Cuba, Havana - Top 20 Sights to see and do

Havana: Top 20 Sights

If you’re going to Havana for the first time and need a quick guide to the top sights in this gorgeous, colonial, city – then this article is for you.  Below we compiled the top 20 sights to see in Havana, together with some quick facts, such as the opening hours and the entry prices, when applicable.

Please note all prices that are mentioned below were valid for 2016, and they might go up by a CUC or two in the next year.  The current exchange rate between CUC (aka “convertible” Cuban pesos) USD and Euro is roughly 1:1.

Cuba, Havana - Global Storybook1. Plaza Vieja (Old Square)

As the name implies, this is one of the oldest (dating back to 1500s), as well as one of the prettiest squares in Havana.  Located in the Old part of the town, this large square is filled with gorgeous, colonial buildings, a beautiful fountain, and small, cozy restaurants, spread across its entire perimeter.  This sight is also full of history: it was here where numerous bullfights, executions and fiestas once took place.

  • Location: San Ignacio, La Habana
  • Hours: open 24/7
  • Admission: free

The square’s tallest building, located on its northeast corner, also offers an amazing view from the top of its eighth floor.  Called ‘Cámara Oscura‘, which was originally invented by Leonardo Da Vinci, it provides unbeatable, 360-degree views of the Old Havana.

  • Location: Edificio Gómez Vila, corner of Mercaderes, Plaza Vieja
  • Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10am-5pm; closed Sundays
  • Admission: 2 CUC

2. Catedral de La Habana (Havana’s Cathedral)

Probably the most beautiful cathedral in Havana, this gorgeous sight is not to be missed.  Built in the late 1700s, the cathedral was originally constructed by Jesuits, who were expelled from Cuba shortly thereafter, while the church was confiscated and converted by the King.

This gorgeous cathedral is also well-known for its two distinct towers, each sheltering a bell – one is a gift from Spain, and another one came from a local Cuban town.  The square around the cathedral (which goes by the same name – Plaza de la Catedral) is also one of the oldest and prettiest in town.

  • Location: Empedrado, on the corner of San Ignacio
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10:30am-3pm
  • Admission: free

3. El Capitolio

Undoubtedly, the most recognized sight in Havana, the dome of Capitolio is visible from many locations, all over the town.    It was built at the end of 1920s to serve as the new presidential palace, and it looks like a carbon copy of another such famous “palace”, found in Washington DC.  Currently it is home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences.

Do stop by to admire this beautiful landmark, located right next to Central Park (sight #7), which is, indisputably, one of the most iconic symbols of Havana.

  • Location: Paseo de Martí

Cuba, Havana - Global Storybook4. Malecón

Let’s just say it how it is – it wouldn’t be Havana… without Malecón!  The famous seawall, which stretches for over 5 miles, along the city’s border, is the favorite hangout spot among the locals and some visitors alike.  There isn’t a day that goes by without tens, if not hundreds of people, occupying some prime spot along this promenade, once the dusk approaches the town.

Come here for an evening stroll, to enjoy the view and watch a gorgeous Cuban sunset, or to blend it with the locals and maybe even make some new friends.

Cuba, Havana - Global Storybook5. Museo Nacional Palacio de Bellas Artes (The National Museum of Fine Arts)

If you will have time to visit only one museum in Havana – then definitely make it to this one.  This large museum (over 30,000 pieces) of fine arts holds some of the best collections of the rich and beautiful, Cuban art found on the island.  It is divided into six main sections, that include: Colonial Art, Turn of the Century, Emergence of Modern Art, Consolidation of Modern Art, Other Perspectives of Modern Art, and Contemporary Art.

If you want to gain a deeper perspective into Cuban art and culture, then do not miss visiting this important sight.

  • Location: Trocadero, between Zulueta and Monserrate
  • Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 10am-6pm; Sunday: 10am-2pm; closed on Mondays
  • Admission: 5 CUC
  • Website (Spanish only): http://www.bellasartes.cult.cu

Cuba, Havana - Global Storybook6. Plaza de La Revolución (Revolution Square)

This large plaza, measuring some 72,000 square meters is an important site in Cuban history.  It was officially opened the year Fidel Castro came to power, and has been used by him and other important figures for political speeches and rallies ever since.  Among various things, Fidel was known for giving extended speeches, some lasting for as many as eight hours in a row.

Another popular sight located in this plaza is the mural of Che Guevara, the famous revolutionary figure and best friend of Fidel Castro, with the following words: “Hasta la Victoria Siempre” (“until the victory always”).

