Let us now present to you the 15 best things to do in Havana in our Havana travel guide! When visiting colourful Havana you will certainly have an incredible experience. Especially due to the impressive culture. Really, with this vibe, there is no place like Cuba! There are many ways to still experience Cuba with historical influences. Even for a country that is going through many changes in its lifestyle. Travel to Havana, for a trip of a lifetime with many memorable moments! Vámonos!
We will cover the following topics to make sure you do not miss out on anything:
- Must see in Havana city
- Learn more about the Cuban history
- Cuban culture experiences
- Bars and restaurants in Havana
Stay tuned for more blogs coming up in the near future. Surely we will spoil you with information more and more! Subscribe to our blog straightaway, in the right menu or below, to not miss any update.
Looking for a full Cuba travel guide for your trips to Cuba? Check out our blogpost now: Cuba Itinerary – a fascinating 12 day round trip
15 things to do in Havana
Must see in the city
1. Walking tour in Old Havana (Habana Vieja)
The part of the city where it all happens for travellers. Feel and see Cuba alive while walking down the colourful narrow streets. In particular around Parque Central where you can observe the old-timers, unique architecture and Cubans living their day to day lives. You can easily spend a full day here listening to music and seeing people dancing the salsa. Visit some nice shops or enjoy cultural experiences, for example, rum tasting. But do not forget a nice walk around and visit Plaza Vieja, Plaza de Armas, Cathedral de San Cristobal, Castillo de la Real Fuerza, Plaza de San Francisco, El Capitolio (Capitol building), Castillo del Morro, and Calle Obispo (famous street). While walking through he old town you will quickly notice that the architecture varies from well maintained buildings to some about to fall apart. However, these two together give the city the real charm.
While walking around as a woman on her own, I did get quite some attention from locals. While this can sometimes be experienced as disturbing or pushy, here I did not feel uncomfortable at all. If I would say “not interested” they would leave me alone right away. Even though I am always careful, I enjoyed many conversations which made my trip to Havana way more special. One tip: do not talk politics! Many people are outside in designated WIFI spots which is a perfect location to start a conversation.
You might wonder, designated WIFI spots? Read more about it HERE
2. Monumental building – Capitol
Havana has many monumental buildings due to the country’s rich history. This special building deserves a spot on this list. We already know the thought you had in mind straightaway; is this building not in Washington (USA)? As well as they seem to be a copy, it is not a complete replica. There are many renovations ongoing, but it is still open for visitors.
3. Seaside walk along Malécon boulevard
Walking the 7km long boulevard Malécon while dreaming of Havana and discovering some less touristic places. With its famous sight at the end of the walk is Hotel Nacional, with a great history of welcoming famous people and gangster/mafia history (yes the US mafia was a big thing in Cuba). With this walk, you will discover a different Havana, the non-touristic one. Especially walking back through the “inside streets”. Another tip is to enjoy this walk around sunset for some magnificent views.
Is it too hot to walk or you just don’t feel like it? Jump in a classic car and enjoy the views from a comfortable seat.
4. Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana
To begin with, religion is an important part of the history of Cuba. From Catholicism to nowadays more religions like Santería introduced by Afro-Cubans. Fidel Castro declared Cuba for decades as an atheist state. He then even banned Christmas for 30 years and is now also known as “The Silent Christmases” (Las Navidades Silenciadas).
This Cathedral is the biggest one in Cuba and a touristic hotspot. Besides that it is dedicated to well known world explorer Christoffel Columbus who rested here after his death. If you do wish to visit this beautiful baroque church with European influences you could do so.
5. Stroll down Paseo del Prado
The vibe on this boulevard is real! Walking from the main square in Old Havana towards the sea is undoubtedly a fun thing to do! During your walk in between trees and old-timer cars coming and going, you will admire some beautiful buildings, music, people dancing salsa, some street vendors selling fruits and souvenirs and a fresh breeze of air. But be aware, the locals are watching you from their adorable balconies.
Things to do in Havana: Cuban history
6. Understand Cuba, visit Museum of the revolution
In my opinion, you can only have the full Cuba experience if you understand its history. Specifically as so much that you will see is related to impressive stories from years and years ago. Cuban history is without a doubt an extremely unique book with many chapters. From the Cuban revolution to personal stories of world-famous Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Nevertheless, you can see equipment from the invasions like the yacht that brought Fidel Castro to Cuba for the start of the revolution, planes and still remaining bullet holes in the beautiful building from the unsuccessful assassination attempt against Batista. Museo de la Revolución is totally worth a visit!
