Walking around Havana is like being in an action movie – your senses are on constant overdrive. Around every corner there is something new, something that stretches your imagination. The city is like nothing I have ever experienced before – the smell, the poverty, the people, the architecture, the chaos.
Downtown Havana can be broken down into three main areas:
Havana Vieja: Havana’s colonial masterpiece. Located to the east of the centre, a popular tourist area, many beautifully restored historic buildings, lots of sights, the most hassle from touts and lots of restaurants/bars.
Vedado: Located to the west of the centre, the business/financial district, the most modern area, great nightlife, best live music, many restaurants and hotels.
Central Havana: Located between Havana Vieja and Vedado, the more “local” area, great location, many old buildings and homes, practically no hassle from touts, equal walking distance to Vieja and Vedado.
The seafront promenade (The Malecón) stretches for 8 kms along the northern coast of Havana, from Havana Harbor in Havana Vieja, along Central Havana and ending at the Vedado neighbourhood.
Él Capitolio Building. The Capitolio Nacional is Havana’s most ambitious and grandiose building, constructed after the post-WWI sugar boom gifted the Cuban government a seemingly bottomless treasure box of sugar money. Similar to the Washington, DC Capitol Building, but (marginally) taller and much richer in detail, the work was initiated by Cuba’s US-backed dictator Gerardo Machado in 1926 and took 5000 workers three years, two months and 20 days to build at a cost of US$17 million.
Museo de la Revolución. This museum resides in the former Presidential Palace, constructed between 1913 and 1920 and used by a string of cash-embezzling Cuban presidents, culminating in Fulgencio Batista. The world-famous Tiffany’s of New York decorated the interior, and the shimmering Salón de los Espejos (Room of Mirrors) was designed to resemble the eponymous room at the Palace of Versailles.
The museum itself descends chronologically from the top floor starting with Cuba’s pre-Columbian culture and extending to the present-day socialist regime (with a lot of propaganda).
Plaza de Aramas, the oldest square in Havana.
Habana Vieja, old Havana.
Next stage: Planning ahead.