6 sites you must visit in Old Havana
No trip to Cuba is complete without a stroll through Old Havana ’s Unesco world heritage recognized area. From the fortresses to the cathedrals, this part of town oozes with charm and history. The cobblestone streets lead you from ocean views to parks and squares, all filled with architectural gems and cafes serving superb coffee to the crowds of tourists and locals who are drawn to it’s palpable atmosphere.
1. Catedral de San Cristobal
Built in the 1700’s and now one of the oldest churches in the Americas, Catedral de San Cristobal is an incredible building. With two bell towers, which you can climb for great views, and many columns, this classic Cuban Baroque architecture is tempered by an austere and simpler interior that is reputed to have once held Christopher Columbus’ remains.
2. Castillo de la Real Fuerza
Laying claim to the title of one of the oldest existing forts in the Americas, Castillo de la Real Fuerza was built in the 16th century. With walls six meter thick and 10 meters high, this fort would have deftly defended Havana from pirates if it weren’t so far from the bay. Instead, it became a military residence and safe house for valuables. With a deep moat and drawbridge, it currently hosts the surprisingly interesting Maritime Museum.
3. Museo de la Ciudad
If it’s not already abundantly clear, Havana has been around for quite some time and has a number of buildings and experiences to show for it. Taking up the entire west side of Plaza de Armas, this building had a range of fascinating roles before becoming a museum, such as home for Spanish captains, US military governors, and even the Cuban president. Now it houses a wide range of relics, such as Vermay’s tomb, the oldest bronze statue in Cuba and many old photos documenting more recent history.
4. Plaza de San Francisco
Right next to the harbour, this cobblestone plaza has a few of buildings of interest, such as the domed Lonja del Comercio built in 1909 and recently restored. In fact, the entire plaza went through a full restoration allowing many visitors to appreciate the white marble Fuente de los Leones, formerly a freshwater supplier to passing ships. It’s impossible to miss the Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis, whose tower allows for great views over Havana and the harbour. Also well known for superb acoustics, be sure to check the schedule for any concerts while you’re there.
5. Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta
This seaside fortress, one of four in Havana, is a great place to enjoy the cool ocean breezes and picturesque seaside views. It is from this fort that they literally tightened a chain across the harbour to prevent ships from entering. Built at the end of the 1500’s and completed in 1600, an accompanying museum displays many old treasures from sunken ships, as well as an accounting of the slave trade.
6. Hotel Inglaterra
Cuba’s oldest hotel, Hotel Inglaterra, opened its neoclassical doors in 1895. With it’s interior featuring a strong Moorish influence, this hotel attracted politicians, revolutionaries and journalists throughout its history. Be sure to soak up the ambiance along with a strong coffee in the lobby and appreciate the beautiful mosaics as well.
If you want to stay within Old Havana, or have it be within walking distance, be sure to book your stay via Casa Particular. From our website you can make that where you stay is the location best fitted to your interests. From ocean views to city centre, you have a wide range of choices ensuring your visit is exactly what you wanted.