Located on the northwest coast of Cuba, Havana is a mosaic of history, culture, and resilience. The capital city, also the largest on the island, is known for it’s old architecture and classic cars but its Havana’s charm that entices visitors from around the world. We spent 3 days in Havana and there’s no shortage of fun things to see and do in Havana Cuba. From art galleries to vintage cars let’s go through the list of where to go in Havana.
1. Vintage Car Tour
One of the top things to see and do in Havana Cuba is to take a ride in a classic car. For $100 a couple, you can tour the city in style as you cruise through the streets of Havana and visit Revolution Square, a cigar shop, and other sites in Havana.
2. Wander the streets of Old Havana
There’s no better way to get to know a place than to walk around the streets and talk to the locals. The Cuban people are so friendly and love their culture and want to share it with travelers who visit Cuba. Wandering the streets of Havana is a great way to admire it’s architecture up close and immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant culture. Explore hidden plazas and bustling markets that you’d otherwise miss if traveling by car.
3. Plaza de Armas
The Plaza de Armas is a historic and picturesque square in the heart of Habana Vieja (Old Havana). The plaza is surrounded by colonial-era buildings including the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales and the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. The Plaza de Armas is lined with trees, has cobblestone paths, and wrought iron benches.
4. Cuban Cigar
You can’t come to Cuba and not take part in smoking a Cuban Cigar. Cuban cigars are renowned for being the best cigars in the world. The climate and soil conditions in Cuba create an ideal environment for growing tobacco and the tradition of cigar-making dates back centuries. The Cuban government tightly regulates the production of cigars enforcing strict quality control over its cigar brands. The Cuban Cigar is part of the Cuban culture and is highly sought after by collectors worldwide. If you’re American you can smoke them while in Cuba but do not try and bring any back home.
5. Walking Tour
Get to know Havana by going on a free walking tour with local guides who are knowledgable about the past and present history of Cuba and its culture. You can choose from many options such as historical tours to a nightlife tour. There are so many things to see in Havana Cuba and a guide is the perfect way to find it all. Although the tour is free, make sure you tip your guide at the end.
Fusterlandia is a whimsical art project located in the Jaimanitas neighborhood created by Cuban artist Jose Fuster. Using colorful ceramic tiles, sculptures, and murals, Jose Fuster has transformed his neighborhood into an open-air gallery. First inspired by the work of Antoni Gaudi, Fuster began using mosaic designs to embellish his own home but expanded beyond his own home into the entire neighborhood. Fuster’s artwork uses a mix of styles and influences including Afro-Cuban, religious icons, and Cuban history.
7. Listen to live music
There is no shortage of places in Havana to listen to live music from small cafes to large extravagant performances. Live music is integral to the vibrant cultural scene in Cuba and one of the best things to do in Havana Cuba. One of the most iconic venues for live music is the Buena Vista Social Club where you can enjoy performances of traditional Cuban and other Afro-Cuban musical styles.
8. Museo de la Revolucion
If you want to know where to go in Havana to learn more about it’s history, head over to the Museum of the Revolution. This museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the events that led to Fidel Castro’s uprising and offers visitors insight into the struggle that led to the overthrow of Batista and the rise of Fidel Castro’s government. You’ll find artifacts from maps to blood-stained uniforms, photographs, and personal belongings of the revolutionary leaders in the museum and it’s a great way to learn more about how Cuba becomae what it is today.
9. The Malecon
The Malecon, the picturesque seawall promenade, is a Havana landmark that stretches along the city’s coastline for 5 miles. This scenic boulevard is a gathering place for locals and visitors with views of the Havana skyline and plenty of room for leisurely strolls or jogging. During the day, fishermen line the seawall but at night locals come out to enjoy the sunset and take part in lively conversations, music, and dance performances.
10. Fabrica de Arte Cubano
Located in the Vedado neighborhood, the FAC was founded in 2014 by Cuban musician and artist X Alfonso. The Fabrica de Arte Cubano is housed in a former cooking oil factory and is a creative hub for showcasing Cuban art and culture. Inside, you’ll find a diverse range of artistic exhibitions, live performances, workshops, and interactive installations spread over multiple floors and rooms.
Visitors can explore art galleries, theater performances, or listen to live music in multiple genres such as jazz, rock, hip-hop, and traditional Cuban music. Choose from several bars, restaurants, and lounges and enjoy the Cuban art scene.
11. Go to the Beach
One of the best things to do in Havana Cuba is to head to the beach. There are several beaches near Havana that are just a short taxi ride away. Playas del Este is the closest beach to Havana at just 35 minutes away. This 5 mile stretch of shoreline has multiple picturesque beaches where you can get away from the city and enjoy some peace and quiet and soak up the sun. The best time to visit Cuba for it’s beaches is in late spring in April and May.