  • Location: Paseo and Avenida de la Independencia
  • Hours: open 24/7
  • Admission: free

Please note, there is also a tall, lean tower, which is the memorial site dedicated to José Martí, located just opposite the square.  For a small fee, you can access the top floor with the highest viewpoint in town, in addition to a small museum dedicated to the history of the city.

  • Location: Plaza de la Revolución
  • Hours: Monday – Saturday: 9am-4pm
  • Admission: 3 CUC

7. Parque Central (Central Park)

This beautiful park is located in a very convenient location – not far from El Capitolio (sight #3), and the National Museum of Fine Arts (sight #5).  It’s always filled with lots of Cuban people, passing by or hanging out on numerous benches, and it’s a great place to sit down for a few minutes and observe the local scene.  In the center of the park is the marble statue of José Martí, a national hero and a much respected man.

It is also the starting point of two touristic 🚌 bus tours – one double decker, hop on hop off, city bus tour, and another one going to the Morro Castle (sight #15) as well as numerous beaches just outside the city walls.  You can buy your ticket on the bus (the city tour costs 10 CUC, and the beach tour 5 CUC, tickets sold separately, cash only).

  • Location: Between El Prado, Zulueta, San José and Neptuno
  • Admission: free

Parque Central, Cuba, Havana - Global Storybook8. Plaza de Armas

The oldest square in Havana, this amazing, cobble-stone plaza is a host to a nice park, numerous street vendors selling old books, magazines, and other retro memorabilia, as well as the fascinating City Museum (sight #9), and the beautiful Castle of the Royal Force (sight #13).  The center of this green park is decorated with the statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, who was a Cuban president and the leader of the first War for Independence.

  • Location: in the heart of the Old Havana
  • Admission: free

9. Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum)

Built in the late 1700s, this fabulous building is worth a visit for its fascinating architecture alone.  Though besides the architecture, it is full of amazing exhibitions depicting a different side of Havana – mostly that of the rich and famous.  It is a historically important sight and you will find interesting collections there like that of horse-drawn carriages, religious and military art, and others.

  • Location: Tacón 1, between Obispo and O’Reilly
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday: 9am-6pm
  • Admission: 3 CUC

10. Cristo de La Habana (Christ of Havana Statue)

Apparently, Rio has got some competition here, as this beautiful statue of Christ, located on top of a hill is no less worth a visit than the ‘Brazilian’ Statue of Christ.  Erected in the 1950s, this beautiful monument measures 20 meters in height, plus an additional 3 meters for its base and weights 320 tons.  The panoramic views over Havana provided from this site, located on the opposite side from the Old Town, are simply the best.

  • Location: Casablanca, next to Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña
  • Admission: free

11. Plaza de San Francisco (San Francisco Square)

Decorated with a beautiful Convent which shares its name (Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco de Asís, open Tuesday-Saturday: 9:30am-5pm) on its south side, and with some amazing architecture on others, this gorgeous plaza is definitely a must see.  Located in the heart of Old Havana, it is one of the four main, oldest squares in town.  Since the plaza is also situated right next to Havana’s harbor, it was once the center of the city’s commercial and trading scene.

  • Location: Avenida del Puerto at Amargura
  • Hours: 24/7
  • Admission: free

12. Museo del Ron (Rum Museum)

What do Mojito, Daiquiri, Cuba Libre, and Piña Colada have in common, besides being the World famous drinks?  They were all invented in Cuba, along with some globally renowned Rum companies, such as Bacardi and Havana Club.  If you would like to learn more about the history of Cuban rum, as well as find out how it’s made, distilled and even taste some – visit this interesting museum, located not far from San Francisco Square (sight #11).

Museo del Ron (Rum Museum)13. Castillo de la Real Fuerza (Castle of the Royal Force)

Originally built as a defense fort against invading pirates, this beautiful Castle is now home to an awesome museum, that is also offering some nice, panoramic views of the harbor, from its rooftop.  In addition to being historically important, it is also considered to be the oldest fort on the two American continents, and is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Inside the fort you will now find a nice collection of naval and maritime art, including a large model of an old, recreated ship, named Santisima Trinidad, which was the largest military ship of its kind, in the 18th century.

  • Location: Between O’Reilly and Obispo, next to Plaza de Armas (sight #8)
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday: 9:30am-5pm
  • Admission: 2 CUC

14. Museo de La Revolución (Museum of the Revolution)

This interesting museum is located in the former presidential palace, which used to house all Cuban presidents, up until the revolution.  After the revolution it was converted into a museum, conveniently dedicated to this topic.  One of its most famous exhibits is the yacht, named Granma, located in the glass facade behind the main building.  This is the yacht that brought Fidel and Raul Castro, as well as Che Guevera and 79 other fighters from Mexico to Cuba at the start of Revolution.

