Havana: The vibrant heart of Cuba

ByAndrea Thompson

May 14, 2024

Havana is a city where the past, from colonial days to the Cuban Revolution, blends with the present in a vibrant tapestry of culture. Boasting a rich history, stunning architecture, and gastronomic pleasures, Havana offers a destination that assures a memorable experience.

Founded in 1519, Havana boasts a storied past, including a relocation from its initial site due to adverse conditions. It’s known as “Ciudad de las Columnas,” or the City of Columns, a nod to its colonial architectural heritage.

Havana is more than a city; it’s a fusion of the Caribbean sun’s warmth and the refreshing breeze of its storied past. It’s an eternal city where vintage cars glide by historic colonial structures, and the air is alive with salsa rhythms, intertwined with the aromas of Cuban coffee, rum, and the famed cigars.

What it is like:

Walking through the streets of Havana is like stepping into a living museum. The city’s faded grandeur is evident in its Spanish colonial architecture, with pastel-coloured buildings lining the cobblestone streets. The Malecón is the most famous boulevard offering stunning ocean views and a popular spot to people watch where tourists and local mingle.

The streets brim with American cars, many of which are treasured relics from pre-revolutionary Cuba. To their owners, these vehicles are more than mere transportation; they are a cherished part of their heritage. So iconic are they that they feature in films, photographs, and music videos, stirring nostalgia for a bygone era. Tourists are especially drawn to Havana, eager to experience a ride in one of these beautifully restored vintage cars.

What to see and do:

Havana’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982 and has over 1million visitors a year. Here, you can explore the Plaza Vieja, the Catedral de San Cristóbal, and the Castillo de la Real Fuerza.  The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes for art lovers showcasing Cuban art from colonial times to the present day and also Fusterlandia, a public art wonderland created by artist Jose Fuster.

The food:

Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African, and Caribbean flavours. In Havana, you can savour dishes like ropa vieja (shredded beef), arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), and chicharrones (pork cracklings). Street food vendors offer tasty snacks like mariquitas (fried plantain chips) and chiviricos (fried dough). For that unique experience dine at a Paladares, these privately owned restaurants serves up authentic Cuban dishes.

What else is it famous For:

Havana has been a source of inspiration for numerous artists, musicians, and writers. The FAC (Fábrica de Arte Cubano) stands as a centre of contemporary culture, showcasing a range of art exhibitions and live music performances. Additionally, the city is renowned for its vibrant carnivals and festivals, which are a dazzling display of colour and energy.

Its cultural wealth, historical significance, and culinary variety make it a destination where the rhythm of salsa earns a spot on every traveller’s bucket list.