Almendares Park

A visit to the Almendares Park is an opportunity to relax in a lush, green setting in the heart of the city. Located by the river-side of the Playa neighbourhood, the park is an example of forward-thinking urban planning and offers some leisure activities for adults and children alike as well as the chance to see Habaneros relaxing with their families.

The Parque Almendares is the green lung of Havana, and is also known as El Bosque de la Habana (Havana's Forest). It covers an impressive 700-hectares (1730 acres), providing much-needed respite from the built-up urban areas, the traffic and the noise of the city.

Sitting by the Almendares river, which divides the neighbourhoods of Playa and Vedado; the park is by the Playas's side of the river. Activities on offer include: a children’s playground, pony rides, mini-golf, boating, the amphitheatre and open-air snack bar. The droopy green branches of the majestic trees create a magical curtain-like effect for a romantic stroll.

A park with great ambitions (some still pending)

The project of the Almendares Park began in the 1920s under the direction of landscape architect and city planner Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, then the curator of Parks of Paris and best known for the Champs-de-Mars gardens at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Although the urban forest elements were planted, the Parque Almendares did not come into being until after the revolution. Along with the Jardines Tropical and Los Jardines de La Polar, other green zones of the city, the Almendares Park, its amphitheatre and Urban Forest (El Bosque de la Habana) are now part of the larger Metropolitan Park of Havana (Gran Parque Metropolitano), which was officially inaugurated in September 1989 by Fidel Castro.

Nowadays, as part of an ambitious restoration programme covering the whole Metropolitan Park, issues of security and multiple usage in the park have been acted and improved upon. No longer a place for thieves to lurk, it is today used as a photo shoot location, concert venue, puppet show stage and leisure destination for Havana's families.

The multiple needs of the park's users can be a challenge to accommodate - over the decades of its existence, residential neighbourhoods - some of Havana's toughest - have grown up around its fringes, threatening the preservation of the green space and increasing demands on this precious resource. Visitors to the park can add an element of culture to their visit by taking a look at the offerings left under certain trees for the gods of Santería, Cuba's interpretation of the African Yoruba religion. Tradition advises that one may look but not touch as it may bring bad luck.

Great progress has been made in educating local kids in environmental conservation, promoting the work of artisans in the park and in the recovery of the biodiversity of the park, including significant improvements in the oxygen levels of the Almendares River, which at some point in the past was badly contaminated.


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