Paseo Del Prado

Stretching over a kilometre directly through the heart of historic Havana, the Paseo del Prado is without a doubt the city's grandest pedestrian thoroughfare. Lined by laurel trees and benches hewn from marble and stone, this is a fine place to enjoy a walk or simply take in the city's ambiance. Whether you'd like to enjoy a peaceful stroll from one historic attraction to another or simply relax for the afternoon, the Paseo del Prado may be just the place you're looking for.

Imagine sitting in the shade on a warm afternoon, the sounds of the city buzzing all around you. You’re resting on a marble park bench under a leafy green laurel tree as runners, dog walkers, and roller skaters all glide by. Young artists sell paintings and photographs, as tango dancers twirl around them. Laughter wafts from the group of older men sitting across the way, and a young child flashes you a smile as she walks by with her mother. Welcome to the Paseo del Prado—one of Havana’s ultimate pedestrian promenades.

A Street with Some History

The Paseo del Prado isn’t just buzzing with activity recently—it’s been a Havana landmark now for centuries.

Back in the early days, Havana was actually a walled city. But of course, as its fortunes grew, the city’s size grew as well. It soon became apparent that Havana would need to expand beyond the limits defined by the city wall. Those responsible seized the opportunity for some grand scale urban planning, and the idea of the Paseo del Prado was born.

Construction on this European-style boulevard began in the 1770s and continued sporadically all the way through the 1830s. Not only was this Havana’s first street built outside the city walls, but it was also the first fully-paved street found anywhere in the city! With time, its location became known as the dividing line between Havana Vieja and Centro Havana, and for a large part of the city’s history this was the place were financially well-off people go for a walk.

Paseo del Prado Today

Today, the Paseo del Prado is a pedestrians-only thoroughfare flanked on both sides by the automobile-friendly Paseo de Martí. Despite this, the Paseo del Prado is not claustrophobic in the least—in fact, it’s so wide that you’ll hardly notice the cars passing by on either side of you.

One of the Paseo del Prado’s defining features is its lion statues, which appear to stand guard over the street. There are in fact eight of these statues recast in bronze from the city’s finally defunct canons, and they’ve become something of icons representing this landmark Havana thoroughfare.

The Paseo del Prado is truly an attraction in and of itself, but it’s also a useful way to get around to some of Havana’s prime tourist destinations on foot. Creating a list of all the points of interest reachable from the Paseo del Prado would be exhausting, so here is just an abridged list of the highlights: The promenade starts essentially at the waterfront Malecón and reaches down almost to the Capitolio. Along the way you’ll find the art deco style Teatro Fausto, the recently restored neo-Renaissance style Palacio de los Matrimonios, the Parque Central with its statue of independence hero José Martí, the city’s Fine Arts Museum, and the charmingly baroque Grand Theatre. But even this list is the tip of the iceberg—there’s so much to see and do along the Paseo del Prado, you really must experience it yourself to understand.

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