12. Varadero Beach
If you have more time you can travel 2 hours outside of Havana to Varadero Beach, one of the most famous beaches in Cuba. Located on the northern coast of Cuba, Varadero Beach is known for it’s white sands and clear turquoise waters and with over 12 miles of beach, there is plenty of room for relaxing and soaking up the sun. There are numerous hotels and resorts along the beachfront if you decide to stay the night instead taking a daytrip. Americans do have rules for visiting Cuba so make sure you don’t stay somewhere you aren’t supposed to stay. There are also plenty of water sports to enjoy such as scuba diving, kayaking, and parasailing.
13. Museum of Fine Arts
The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de la Habana (National Museum of Fine arts of Havana) is the most prominent art museums in Cuba showcasing an extensive collection of Cuban and International art. The museum is located in two buildings: The Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Centro Asturiano.
The Palacio de Bellas Artes was constructed in the early 1900’s and the building itself is an architectural gem. It houses the museum’s Cuban art collection from the colonial period to present day. The museum showcases paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts by renowned Cuban Artists.
The Centro Asturiano houses the international art from European masters such as Rubens as well as art pieces from Africa and Asia.
14. Cementerio de Cristobal Colon
Havana’s Colon Cemetery, the second-largest in the world spanning over 140 acres, was established in 1876 and according to the locals, it’s a “city within a city”. Named after explorer Christopher Columbus, the cemetery has various architectural styles from Neoclassical to Art Deco and is worth exploring either independently or with a tour.
15. Museum of Rum
Museo del Ron will give visitors insight into the history and production of rum in Cuba focusing on the famous Havana Club brand. Located in Old Havana, The Museum of Rum is in an old colonial building that was once a distillery for rum production. Visitors will learn about the sugarcane industry and the history of the Havana Club brand and have an opportunity to sample various rums.
16. Revolution Square
Revolution Square, or Plaza de la Revolucion, is one of the most iconic public spaces in Havana Cuba. One of the largest city squares in the world, Revolution Square has been the site of numerous historic events throughout Cuba’s history. There’s a 358 foot tower dedicated to the Cuban poet Jose Marti and visitors can take an elevator to the top of the tower for panoramic views of Havana. Across from the tower is two massive steel outlines of Che Guevara’s and Fidel Castro’s face.
17. Plaza de San Francisco de Asis
This historic square is located in Old Havana near the Church and Convent of San Francisco de Asis. Around the plaza are restaurants and cafes, art galleries, and colonial architecture. In the square is the Fountain of the Lions, a fountain adorned with sculptures of lions spouting water.
18. The Capitolio
The Capitolio Nacional, or El Capitolio, is one of the most iconic landmarks in Havana Cuba. The design was inspired by the United states Capitol in Washington DC and construction of the building took place between 1926 and 1929. El Capitolio was the seat of the Cuban government until the Cuban Revolution in 1959. In 2018 the building once again became the seat of the Cuban National Assembly.
The interior of El Capitolio features marble floors and grand staircases and the outside has expansive gardens.The building is one of the most visited attractions in Havana.
19. Gran Teatro de la Habana
The Great Theatre of Havana, renowned for its stunning architecture and elegant interior, is home to the Cuban National Ballet. Before the current theatre, the site was home to the former Teatro Tacon which was built in 1838. It’s one of the best things to see in Havana Cuba. The theater sits right next to El Capitolio and it’s autitorium can seat 1500 people.
20. Calle Obispo
Calle Obispo, or Bishop Street, is one of the most famous streets in Old Havana. It stretches from Parque Central to Plaza de Armas and is known for it’s eclectic mix of colonial architecture, lively atmosphere, and diverse shops, restaurants, and galleries. The street is one of the best things to do in Havana Cuba giving visitors a view into the heart and soul of Cuba’s capital city.
21. Plaza Vieja
Plaza Vieja, which translates to “old square” dates back to the 16th century. The square is surrounded by colonial-era buildings characterized by colorful facades and intricate balconies that showcase the Spanish influence on Cuban design. Plaza Vieja is home to Camera Obscura, a viewing tower that offers panoramic views of Old Havana. A variety of events and festivals take place in the square throughout the year.
22. Castillo de la Real Fuerza
The Castle of the Royal Force is one of the oldest colonial-era fortresses in the Americas. Constructed between 1558 and 1577, the Castillo de la Real Fuerza was designed to protect the port of Havana from pirate attacks and foreign invasions. The fortress has a distinctive square tower which houses the iconic weather vane, La Giraldilla. This weather vane depicts a woman holding a cross and is a symbol of Havana and one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.
