Delivered hot and still steaming fresh right from Havana, Cuba Holidays brings you a brand new video documenting the top 10 things to do in Havana during a holiday in this magical, positively puzzling city - the Caribbean’s largest and most kaleidoscopically intriguing of capitals. Join our Cuban commentator and narrator as she shows the best and finest in Havana and how to best enjoy it all.
These are the ten things in Havana no tourist should overlook during a visit, and if you can’t do them all in a go, at least plan to make a handful of them a top priority- you certainly won’t regret it! Havana, Cubas’ fashionable capital, the pearl of the Caribbean, is the place that has it all: architecture, history, beaches, music, dancing, famous drinks, incredible people and a whole lot more; because Cuba’s capital is not only exotic, it’s unique.
As our script in this fun and vibrant video reads, our Cuban narrator is not exaggerating in the slightest when she says that Havana is like nowhere else you’ve ever been to. Follow our lively and upbeat Cuban narrator as she shows you the top 10 things to do in this amazing city.
Rent a room in a Casa Particular
You can opt to stay in a hotel if you want to, of course. But if you book a room at one of Cuba’s privately-owned B&B style houses or flats (a.k.a casas particulares), you’ll have the opportunity of establishing direct contact with the locals without missing out on privacy. Savour their customs and feel right at home in paradise.
Walk along the Malecon seaside promenade
Havana’s seawall is 8 kilometres long and many consider it the city’s beating heart. It’s Cuba’s most famous seaside avenue and lined alongside it you’ll find numerous hotels and restaurants. Due to its undeniable charm it’s a favourite among tourists and locals alike. It’s the place where people come to jog, fish, meet friends, make offerings, spend the evening (late night or early hours), but above all it’s a romantic place. Whether you come with or without your partner, bringing home at least one photograph of this place is a must.
Stroll around Old Havana
Havana’s old town and historic centre is the capital’s most enchanting part. It was here, right on Plaza de Armas, that the city was born, in the surroundings of a ceiba tree, similar to the one that stands there today. Local folk legend says if you walk around it three times it will grant your wish. From square to square we can take in a variety of architectural styles, the splendour of a centuries-old colonial village, and observe the rebirthing process of a city with an ongoing goal of restoring its heritage value without ever forgetting its most important asset: "habaneros".
Make an obligatory stop at the Bodeguita del Medio
You’ll find many things in Plaza de la Catedral: Havana’s Cathedral, restaurants, museums, art galleries, people… you simply can’t fail to snap this place. Walk a bit further and you'll stumble upon the next must-see place: La Bodeguita del Medio. Sure, you can have a mojito in many other places around the world, but this is the original version – the 100% authentic Cuban mojito can only be had at the place where it was born: one of the world’s most famous bars and restaurants, visited by all celebrities that have ever been to Havana and who have left their mark here, quite visibly so; sprawled all over the bar's walls.
Visit the Revolution Square (Plaza de la Revolucion)
It’s here that you’ll find the city’s highest vantage point, from which you can take in the most stunning city views. Surrounded by important buildings housing national institutions and organisations, like the National Theatre, the Ministry of Defence, the State Council and the National Library, this is also Havana’s most famous gathering spot; famous for having been centre stage to numerous public speeches by the Castro brothers and having hosted several national celebrations as well music concerts and Holy Masses given by the two Popes who have been to the island.
Eat out in a paladar
In Cuba many common things have unique, made-up names. They call old American cars “almendrones” and privately-owned restaurants “paladares”. The most interesting of these have the wow factor of being set-up inside a converted house, in-keeping with its original distribution, which means you can find yourself having dinner in the living room, the bedroom, the front porch or the back garden. Don’t be surprised to find “Moors and Christians” on the menu, it’s just the Cuban name for black beans and rice, a local staple.
Take an almendron for a spin
Cuban transport has its many singularities. If you’re in Old Havana, a bicitaxi can ease some of the long walking journeys. A car is much more comfortable of course, but if you want to go around all of Havana you can opt for a cute little cocotaxi, or if you like classic cars, you can ride in a vintage “almendron”. Called this way for the similarity of some of these older car models to an old almond shell, Cuba’s almendrones are a one-off phenomenon in the world.
Socialist Cuba strictly regulated the sale of cars during more than 50 years, which has resulted in hundreds of cars dating back to the first half of the 20th century still roaming the streets. The majority of these now operate as collective taxis and although they look very much like their original versions on the outside, inside they’re the result of ingenious Cuban tinkering to keep them going. You can hire one of the most luxurious, which takes you all around the city and makes you feel as though you’re travelling on a wheeled museum piece.
Dance to some Rumba in Callejon de Hamel
You can get here on foot or after hopping off your almendron ride. Located at the heart of crumbling Centro Habana this community project is one of the city’s most colourful corners as the first urban mural of afro-Cuban culture. You can admire the work of local artists here any day of the week but try to come on a Sunday to catch the place in a full musical frenzy and see people moving to the beat of rumba and conga as skilled locals play the drums, this is the climax of popular Cuban music.
Get inside the Capitolio Nacional
As one of the world’s six most stunning palaces, the Capitolio Nacional calls for an obligatory visit. Majestic, imposing and full of history, you’ll find it standing in close proximity to the Gran Teatro de la Habana, the Parque Central and many hotels in the area. Its location marks Point Zero in Cuba’s road network and this is physically represented with a 25-carat diamond that belonged to Russia’s last Tsar. The photo opps here go well beyond the typical selfie.
Around the Capitolio you’ll find old cameras are amazingly preserved antiques in full working condition and thanks to them you can relish the rare opportunity of being photographed here and take home a vintage memory of the place with a photo that looks just as if it had been taken a century ago.
Top up your tan on Playas del Este
Not as famous or stunning as Varadero perhaps; but Havana’s eastern beaches have plenty of beauty to charm. Along 10 km of white sands you can take your pick from popular beaches, tranquil beaches and practically isolated beaches. The water is warm, sand is powdery soft and sparkling white, you can partake in water sports or simply kick back, relax and enjoy another of Havana’s wonders…of which there are many others…find out more with Cuba Holidays, we’ll show you more in our next adventure.
Our wondrous Havana - is it over yet?
Although this top ten list wraps up our short film, by no means can this top ten be regarded as an exhaustive list. It does encompass some of the best things in Havana to do and see right now, as the country undergoes some of its major changes in decades and it slowly opens up to the world - brighter, louder and more energetic and interesting than ever. For now, watch the video and feast your eyes - we'll surely be back in time to show you more!