ranch.
Finca Vigia was Hemingway’s home on and off until 1960. It is also where he wrote seven books, including The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast, and Islands in the Stream.
The Finca Vigia is now a museum where you can get a sneak peek into the Cuban life of Hemingway.
If you want to explore Havana a little faster than on foot, you can rent a bike for Havana online with BikesBooking before you arrive.
Just remember that the traffic in Havana is a bit unpredictable, so pay attention and have vigilance when you are cycling the most trafficked streets!
There are said to be more than 900 buildings of historical importance with architectural styles in Old Havana, ranging from Baroque to Art Deco all on show.
You could spend a week or more just exploring Old Havana if you would like to. If you want some help doing that, you can also book a guided tour to have someone tell you the stories as well!
Originally, in the colonial days, this part of town was encircled by a 1.5 meters thick and 10 meters high wall to protect the residents.
There were lots of attacks, from what is described as «pirates, buccaneers, and filibusters». In other words, thieves and looters!
The impressive wall was less impressively built by manpower from African slave labor, and today there are only a few sections of it remaining.
One of these is near what now is the Cuba and Chacon police station in Old Havana. This is now the home of the headquarters of the National Revolutionary Police Force of Havana.
12. Stop By Hemingways Favorite Place Hotel Ambos Mundos
Visit Hotel Ambos Mundos Havana, Hotel Both Worlds, which was Hemingways home away from home for ten years before he bought his beloved Finca Vigia on the outskirts of Havana.
Hemingways regular room is still marked, the hotel foyer is beautiful, and there is a rooftop with a nice view of Havana.
Ambos Mundos is still a hotel, and at the back of the foyer, there is an interesting ornate old elevator guarded by a, well, guard, to get you up to the rooftop.
The airy terrace on top has a bar and restaurant where you can enjoy a break in your city and walk in the historic aura.
13. Stroll Plaza De La Catedral
Plaza de la Catedral is one of the five main squares in Old Havana and the site of the Cathedral of Havana where it got its name.
It was the last of the main squares in Havana, built on one of Old Havana’s most beautiful spots, an area that used to be a swamp!
Originally, it was named Plaza de la Ciénaga (Swamp Square) because of its muddy terrain. By the 18th century, it had already become one of the city’s most important squares.
After it was drained and paved, wealthy families moved into the area and began building their mansions there.
It finally became Plaza de la Catedral after the old Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús was consecrated as a cathedral.
In addition to the cathedral, the other three sides consist of the façades of 18th-century aristocratic baroque mansions.
Also read: Havana nightlife district by district!
14. Have Coffe At Plaza Vieja Old Havana
Take a slow walk around the Plaza Vieja in Old Havana and give yourself time to notice all the artsy details of architecture on the buildings.
Lots of sculptures are scattered around the plaza, just spend some time and enjoy the ambiance of the place.
The Plaza Vieja first emerged as an open space in 1559. It was built as a popular alternative to Plaza de Armas and was a place for processions, executions, fiestas, and bullfights.
In Plaza Vieja, you can sit down with a mojito, or lunch in one of the cafes or restaurants in the plaza.
Enjoy people-watching from the shade, and the music of troubadours or small bands that most likely are entertaining all the passers-by.
Regla is an area in Havana with a lot of important cultural and religious significance.
You might not have heard about Yoruba, also called Santeria, the Afro-Cuba mixed religion that the vast majority of Cubans belong to and live by?
This religious faith is a mix of the African religion that arrived with the slave trade centuries ago, and the Catholic faith that arrived with the Spanish in the 16th century.
On this top-rated Regla tour, you will take the ferry to see the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Regla.
This church is dedicated to the Virgin of Regla, who is represented by a black Madonna and venerated in both the Catholic church and in the Yoruba religion known in Cuba as Santería.
You will see the Santeria women reading palms and carrying out good-luck-rituals (important in Santeria), and other Santeria rituals on the boardwalk near the church, where sometimes animal sacrifices are performed!
This top-rated Havana photo tour will take you to the most symbolic spots of Old Havana where you have tons of amazing photo ops, and you will learn more about the capital of Cuba on your way.
