"Canonazo De Las 9" Ceremony

Relive the 18th century defence of Old Havana at the nightly Cañonazo de las 9 spectacle - the 9 o'clock gun fired from Fortaleza San Carlos de la Cabaña (Fort of St Charles). The canon is detonated with much build up and ceremony by artillery cadets dressed in the 18th century uniforms of the Spanish colonialist who built the fort. Another thing to do in your visit to Cuba.

Havana's 9 o'clock gun is fired every night from a cannon at the Fortaleza San Carlos de la Cabaña (Fort of St Charles) beside the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro (an older fortification known locally as "El Morro") at the entrance to the port.

The fort, known locally as 'La Cabaña' was completed in 1774. It rises above a 200 ft (60m) hilltop beside El Morro. It was built by the Spanish after they recaptured Cuba from the British in 1762. Recognising the vulnerability of the 16th century El Morro, the defences were strengthened with the new fortress. At the time, La Cabaña was the second-largest colonial military installation in the New World and today it is still the third largest in the Americas. Today, it forms part of a complex of historical monuments and museums open to the public. The fortress complex, along with Old Havana, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The firing of the cannon is quite a spectacle. With appropriate pomp and ceremony, artillery cadets dressed in 18th century colonial uniforms detonate the cannon with naked flames and much rolling of drums. Tourists are encouraged to attend and despite the precise timing of the cannon fire, the detonation always causes spectators to jump... And then check their watches!

A particular acoustic technique ensures that the cannon can be heard across the city. The sound takes around 4 seconds to travel to Parque Central, and just under 10 seconds to reach the Hotel Nacional.

The origins of the spectacle

This ceremony dates from the eighteenth century, when the Spanish rulers of Cuba fired the cannon to inform the Habaneros to take shelter in their homes while the navy defended them against pirate attack.

At that time, Havana was divided in two, within and out with the city walls. To begin with, there were only two gates into the internal part of the city, much like the medieval cities of Europe and North Africa. Eventually, however, nine gates were built to accommodate the comings and goings of people and produce.

A cannon fired at 4:30am announced the opening of these gates, and a further one at 8pm announce their closure. No-one wanted to be stuck outside the protection of the thick defensive walls of the city after the curfew. Over time, the evening gunfire was moved to 9pm. As the urbanisation of Havana increased, the walls could no longer contain the population and in the second half of the 19th century a demolition programme demolish this barrier. The original purpose of the 9 o'clock gun was abandoned, although the practice continued.

For only one period, during World War II, the cannon was silenced as the Cuban Army preserved its gunpowder supplies. The 9 o'clock gun resumed its tradition on 1 December 1945.

Get Inspiration

All about where to go and what you can do
5th Avenue

5th Avenue

Quinta Avenida is often called the most beautiful street in Cuba, and for good reason. Located in Miramar district, it's home to historic mansions, many of them repurposed, as well as other landmarks including the Fountain of the Americas, an iconic clock tower, the island's largest church, and what is perhaps Cuba's most famous theme park. Read on to learn more about Quinta Avenida, an oasis of peace in a bustling city.

Alameda De Paula

Alameda de Paula

Although it has transformed considerably since its original construction in the late 18th Century, the Alameda de Paula in Havana is brimming with charm. This beautiful seaside walkway is fully lined with mature trees, benches, a fountain, and the domed Paula Church. When visitors are ready to take time away from other attractions, this can be one of the great places to sit down and pause for reflection.

Alejandro Robaina Tobacco Plantation

Alejandro Robaina Tobacco Plantation

The Alejandro Robaina Tobacco Plantation is one of Cuba's top tourist attractions—however, you won't find any signs guiding you to its fields some 17 kilometres southwest of Pinar del Rio. Since it's a private enterprise, its plantation tours operate in something of a legal grey area; regardless, they come highly recommended. Though famed proprietor Alejandro Robaina passed away a few years ago, his farm continues to grow what is arguably the world's finest tobacco. Take a tour and find out why!

More attractions

Explore cuba your way

Tailor made cuba holidays

For those who prefer to travel at their own pace or to explore places not included in the brochure itineraries, we have years of experience at organising tailor-made holidays.

Create the perfect trip with the help of our specialists

Our expert tour consultants will be pleased to suggest ideas to complement your own and to organise the most appropiate programme to suit your interests, time and budget.

Call 0207 644 1600
to speak with our award-winning travel consultants.

If you would like a member of our team to contact you back, please click here Contact us