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teal car driving down main street in havana cuba

Top things to do in Havana, Cuba

May 15, 2016 by Laura Barber

One of our must-visit destinations is Havana. Thanks to its signature vintage cars, flavorful cuisine, welcoming people and much more, the Cuban capital city is a one-of-a-kind destination that begs to be explored. Before you visit Havana, take some time to get acquainted with the area.

close up of blue and pink buildings in havana cuba

Quick stats about Havana

Population: 2.1 million

Nickname: City of Columns

Founding date: 1519

Official language: Spanish

church in old town havana

Places to visit in Havana

Old Havana

La Habana Vieja

This historic borough is where you’ll find the colorful, columned buildings that the city is known for. Built by Spanish colonists in the 17th century, these crumbling structures are currently part of a restoration initiative to return the area to its former splendor.

Fun fact: Old Havana was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 for its unique architectural character.

Other must-sees:

Plaza de Armas – The city’s main square, where military ceremonies once took place.

Museum of the Revolution – Housed in the former Presidential Palace, the exhibits here detail the events of the Cuban Revolution that took place from 1953-59.

Revolution Square

Plaza de la Revolución

As its name suggests, this district has close ties to Cuban politics. In addition to the José Martí Memorial, you can find the official seat of the Cuban government and Communist Party in the neighborhood’s main feature, the Plaza of the Revolution.

Fun fact: At 358 feet tall, the main tower of the José Martí Memorial is amongst the city’s tallest points.

Other must-sees

Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos memorials – These twin tributes to two of Cuba’s most influential revolutionaries are prominently displayed on the buildings where the Ministries of the Interior and Communications have their offices.


Must-try cuisine

These in-home restaurants are where diners can get a taste of Cuban cuisine at its most authentic. Usually with small, intimate dining rooms and lovingly prepped menus that change by the day, the paladares of Havana offer a unique dining experience that’s not to be missed.

For a meal you won’t forget, stop in to…
Calle 5, #511, between Paseo and Calle 2, Vedado
Head here to enjoy imaginative Cuban fusion flavors in a welcoming space, either in the paladar’s homey dining space or out on the rooftop patio.

San Cristóbal
Calle San Rafael, #469, between Lealtad and Campanario, Central Havana Known for its Creole-influenced Cuban fare and eclectic décor, this popular spot treats guests to tasty dishes in an early 20th-century mansion.

Used in two of the island nation’s signature cocktails, the mojito and Cuba libre, rum holds a prominent place in any Cuban bar. Today, the country has a reputation for producing some of the world’s smoothest grades, known for their fruity notes.

For a taste of Cuba a little closer to home, try this classic Cuban mojito recipe from our Global Cookbook.

people walking down the street in havana past a blue car

Things to see in Havana

The Malecón

Stretching five miles along the Havana coastline, this grand esplanade affords some of the best ocean views in the city.

Did you know?
In the 51 years between 1901 and 1952, it took three separate construction projects to make the Malecón as long as it is today. With monuments to Antonio Maceo, General Calixto García and the victims of the USS Maine located here, the boulevard is also a great place to take in culturally significant tributes.

Vintage cars

Part of what gives Havana its frozen-in-time feel is the abundance of classic cars that still drive the streets. Up until the 1960 trade embargo, Cuba imported American cars by the thousands—and in the years since, the ingenuity of the Cuban people have kept them on the road.

Did you know?
Private citizens who own pre-revolutionary cars are legally permitted to make a little extra money by driving visitors around Havana. There are an estimated 60,000 of these classic “yank tanks” still being driven throughout the country.

Do you want to visit Havana? Check out our tours to Havana to start planning your next trip!

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About the author | Laura Barber
It all began on a school trip to London in 7th grade. Since that first jaunt across the pond, Laura has been hooked on all things travel (and British for that matter). When she's not at work using her words to help people find their own adventures, she can be found running 5ks, refining her cribbage game, or rewatching The Office for the 100th time.

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