Then you will climb into one of the classic American cars, head for the Malecon, and then a panoramic viewpoint to capture the essence of Havana from afar.
All summed up with a cool Cuban cocktail at the end while enjoying the scenic view!
17. Things To Do Havana Obispo Street
Calle Obispo, or Obispo Street, is the main street of Old Havana.
It runs all the way from the sea up to the little Parque Fransisco de Albear y Lara, right next to the famous Floridita restaurant and bar where Hemingway used to hang!
Along Calle Obispo there always is a lot of life, little shops with souvenirs, clothes stores, ice cream stands, snack bars, museums, and restaurants. And people.
In the lower part, the ambiance is calmer, you can stop and rest at the historic Plaza de Armas (below) on a bench in the shade. Or stop by Hotel Ambos Mundos while strolling up the busy but charming street.
18. Plaza De Armas Havana
The Plaza de Armas Havana (which literally Weapons Square, but it is better translated as Parade Square or parade ground) is a general name used in Latin America for main squares.
Plaza de Armas is the oldest square in Old Havana, from when colonial Havana was founded in the 16th century.
It got the name Plaza de Armas in the late 16th century when the governor, who then lived in the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, used the area to conduct military exercises.
In the center of the square is Parque Céspedes, pinned by a white marble statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes.
He was the initiator of the Cuban wars of independence and is called Father of the Homeland!
Around the square are historic sites and buildings like El Templete, a 19th-century, Greek-style Neoclassical temple marking the spot where Havana was founded in 1519.
See the 18th-century Casa del Conde de Santovenia, and the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, which used to house the US Embassy.
The former governor’s palace, the 18th-century baroque Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales lies on a street laid with wooden tiles instead of cobbles.
Apparently, it was built to lower the noise from the street which appears to have annoyed the Governor! Today the house is the home of Museo de la Ciudad, dedicated to the city’s history.
Also read: Why visit Cuba?
19. Walk By Castillo De La Real Fuerza
Castillo de la Real Fuerza, or Castle of the Royal Force, is a fort situated on the western side of the Havana inner harbor, close to Plaza de Armas.
It was meant to defend Havana against pirates, but it actually turned out it was situated too far from the entrance to the harbor to do that!
After some quick thinking, the fort was instead turned into the residence of a long line of Governors of Havana.
In 1634, Juan Vitrián de Viamonte added a watchtower here, with a weathervane sculpted like a woman. It was created by an artist from Havana, based on the figure crowning La Giralda in Seville.
The belief is that it is in memory of Isabel de Bobadilla, Havana’s only female governor through the times.
She was supposed to look after the city while her husband Hernando de Soto went on an expedition to Florida.
Then when he disappeared at sea, his wife, while waiting (as she did not know he had died), ended up holding the position for years!
The figure eventually became the symbol of the city of Havana, and even features on the Havana Club rum label!
Castillo de la Real Fuerza is considered to be the oldest stone fort in the Americas, and was listed in 1982 as part of the UNESCO World Heritage site “Old Havana and its Fortifications”.
This fort has had several different uses over the centuries, but in 2010, it reopened as Cuba’s most important maritime museum.
20. Have A Cocktail At Floridita – Hemingways Hang-Out In Old Havana
At the end of Calle Obispo just across the road from the Manzana Kempinski lies the Floridita restaurant and bar on the corner.
The Floridita restaurant is a historic Havana cocktail bar and seafood place, which was also one of its favorite watering holes for Hemingway.
Floridita restaurant and bar was also a popular hangout for many generations of Cuban and other foreign intellectuals and artists, and is famous for its frozen daiquiris!
You can still have a meal and a cocktail at the Floridita while sitting next to the full-size bronze statue of Hemingway that is seated at the bar!
Cubans love their rum and sweet liquor. Get your hands on a bottle of Cuban rum, and sweet liquor of fruit or coconut, and enjoy one of each on your balcony later with a drizzle of ice.
There are of course lots of small licorerias like this scattered around the city, not just here so just keep your eyes open.
