A cobblestone street with no car in sight beckons to you from Calle Mercaderes, the “Merchants’ Street” running south from Calle Obispo down towards Plaza Vieja in the heart of Old Havana. Though Calle Obispo receives more foot traffic and is arguably a better-known destination, it would be a huge mistake to overlook Calle Mercaderes in its favour as this street provides a totally different experience. Whereas Calle Obispo offers a window into a more modern, “local” Old Havana, Calle Mercaderes is a look into a Havana from the past. Refurbished over recent decades, many parts of the street are nearly complete replicas of how it must have looked during the 18th century.
So what exactly is there to see and do then on Calle Mercaderes? Well, the answer to that question is “a lot!” Let’s take a look:
Though Calle Mercaderes is something of a museum itself, there are a number of institutions lining the street that are more than worth a visit.
The Museo Armería 9 de Abril was originally a gun store stormed by rebels as they entered the city of Havana on April 9th, the date indicated in the museum’s name. It now displays a large and impressive collection of firearms and other weapons representing different historical periods from the 18th to the 20th centuries.
The Casa Museo de África is one of Cuba’s most interesting museums, home to enlightening displays on Cuba’s African heritage, specifically the Santería religious tradition that still thrives on the island today.
The Casa de Asia houses a small but impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and other art from both China and Japan, and even manages to take a look at the roles that various Asian cultures—the Chinese culture, especially—have played in shaping Cuba’s history and modern-day culture.
Of course, these museums are just the beginning of the list. Also, one additional note of interest: the bank that you’ll find in front of the steet’s Chocolate Museum can change currency and often lacks the long queues you’ll find at similar institutions on Calle Obispo.
Shops, Restaurants, Cafes, and More
Of course, museums are only the beginning of the list when it comes to the offerings of Calle Mercaderes.
Perhaps most famous of the stores here is Habana 1791, a perfume shop offering twelve different perfumes and colognes as well as attendants who are more than willing to help you design your own scent! Housed in a beautifully refurbished neoclassical building, Habana 1791 offers its perfumes primarily in bottles handcrafted by Cuban artisans.
Calle Mercaderes is also notable as the home of Havana’s first café. Called simply Taberna, it dates back to 1772 and now pays special tribute to famed Cuban musician Benny Moré. Though not particularly renowned for its food, Taberna’s atmosphere and history secure its spot among Old Havana’s top dining establishments.
Also, one additional note of interest: the bank that you’ll find in front of the street’s Chocolate Museum can change currency and often lacks the long queues you’ll find at similar institutions on Calle Obispo.
Of course, it should go without saying that these establishments are only the top of a very long list. It would serve you well to leisurely stroll Calle Mercaderes, checking out any place that piques your curiosity. It’s tough to go wrong here!
Get InspirationAll about where to go and what you can do
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