Havana is the capital of Cuba .And we had never been in a capital where people have so much social life on the street. As if it were a small town where everyone knows each other!For that and many other things, Havana is special.There are many activities to do in Havana : walk by the sea, photograph colorful buildings, drink mojitos, learn about the Revolution, dance salsa… We stayed in the city for three nights and talked to a lot of people from the neighborhood, we seemed like neighbors! lifelong!In this post we tell you 30 things to see and do in Havana , a city full of life and color. In the following map you will find marked all the things to do in Havana.
Things To See And Do In Havana
Learn about Havana with a free tour
Much of the charm of Havana (and Cuba in general) is listening to its people to better understand everything you will see on your trip.That’s why we recommend you book a free city tour . You will learn about key historical episodes and see the essentials of the Cuban capital through the eyes of a local .You put the price yourself at the end with the tip you decide to leave the guide.This tour is something highly recommended to do in Havana to have a first contact with the city .
Visit the imposing Capitol, an essential thing to do in Havana
If you think of Havana, an image of its beautiful Capitol will surely come to mind.This imposing building was built in 1929 to house the Congress .But when the Revolution triumphed in 1959 it was dissolved and became the headquarters of the Cuban Academy of Sciences and the National Library of Science and Technology . Its enormous dome, over 90 meters high, is reminiscent of the famous Capitol in Washington DC or the Pantheon in Paris .In 2019, a long restoration of the Cuban Capitol finished.Since then its dome has been covered with gold sheets donated by Russia .You can visit the majestic interior rooms for 3 CUC.
Hallucinate with the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater
Perhaps it is overshadowed by the Capitol, but this theater is an essential visit to do in Havana .It is the headquarters of the National Ballet of Cuba and has several rooms.The beautiful neo-baroque style building was inaugurated in 1915 and can be visited with a guided tour for 2 CUC.From the balconies of the theater there are great views of the Capitol.
Take a ride in a classic car, something very popular to do in Havana
In front of the Gran Teatro de La Habana there are a lot of classic cars. They were mainly imported from the United States during the 1940s and 1950s. When the Revolution arrived, Fidel Castro prohibited the arrival of more American vehicles or spare parts.That is why, from 1959, the Russian Ladas arrived instead of the Chevrolet, Ford, Buick, Pontiac… A vital tip to get a good price on a classic car ride is to get as far away from the surroundings of the Capitol. They even asked us for 80 CUC for an hour!Entering the alleys of Old Havana you will also find classic cars for a much more reasonable price: about 30 CUC per hour . If you prefer to avoid negotiations and have the driver pick you up directly from your accommodation, you can book a two-hour tour online for €66 .
Visit a classic car workshop
Are you a car lover?Then don’t settle for getting into a ’50s classic. You can also book a visit to a repair shop .It is very curious to see and hear first-hand how they manage to obtain spare parts that have already been discontinued after so many years .For example, it is very common to see American cars with a Russian engine, Cuba is special!
Getting lost in Old Havana, something essential to do in Havana
Havana catches.We spent three days, but we wouldn’t have minded staying any longer.Despite not having as many specific attractions as other world capitals, simply walking through its streets is a real joy. Lose yourself aimlessly to see both freshly painted buildings in bright colors and others on the verge of collapse .After Hurricane Irma in 2017 the city was badly damaged and unfortunately it can still be seen. We especially liked Cuarteles, Teniente Rey or Mercaderes streets , among others.If you want tranquility, walk through Old Havana before 10 in the morning.Then it fills up with many tourists.
Photograph the most beautiful squares in Old Havana
Between so many alleys is the Plaza de la Catedral , one of the most beautiful corners to see in Old Havana .The cathedral is in the Baroque style, with two bell towers on the sides, and is surrounded by stone buildings with arcades that create a beautiful ensemble. The Plaza de Armas is noteworthy for being the oldest square in the city .Havana was formally founded there in 1519. For centuries this square was the administrative center of the city, which is why it is surrounded by historic buildings.
Surround yourself with color in Plaza Vieja and see what happens in the city from the camera obscura
From the stone color that predominates in the Plaza de la Catedral, we move on to the happiest plaza in Havana .Plaza Vieja has constructions of different colors.Although it is “old”, the reality is that it has been restored very recently and the facades look great. If you want to have the best perspective of the Plaza Vieja you should go up to the roof of the Gómez Vila building .It is in a corner of the square and offers a good view of the entire city.In addition, there is a camera obscura, the predecessor of today’s photo cameras.You will be able to see images of the entire city in real time from a small room. A very cool experience to do in Havana .Admission costs 2 CUC.
