Dream of visiting Cuba, such as on your summer holiday? Then your tour will definitely take you by Havana.
Havana is one of Cuba’s oldest cities, and you will find experiences out of the ordinary here.
Beautiful colonial buildings, delicious drinks and colourful old American cars are just a taste of what awaits you in the capital of Cuba.
Here, we give 5 suggestions for some of the unique experiences you can have in Havana.
The history of Havana goes all the way back to 1519, when the Spaniards came to the island and settled down on the northern coast of Cuba. Today, the city has preserved much of its original look and atmosphere. This can be seen particularly clearly in the vast plazas – squares, narrow cobblestone streets and gorgeous colonial buildings, which stand in all manner of colours.
It is on the basis of the city’s clear history that Havana’s old quarter sits on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
On your visit, you can experience Plaza de Armas, the oldest square in Havana. Here, you can go exploring among the many stalls and cafés at and around the square, or take a closer look at the beautiful colonial buildings. At the square, you will find Palacio del Conde de Santovenia, an old Baroque palace which today has been made into a luxury 5-star hotel. You can also visit one of the square’s museums, where you can learn more about the city and country’s interesting history.
To add some extra spice to your visit to Havana’s old quarter, we recommend taking a drive in one of the beautiful, old American cars that adorn the streets. In many places, you can find private taxis that guide you around the city from the back seat of one of the iconic Dollar Grins.
If there are three things Cuba is best-known for, they must be salsa dancing, good cigars and delicious mojitos. During your visit to Havana, you can experience all three!
Hop into a salsa class and learn some of its passionate Cuban steps. There are tons of beginners here, and you don’t need to be a particularly good dancer to have a lot of fun on the dance floor.
At the bars El Floridita and La Bodeguita, you can taste some of the country’s fantastic drinks – including the Mojito! It is said that this refreshing drink was actually invented at La Bodeguita many years ago. Both bars were visited by the American author Ernest Hemingway, who had a predilection for the La Bodeguita mojitos and El Floridita daiquiris.
If you’re on the lookout for a good cigar, make a stop by Real Fábrica de Tabacos Partagás, where you can buy these hand-rolled Cuban specialities. You can learn more about production on a tour of the factory, which has produced cigars for more than 160 years.
Havana is just one of the places in Cuba where you can stay at a casa particular. A casa particular, or just casa, is a type of accommodation where you stay with private families.
Casas are often found in quite large houses, where several of the rooms of the house are furnished for the purposes of being rented out to visitors. You therefore have a lot of privacy in your own room, which is often located in a separate section of the house, or in a separate building. To compare it with something back home, a casa is reminiscent of a bed and breakfast.
A stay at a casa particular is a fantastic way to get up close to the Cuban lifestyle and experience Cuban hospitality. It is also quite a bit more pleasant than staying here than in the state-owned hotels that can be found in the country. Beyond this, it’s cheaper, you are served delicious food, get more personal service, and experience a more authentic side of life for the Cuban people.
When the night falls, the festive side of Havana awakens.
There is a wealth of shows worth a visit in the Cuban capital. You can head to a bar and enjoy the view of the many local salsa dancers, and if the mood should catch you, you can certainly take a swing at the floor yourself. At many bars, there are great opportunities to hear live music as you enjoy your drink.
One of the truly unique shows in Havana is without a doubt the famous Tropicana Cabaret show.
Tropicana opened its doors in 1939 and is one of the few institutions that survived the Cuban revolution, which ended in 1959. Tropicana is an outdoor cabaret packed with beautiful rhythms, colours and drinks. The show lasts 2 hours and shows up to 200 artists performing various Cuban dances dressed in impressive costumes – A Cuban show in true Las Vegas style.
The price of the ticket includes drinks during the show, and you will get a fantastic evening filled with dance, music and song.
Along the northern coast of Havana, a six-lane road separates Havana city from the ocean.
This stretch is called El Malecón and starts with the Morro Lighthouse in old Havana and runs 8 kilometres along the coast to the district of El Vedado, known as Havana’s newer quarter.
You can experience this gorgeous coastal route from the back seat of one of the classic American cars, or walk the 8 km along the wide boardwalk along the road. Both options guarantee you some beautiful views, but walking will give you better opportunities to capture some truly unique shots of the city.
El Malecón was originally built as a seawall to protect the city from the forces of the ocean. If you visit El Malecón on days when the wind comes from the North, you will see exactly why that is! Here, tall waves crash up against the wall, creating a fantastic water show. On these days, the road is closed to cars, and you can head out onto the wide road at a distance from the wild, splashing waves.
If you were to use one word to describe Havana, that word must be exuberant! There, experiences are lined up, just waiting for you.
Come along and experience everything Havana has to offer!
Llamatours.co.uk – the Latin American Experience