Building photo made by Paul Mannix – The Museum Of The Revolution
7. History at Plaza de la Revolución
A massive square considered the largest one for the public in the world. In this case well known as a place to gather for Fidel Castro’s historic speeches. However, another noteworthy event is the visit of Pope Francisco in 2015 that attracted around one million people to the square! On the square, you will see an 18-meter high tower, dedicated to national hero Jose Marti. It is the highest point of the city and you can visit a viewpoint for panoramic views. Besides that, the square is often visited to see the memorials for Jose Marti and Che Guevara with the words “Hasta La Victoria Siempre.” (Always until victory). This portrait sculpture of Che is now well known worldwide and used for many prints on souvenirs or clothing.
Real cultural experiences
8. The colourful Cuban cars
Time to put your sunhat on and feel the wind breeze while sitting in the backseat of the famous convertible classic cars! Even though this might be a very touristy thing to do, we highly recommend it! There are many tours around the city offered in these vintage American cars. Many are waiting for you around Parque Central. The cars from the 1940s and 1950s provide you with one big car show. With all colours, you can imagine it is very appealing to the eyes with the city buildings in the background.
Also, the cars have a historical story to tell. After the Cuban Revolution, all import from the USA was banned and no more cars were welcome to enter the country. Resulting in seeing the cars from back in the days still on the road now. And we love it! In the most recent years, there have been some developments. Leading to car brands, other than from the USA, import their products. However, due to the high prices, many Cubans are not able to afford luxury cars.
While walking around through the city, you will notice many people fixing and repairing cars on the streets. I would say that it is just picture-perfect! Cubans are extremely handy as they had to become creative after the ban from importing car parts. Due to this replacements were not always available and smart solutions were found. Or import would still be possible from other countries, mixing up car brands in the original vintage cars. Due to their brilliance, the cars are still on the road after so many years.
9. Try some Cigars
When you tell people that you are going to Cuba, some might request you to bring Cuban cigars right away. It is one of the most important selling points of the country. You can visit several places to learn more about the whole growing and production process. But wouldn’t you like to see how to roll one? For this, you can visit Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas. During your visit to Partagas, one of the oldest in Havana, you can book a tour and buy some (reliable) cigars.
10. Rum, Rum, Rum in Museo del Ron Havana Club
Does Havana Club or Bacardi sound familiar to you? Surely, rum is a very important part of Cuban history and sugar cane production. The well-known mix “Cuba Libre” can be enjoyed in many places around the city. Rum comes at all different sizes and prices and you can learn more about this in the “Museo del Ron Havana Club“. Enjoy your guided tour and some nice sips of rum afterwards.
Bars and restaurants in Havana
We truly experienced great entertainment in Cuba, which is alive during the day and night! By and large rum, music and dancing will give you some fantastic nights out! The Cubans are open and friendly and love to share their culture with you. Visiting some of these bars and restaurants, you will follow Ernest Hemingway’s footsteps. Ernest Hemingway, a Nobel-prize winning writer, lived in Cuba for about 20 years. Even though he might not be around anymore, many of his favourite places to visit still are!
- 11. La Bodeguita del Medio: A real Hemmingway hotspot! When you visit there will be a line outside guaranteed. You will still see some signatures and souvenirs of famous guests. However, this place is also famous for its Mojito’s.
- 12. La Floridita: where Hemingway’s usual bar stool is protected with a velvet rope around it. This place is known for its favourite daiquiri cocktail.
- 13. Spectacular show at Tropicana Cabaret: an evening full of food, drinks, dancing, colourful outfits and music! An award-winning show that gives you a perfect night out full of entertainment without a doubt!
- 14. Buena Vista Social Club: now this was an evening full of music, dancing and a lot of fun! The interactive show will definitely take you off your seat, ready to hit the dancefloor!
- 15. Rooftop bars: If there is one thing we always try to do in a city, is surely visiting a rooftop bar! An incredible place to visit is the rooftop of hotel Kempinski due to its incredible views and swimming pool. To read more about a stay here, check out the blogpost of “Blonde around the world“. Another option is a favourite of Ernest Hemingway, Ambos Mundos Rooftop Bar. Now sit and relax with that Mojito in one hand!
Do you love these things to do in Havana already? Let us know if you have any questions. Feel free to share your own experience in the comments below.