Get hooked with Havana: 13 must-live experiences!
Havana is that sort of city that easily lets you in but after a while, it doesn’t get out of your system no matter how hard you try. The people, the places, the sometimes surreal surroundings and everything else will make you wonder where you were after all these years. Travel enthusiasts will find in this beautiful town plenty to do from walking colorful streets to tasting delicious cocktails. Here is our recommendation for 13 must-see’s and do’s:
Walk along the Malecón (seawall)
The Malecón of Havana is one of those places that is never by itself; stretching 8 km overlooking the sea and the bay of Havana it’s a spot that all residents have been to at least once. It’s where friends get together, a lover’s retreat, sports fans jog along it,and the random guy with a guitar shares his best Cuban tunes and total strangers end up having wonderful conversations.
In the afternoons it’s one of the best places in Havana to watch sunset as it blends with the sea.
Watch the Cuban National Ballet Company at the “Great Theatre of Havana Alicia Alonso”
The Cuban ballet school is widely acknowledged in the world and has harvested numerous national and international awards, led by its director Alicia Alonso, a living legend.
On top of it you will enjoy this spectacle in one of the most iconic buildings in the city, an early 20th century gemstone set in the center piece of local routine, Central Park will make you feel like the protagonist.
Be sure to spare some minutes to admire its enchanting magnificence at night or day.
Attend to the ceremony “El Cañonazo” at La Cabaña Fortress
Be prepared to travel back in time as you presence the cannon shot ceremony in “La Cabaña” Fortress overlooking the city across the bay. This colonial era tradition is rooted in the necessity to protect the city signalling the closing of the gates of the wall surrounding the then enclosed Havana. In it you’ll be able to witness exactly how it occurred back then as soldiers are dressed in the same Spanish army garments.
Visit the National Museum of Fine Arts
Whether you’re an arts admirer or just simply curious a visit to the Fine Arts museum is due; Cuban art has been born out of the different mindsets, ethnicities, history and blending that compose what Cuba is today, bringing its distinctive aesthetics to the world. A visit is a perfect complement to understanding and reflecting on Cuban culture and its people.
Drink a Mojito at “La Bodeguita” and a Daquiri at “El Floridita”.
Get into Hemingway’s skin as you initiate your pilgrimage to these drinks cathedrals in Havana; not only will you be getting a drink but you will join the exclusive club of earthlings that have been in these classical Cuban locations.
“El Floridita” with that refined untouched 200-year-old atmosphere seems like the Noble literature Prize is going to walk in at any minute. In “La Bodeguita” with its delicious discomfort you can write your name on its walls if you can find the space that is. Notorious personalities like Brigitte Bardot, Ernest Hemingway and Salvador Allende in their days also immortalized their signatures on its walls. Frankly, these are two places that you must check off your list if you want to claim that you’ve been in Havana.
City Tour in Vintage Car
This is an experience that on a 99.9% basis you’ll only get in Cuba; riding in a 1950’s car in the rest of the world is a privilege reserved only for the very wealthy. Imagine yourself unmasking the secrets and beauty of this enigmatic and cosmopolitan city revealing itself to you from the perspective of a vintage convertible.
Only in Havana will you be able to feel the roaring of an original 1950’s V8 engine, be entertained by charismatic chauffeurs, listen to the beat of salsa and take selfies, all at the same time in a perfectly preserved jewel of motor history.
Listen to live music at Habana Café
Located in the heart of Vedado district in the Meliá Cohiba ground floor this is one of those places that instills Cuban beat, it’s the perfect choice to live the 1950’s ambience and glamour merged with contemporary looks. Here you’ll be able to enjoy the most popular Cuban groups and dance companies.
So come on, shake your body and do the Cuban Conga!
Walk around Old Havana
Old Havana is one of my favorite spots in the city because it always surprises you; its residents mark its pace and make it difficult to fit her into a box as old facades meet the contemporary rhythm of life.
It’s interesting to watch and experience this disclosure and your eyes never get bored as new restaurants or bars open up, street art groups or spontaneous Cubans perform any cultural manifestation or gladly chat to you about any topic, residents getting on with their daily actions the Cuban way and tourists been mesmerized by its majestic beauty.
While here make sure you pay attention because there is something always happening to feast your eyes and soul, and remember, what happens in Havana stays in Havana!
Visit a cigar factory
Come and pay a visit to the places where the best cigar in the world if manufactured. Watching backwards the whole process of cigar making will streamline you into the intricate details not only of the process itself but will expose you to aspects of Cuban culture.
Integrating all the pieces that make up a cigar could be considered an art as it is totally crafty and takes nothing but full meticulous attention to artful technicality.
Ride a Bici-taxi
This is a fun thing you can do while at the same time transporting yourself to where you need to go within city cycling distance. Bici-taxis are man powered modified cargo tricycles now fitted to transport people. In them locals get driven for relatively short distances and they are full of surprises just like their drivers and once off you may have learned the most recent Cuban slang or tohum a salsa or reggaeton tune, who knows!
Enjoy the Tropicana Show
This place doesn’t take for granted its title, “A Paradise under the stars” as it is one of the most famous cabarets around the world. It has hosted international performances by Nat King Cole, Carmen Miranda among others and that of famous Cuban musicians such as Bola de Nieve, Elena Burke, etc.
The tropical lively colored decorations and costumes, the different Cuban rhythms and the heart throbbing music that sucks you into the dance floor combined with daring acts of the circus make it an experience that can only be felt here.
Learn how rum is processed at Havana Club Museum
As in many other things Cuba is rum as Cuban rum is an intricate part of the island’s culture and way of life. This museum will not only show you how rum is made but the history behind it.
Sugar cane has been pivotal to Cuba since colonial times and here you’ll be able to learn about the famous distillation process, the famous warehouses where it’s kept for aging and the various tricks of the trade that make Cuban rum unique in its taste and impossible to reproduce elsewhere.
Retrace Hemingway’s steps
Havana, one of the most symbolic capitals in the Caribbean has something in particular that embraces you with its anchoring magic just like it did to the Nobel Literature Prize winner. There is a reason behind why he would often describe himself as being and feeling Cuban.
Follow his footsteps and submerge yourself into his Cuban atmosphere, visit room 511 in “Ambos Mundos” Hotel where he lived a period of his life and where he wrote part of his famous novel “Por quien doblan las campanas” or come to his typical American style estate where he had his microcosm of inspiration for his writings which now is a museum with his personal belongings including a 9000 books library; it looks like any other functioning house but it transpires his spirit and it feels as though he never left.