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The 14 BEST Things to Do in Havana

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Overview

Beautifully restored palaces, colorful houses, imposing monuments, cool vintage cars, an eerily beautiful cemetery, and creative street art – Havana is all this and much more. Welcome to the city of contrasts. Here you'll find all of our favorite spots in the city with our insider tips for you, and of course, we've included a refreshment stop or two.

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Plan enough time for Havana, at least two full days – the more, the better. You can easily spend several days in this city and still not see everything. There is a lot to discover – vámonos! There is so much to see and experience; be sure also to check out our free walking guide.

1   Hop–On Hop–Off Bus

A fantastic and inexpensive way to discover Havana. Some sights are quite a distance from the city center, but easily accessible by bus. The upper deck offers a great view and is perfect for panoramic pictures. The cost is around 12 US-Dollar per person. The best place to get on is Parque Central -the bus stop is across the street from Hotel Inglaterra and Hotel Central Park.

2   Classic Car

A tour of Havana in a fancy vintage car is an absolute must. Where else in the world can you cruise the streets in a Buick, Chrysler, Lada, 50s Mercury, Pontiac, Dodge, or Cadillac? Such a ride is truly unique and absolutely phenomenal.

3   Plaza De La Revolución

Also called Plaza. An emblematic place that highlights the importance of the Revolution. The largest inner-city square in Cuba and one of the largest city squares in the world. Dominated by the José Martí Monument, a 357 ft (109 meters) high tower and a 60 ft (18 meters) high statue. The building is the tallest structure in the city, and you can take the elevator to its top.

Across from the monument is the Ministry of Interior building with a giant effigy of Che Guevara and the saying “Hasta la Victoria Siempre” (Always Until Victory). Next is the Ministry of Information with Camilo Cienfuegos and his quote “Vas bien Fidel” (Fidel, you go right / do it right).

4   La Habana Vieja

Definitely the most impressive neighborhood in Havana, ah – Cuba, nonsense – the world. Everything looks like a unique movie set or the perfect template for a novel. Colorful historical architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and shiny vintage cars create a phenomenal experience for all your senses.

5   Havana's Street Art

This tour is absolutely fantastic. You'll learn all about Cuban street art, the artists, and the projects that make Havana's neighborhoods shine again. First, you'll walk through the Callejón de los Peluqueros, the so-called “Alley of the Barbers” whose walls are full of art. The idea came from Papito, a hairdresser who was concerned about the young people in his neighborhood and therefore created a creative space. Finally, you'll get to know Muraleando, a cultural program in the Lawton neighborhood. The many murals by residents and visiting artists such as Charles Schulz, creator of the comic book series “The Peanuts,” are unique.

6   El Malecón

El Malecón – has always been a favorite meeting place for lovers, romantics, philosophers, poets, singers, and fishermen. Sometimes called “the longest sofa in the world,” where the whole city meets, kisses and debates. It gets imposing when there is a cold front, then huge waves break over the dike, and quite often, the road is closed for cars. We think it's a fantastic place for a walk, and by late afternoon at the latest, you should do as the Cubans do: sit on the wall and enjoy the sunset.

7   Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón

Sounds macabre, but a visit to the Cementerio Cristóbal Colón is not to be missed! More than two million graves, galleries, and mausoleums, as well as a cathedral modeled after the famous Florence Cathedral, can be found in the “City of the Dead.” And who was its first inhabitant? In fact, its designer and architect himself, Calixto Arellano de Loira y Cardoso.

For Cubans, a cemetery is also a place of pilgrimage. The tomb of Señora Amelia Goyri (La Milagrosa = the Miracle Worker) is famous. She died in 1901 while giving birth to her dead child. The widower visited the grave daily, announcing himself by tapping the brass ring on the tombstone, placing fresh flowers on the grave, and always leaving it in reverse. Thus, thousands of pilgrims continue as they pray for the fulfillment of their wishes.

Opening hours are 8 am – 6 pm, last admission is 5 pm and entrance fee approx. 6 US-Dollar. A map with the graves of various artists, sportsmen, politicians, writers, scientists, and revolutionaries is available at the entrance.

8   Paladares

Paladares are culinary gems, family-run establishments that serve authentic homemade Cuban food. O'Reilly 304 (1) in Old Havana is popular with locals, Nao Bar (2) is the perfect place for a traditional habanero experience, and Café Laurent (3) is located in an apartment building.

Paladar San Cristóbal (4) is among the top class in Havana; even President Barack Obama and his family have been guests here.

La Guarida (5) is one of the most famous and glamorous restaurants in Havana. Since the feature in the Oscar-nominated Cuban film Fresa y Chocolate, a reservation is absolutely mandatory. You have an unbeatable view from its rooftop bar, and the pineapple daiquiris are fantastic. By the way, every corner is a perfect spot for a picture – even Rihanna and Vanity Fair have shot here.

9   La Tropicana

Don't miss this one for the world: Elaborate shows, rhythmic conga music, and hot, colorfully decorated salsa dancers dancing in a sea of light and color. Afterward, the area belongs to the guests, with live music until the wee hours of the morning. Every self-respecting Cuban artist has performed at La Tropicana at least once. So have foreign greats like Josephine Baker, Nat King Cole, Carmen Miranda, or Xavier Cugat. Many celebrities have been here: Ernest Hemingway, Edith Piaf, and Marlon Brando.

10   Garden Of Hotel Nacional

Cuban cigars are legendary around the world. The Hotel Nacional is not only the most famous hotel in Havana – but it is also home to one of the best cigar stores in the city, La Casa del Habano. Enjoy your cigar in style and glamour in the hotel's garden, amidst palm trees and peacocks and with picturesque views of the ocean.

11   Sunset

Typically Cuban at the Malecòn with ocean rush. Or more exquisite from the roof of the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski (1), located in the middle of historic Havana and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Later you can go directly to the “Constante Bar” on the second floor, decorated in bright green tones and colorful Caribbean paintings. In the basement, you will find original segments of the old city wall and one of the few ATMs in the city that always works.

The Iberostar Grand Packard (2) is a new luxury hotel and has stunning sunset views. Insider tip: the Hotel Raquel's (3) charming rooftop terrace; order drinks downstairs at the bar. Take the stairs to the top as you can enjoy every moment of this beautifully picturesque hotel.

12   Bacardi Building

The Bacardi Rum Company opened the 12-story skyscraper in 1930. At the time, it was the first one in Havana. Red granite, gold tiles, and a bat on top. Prohibition in the U.S. transformed Havana into a popular party destination for American tourists and made Bacardi probably the most famous rum brand in the world.

However, the family left Cuba in 1960 as the revolutionary government confiscated its assets. Today, after extensive renovation, it is again used as an office building and is therefore not open to the public – except for the lower floors and a mezzanine bar.

13   Fusterlandia

Colorful houses decorated with ceramics? A mixture of Picasso and Gaudí with a good pinch of Cuba? This is Fusterlandia. The Jaimanitas neighborhood has been transformed into a public art gallery with a unique character. Full of colorful mosaics, surrealist figures, and whimsical shapes. The creative Cuban artist José Fuster developed the community project and whose studio workshop is the heart of the project.

14   Playas Del Este

Just 11 miles (17 km) outside Havana, you will find the white sand and turquoise waters of Playas Del Este. A very long sandy beach that is divided into small sections. Some with sports activities, others, more popular for families. Always shady places and with many dining options. A short drive and you have a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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