  • Location: Refugio, between Zulueta and Monserrate
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10am-5pm
  • Admission: 6 CUC

15. Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro (Morro Castle)

This beautiful fort was originally built to defend Havana from intruders, such as the roaming pirates, and unlike the Castle of the Royal Force (sight #13) was placed at a strategic point, right at the tip of the harbor.  It is now a museum with a few nice exhibitions, though the surrounding views are worth a visit too.

Also, because of its great location, this castle with its prominent lighthouse, has become one of the most well-known symbols of Havana, constantly featured in numerous postcards, books, and even films.

  • Location: Northeastern side of the Havana’s harbor (take a taxi or a bus to cross the underground tunnel)
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10am-7pm
  • Admission: 5 CUC

Castillo del Morro, Cuba, Havana - Global Storybook16. Paceo de Marti del Prado (El Prado)

This gorgeous, wide avenue runs all the way from Central Park (sight #7) to Malecón (sight #4), diving the Central and the Old parts of the town.  It is one of the oldest avenues in town, whose construction begun in the late 1700s.  One will rarely find it empty of people, as it is a very popular spot among the locals.  Some days you might also find there small, open-air, art markets, with various street vendors selling their indigenous, hand-made products.

  • Location: Prado from Neptuno to Avenida del Puerto
  • Hours: open 24/7
  • Admission: free

17. Avenida de los Presidentes (Avenue of the Presidents)

Also known simply as “Calle G” (G Street), this beautiful, long and wide avenue was named because of the monuments of numerous presidents, Cuban and foreign, installed along its path.  Simón Bolívar (Venezuela), Salvador Allende (Chile), Omar Torrijos (Panama), Benito Juárez (Mexico), as well as Calixto García and José Miguel Gómez (Cuba) are all honored here.

Take a stroll along this avenue and it will take you past some of the most beautiful buildings found in Havana.  And if you come here in the evening, you will find a lot of youngsters hanging out in groups, chatting and playing guitar.

  • Location: from Avenida Salvador Allende to the Malecón
  • Hours: open 24/7
  • Admission: free
Roc Presidente Hotel

Photo credit: en.roc-hotels.com

18. Colon Cementerio (Colon Cemetery)

Considered to be the most important cemetery in Cuba, Colon Cemetery is located right in Havana, not far from Revolution Square (sight #6).  This beautiful and historic sight is also one of the largest cemeteries in the World.  It was here where the wealthy Habaneros found their final resting place, considering it their honor to build the biggest and grandest tombs of all.  You can view the results of this morbid competition on a daily, guided tour for a small fee.

  • Location: entrance on Calzada de Zapata and 12
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday: 9am-5pm
  • Admission: 1 CUC
Colon Cementerio Havana

Photo credit: Colon Cementery in Vedado © Cuba Absolutely, 2014 (www.lahabana.com)

19. El Floridita (aka Hemingway’s Bar)

This popular bar was the actual place where the famous American writer, Ernest Hemingway drank his daiquiris, and hang out with his pals.  He even mentioned this “watering hole” in one of his novels (Islands in the Stream) and invented his own daiquiri… which is still served here for a much higher charge.

This legendary bar has since been remodeled and polished, and nothing much remains of its former atmosphere.  Because of its history, fame and popularity it is now one of the most expensive bars on the island, serving more as a tourist trap than the genuine thing.  Regard it more as an important, historic symbol and you won’t be disappointed.

  • Location: Obispo No.557 esq. a Monserrate, Habana Vieja
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday: 12pm-1am
  • Website (Spanish only): http://www.floridita-cuba.com

El Floridita, Havana, Cuba20. Catedral Ortodoxa Griega (Russian Orthodox Church)

This gorgeous and unique church looks like it belongs on the shores of some exotic, Greek island rather than an old, grand and colonial, Havana.  Yet, it is located in Havana, representing a gift from Russia, and serving numerous Russian-speaking communities living on the island.

Since the time Fidel Castro came to power, Cuba and Russia have been very close friends.  This beautiful church is just one of the symbols, representing the ties between these two countries.

  • Location: Calle San Pedro 309, Esquina calles Sol y Santa Clara
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday: 9am-4pm
  • Admission: free

So, have you been to Havana yet?  Share with us your favorite sights below: 

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