Try a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio, a must-see in Havana
It is not as old as the Plaza de Armas, but it is an emblem of Havana!La Bodeguita del Medio is the most famous bar for a mojito , the Cuban national cocktail.It costs 6 CUC, twice as much as in most places, and to be honest the drink is nothing special.
Have a daiquiri at El Floridita, something typical to do in Havana
In La Bodeguita del Medio you can read “My mojito at La Bodeguita and my daiquiri at El Floridita” by Ernest Hemingway.The writer gave a lot of fame to these two bars. El Floridita is known as the birthplace of the daiquiri .There you can have a cocktail next to a statue of Hemingway at the bar .
Appreciate the peculiar art of Callejón de Hamel, one of the most famous places to see in Havana
A very interesting visit to do in Havana is the Callejón de Hamel.It is an open-air Afro-Cuban art gallery, as well as a social project that promotes culture in the neighborhood .This passage of just 200 meters is full of graffiti, phrases of artists and thinkers, sculptures made with recycled materials… All of this refers to gods of the Yoruba religion , of African origin. Sundays are the best day to visit Callejón de Hamel , as there are percussion shows and the performers wear eye-catching clothes and make-up.
See a particular tribute to Gaudí in Fusterlandia
Fusterlandia is another very curious visit to do in Havana in relation to art .It is not a theme park, but more than 150 houses decorated by the Cuban artist José Fuster.Tiles reign there , in the purest styleof Gaudí’s famous modernist trencadís .This project was a personal dream of Fuster, which he began by giving color to his own house and has ended up creating a community artistic project.
Stroll along the Malecón, Havana’s seafront promenade
Surely you have ever heard the song “Until the boardwalk dries up”. It is an expression widely used in Cuba that is equivalent to saying that something will never happen.And the Malecón has a lot of water!Havana’s seafront promenade is more than 8 kilometers long .At almost every hour you will find people sitting around talking with friends, having a beer or even fishing.
See the city from the Castillo del Morro
When Havana was still a Spanish overseas province, the castle of the Tres Reyes Magos del Morro was built.It is located on a hill just in front of Old Havana and from there there is a beautiful panoramic view .It is also home to two restaurants and an art gallery.We recommend going at sunset to enjoy the views as the sun sets.
Attend the nine o’clock cannon shot, a traditional ceremony to see in Havana
Attending the cannon shot at 9pm is something very typical to do in Havana .It is a ceremony with centuries of history that consists of firing a cannon to balance the clocks of the entire city .It has been done since the 18th century from the fortress of San Carlos de la Cabana.Originally, it also served to warn the population to be confined within the walls that surrounded the city to avoid pirate attacks. Now it is a symbolic show where various soldiers dressed in period clothing participate.Admission costs 8 CUC and it is recommended to arrive an hour in advance to enjoy the atmosphere and get a good spot to see the cannon shot.
Go back in time at Che Guevara’s house
In 1959 Fidel Castro ordered Che Guevara to move from Santa Clara, where the Cuban revolution began, to Havana.Che stayed in a house that can still be visited.It is possible to see his office, the room where he slept, photographs with personalities of the moment, personal belongings … The entrance fee is 6 CUC.
Stand at the feet of the Christ of Havana
Next to Che Guevara’s historic home stands a huge marble statue of a Christ .It was the work of the Cuban artist Jilma Madera in 1958 and symbolizes protection of the city.It measures 20 meters and is the second tallest figure of Christ in the world, behind Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. The easiest way to get there is by taking the ferry to Casablanca , which crosses the bay for 10 CUP (less than 1 CUC).
Stroll through Havana Center
There is life beyond Old Havana! We stayed in Centro Habana, the neighborhood that is on the other side of the Capitol, and we couldn’t be happier.Its streets are full of life.While in Old Havana there are practically only restaurants designed for tourists, in Central Havana there is local life. There are people sitting in the doorways to connect to the WiFi, children running around the streets, businesses where Cubans go … It doesn’t give the feeling of being in the capital of the country at all, it seems like a town where everyone knows each other.
Dining at La Guarida, one of the best things to do in Havana
Don’t leave Havana without trying Cuban gastronomy!There are countless palates -that’s what small restaurants are called- for all tastes and pockets. One of the most famous restaurants to pamper yourself is La Guarida.It serves Cuban dishes with international influences for an approximate price of 30-40 CUC per diner.It has a roof terrace with good views and the palatial building from the beginning of the 20th century where it is located has become a popular stop to do in Havana.
