My trip to Cuba was quite a short vacation, but enjoyable nonetheless. The decision to travel there was made just a few days before my leave. I have a good friend who was madly in love with a Cuban boy (third wheeling at its best) and, since Cuban boys are extremely handsome, the trip was definitely worth it.
Unfortunately, I only stayed at the capital for three days. Those few days were certainly not enough to explore the whole city, but it was enough to experience the country’s culture, meet locals, eat delicious food and have plenty of rum.
Airbnb is an affordable option. Plenty of cute little apartments around the city, which have old beauty and elegance. You will feel like you have traveled in time 30 or more years ago. Usually, amenities are basic in these apartments but hey, you chose affordable living because your wallet does not agree with your desires. Enjoy Cuba!
As soon as we reached our apartment, we got ready to explore the city. During our first walk around the Old Havana, we found our way to the Museum of the Revolution. It was already quite late, so we didn’t get the chance to visit it that day. Of course we took pictures!
A brief history of the Museum of the Revolution
Governor General Aubert decided to build this venue in 1909 for the Provincial Government. Architects were by Rodolfo Maruri from Cuba and Paul Belau from Belgium. By the end of 1917, First Lady Mariana Seva visited the construction site and was so amazed by the building itself, that arrangements were made for the presidential couple to move in the venue when it was ready.
After the revolution, which was from 1959 to 1965, the building was used by both Government and the Council of Ministers. In 1965, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba was formed at this building, which was still the Presidential Palace. Since 1974, the building is devoted to the Cuban Revolution. The museum’s approval came in 1976 from the Constitution. It is declared as a National Monument since 2010.
How to explore
Instead of holding a map to find your way around the city, I suggest to just keep walking, get lost! Follow the street you feel like exploring and I promise you, you will find either an amazing landmark, a cute coffee shop or an amazing landscape.
That’s how we came across the incredible cathedral in the old Havana. Designed by the Italian architect Francesco Borromini, it was build between 1748 and 1787. This Catholic church is one of the oldest in the Americas and it is located in Plaza de la Catedral, Habana Vieja. Make sure to enjoy the cold and fresh coconut water as you walk around this area.
With just a few minutes’ walk from the Cathedral towards the sea, you will find the Castillo de la Real Fuerza (Castle of the Royal Force). It is considered to be the oldest stone fort in the Americas and it is listed as UNESCO heritage since 1982. It was built between 1562 and 1577.
So many things to admire inside and outside the castle and the fortress. Take a deep breath, smell the sea and appreciate every single detail about this place.
The more you walk around, the more cute spots you will find. One of a kind, nostalgic architectures cannot be missed. I love seeing the details in every building, the color combination that is used, the style of the balconies. If I was lucky enough to find the front door open, I was trying to get a glimpse of the interior. Locals are always welcoming and kind.
When exploring a new city always remember to look up! We are usually too busy with whatever is happening around us that we forget to appreciate the beauty of the buildings. That is a rule I follow for many years and it never disappoints!
Food and drinks
Food is super tasty! The good restaurants are usually filled with tourists. Locals cannot afford the prices that tourists are asked to pay. Local currency is different, and way less than the CUC tourists use (1CUC = 1USD). For locals, 1 Cuban peso equals 0.04 USD. If you wander more around the city and visit less touristic areas, you will get the opportunity to try local street foods. They are absolutely tasty! Though they are often too oily for my stomach. Nonetheless, make sure you always carry the Cuban peso with you, if you intend to try the street food in Havana. Fresh fish and sea food are widely available around the country. Do not miss the opportunity to taste these.
Like food, rum is everywhere, it is good, and it is cheap! Try all the drinks that involve rum and you won’t get disappointed. Pina Colada in Cuba is one of the best worldwide. All ingredients, rum, coconut milk and pineapple juice are available anywhere there, fresh and tasty.
Live music and decorations
As one of the oldest restaurants/bars of the country. El Floridita opened in 1871 and it is famous for the daiquiris and the expensive sea food. We only had drinks there, as the place was packed and we could not get a big table. The live music and the decoration from the 1940s and 1950s are taking you to another era, an era that you wished to witness in beautiful Havana!
Classic car tours
It is a must to take a tour in classic cars. These cars were imported from USA during 1940s and 1950’. Then the Cuban Revolution happened and U.S. embargo was erected by Castro. That is the reason why Cuba has so many classic cars. Embargo made it hard for Cubans to buy new cars or to repair the existing ones, as parts could not be found. But the creativity of the Cuban people has these cars still running. Feel free to bargain the tour price, as we were asked for USD 80 and managed to drop it to USD 40. And don’t forget to take lots of pictures!
As part of the classic car tour, you will pass by attractions like Plaza de la Revolucion (Revolution Square) and the John Lennon Statue for more photos – whether for the gram or for your gran.
There is a number of beautiful beaches very close to Havana. All you need to do is find a taxi to go there, but make sure that the taxi driver will wait for you to bring you back to the capital. Most of the times, taxis are not available far from the city. There is also the option of the bus, which can be convenient at times. Beaches are peaceful and clean. They make you forget your worries. Sand is white and water is just the perfect shade of blue. Look around you, you will always find a tiny restaurant offering fresh fish and a glass of local rum for a very cheap price.
Few last tips from me. Get a piece of art to take home. I got a wonderful painting of a classic car in the heart of Havana. Every time I look at it, I smile. Artists selling their paintings can be found everywhere in the city, selling at the street or in shops.
Get few bottles of local rum to take home and try not to finish it right after you are done from vacation! Keep it for a while, for memories. Or whatever, you can drink it in the plane going home if it is too tasty.
Get few cigars. Even if you don’t smoke, the elegance of cigar packaging makes it a great decoration for home. Plus you can brag to everyone about your trip to Cuba with that.
Enjoy your traveling!