If you want some guidance, you can book a Havana Rum & Cigar Tour to make sure you learn a little bit and get the best introduction to this side of the Cuban culture!
You know the old saying; when in Rome, do as the Romans! Why not take one or several dance classes in Havana Cuba when you first are in the capital of dance and rhythms?
You can join a dance class of around one hour with English-speaking teachers at the Salsa Estilo Cuba Dance School located in El Vedado.
Here you can try a variety of Latin dance styles, including salsa, merengue, and cha-cha-cha.
If you hack these famous dances, you’ll also have time for the Cuban rumba, the mambo, bachata, tango, and even the elegant kizomba!
23. Things To Do Havana El Capitolio
Take a tour inside the Capitolio, the grand building remarkably resembling the White House in the US.
It was built in the 1920s and is situated along the Prado next to the Parque de Fraternidad between Old Havana and Central Havana.
Apparently, it is not intended to be a replica of the White House. According to the architect Eugenio Raineri Piedra, the inspiration for the cupola came from the Panthéon in Paris.
Before the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Cuban Congress lived in this building.
Following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the Cuban Congress was abolished and the building slowly fell into disrepair.
56 steps lead up to the main entrance where 12 granite columns in two rows welcome you.
Inside the main hall, under the cupola, is the 15 meters high gold-covered bronze statue of the Republic (La Estatua de la República).
Embedded in the floor in the center of the main hall is a replica 25-carat diamond, which intends to mark Kilometre Zero for Cuba.
The original diamond is said to have belonged to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, sold to the Cuban state by a Turkish merchant at one point.
On both sides of the main hall is the Salón de Pasos Perdidos (Hall of Lost Steps), which got its name from the acoustic in the halls.
You can see all that and find more magnificent history and details if you take the guided tour of the Capitolio.
24. Walk The Boulevard San Rafael
Boulevard San Rafael in Central Havana is a shopping street (most of the distance) that starts at Parque Central and goes all the way to the Vedado district through Central Havana.
The pedestrian part of the boulevard has lots of shops, restaurants, and bars, and has a more «high-end» feel than Calle Obispo in Old Havana.
Parts of the boulevard are first a pedestrian shopping area until it becomes more of a residential area with few local shops after the Parque Fe de Valle.
The road onwards is is a narrow typical Old Havana street, with cars, bici-taxis, and people, surrounded by colonial buildings and little shops on street level.
Central Havana district where the second part of San Rafael runs through is very similar to Old Havana in its formation, but this area has a less grandiose feel.
The buildings do not have the same level of detail and lack all the historic spaces and art you find in Old Havana.
You may feel you get a little lost in the conglomerate of broken streets with cars and bici-taxis and people.
If ever that happens, from San Rafael you can always turn to the north, and you will walk straight onto the Malecon and the sea!
25. Visit The National Museum Of Fine Arts
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Cuba, or the National Museum of Fine Arts Havana, is a museum that shows Cuban art collections ranging from the start of the Colonial era until the 21st century.
The collections in the museum are placed in two different buildings. One is focused on Cuban Arts in the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the other is displaying Universal Arts, in the Palacio del Centro Asturiano.
This exhibition in the Palace of Fine Arts is dedicated exclusively to housing Cuban Art collections.
Displayed items span from the 17th and 19th centuries and have sections for religious subjects, landscape, and the Costumbrismo narrative (which just means showing everyday ways and customs of a specific social or provincial environment) from scenes of Cuban life.
26. Things To Do Havana – The Grand Theater
The Grand Theater of Havana is situated beside the Capitolio very close to Parque Central and is home to the National Ballet in Cuba.
It is a grand structure in the daytime, but even more stunning at night when it is lit up by tens or maybe hundreds of floodlights.
You can book a tour to see the theater, or you can get a ticket and experience the performance.
As this is Cuba, you can not pre-book tickets online, but you will have to go to the theater box office and purchase your tickets there while in Havana.
You can try to contact the theatre before your trip to find out what their itinerary is, but you may find they do not plan very long ahead. They are also on Facebook.
