El Templete

Directly across from the City Museum, El Templete is small but attention-grabbing nonetheless. Located besides the Plaza de Armas, this Greco-Roman temple marks the spot where Havana was supposedly founded. The inside is home to three canvases depicting events from the city's history as well as the remains of the artist. The Ceiba tree currently standing here replaces the original, under which the city's first mass and town council meetings were held.

In a city full of architectural wonders, Havana’s El Templete still manages to stand out. According to architectural historians, it was the first neoclassical construction in the city of Havana, and one of the most influential buildings in terms of what came next.

The Greco-Roman temple-style construction was inaugurated on March 19th, 1828 and was originally dedicated as an homage to the Spanish monarch Queen Josefa Amalia, wife of the ruling King Fernando VII.

Though Queen Josefa is now long gone, El Templete continues to serve its other purpos, to commemorate the founding of the modern city of Havana. Located across from the Plaza de Armas, supposedly the site of the city’s founding, the Ceiba tree on the grounds here replaces the original under which the city’s first mass and town council meetings were held.

El Templete, a Foundational and Commemorative Landmark

Entering El Templete, you’ll immediately notice the three massive canvases adorning the walls of the small building. The scenes depicted here are not random; they are Havana’s first mass, its first town council meeting, and a formal blessing ceremony led by a bishop with many of the town’s important citizens in attendance. The latter, significantly larger than the other two, was actually painted separately and added to El Templete later on. The artist behind all three paintings was the Frenchman Jean Baptiste Vermay, and his remains along with those of his wife are also found entombed here. The large bust in the room depicts his image.

Outside, underneath the commemorative Ceiba tree, a very interesting ritual is known to take place. Each November 16th, crowds numbering in the thousands meet up to circle the tree three times, toss coins at its base, and make three wishes—but even if you’re not around on this day, it’s very likely that you’ll find at least a few people trying it out! This has roots in Afro-Cuban religious traditions but is now more of a secular superstition and celebration.

El Templete Restaurant

The name “El Templete” is also shared by a nearby restaurant, an upscale place focusing primarily on seafood that surprises many guests as one of Havana’s best eateries. Reopened by the Cuban government in 2004, El Templete is a must for seafood lovers—it’s without a doubt one of the better examples of Havana’s government-run dining establishments for both its warm, well-mannered service and the superb quality of its food.

El Templete is also unique in the way that it ties visual art into the dining experience. Besides the artwork hung throughout the restaurant itself, a different Cuban artist actually illustrates the ever-changing menu each month. For this reason, El Templete is one of Havana’s most popular spots for both successful artists and simple lovers of art.


Get Inspiration

All about where to go and what you can do
Basilica De San Francisco De Asis

Basilica de San Francisco De Asis

Visitors to the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis in Old Havana, Cuba will be delighted by the history, artwork, and acoustics of the Basilica de San Francisco de Asis, which is home to the Museo de Arte Religioso and Camerata Romeu (an exclusive female orchestra). Catch one of the amazing musical performances or tour the convent to see memorials of notable people of the past and truly appreciate the grand columns and stone flooring in this Catholic Franciscan place of worship.

Cafetal La Isabelica

Cafetal La Isabelica

At the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and at the end of a short hike from Gran Piedra (Santiago de Cuba), Cafetal La Isabelica is an open air museum dedicated to Cuba's important coffee production. Learn how French farmers fleeting Haiti turned Cuba's south-eastern provinces into the main coffee growing region of the island.

Castillo De La Real Fuerza

Castillo de la Real Fuerza

The mystery hidden within its walls, secrets left untold until modern times, and its title as one of the oldest star forts in the Americas make Castillo de la Real Fuerza a must-see stop on your tour of Havana, Cuba. You'll love making your way through the paths to the centre of the fortress, which was originally built for keeping watch for invaders. At more than 400 years old, you'll have plenty to talk about when you return home after visiting this astonishing site and its impressive layout.

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