What to do in Havana for a day? One day is not enough to experience the Cuban lifestyle in its passion and controversies but it is certainly sufficient to get Havana under your skin!
These are some of the best things you can squeeze into your short visit to beautiful Havana. Because this blog is about female travel, places like the Museum of Weapons are not included!
Instead, I have included coffee and chocolate, and music and dancing!
Taste the Best Coffee in Cuba!
Café el Escorial is the place that makes the best coffee in Cuba! Or so I was told. In this bar, the coffee is freshly roasted and the menu includes names like “café Cubano” and “coffee liquor”. The superstar is “café Calypso” made of coffee, rum, liquor and crème. You can also buy freshly roasted coffee beans to bring with you back home.
Find Cafe el Escorial at Plaza Vieja.
Hotel Ambos Mundos is the hotel where Hemingway lived for seven years in the 1930s. The architecture is from the 1920s and you will recognise it easily by its pink colour at a corner street in Old Havana.
Take the beautiful cage elevator (still functioning original Otis) to the rooftop bar. There is live music even during the day, a good choice of Cuban cocktails and a terrace with a view of Havana Harbour.
Go to the Very Heart of Havana
Plaza Vieja, the Old Square of Havana is a tourist magnet. In spite of its bloody past (the square was a place of executions and bullfights), today Plaza Vieja is a colourful architectural ensemble. Side by side with the historical sites and the classical architecture you will see modern art. Statement pieces of sculptures are spread around and make the square feel intriguing like a tiny discovery park.
Dance in the Home of Buena Vista Social Club
Café Taberna is known as the home of Buena Vista Social Club, the Cuban musical group that introduced to the world the musical genre Cuban Son in 1997.
I had the pleasure to see them some years ago in Sofia, Bulgaria, and was amased by their lively playing and singing as well as their youthful look. But most of all – their deep love for the music.
The best feature of this restaurant is the live show. No matter during the day or at night, you will have real Cuban music and dance experience. On the flip side, food is not the best that Cuba can offer.
Go for a Romantic Walk along the Malecon
The Malecon is the place where people of Havana are gathering in the evenings. It is an eight-kilometres long esplanade. In contrast with the Old Havana where the tourists reign, the Malecon is the kingdom of the Habaneros. You will see young couples sitting on the seawall from late afternoon to late-night hours. People taking leisurely walks at sunset and dancing through the night.
The boulevard crawls along the ocean and the views are especially splendid at dawn and sunset.
Visit the Hotel of the American Gangsters
To understand contemporary Cuba, you need to see its many faces and learn about its different historical periods.
Hotel National de Cuba is now known as the hotel of the American mafia. It was built in the late 1920s and in 1946 housed a major summit of the most notorious American Cosa Nostra members. Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lanski were only two of the many who attended this gathering.
In our days, the hotel relies on its glorious past but have difficulties to keep its premises updated and well maintained. It is an interesting place to visit, to have a drink facing the ocean and to see the ballroom where the mafia’s summit took place. But it is too expensive for what it offers as a hotel.
See Havana from an Italian Perspective
People in Havana know Morro Castle Fortress as the Italian fortress. Built to protect the Havana Bay, today the place is interesting mainly because it gives a different viewing point to Havana city.
The large open spaces are great for walks and picnics.
Get Lost among the Art and Antiques
You will find the Art and Antique Market in Old Havana, at Plaza de Armas. It is just where the sight of a beautiful garden will make you stop and sit on the benches under shades. All around the garden, there are stands with second-hand books, badges from almost all former socialist countries (I found from Bulgaria!) and other memorabilia.
Try the Best Chocolate in Cuba
Museo del Chocolate is also a shop. Probably the most popular of all in Cuba! The staff makes the chocolate from the famous Baracoa cacao in front of your eyes. The delicious diversity will satisfy all tastes and this is why there are always crowds of people filling the space and evene waiting in front.
The museum is in the heart of Old Havana, at Calle Amargura.
Pop into the Mojito’s Birthplace
La Bodeguita Del Medio is a bar that mostly tourists visit. It claims to be the birthplace of the famous Mojito cocktail. If there are too many tourists for your taste, you can stop for a while just to listen to the music from the street. (Read my post about food and drinks in Cuba).
If you have time for more, consider these places in Havana:
Even for a short time, a place can enchant you and let you bewitched. You see, there are many and different activities of what to do in Havana for a day!
Consider these tours in Havana:
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