27. Visit Museo De La Revolucion Cuba
It became the Museum of the Revolution shortly after the revolution on the 1st of January 1959, when Batista fled the country and Fidel Castro took over after ten years of armed opposition and guerilla war.
Cuban architect Rodolfo Maruri and the Belgian architect Paul Belau designed the palace, and they also designed the impressive Centro Gallego, now the Gran Teatro de La Habana.
The building has Neo-Classical elements and was decorated by the famous Tiffany Studios of New York City.
Parts of the museum are also displaying the history of pre-revolutionary Cuba, including the 1895-1898 War of Independence waged against Spain.
There are several organizers of walking tours around Old Havana, both free ones with a «drop-in» from a specific point in Havana to tours where you register for a small fee.
The tours normally last for 2-3 hours and cover the most famous historical sites, and buildings, while a guide tells you the intriguing history and stories of Havana.
Make sure to bring good walking shoes and plenty of water in the Caribbean heat!
29. Get A Hotel Day Pass
Buy a hotel day pass and spend one day on a rooftop with a pool, if your place does not have that! The Caribbean heat can be excruciating for anyone, not just delicate tourists.
For example the Manzana Kempinski hotel right next to Parque Central, the Iberostar Parque Central next door, or any of the hotels that have a stunning blue infinity pool on the roof.
Maybe even the historic Hotel Nacional in Vedado, which does not really offer a rooftop, but a beautiful garden where you can enjoy the sun and the pools in the middle of the city.
Also read: The paradisiacal Cuban Keys Cayo Santa Maria
30. Things To Do Havana The Vedado
Vedado is described as a business district, an urban neighborhood as well as the entertainment district of Havana.
Although that is true, it is also a cultural area and a somewhat calmer part of the city than Old Havana.
It is mostly a residential neighborhood, with wider streets and lower houses, and lush parks, all better kept than Old and Central Havana.
There are a lot of embassies in this area, as well as parks, shops and malls, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and cultural establishments.
31. Hotel Nacional De Cuba
Have lunch or dinner at the Hotel Nacional (you can also stay there of course), the huge and majestic stone building lying on the edge of a cliff above the Malecon just a stone through from the Caribbean shore.
From the hotel, there is a magnificent view of the busy life below, and the sea, while within there is a calm elegant atmosphere.
32. The Cultural Gem Callejon De Hamel
Callejon de Hamel Cuba is an alley in Vedado that has become a symbol and a center of Afro-Cuban culture and religion santeria.
It is a display of the African origins of millions of Cubans and is considered a public temple to the Santeria religion and Afro-Cuban culture.
There are sculptures built into the structures, like colorfully painted path tubs bricked into the walls, or made out to be benched for anyone with tired feet.
Everywhere are artsy details in different materials, shapes, and colors.
On Sundays, the alley is buzzing with music, dance, and people celebrating the Afro-Cuban culture, a spectacle you never will regret seeing!
33. Art & Club Scene Fabrica De Arte Cubano
La Fabrica de Arte is an art gallery and club in Havana, built inside a former cooking oil factory constructed in 1910.
In 2008 a group of Cuban artists and musicians began to look for a centralized location in which art could be shown, leading to the group acquiring the closed factory in 2010.
The current Fabrica de Arte opened in February 2014 and has since gained a fiery reputation as one of Havana’s premier nightclubs and art galas.
It’s a place for all kinds of people and ages and provides different kinds of art experiences from live bands of any genre to live acting performances, and art expos, as well as dancing, drinking, and meeting people.
The place has however been noted to attract young Cubans and foreign nationals, and the prices are more suited to foreigners than Cuban salaries.
La Fabrica de Arte normally has a full program of activities Thursday through Sunday nights every week, pre-pandemic.
The general advice is to get there before 10 pm as it is always overcrowded and you won´t like missing the experience!
34. Coppelia Ice Cream Parlor In Vedado
The Coppelia ice cream parlor in Vedado is super famous, so much so that it is a tourist site in itself and there are always queues outside.
Coppelia is also very popular among the habaneros, since its opening way back in 1966.
The Coppelia used to have any flavor you could dream of, but in periods of recession and short supply, it may be limited.
