Havana Travel Guide
Since it reopened its doors to tourism in 1990, Havana has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean. It has 2.1 million inhabitants and an incredibly rich history.
African and Caribbean influences can be felt everywhere. Traditional Spanish architecture, classic American cars and the tropical climate contribute to the charm of this city, known as the Rome of the Caribbean.
Visit Havana for its culture, music, food, festivals and views. Walking through its streets is a magical experience.
- Top 5 reasons to visit Havana
- What to do in Havana
- When to visit Havana
- How to get to Havana
- Where to stay in Havana
- How to get around Havana
- Cost of living in Havana
- Where to eat in Havana
Top 5 reasons to visit Havana
An Art Bath
You have a lot to see if you appreciate the arts: go to the Gran Teatro de La Habana, the International Ballet Festival and the International Jazz Festival. Then visit the Museum of Decorative Arts and the National Museum of Fine Arts.
History and stories to discover
Discover the history of Cuba at the Museum of the Revolution and delve into its colonial past by visiting Old Havana, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Or, simply, chat with its people to learn about beautiful human stories.
Walk through streets framed by baroque facades and colorful houses. Havana is a unique city that combines Art Nouveau and Art Deco influences from the early 20th century with Spanish colonial and Moorish influences.
Tropical beach and climate
You will enjoy a warm climate all year round. The Playa del Chivo and the Eastern beaches are the perfect places to splash around in the Caribbean.
A beautiful culture
Traveling to Havana is an unforgettable experience. The island is known for producing cigars, but also for its exquisite cuisine. Traditional, popular and catchy music offers styles such as habanera, mambo and modern Cuban hip-hop.
What to do in Havana
Feeling the pulse in Old Havana
Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is in the centre of the city and allows you to feel Cuban history. Its architecture revives the past in the San Cristóbal Cathedral and the Real Fuerza Castle, while the cultural centers of the Plaza de Armas and the Plaza Vieja provide a strong contrast to the vibrant contemporary social life.
Looking at the horizon from the Malecón
Walking by the ocean is an unforgettable experience, especially in the afternoon, as the sun sets on the bay. Enter the Hotel Nacional and enjoy the old show of the Cabaret Parisien.
Explore the fortresses of the bay
The Morro-Cabaña Historical Military Park, with its imposing fortresses, is impressive. The Morro still boasts of its ancient barracks and artillery cannons, in fact it was the first line of defence against pirate attacks. Only half a kilometer away is La Cabaña, built in response to the British invasion.
Vibrating to the rhythm of the 20th century
The Paseo del Prado was the first paved road in the city, and maintained its great reputation over the centuries. The 1900s brought the rich architecture of European style. Passers-by love the rows of ornate mansions and hotels, as well as the Grand Theatre Opera and the post-Revolutionary National Capitol.
Entering Cuban art
The coastal neighborhood of Jaimanitas is a living, open art museum, affectionately known as Fusterlandia. Tourists seek inspiration in these streets. It’s a pleasure to let the mind flow on a tranquil journey among colorful sculptures, mosaics and murals, thanks to the creative mind of Cuban artist José Fuster.
When to visit Havana
In high season, between November and May, crowds will accompany you if you travel to Havana. You can avoid them by making your trip in summer, although the heat will be considerable. In August you can enjoy the local carnival and, in February, the Cigar Festival.
How to get to Havana
International flights land at José Martí International Airport (HAV), which is less than 15 kilometres southwest of Havana. Usually, your hotel will include a shuttle service from the airport, but there are other ways to get there. For example, take a taxi for CUC $20 and do it in less than half an hour, or head to terminal 1 to catch a bus. Another possibility is to rent a car for between CUC$50 and 125 per day, plus an additional insurance charge of CUC$15 per day.
You can easily drive to Havana from any other Cuban city. Take the A4 highway from San Cristobal, Pinar del Rio or other western location. If you’re travelling from Santa Clara or another eastern location, use the Autopista Nacional.
You will find Viazul bus stations in the main Cuban cities. In Havana, their main station is on Avenida 26. Travelling by Viazul bus from Trinidad will cost you CUC $25, and from Santa Clara, CUC $18. You can also use an Astro bus from any major city, with slightly lower prices and less comfort.
Where to stay in Havana
Settling in the area of Old Havana is ideal if you want to be near the main places of interest. You can choose the hotels Ambos Mundos, Florida, El Comendador or Santa Isabel if you are looking for an exclusive experience.
Interesting neighborhoods in Havana
Old Havana is the original city and is densely populated. Here you will find the Plaza de Armas, the Plaza Vieja and the 16th century Spanish fortifications. This area is currently undergoing restoration and is easily recognizable for its narrow streets and old buildings.
Vedado includes John Lennon Park and the FOCSA Building, the highest on the island. Be sure to see La Rampa (23rd Street), one of the busiest areas, and the part of the Malecón, near the promenade.
Centro is a very old area that has not yet been restored. It is home to the Real Fabricas de Tabacos Partagás cigar factory and some art galleries, such as Callejón de Hamel.
How to get around Havana
Travelling by bus in Havana is cheap. You will only pay CUC $ 1 for the ticket. The disadvantage of public transport is that routes and schedules are not always reliable or understandable.
Be sure to take a taxi in Havana. Most of these services for tourists use modern cars. You can easily find them in front of the hotels, you can stop them on the street or call a company. If you want to get around in an old American car, look for a community taxi, which is obviously cheaper. In any case, agree on the price before you get in, as many vehicles do not have a meter. The base price is CUC $ 1 and CUC $ 0.50 per kilometer driven. A route through Old Havana, Vedado and El Centro costs about CUC $ 3 or 5.
There are several car rental agencies at the airport, such as Havanautos and Cuba Car. Renting a car will cost you between CUC $ 50 and 125 per day, plus CUC $ 15 additional insurance per day. Renting it with a driver is for the same price, so it is a recommendable option.
Cost of living in Havana
If you want to buy cigars, rum and other local products, look for the official shops of La Casa del Habano or go to a Partagás cigar shop. A box of cigars usually costs from CUC $30. If you want to buy clothes, souvenirs and crafts, go to the open air market at Feria 23 y M, near the Hotel Nacional. You will find another similar market with books and souvenirs of the Revolution in the Plaza de Armas. If you want to find brand shops, go to the Galería Comercial Comodoro, on the beachfront.
Groceries and others
There are Palco stores in the Miramar area and on Third Avenue and 70th Street, perfect for food shopping. For fresh produce, the Agromercados in Vedado and the Centro area are ideal. A half liter bottle of local beer costs CUC $ 0.94.
Where to eat in Havana
Try some popular Cuban dishes, such as grilled meats, rice and beans. In traditional Caribbean food, the Restaurant Café del Oriente, La Guarida and Bella Habana are unbeatable. To experience the mix of Chinese and Caribbean influences, Flor de Loto and Tien Tan. For seafood, El Litoral, Mediterráneo Havana and Paladar Vistamar are excellent.
Ask for traditional sandwiches at Bar Bilbao or La Dichosa and look out for the street food vendors serving pork burgers and coconut cakes. On the street you can eat for between CUC $ 5 and 8; in a well-kept restaurant, starting at CUC $ 40.