Fascinating Havana, Cuba
There is so much to see and do in Havana that you won’t be able to do it all in one visit! It is one of those cities where modern glass-enclosed towers vie with centuries-old, stately buildings encased in a history of the revolution, pride, and tradition. Whatever you want, Havana has it!
Many people like to make Malecon one of their first stops. This famous pedestrian walkway was built in the early 20th century beside six lanes of traffic and is a wonderful place to stroll beside the waterfront. You’ll see people meeting to walk, talk, have coffee and generally enjoy the view of the ocean. It also serves as a parade route during festivals and you’ll want to spend at least one early evening watching the sunset from Malecon.
The National Hotel, first opened in 1930, is the only hotel in Cuba that is a national monument. Winston Churchill, Al Capone, and other famous and infamous people have slept beneath its roof; the futures of countries have been planned there as well as the next bank robbery or financial strategy. After soaking up the ambiance and beautiful décor, stop into La Terraza, the hotel’s bar, for a cocktail and an unforgettable view of the Malecon.
Old Havana is one place where you could spend your entire visit quite happily, particularly if you like to soak up the vibrancy of the Cuban culture. You can hang out at Calle Obispo and talk with the self-employed entrepreneurs or investigate La Colmenita, an afterschool center that uses art and performance as tools for the social and personal development of students.
You never know what you’ll see around the next corner in Old Havana, buildings more than 500 years old or a 21st-century group of teens with a boom box. The Plaza de Armas is the site of the city’s foundation, a beautiful square surrounded by plants and flowers and a great place to rest your tired feet. Also in Old Havana is the Convento de Santa Clara, an impressive pre-baroque convent.
Havana is also home to some of the best musicians on earth. The Buena Vista Social Club is not the only source of jazz on the island, as you’ll see by all the up and coming artists you can watch and listen to at Casa de la Musica, or the house of music. Located on Galiano Street in Central Havana, this is a large club where you’ll also find the most popular salsa artists. Dance or just while away the hours listening to some of the best music you’ll ever hear.
Another site you’ll not want to miss is Capitolio, the former seat of the government before 1959, built-in the same style as the US capitol building in Washington, DC. It was built by the dictator Gerardo Machado, completed in 1929 and is now home to the world’s 3rd largest indoor statue, a bronze cast in Rome and entitled Statue of the Republic. The nearly 50-foot tall statue is covered in 22-carat gold leaf; Lily Valty, a Cuban woman, was the model but the artist was inspired by the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena.
The Museo de la Revolucion, housed in the former Presidential Palace, is a great place to get an overview of Cuban history. You can learn about the battles against former dictator Batista and see Granma, the yacht from which Fidel Castro launched the last revolution as well as a tank used in the Bay of Pigs invasion.
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