Although an iconic place, the tourists on TripAdvisor are not always very impressed when giving the Coppelia a review, to be fair.
If you choose to hacer la cola (stand in line), which might take some time, well. Maybe you love this ice cream, maybe you don’t!
35. Things To Do Havana – Cine Yara
El Cine Yara, Yara Movie Theater, is considered a true cultural icon. It is situated on the busy corner between Avenida 23 and Calle L in Vedado, right across the street from the Coppelia ice cream place!
The building is designed by architects Emilio del Junco, Miguel Gastón, and Martín Domínguez.
It comprises the front section of the Radiocentro architectural complex that was opened in 1947 and is still considered to be one of the cornerstones of Cuban modernist architecture.
At that time the cinema had the most advanced technology of that era in terms of lighting, acoustics, and air conditioning. Initially, the theatre also had a variety of shows in its 1650-seat hall.
Including performances by Cuban and Latin American stars such as Libertad Lamarque of Argentina and Pedro Vargas of Mexico.
A lot of popular Cuban musical groups have performed there every December it is one of the important venues for the International Festival of the new Latin American Cinema.
I went there for a stand-up show a while back when truth be told my Spanish was not really up for it, but the crowd laughed, the atmosphere was super and it was nevertheless a great experience!
Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón, Colon Cemetary, is a historic and famous cemetery in Vedado founded in 1876, named after the island’s discoverer; Cristopher Columbus.
Before its construction, the dead of Havana was laid to rest at various churches throughout Havana.
After the fourth cholera epidemic in the 1860es, the city realized there would be a need for a larger space for their deceased, and they began planning for the Colón.
El Colón is a Catholic cemetery and has elaborate monuments, tombs, and statues by 19th and 20th-century artists.
There are more than 500 major mausoleums here, and plots were assigned according to social class.
The areas of the cemetery are divided by rank and social status with distinct areas for priests, soldiers, brotherhoods, the wealthy, the poor, infants, victims of epidemics, pagans, and last but not least; the condemned.
It also became a place for wealthy families to display their power with grandiose memorials for their deceased.
All the cemetery’s main streets are built in the four cardinal directions, symbolized by a Greek cross, which also represents the spread of the gospel in all directions as well as the four platonic elements.
37. The Napoleon Museum
Napoleon Museum in Havana houses an important historic collection from the 18th and 19th centuries preserved in the Western hemisphere.
Founded in 1961, the museum was designed by the same architects that built El Capitolio in Old Havana.
There are almost 8,000 items displayed in the museum, mostly from the period from the French Revolution until the Second Empire of Napoleon III.
The exhibition includes a specialized library, weapons, suits, coins, military equipment, furniture as well as historic and decorative objects.
38. Plaza De La Revolucion
Plaza de la Revolución in Vedado is famous for the many political rallies that took place there under Fidel Castro.
Fidel and other prominent people of power had mass rallies here, and more than a million Cubans gathered on the plaza on important occasions. Dates like 26 July and May 1st every year.
On a historic visit to Cuba by Pope John Paul II in 1998, and Pope Francis in 2015, both held large Masses there during visits to Cuba.
Around the plaza are many important government ministries and buildings, and behind the memorial is the Palace of the Revolution, the home of the Communist Party and the Cuban government.
The main tourist attraction on the plaza is the José Martí Memorial which features a 109 meters tall tower where you can visit the top, and an 18 meters tall statue.
Many of the old American cars that offer a one-hour trip (€30) around Havana stop here on the large plaza.
39. Museum Of Decorative Arts Havana
The Museum of Decorative Arts Havana opened in 1964 in the house of José Gómez Mena.
Gómez’s sister was María Luisa Gómez Mena, who was a wealthy patron of Cuban artists, and a vital figure in Havana at the time.
At the residence, she used to host fabulous parties and gatherings for celebrities from Cuba and other parts of the world, from aristocrats to movie stars, to intellectuals, to politicians.
In today’s museum, you can see exquisite furniture from different eras, as well as numerous pieces of art and sculptures,
Inside the museum are more than 33,000 pieces of historic and artistic value. You can view oriental pieces from the 16th to the 20th centuries as well as pieces from the reigns of Louis XV, Louis XVI, and Napoleon III.