Try street food
Beyond the refined dishes of La Guarida, do not forget to try the street gastronomy of Havana .In the absence of McDonald’s, the stalls that sell iced drinks are good, they are syrup, suckling pig sandwiches, sweet rolls, plantain chips and much more. If you want to discover all the secrets of street food in Cuba, you can book this tour .
Move the skeleton in a Cuban music show
Latin music plays in the streets of Havana at all hours .If you want to appreciate Cuban rhythms such as salsa, rumba or bolero with music bands and professional dancers , there are plenty of places to spend an incredible night. Some of the most famous places with the Tropicana and Parisien cabarets, El Guajirito or Habana Café .Most of them have an entrance fee with drinks and/or dinner that ranges between 20 and 70 CUC depending on the option you choose.Reservations are required for the Cabaret Tropicana and the Parisien.
Enjoy the Paseo Del Prado
The main pedestrian avenue of the city starts from the Capitol.Full of colorful buildings and decorated with trees, Paseo Del Prado is a very pleasant place to take a leisurely walk.
Photograph the Bacardi Building, a historical monument to see in Havana
The architecture of Havana is a delight.You will see several art deco buildings in the city due to the North American influence during the 1930s and 1940s. The first was the Bacardi building, opened in 1930 as the headquarters of the famous spirits company .That is why it has a bat, the company’s symbol, on its highest point.It currently houses offices of a real estate company.
Have a drink with a view of the Capitol
There are several terraces around the Capitol with great views.Take advantage of the sunset to have a drink on the terraces of the Hotel Inglaterra , Iberostar Parque Central or Hotel Saratoga . Without a doubt, it is one of the best things to do in Havana to end the day well .It is advisable to bring mosquito repellent , since when the sun goes down they start to bite.
Visit the Museum of the Revolution, something curious to do in Havana
To enjoy a trip to Cuba, we think it is essential to know its history.You can do it at the Museum of the Revolution, which has exhibits from pre-Columbian culture to the present day. It focuses mainly on the Cuban revolution that overthrew President Batista in 1959, as well as the life of Che Guevara .Of course, don’t expect to find diverse perspectives on the country’s history.But even with the ideological bias, it’s an interesting thing to do in Havana . Admission costs 8 CUC and includes admission to the Granma memorial .It is a tribute to the ship that transported Fidel Castro and Che Guevara from Mexico to Cuba before the triumph of the revolution, as well as other military vehicles.
Step on the Plaza de la Revolución
This historic square is an essential stop to do in Havana .It is one of the largest squares in the world and serves as a massive meeting place during acts of celebration or commemoration .For example, Fidel Castro gave speeches for hours in this plaza and was fired right there when he died.In the center is the monument to José Martí , a 112-meter tower that is the tallest building in the city. Also very famous are the reliefs that represent Che Guevara with his motto “Hasta la victoria siempre” and Camilo Cienfuegos with the phrase “Vas bien, Fidel.”That’s what he answered when Castro asked him during a speech if he was doing well.
Visit the historic National Hotel
We could not forget the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.It is probably the most famous hotel in the city since it opened in 1930 .Its luxurious Art Deco style design fell in love with personalities such as Ernest Hemingway, Marlon Brando, Winston Churchill… In addition, during the 40s and 50s it was the meeting place for the Italian-American mafia.
Stroll through the Colón Cemetery
Visiting a cemetery might sound like a strange thing to do in Havana .But the necropolis of Christopher Columbus is a true work of art.It is impressive on an architectural level , since as soon as you enter you will see a monumental marble monument and a beautiful chapel.The tombs are decorated with very elaborate sculptures.
Cool off at Playas del Este
If you are done with all the things to see and do in Havana , you can go on an excursion to Playas del Este.They are a set of seven beaches about half an hour from the city .They are not the most beautiful in the country but the truth is that they are not bad at all to cool off.You can book a tour or negotiate with a taxi driver to get there.
Visit Vinales, one of the best excursions to do in Havana
Another essential excursion to do in Havana is the Valley of Vinales.It is a great place to forget about the streets full of people and change them for a beautiful landscape where the color green predominates.There are plenty of rounded hills covered in greenery and caves that can be visited. It is the region that produces the most tobacco on the island, so you will be able to see how the famous cigars are rolled.It is located a couple of hours from Havana, so you can book a tour to get to know Vinales in one day .