Although I find the question difficult to answer, whenever I’m asked what my favorite travel destination is, the first thing that comes to mind is always Cuba. The country is steeped in mystique for many visitors and I had a wonderful time there back when I spent a week in Havana and Varadero in 2012. With an increasing interest in travel to Cuba, I wanted to share my destination guide to this beautiful Caribbean island-country.
La Habana Vieja | Old Havana
Start your day by walking the UNESCO World Heritage site. The neoclassical buildings and cobblestone streets have not lost their former beauty. Old Havana oozes charm and beauty, it’s perfect for a walking tour to soak up Cuba’s colonial history and rich culture. Highlights include Catedral de San Cristobal, the military fortress - Castillo de Real Fuerza, and popular public squares Plaza de Armas and Plaza Vieja.
El Capitolio | National Capitol Building
No trip to Havana would be complete without a visit to the National Capitol Building. The distinct dome of this striking landmark stands out against the surrounding architecture. The building is supposed to be modeled after the American capital building, but it is also easy to see the inspiration from the Pantheon in Paris. The building housed the government from its inauguration in 1929 until post the Cuban Revolution in 1959.
El Malecón | The Malecón
A stroll along Malecon is a perfect way to end your day in Havana. The seafront stretch is home to some beautiful 20th century buildings. The Malecon is also a common hangout for locals where you can find children playing in the water and young couples enjoying the sunset.
Along the Malecon is Hotel Nacional de Cuba (the National Hotel of Cuba), a luxury hotel and World Heritage Site. The hotel is a celebration of several architectural styles, reflecting Art Deco, neo-classical and neo-colonial influences. The hotel has accommodated famous guests throughout history including Nat King Cole, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra, and Winston Churchill.
Plaza de la Revolución | Revolution Square
Revolution Square is a notable for where any political rallies have taken place, and where Fidel Castro and other political figures have often addressed Cubans. Several landmarks and government building surround the plaza, the most prominent being the Ministry of Interior building which has a large mural of Che Guevara. In addition, the plaza is home to the Jose Marti Monumental statue, standing 109 meters tall. Although the Plaza itself is far less appealing than the beautiful colonial architecture that the rest of Havana has to offer, a look around the Plaza provides a brief overview of Cuba’s diplomatic history.
Museo Nacional De Bellas Artes | National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana
One of the regrets of my trip to Havana was not stopping by any of the museums in the capital. The one I’d heard the most about was the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana. The Museum has two impressive buildings - one houses the Cuban art collections from colonial times and contemporary generations, the other displays European paintings and sculptures.