Even if you’re only in Havana for a couple of days like we were, it’s enough time to get a taste of this fascinating city. From music and vibrant colours to delicious food and sea-views, we managed to pack in plenty. Here’s 5 Awesome Things to Do in Havana!
Photo credit: Jamie Grupen-Hall
Take a Vintage Car Tour
Yes, it’s touristy, but when else will you get to ride in a genuine classic (possibly even a Pink Cadillac, should you desire) through the sunny streets of Havana? Not only is it a lot of fun, you’ll also get to see a lot more of the city than just the Old Town – one of my favourite parts was watching the sunset behind Havana from the viewpoint across the harbour. The easiest place to grab a ride is from Parque Central near the Capitol.
Sunset over Havana
The view (and giant cocktails!) at Azucar
Sip Rum and People-Watch in Plaza Vieja
Havana has some fascinating history to learn about, from the Castillo de la Real Fuerza with its museum depicting Cuba’s seafaring past to the more recent stories of mafia-run hotels and Communist takeovers. But sometimes, you just want to sit in the sunshine, sip rum cocktails and people-watch… which is fine too! We sampled both the Azucar Lounge and Don Eduardo Alegre and enjoyed them both – Azucar is more modern, while the Don feels more traditional, but both have balconies overlooking the square where you can kick back, enjoy the music wafting up to you, and enjoy the Havana vibe.
Along the Malecon
Walk (or Run!) the Malecon
Perambulating down the sea wall that wraps around Havana is a great way to get a different view of the city. I’ll spare you the photos of the early morning run that Anna and I dragged ourselves out to (and then felt super smug about afterwards). But the sights of dilapidated buildings next to modern apartments, classic cars tootling by and fisherman trying their luck in the harbour made us forget our breathlessness quickly. In the evenings, the Malecon is even livelier as many of the city’s inhabitants make their way down to the water’s edge to stroll, gossip and contemplate the waves in the relative cool.
Taste the Flavours of Cuba
I’d heard nothing particular good about Havana’s cuisine – so I was pleasantly surprised at the variety and flavours of our meals. We had a fantastic spread at our guesthouses in the morning, delicious nibbles at Don Eduardo Alegre and amazing feasts at Castropol and La Dona Eutimia. Yes, there is a lot of pork, beans and rice on offer… but there’s also delicious fish, fresh avocado, handmade chocolates and churros, and spicy sauces!
Enjoy the Colour and Music of Havana’s Streets
One of my favourite parts of our short stay in Havana was wandering its streets, from narrow colourful alleys to the wide boulevards. I loved spotting Art Deco decor, Ché Guevara street-art, and of course admiring the incredible colours everywhere. The Old Town is not large and as it’s mostly a grid it’s difficult to get lost – just follow your nose to explore!
And if you feel like you’ve seen all the city colours and noise that you can handle for now, head out of town to the lush valleys of Viñales. Just a couple of hours drive, they feel like a different world!
A few tips:
- If you’re only there for a few days like we were, wifi can be time-consuming to track down… offline maps (or actual paper!) will be your friend. And you’ll make your life easier if you’ve booked ahead for your accommodation and any excursions that you want to fit in
- The lines for ATMs (and your chances of finding a working one) are as bad as reported… bring USD cash if you can, although you’ll still need to change it
- There are a few hotels but casa particulares (guesthouses) are a great way to stay – we had two, with beautiful breakfast spreads, friendly hosts, and comfy rooms. In each case there were only a few rooms so although you won’t be the only guests, you’ll still feel pretty special!
- Again if you’re short on time like we were, a local guide can be really helpful to introduce you to the best bits of Havana. We were shown around by Roger of HabanaMade Cuba and he gave us some great insights into the city – and also scored tickets to the closing gala of Cuba’s ballet festival, which was incredible!
Have you been to Havana? If not, what would you be most excited to try?