Cuba has always been on my must- do visits and boy, it did not disappoint. I went in February for 10 days, it wasn’t long enough!
The Cuban culture has always interested me, the music, the history, the iconic Che Guevara and not forgetting Castro. I wanted to learn so much about the island.
The island has a population of 11 million and is the largest of the Caribbean islands, who knew?
There are two currencies in Cuba the CUCs ( Cuba Convertables) and Cuban Pesos. Tourists use the Cuc’s, locals use the Peso’s. You can change your money in banks upon arrival, hotels exchange also but take a commission. You can use Non US credit cards but best to have the CUC’s to hand. Watch out if you are given change in peso’s as this is a scam.
In regards to getting around Havana you can walk around easily, state run buses are regular and taxis too.
This post is about Havana, I shall blog about other places I have been soon.
Havana was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
We had a transfer in a vintage car from the airport to our hotel. I didn’t expect to see so many vintage cars or old timers as they are called. Alot of them are taxis, the yellow taxis are government run ones.
I stayed in Havana for four nights, the first night, stayed in a hotel called Melia Cohiba which was located south of the city, the beds were comfortable and we upgraded to a suite as there were three of us. The breakfast was out of this world, the choice was vast and freshly cooked and we had bucks fizz to start off the holiday.
Then we walked along the sea wall which is called The Malecon, it is 7km long and to see the blue sea is enchanting. On your left is the sea and on your right side there are brightly coloured buildings, many in disrepair, all the buildings tell a story. You must watch where you walk as the pavements are uneven. The buildings are old and in disrepair, I think it adds to the charm as there is an archaic beauty.
Whilst walking along the malecon plenty of old timer cars beep at you shouting taxi! There are fishermen standing on the seawall too catching their dinner.
The Malecon is a social place, people meet, couples sit and drink rum and music is played, people dance and it is wonderful to people watch and soak up the sun.
We walked along the Malecon to Old Town Havana, meandered up and down the streets where cuban music played loudly, children playing football in the streets and people sitting in their doorways and having a chat. We walked along the streets and walked to some beautiful squares, the architecture was amazing. Look up and you see so much spanish influence too. We stopped for a local cerveza which is called Cristal, it was very refreshing and had our caricatures drawn which was fun.
We walked and located the Museum of Revolution and we got a coconut taxi back to our hotel before we checked out to our next accomodation in the city.
We stayed in Casa Malecon which is located you guessed it, on the Malecon. Our taxi driver drove us to a derelict looking building which looked ominous! A dark entrance with paint and plaster coming off the walls. However, when you travel alot like me, appearances can be deceiving, this is about travelling and learning about different ways of life . We went into the lift where there was a kind smiley lady who took us to our accommodation on the 6th floor.
Casa Particulares is a privately owned accommodation which let out rooms as bed and breakfast, this is common practice in Cuba. It was before airbnb! We had a large ensuite room with a single bed and a view of the malecon. For those that like design, the furniture was dated from the 1920s to 1950s which I loved, our breakfast was ample, fresh pineapples, guava which is a Cuban fruit and fresh rolls and omelettes. Coffee was strong but good. The teasets were all vintage and retro which I loved.
In regards to food in Cuba, you will know that there are three musketeers- chicken, pork and fish. There is rice served with every meal and blackbeans. For vegetarians, there isn’t much choice but my cousin who was with me coped alright, however she wished she brought her chilli flakes and sauce with her as the food could have done with more seasoning.
Havana had a relaxed feeling to the city, you could hear music everywhere. We went on a vintage car tour which was fun, we went to a national park.
I had to wear a tropical dress for a tropical destination 🙂
On our tour we saw the figure of Jesus Christ which overlooked Havana.
This was our view :
Havana is a walkable city, have comfy shoes on and you are good to go and wander! Make sure you take toilet paper with you as well as antiseptic handwash not forgetting bottled water at all times.
After our car tour, we went on a walking tour around the city.
We visited Habana Vieja which is ‘Old Havana’ with cobbled streets so don’t wear heels.There are plenty of museums to visit, classical concerts to goto as well, just go with the flow as we are on Havana time!
We visited the La Catedral de San Cristobal de La Habana where Christopher Columbus’s remains were brought to in 1795 and interred before being returned to Seville Cathedral in 1898. There is an italian feel to the Cathedral and you can climb the smaller tower for 1 CUC.
We visited the four squares which are called: Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de Armas, Plaza de San Francisco de Asis and Plaza Vieja. There are plenty of places to sit down and rest the weary feet,relax and have a cold drink.
This photo below is from Plaza Vieja where there are lovely buildings where the richer Havana families lived. There is a microbrewery situated here called Factoria Plaza Vieja.
After our walking tour, we went in a private bus to visit Plaza de Revolution which is very important to Cubans. This is where political rallies would take place and Castro would attend making 8 hour speeches. It is a vast space and iconic too!
We walked down Calle O’Reilly. The Irish get everywhere 💚
It is thirsty work taking in the highlights of Havana so we stopped for a libation at Cafe O’Reilly. I recommend the Daiquiri.
We visited Hotel Ambos Mundos which is located along Calle Obispo where Ernest Hemingway used to frequent in the 1930’s. On the ground floor you can listen to piano music.
I loved the art deco design, the rooftop terrace has a lovely view with a reasonable lunch and cocktail menu. There was live music also which was a bonus.
From the rooftop terrace this was the view,
After this, we walked to Calle Obispo which is Havana’s main thoroughfare, lots of restaurants with live music, it’s loud and bustling and people dancing.
In Centro Habana you’ll find the Museo De La Revolucion which costs 8 CUCs which is housed in the former presidential palace. It is a sight to behold and is so interesting and educates you on the events leading upto the Cuban Revolution. There is lots of propaganda, but you make your own mind from it. We walked around the rooms which included the following:
After all this information overload we walked to one of the squares and sat out listening to some Cuban music and took in the ambiance. I want to read more about the Cuban revolution and has since bought a few books to learn more about it.
We carried on meandering and took in the Havana sights and sounds.
One sight you will see are lots of people sitting around hotels or parks so they can get Wifi, you can buy a scratchcard for 5 Cucs which will give you a wifi code for 5 hours.
Strolling in the hot sun we took shade and walked along the Havana version of the Ramblas called Paseo Del Prado which leads to El Capitolio
After walking along the Prado I saw some interesting street art:
After walking along the Prado, you will see this building the Capitoloio Nacional which was constructed after WW1 sugar boom.
Nearby you will see the Paseo De Marti which is in honour of the Cuban hero Jose Marti which is designed like a European boulevard.
Opposite this is the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso which is in the neo-baroque style.
There is so much to take in, so much to behold
We did stop by the Hotel Nacional as it had to be done for a sundowner on our last evening
This view shall always stick in my mind along the Malecon walking to my Casa Particulares.
Next post will be on Vinales in Cuba, keep your eyes posted!