Havana is an incredible, vibrant city that is now more accessible than ever to tourists. There is so much to do in this fascinating city filled with an abundance of history and culture. Dale Persons visited Havana for the first time last summer and can’t wait to go back. She has put up a list of activities not to be missed when visiting this beautiful Cuban capital.
The Malecón is one of the most famous streets in Havana, running along the ocean from one end of the city to the other. The best time to see it is on a weekend evening, when locals and tourists alike come out to stroll along the promenade, play music and dance, or sit on the seawall with their friends and family to watch the sunset. There is nothing quite like cruising down the Malecón at sunset in a vintage convertible with the wind in your hair and the smell of the ocean in the air.
Havana is famous for the colorful, classic American cars you see turning down almost every street. Why are there so many vintage American cars in Cuba? It’s because in 1959, Fidel Castro rose to power and banned the import of foreign cars (along with many other things.) So, for decades it’s almost as if Cuba has been frozen in time. While some of these cars belong to the locals, many of the classic cars you’ll see in Havana are taxis and it’s absolutely worth it to pay for a ride in one of them! For a short ride across the city in one of these vintage cars.
La Habana Vieja, or Old Havana, is the neighborhood most popular with tourists and also the heart of the city. There is so much to see and do in this neighborhood. You can easily spend an afternoon just wandering around and taking photos of all the old, colorful buildings and classic cars you see on the street. One of the most impressive buildings in La Habana Vieja is El Capitolio, the Cuban capital building which bears a striking resemblance to the United States Capitol. Directly across from El Capitolio are some brightly colored buildings which make the perfect photo op! In La Habana Vieja you’ll also find Parque Central, which is one of the main squares and tourist hubs in the city. Walking north from the park along the Paseo del Prado, you’ll find many amazing street artists, musicians, dancers, and more.
Ernest Hemingway lived in Havana during the later years of his life in the 1940s and ’50s and one of his favorite places to go was La Floridita for a daiquiri. They are supposedly the best daiquiris in the world (according to Hemingway, anyway.) I didn’t personally go here on my trip to Havana, but if you want to try one of these famous daiquiris for yourself, make sure to get there early because La Floridita gets extremely crowded!
The Tropicana is a famous nightclub and cabaret in Havana with a long and fascinating history involving major celebrities and American Mafia bosses. Although the glamorous golden days of The Tropicana are long gone, the club stayed in operation throughout the Cuban Revolution and is still open today! While it’s mainly just tourists who visit now, it’s still worth going to see one of the nightly cabaret shows at The Tropicana. So little has changed that you can easily imagine you’re back in the club’s glory days of the 1940s and ’50s.
Salsa is one of the most popular dances in Cuba and what better way to get involved than to take some dance lessons while you’re there? There are plenty of dance studios all over the city that offer drop-in classes in salsa, as well as other popular Cuban dances like son, rumba, and mambo.