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Havana, Cuba: A Colonial Paradise in the Caribbean
On the Caribbean island of Cuba sits the city of Havana, an old colonial municipality that is the country’s largest urban centre and home to its most significant port of entry. The city was originally founded during the 16th century, due to its strategic location, and has been home to plenty of historic moments over the years.
Havana is the capital city of Cuba and is historically significant because of this designation. This is where Fidel Castro led the Communist Party of Cuba after expelling President Fulgencio Batista during the 1950s and where he died in 2016. Havana attracts over one million visitors each year, making it one of the more popular destinations in the entire Caribbean region.
Visit Old Havana
Perhaps the main reason why people visit the Cuban capital is for a glimpse of Old Havana. This area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was originally settled in 1519 and re-built in 1558 after a fire destroyed much of the area. Tours of Old Havana are readily available and personal guides can be booked through a variety of tour companies.
Today, along with the numerous hotels in the old city, visitors head to the area to see attractions like the Malecón, Paseo del Prado, Castillo del Morro, La Cabaña, and Castillo San Salvador de la Punta. Other sites in this part of the city include the National Capitol, Plaza de Armas, the Museum of the Revolution, which is located in the former Presidential Palace, and the Plaza de la Catedral. Many of the streets throughout Old Havana haven’t been restored, providing visitors with a good idea of what life was really like in this part of the world in years gone by.
Learn About Cuban Cigars
Cuba’s most popular export is cigars and no visit to Havana is complete without seeing how they are made. Factory tours are offered in the city and provide visitors with insight into not only the production of these famous items, but also offer a glimpse into the daily life of a Cuban worker.
One of the largest operations in Havana is at the Romeo y Julieta factory. This building is where H. Upmann, some sizes of Romeo y Julieta, Montecristo, and some sizes of Cohiba are rolled. The factory is one of the newest in all of Cuba and is very large in size. The most well-known factory in Havana is Partagás, which is housed in building that was constructed in 1845. In addition to the Partagás brand, Bolivar, La Gloria Cubana, and Quai D’Orsa are rolled there. Finally, the La Corona Factory is located in Havana. Brands rolled at this location include Cristóbal de la Habana, Cuaba, and Hoyo de Monterrey.
Follow Ernest Hemingway
Havana is famously one of the main hangouts of American author Ernest Hemingway and many visitors to the city follow Hemingway’s Trail. Certain hotels in the city are famous because Hemingway frequently stayed there, in addition to restaurants, bars, and markets that he patronised. It is possible to sign up for a tour that visits all of the places that Hemingway used to spend his time while in Havana whilst in the city.
During these tours, visitors often sample some of Hemingway’s favourite drinks, such as the mojito and the daiquiri, and can see many of the locations that served as inspiration for this stories. Some of these locations have been left just as they were when he was last there and are treated as museums.
Shows and Cabarets
Plenty of entertainment options can be found in Havana, as the city is known for its lively nightlife, complete with music and dancing. Gran Teatro de La Habana is a famous entertainment option in the city, as it is home to the Cuban National Ballet and the International Ballet Festival of Havana. This building was opened in 1915 and is a cultural hub in the city, especially for those who love the arts.
Cabaret shows are popular in Havana, as well, namely the Tropicana Club. This club features Cuban music and dancers set in a tropical garden and is said to be the inspiration behind the over-the-top shows that now appear in cities like Las Vegas. Other popular shows in the city include Cabaret Parisien, La Zorra y el Cuervo, the Jazz Cafe, and El Gato Tuerto.
Find a Ride to the Beach
While there aren’t any beaches right inside Havana, it is possible to take a taxi from the hotel and reach a beach in under an hour. The largest of the bunch is Playas del Este, which is about 20 minutes from the city’s centre and is nine kilometres in length. Parts of this beach get quite busy and are a great place to party during the day. Playa Bacuranao is closer to the city, but is smaller and the sand isn’t as soft on the feet.
Other areas with beaches in the surrounding area include Playa Jibacoa, which is about an hour east of Havana, and Varadero, which is two hours east of the city. Of course, a ride will be needed to either of these locations, but the bus service in Cuba is easy to figure out and provides inexpensive transportation. Taxis and tour buses are also options when heading to the beach for the day.