One day in Havana
For intrepid people with not enough time.
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Even when everybody will tell you this is not a city for just one day, sometimes that’s all the time you have. So, how to get the best from the capital city of Cuba? We have a series of propositions that could help you organize your time here.
In the morning:
It is the best time of the day to enjoy a walk around the city; the temperatures will be lower and the sea breeze will make every step you take more pleasant. Just remember to put on some sun protection and to bring a bottle of water with you, seriously, you will need it.
The movement in Old Havana starts usually around 9:00 am when all the kids are at school and the rest of the people will be on their way to work; also most of the places to visit will be open by that time. There are four historical squares in Old Havana and each one tells a peculiar story involving different styles in Architecture according with the purposes they were created. A good thing about a walk is that you can create your own map of the city and will also give the chance to manage your own time.
Once you take the streets you will realize the multiple opportunities around you; from museums to old churches or art studios which are a lot in the oldest districts of the city. Among the places we recommend you to visit is the Royal Force Castle; one of the oldest military constructions in Latin America. You could also visit the Havana 1791 shop at the Mercaderes Street where you will find the most amazing handmade perfumes and aromatic candles; this place has been part of the Cuban culture for more than 200 years and has no parallels in the whole American continent. Near the sea, close to the cruises terminal you can find three very interesting places: the Russian Orthodox Cathedral; which domes are covered with 24 karats gold, the Havana Club Rum Museum; where you can have a taste at one of the finest Cuban rums as part of the tour, and the San José Warehouses; a place that hosts the biggest souvenir market on the island.
If you are not much of a walker don’t feel bad about it, your options won’t be limited either. Something we can recommend for you is to visit one of the several community projects around the city; for which you might need a way of transportation, but we are happy to arrange that for you. There are three of those projects that over the years have gained both national and international recognition because of the great work they do for the communities that host them and also for the Cuban culture. The projects we are talking about are: El Callejón de Hamel; located in Center Havana and being the best place to learn about the Afrocuban cultures and religions, Fusterlandia; in the west side of the city, a project aiming at the change of a community image by using pieces of tiles on the creation of massive mosaics, and Muralenado; located on the southeast side of the city, this project has created several art workshops for the kids in the community being the biggest of his kind in Cuba .
Most of this activities will take you about two hours so by 11:00 am it could a great time for a Cuban coffee. The best two places in Old Havana for that energetic infusion are the O’Reilly Café in O’Reilly Street (near the Cathedral Square) and the Café Escorial (on the southwest corner of the Plaza Vieja). If you visit one of them, you won’t regret it.
In the afternoon:
Nothing better than starting your afternoon with your energies refilled. For that reason, we propose to you some of the best restaurants in Havana which have been very popular among our clients. In first place, you can find the 5 Sentidos restaurant at the corner of San Juan de Dios and Compostela streets, in Old Havana; this place offers the best of the Cuban and international cuisine on a very traditional Cuban style. You can also visit the Sociedad Cultural Rosalía de Castro, just three blocks away from the Capitol of Havana; this cultural center has a restaurant that combines the typical Cuban cuisine with traditional Cuban music on the Buena Vista Social Club style. At last, but not the least, we recommend you El Guajirito; a place to enjoy the Cuban food with all the traditions of the Cuban countryside and accompanied by many cultural activities.
After covering Old Havana in the morning there are two activities that combined can be perfect for you. We are talking about a visit to the modern areas of Havana and a ride on a convertible car. Why not enjoying the rest of the Cuban capital while you try the magic of a 1950s classic American convertible car? This ride will give you the chance to have a more comprehensive idea of the city dynamics and you will also be able to witness the architectural evolution of Havana; in the meanwhile you will also make some stops around to learn more about the Cuban history.
Another fun idea for your afternoon can be a salsa lesson. Expand your horizons and learn the basic steps of the most popular dance in Cuba. The salsa is more than just a dance for Cubans, it is an expression of our culture, a way to socialize and the most international of our musical genres.
The sun starts to go down over the city and we can give you two recommendations for the end of your afternoon. On one side you can go to one of the many bars located at the rooftops of one of the Old Havana hotels; the view of the city will be incredible while you enjoy one of the traditional Cuban cocktails like mojito, cubalibre, daiquiri, cubanito, etc. On the other side, and this is very popular among couples who visit Havana, you can enjoy the sunset at the malecón (the long waterfront boardwalk that surrounds Havana); the view of the golden Caribbean sun, sinking into the sea, mixed with the warm breeze is always a perfect formula for romance, after all you are in a city full of love, what a great way to finish your day. Just add a bottle of wine and it will be perfect.
The night in Havana:
If you feel like there is still energy on you why not conquering the night treasures of Havana? You will see a totally different city during night. The live music will flood the streets to keep the happiness flowing here. If you feel like trying the best cabaret night in Cuba you should definitely go to Tropicana; keep in mind that going to this place will require the use of a taxi to get there, it also needs to be booked in advance but it’s possible to do it along the day. Suddenly you will teleported back to the 1950s in Cuba. The show at Tropicana is known internationally and it is also one of the most traditional and recommended things you can enjoy in Havana during the night.
For those who want to get involved in a more alternative experience we propose a visit to the Fábrica de Arte Cubano (The Cuban Art Factory, keep in mind this space only opens from Thursday to Sunday between 8:00 pm and 3:00 am). This is a massive cultural complex located in the Vedado district, in Modern Havana. The place has several dance areas with stages for the live music, a movie theatre, two art galleries, several bars and a tapas restaurant. It is the biggest multicultural center in Havana where all the art experiences are combined in just one place.
After a big day in the biggest city of Cuba you can rest on your bed knowing for sure that you had more than just a glimpse of this amazing metropolis. Maybe next time you come to visit time will be on your side and you will be able to dive deeper in the rich culture and life that this city has to offer, but that’s a dream for another day.