It is a magnificent display of the decadent wealth and luxury of the aristocracy through the centuries.
Around the mansion, there are different gardens each with its peculiarity. There is the Night Garden, decorated with neoclassical and rococo-inspired sculptures.
And then the Garden of the Seasons displays four Italian marble sculptures made in the 19th century, representing spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
40. University Of Havana
The University of Havana is also located in Vedado. It is the oldest university in Cuba, founded in 1728, and it was actually started as a religious institution.
Like so many other structures in Havana, the university building is strewn with art details. Inside the main gate, there are seven frescos that represent Medicine, Science, Art, Thought, Liberal Arts, Literature, and Law.
At the main university entrance, there is a bronze statue of Alma Mater, which means “Nourishing mother” in Latin.
The University developed for centuries until after the coup by Fulgencio Batista in 1952 when free and democratic elections were suspended.
University grounds became a center of gatherings for politically active students, and the student organization FEU was in fierce opposition to Batista. Violent clashes between university students and Cuban police at one point reached their extremes.
Another long and complicated story, but Batista closed down the university after the FEU attempted to assassinate him in 1957 with support from Fidel Castro.
The university remained so until Batista fled the country and Fidel Castro entered Havana in January 1959.
Today the University has 19 faculties according to its home page, various research institutions, and currently around 60.000 students from both Cuba and the rest of the world.
41. Things To Do Havana Fusterlandia Art Center
A twenty-minute drive to the west of Old Havana you find the special art center Fusterlandia, a universe of mosaic-covered streets and houses in the Jamainatas neighborhood created by the late artist José Fuster.
Fuster began his art project with mosaic tiles back in 1975, when this area was a scruffy poor fishing community.
After the Cuban revolution times were tough in Cuba, and creating art was not a priority in the everyday lives of Cubans.
Fuster had studied at Havana’s Art Instructor’s School and also traveled across Europe to continue his education, where he found inspiration in great artists like Pablo Picasso and Antoni Gaudi.
He has even been nicknamed the “Picasso of the Caribbean”!
When Fuster was featured in National Geographics in 2013, after four decades of work, he said that his experiences inspired him to create a magnificent piece of art himself.
This is why today you can admire Fuster’s life legacy in west Havana, in his universe of color, surreal details, and visual statements.
It is all created by mosaic and pieces of everyday objects implemented in the neighborhood he made his life canvas.
If you opt for a Cassic Car tour of Havana, negotiate with the driver to extend the tour and visit this remarkable place.
If you love the sea, the underwater world, and snorkeling, AND you are quite fit, this snorkeling tour in Havana might be for you!
This tour will take you around half an hour outside Havana to the Playas del Este, where you will start your snorkeling adventure. The thing is, you have to swim a bit!
There are two shipwrecks in this area, the City of Alexandria (300 meters) and the SS Olivette (750 meters) that you can explore if you have swimming stamina.
The City of Alexandria sank in 1893, and the SS Olivette in 1918. Both of these shipwrecks are very important in Cuban history, and you will learn all about the history.
Just so you know, the whole time you’ll be accompanied by two guides who’ll have buoyancy aids to take care of safety and security underway!
FAQ’s Havana Cuba!
There are a lot of people that have various questions about travel to Cuba in general, and Havana in particular, as it still is a country somehow shrouded in myth and secrecy.
Here are the answers to some of the most common and frequently asked questions about traveling to Cuba and Havana!
Unique Things To Do In Havana!
Well, if you want advice on things that you can only do in Havana, and no other places within Cuba (or in other countries), these are my top recommendations:
- Experience Callejon de Hamel on Sundays! There will be an array of people playing music and dancing and doing religious Santeria rituals and sacrifices (nothing dangerous) – it’s gonna be loud, and there will be quite a lot of rum!
- Have a cerveza on the Malecon wall at sunset, from where you see the Morro fortress, the Vedado skyline, and almost across to Fort Lauderdale across the strait.