The fortress has served various purposes but today houses a collection of ceramics and porcelain from different periods and cultures. The fortess part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
23. Finca Vigia
Finca Vigia, which translates to “Lookout Farm” is located in the outskirts of Havana Cuba and was once the former home of Ernest Hemingway who lived there for 20 years. Hemingway purchased the place in 1940 and lived there until 1960 when he left Cuba following the Cuban Revolution. Today, Finca Vigia is a museum dedicated to Ernest Hemingway and is preserved much as it was during his time there with many of his personal belongings including furniture, books, artwork, and even Hemingway’s typewriter.
24. Paseo del Prado
Paseo del Prado is a famous promenade in Havana that stretches several blocks in central Havana. It runs between Old Havana and Central Havana connecting iconic landmarks such as the Malecon and El Capitolio. The avenue is lined with ornate buildings and large trees, street lamps, and benches. This is also the area where you’ll find dozens of classic cars you can hire for a ride around Havana.
25. El Floridita
El Floridita is a historic bar and restaurant in Havana Cuba that was established in 1817. The bar is famous for being a favorite of Ernest Hemingway who enjoyed the bar’s signature cocktail, the Daiquiri. He referred to El Floridita as his favorite bar. This popular tourist destination in Havana Cuba is a must-visit destination for live music, historic ambiance and to sample what Ernest Hemingway said was his favorite daiquiri.
26. Parque Central
If you’re wanting to get online while in Cuba then your best chance of doing so is to head to Parque Central in Havana Cuba. this park is centrally located and is surrounded by the Gran Teatro de la Habana and multiple hotels. You can’t miss the park because it’s surrounded by all the colorful classic cars. This is the place where Cubans and visitors connect to the internet through public hotspots. If you notice dozens of people on their cell phones and laptops in the park, you’ll know you’re at the right place.
To get online, you’ll have to purchase an internet card to connect. This internet card is called a NAUTA card and will include an area on the back that you scratch off to reveal a code for getting online. You can buy the Nauta internet cards through ETECSA, a state-owned telecommunications company but you should see people selling them in the park as well.
27. La Guarida
La Guarida is a restaurant located in a crumbling building in Central Habana and was also the location featured in the Oscar-nominated Cuban film “Strawberry and Chocolate”. The restaurant occupies several floors of the building and can be accessed by climbing a grand marble staircase. From seafood to vegetarian options, the restauant offers a wide variety of flavorful foods. La Guarida also has a rooftop terrace popular drinking cocktails and for taking in the sunset.
28. La Bodeguita del Medio
You can’t leave Havana without visiting the historic bar where Hemingway said had the best mojitos in the world. The bar’s walls have photographs and memorabilia of Hemingway’s time spent there as well as thousands of signatures of tourists who visit too.
29. Cabaret at La Parisienne at Hotel nacional
Located within the Hotel Nacional, Cabaret at La Parisienne is an entertainment venue known for its lively shows and vibrant atmosphere. The cabaret features a lineup of diverse performances including live music, singing, dancing, and theatrical acts that showcase the Cuban heritage. Sip on cocktails and sample Cuban cuisine while immersing yourself in this must-visit destination in Havana.
The Tropicana is a cabaret and entertainment venue established in 1939 in Havana Cuba. The show is famous for its glamorous open-air performances that showcases a blend of music, dance, and theatrical acts that incorporate elements of Cuban Music and dance styles. This outdoor stage is surrounded by palm trees and waterfalls while guests dine on Cuban cuisine and cocktails.
31. Cathedral of Havana
The Cathedral of Havana, known as the Catedral de la Virgen Maria de la Concepcion Inmaculada, was built in the 18th century and is one of the most significant examples of Cuban Baroque architecture. The Cathedral features twin bell towers, arched portals, and inticate stone carvings.
32. La Cabana
La Cabana, also known as Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana is a historic fortress located across the bay from Havana. La Cabana was built in the 1700’s and is one of the largest fortresses in the Americas designed to provide a defense for the city. Today, it’s a tourist attraction in Havana Cuba that houses several museums showcasing artifacts and weapons related to the military history of Cuba. At 9pm every night you can watch the ceremonial firing of the cannon, a reenactment that signaled the closing of the city gates.
33. Travel to Vinales
If you can take one trip outside of Havana, it should be to Vinales. Vinales is a small town located a few hours outside of Havana with stunning natural landscapes. It’s also where the tobacco plantations in Cuba are. You can either travel there on a day trip or opt to spend a few days there where you can tour a tobacco farm, horseback ride through the Vinales Valley, or enjoy other outdoor activities such as cycling, hiking, or zip-lining. It’s definitely worth a visit!
Summary of things to see and do in Havana
A visit to Havana Cuba offers a blend of history, culture, and vibrant energy. From exploring the cobblestone streets of Old Havana to relaxing on the pristine beaches of Varadero, there’s something for everyone in Havana. Enjoy classic mojitos and Cuban cigars as you immerse yourself in the live music that plays on every corner and soak up Havana’s warm hospitality.