Havana Things to Do Tips by leffe3
Havana Things to Do: 558 reviews and 976 photos
One of the best ways to appreciate Old Havana is to simply walk the streets, disappearing up side alleys and generally losing yourself. You'll bump into people, dogs, bicycles and you'll see for yourself the majestic decay of this colonial city.
The Prado is the grand avenue of old Havana, cutting a swathe through the old city from The Capitol to the banks of the Canal de Entrada. It is lined with grand colonial buildings, most of which are sadly falling into disrepair. But it is a key aspect of visiting Havana, - with many of the grander hotels on or within the immediate vicinity of the Prado.
Rumour has it that many of the buildings are 'held' by American companies (hotel chains, restaurants etc) in preparation for improved relations between the two countries, which would then lead to the restoration of the buildings and the grandeur of the avenue.
The large neo-colonial Capitol, built in 1929, is a copy on a smaller scale of the Capitol in Washington (ironic, huh?). You can enter the lavish public building to check out the decor (US$1) or go on a full tour (US$3)
Exposed to the vagaries of the open sea, the Malecon is a grand esplanande running for several kilometres from the Canal del Entrada to the new city. A mix of storms and neglect, however, have seen the grand colonnial buildings run into disrepair, with the wild seas frequently breaching the sea walls.
Castillo del Morillo or the Fortaleza de la Cabana on the eastern banks of the canal provide you with great views not only of the city of Havana, but you are also at the entrance (or exit) of the Canal that leads into the Cuban capital's port. Sanctions mean this is not exactly the busiest port in the world, but the newer part of the city provides a glorious backdrop to the container ships as they navigate the entrance.
It's not really a 'things to do' tip as you will not be able to avoid them in Havana. It's the 1940s/1950s gas guzzlers that abound in the city. These American cars are extraordinary and aesthetically appealling, it defies description. Even for those who are not normally impressed by 'boys and their toys' will be pushed not to stop and admire. And it is so Havana.... There are times when you could so easily be in a Hollywood film noir (except we see everything in colour and there's no Humphrey Bogart or Orson Welles voice-over) :) But remember they'll kill your throat - these beauties guzzle leaded petrol. A couple of days in the city and you certainly know about it!
Every Sunday, the Artisans Market takes over the area overlooking the Canal de Entrada on the Tacon near to the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. It's a real mix of crafts, lacework, prints, oil paintings etc and there's some interesting things to pick up - good for those momentoes and/or presents to take home with you.
Directions: Downtownold Havana
Havana is not just about the old city, and the celebration of the success of the revolution is proudly proclaimed at the Plaza de la Revolucion, an enormous square to the west of the old city. Sitting in the centre is the monument to 19th century poet and revolutionary Jose Marti. Surrounding the square buildings mainly from the 1950s and are the principal government ministeries (including Castro's office). All state parades take place in the Square, including the May Day Parade. And, as you would expect, Che Guevera is suitably remembered...
The church itself is not that interesting as it is a rather sombre 18th century affair. Built in 1608 and then reconstructed in 1730, it was a landmark for ships coming into Havana and likely that it was also built with defence against pirates in mind, such is the thickness of the walls.
The immediate vicinity is part of Havana that is going through a major facelift with many of the buildings along Oficios and the side streets spruced up, with cafes, bars & restaurants (so see it now before it falls into the 'tourist trap' section of VT!)
Address: Tacon Officios
Began as a Jesuist church at the beginning of the 18th century, after their expulsion in 1767 it became the cathedral (which explains the discretion is terms of size and interior decor).
Access is limited - Thursday-Saturday, 09.30am - 12.30pm, Sunday 08.30am - 12.30pm
The pedestrianised cathedral square is suprisingly small and could easily be the set of an opera production.
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