- Take a bici-taxi into the conglomerate of Central Havana at night and have a gourmet dinner at San Cristobal (where Obama ate). Call and book a table beforehand, and ask for a chambre separee! You will not be disappointed.
- Although you can take a classic old American car tour in other places too – I still think roaming the Havana streets is the most charming and authentic place to do it, so that makes the list.
Why Can’t Americans Go To Cuba?
Actually, Americans can go to Cuba!
American travelers just need to abide by a set of regulations set by the US Government, and as long as that is done correctly, US citizens can easily travel to Cuba.
Here is a short list of what Americans traveling to Cuba must do to travel within the regulations:
- Buy the pink tourist card for Cuba
- Choose one of the 11 preapproved reasons for travel to Cuba
- Stay at a hotel or casa particular that is not owned by the Cuban state
- Do not shop in stores that are owned by the Cuban state
You can read all about how US citizens can travel to Cuba in this article for more in-depth information!
Is It Safe To Travel To Havana Cuba?
Yes, it is safe to travel to Havana Cuba!
Cuba is in fact one of the safest destinations in the region for tourists. This has a lot to do with the fact that anyone convicted of crimes against tourists in Cuba will face severe penalties.
Consequently, you can walk very safely on the streets of Havana, and the rest of the island as well. Be morally vigilant, like you would anywhere else (close bags, don’t flash your valuables), and you will be fine!
What Is The Best Time To Travel To Havana Cuba?
The high season to travel to Cuba in general is around Christmas and in the summer months.
However, the wet season runs from around May through October, and in this period there are a lot of afternoon rain showers. Within this period is the hurricane season mainly in August and September.
The summer months are also incredibly hot and humid. My best advice weather-wise for traveling to Cuba and Havana is in the period March through May (June), and September through November!
Is It Expensive To Travel To Havana Cuba?
You will be able to get flights to Havana and Varadero for a reasonable price if you are able to travel a little bit outside the high season.
Off the high season, the hotel and accommodation prices are also lower, as well as restaurant prices.
Check prices from your airport of origin here:
What Are The Cuba Travel Insurance Requirments?
You need valid travel insurance, including medical insurance, to travel to Cuba.
Since 2010, any foreign traveler to Cuba must have documentation of medical insurance, although there is no requirement on the level of coverage sum you need.
American citizens need to have an Emergency Medical policy as well as Medical Evacuation & Repatriation coverage in order to enter Cuba.
How To Travel From Varadero To Havana?
You can easily travel from Varadero to Havana in one of the following ways:
- Book a ticket online with the Viazul bus
- Get a taxi privado (expensive) or taxi collectivo (shared taxi, a lot cheaper) through your hotel or casa particular
- Book an organized day tour from Varadero to Havana (if you just want to go for the day)
What Is Havana Best Known For?
I really want to say that Havana is best known for just being Havana!
Being the capital of the Cuban revolution, the face of Cuba for 60 years, the home of a mix of three continents, and five centuries worth of history of colonialism, wars, trade, and diplomacy.
But maybe Havana simply is best known for the Old Classic American Cars still roaming the streets for most people, as that is what is colorfully visible in the grand Parque Central!
Is Three Days In Havana Enough?
Well, that simply depends. Are you a city sleek that loves to explore new cities on foot (or by bici taxi) for days – or does a noisy metropolis full of people, dogs, cats, and cars stress you?
If you love cities, nightlife, dancing, and hustle and bustle, you might find 3 days in Havana to be a bit short. And as you have seen here, there are lots of t hings to do if you want to!
On the other hand, if your idea of a perfect holiday is tropical beaches, winds in the palm trees and soft waves, three days in Havana probably is just what you can take..!
Wrap-Up 42 Legendary Things To Do Havana!
Are you feeling the travel buzz yet? So many cool things you can do while visiting Havana, and I keep discovering new ones every so often!
As I live in Old Havana, I have the city buzz practically “in my house” (no such thing as sound isolation here), and I update this inspirational and doer-friendly guide every time I come across another adventure.
Hope you found something to look forward to!
Do you have any questions about Cuba? Leave a comment, or send me an e-mail! Happy to help!