Latin America Travel & Tour Information
Capital of the Caribbean
Havana, or as Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier called it: 'The City of Pillars', showcases on every corner the relics of a cosmopolitan and glamoruos past. Experiencing the contrast between the city's melancoly and joy for life excites new visitors; so does a ride around the city in a 1950 Chevy, or a stroll upon the seafront´s wall. There is adventure for everyone, whether it be taking part in a Santería ceremony, or just to sway to the rhythm of contagious Cuban salsa bellowing from the streets or in music halls.
Located in the northern section in the province of La Habana, and bordering one of the largest natural bays on the island, Havana is Cuba´s political, economic, administrative and cultural center. The largest city in the country, it covers 732 km² and is divided into 15 municipalities, inhabited by over 2 million people. Most visitors rotate around the lively areas of: La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), Centro Habana, Vedado and Miramar. Havana's peculiar charm attracts visitors from all corners of the world. The historic centre is the largest in Latin America and was the first in Cuba to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.
The impossing colonial fortresses that once defended the port and the city, are a faithful reminder of a lucrative era. The snaking oceanfront avenue, 'El Malecón', is just another of the city's refreshing attributes and allows views across a building lined seafront, interupted regularly by crashing waves spraying beyond the seawall. The Malecón was designed by the Cuban engineer Albear and finished in 1926, it serves as a gathering spot for the citys inhabitants. At any time of the day: lovers, musicians, painters or fishermen alternate along this 7 Km avenue which links the areas of Central Habana, Vedado and Miramar from the fortress St Salvador de La Punta in Old Havana up to the mouth of the Almendares river. A stroll along the Malecon introduces the visitor to the great diversity found within the city´s skyline.
The colonial past remains alive in the historic quarters: La Habana Vieja, made up of cobblestone streets, squares and parks which are carefully designed and ornamented by palm trees. The 'Prado', a grand and elegant avenue, marks the Old Town's limit where the bourgeoisie and nobility resided during the 18th and 19th centuries. Old hotels and villas featuring whimsically ornamented façades, survive time in all its splendor. The Gran Teatro (Grand Theater), magnificiently decorated and the Capitol, built out of white marble, are both significant in Havana´s cityscape. Central Park is one of the most crowded spots in the city, full of peddlers, school children and baseball fans debating game results and team performances.
Modern Havana begins in Vedado, northwest of the Old Town. 23rd Street, is the city´s main axis, also known as 'La Rampa' (the Ramp) because of the gradual rising of its lower section. Luxury hotels like the National and the Habana Libre line this street, a remarkable legacy of years gone-by. The neighboring streets teem with Art-Noveau houses and villas. The political center lies at Revolution Square and its surrounding buildings. Close by, Columbus Cemetery expands on itself, today a National Monument and a genuine marble city for the deceased, dating back from the late 19th century. Further ahead, the aristocratic section of Miramar joins the landscape, with palace-like villas which have been turned into embassies, expensive restaurants and exclusive stores.
Along the beach area, east from the city, several resorts await visitors boasting a full range of facilities along with excellent conections to the main attraccions. In the outskirts, Hemingway´s museum in the farm 'La Vigía' or Lenin´s Park offer other options away from the city´s maelstrom.
OLD HAVANA / La Habana Vieja
Nestled on the western side of the bay, lies the most beautiful and interesting area of Havana. Here, the majority of the city's majestic buildings are undergoing restoration, after many years suffering from the wethering of time and the elements. Restoration in this area is not only reserved for the most oustanding of the buildings and monuments, but also for historic houses, plazas and former comercial properties.
Along Oficios Street
This street was the original link between the military Arms Square and the commercial San Francisco Square. Together with Obispo Street it is one of the most attractive, especially the façades. Starting at the Arms Square, three important buildings come into view. The first at no. 8, the Numismatics Museum (9am-5pm: Tuesday to Saturday / 9 am-1 pm: Sunday) built in the 18th century and serving for a long while as the Monte Piedad Bank. It features an interesting collection of bank notes, coins, medallions and lottery bills, both Cuban and foreign.
Located right on the boundary with the Old Town, Central Havana begins with Central Park, born in 1877 on the site of the former old city wall, demolished for the benefit of the city´s expansion. José Martí´s marble statue, the first in Cuba, came to replace that of Isabel II in 1905. The park´s neighboring buildings date from the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, it is an enjoyable and favorite spot for the citizens of Havana who stay here till the small hours and draw the attention of passers-by with their heated arguments about the national sport of baseball.