La ciudad que más me gusta a mí (the city I like the best) singer Benny Moré once said of his home city in the song ‘Cienfuegos.’ He wasn’t the settlement’s only cheerleader. Cuba’s so called Perla del Sur (Pearl of the South) has long seduced travelers from around the island with its elegance, enlightened French spirit and feisty Caribbean panache. If Cuba has a Paris, this is most definitely it.
Situated on the Caribbean coast of southern-central Cuba, Cienfuegos is a compelling place to visit. With its colourful facades, wide streets and charming French colonial architecture, it rightfully deserves the Pearl of the South title.
Arranged around the country’s most spectacular natural bay, Cienfuegos is a nautical city with an enviable waterside setting. Founded in 1819, it’s one of Cuba’s newest settlements, but also one of its most architecturally interesting, a factor that earned it a Unesco World Heritage Site listing in 2005. Geographically, the city is split into two distinct parts: the colonnaded central zone with its elegant Paseo del Prado (commonly shortened to Prado) and Parque Martí; and Punta Gorda, a thin knife of land slicing into the bay with a clutch of eclectic early 20th century palaces, including some of Cuba’s prettiest buildings.
Modern day Cienfuegos retains a plusher look than many of its urban counterparts. And now with some much-needed Unesco money on board, as well as the city’s growing industrial clout, the future for Cienfuegos and its fine array of 19th century architecture looks bright.
My Casa Particular was a really nice house with a lovely family who made me feel extremely welcome. Hostal La Fraternidad can be booked via Airbnb. Cienfuegos has some truly memorable dining options, particularly on Punta Gorda.