Rhythmic Corners and Rich History

Havana: a simply sensational city where the rhythm of music and the lure of its history hangs at every corner. A city known for its passion, love of music and exotic repertoire of dance - no place better captures the essence of Cuba than its vibrant, buzzing capital. The cityscape is defined by the country’s rich colonial past, with remnants evident across the city, particularly in the UNESCO World Heritage site neighbourhood of Habana Vieja (Old Havana).

Havana holidays are best spent roaming the city's charming streets, gazing at neo-classical architecture, exquisite statues and stunning centuries-old edifices. When it’s time for a break, you can toast the hospitality of Habaneros with a mojito at one of Ernest Hemingway’s favourite haunts.

What to See

Havana’s diverse architecture is a product of its varied history and includes fearsome 16th-century fortifications, lavish Art Deco theatres and Soviet-style structures - simply wandering the city streets provides an education in Cuban history. Over half a century of communist rule granted the city some dramatic transformations and grand public buildings, with presidential palaces turned into museums and capitol buildings serving as public libraries. Make sure to pop into some for a glimpse of the glamour that characterised pre-revolution Cuba.

An undeniably romantic city, there are plenty of atmospheric spots that you won’t want to pass by. Watching the sunset from the Malecón is a quintessential Havana experience, sound tracked by buskers playing catchy Cuban classics. The city’s historic squares – Plaza Vieja, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de Armas and Plaza de San Francisco de Asis – are superb spots for people watching.

The city's vibrant cultural scene is the highlight of most Havana holidays. You can watch a world-class ballet show, famous 1940s cabaret, Afro-Cuban street performance or simply salsa the night away - daiquiri in hand. You’ll soon realise that music and dancing is a constant in Havana, as ubiquitous as Che Guevara memorabilia and classic American cars.

Where to Stay

Like most capital cities, Havana offers visitors a wide and varied choice of accommodation. However, as Cuba becomes an increasingly popular holiday destination, Havana is struggling to cope with demand. We always advise that you book well in advance to avoid disappointment.

For a more authentic experience and personalised service, we recommend staying at a guesthouse, known locally as a casa particular such as those pictured above. Ever since these privately-run guesthouses were legalised in Cuba, Cuba Direct has been a pioneer in offering them as an accommodation option. Today, we boast one of the largest portfolios of casas particulares of any travel agent, including a number in Habana Vieja where you can enjoy access to most of the city’s major attractions. We have direct contracts with the casas particulares and offer the extra peace of mind of booking through an ATOL and ABTA-protected agency.

Where to Eat

The neighbourhoods of Old and Central Havana are home to over 100 restaurants. Many of these are part of Cuba’s burgeoning private restaurant (paladares) scene where fantastic gastronomical innovation is taking place (check out our Food & Drink blog post for more information!)

Cuba Direct clients receive a copy of our guide to Cuba before travelling which includes information about the capital’s best bars and restaurants, as recommended by our team in Havana. 

Nightlife

Havana has long been famed for its vibrant nightlife, charged by world-class music and rum. While the famous casinos that distinguished the 1950s are no longer on the scene, Havana remains a city that can be enjoyed till late.

For a more laidback evening, enjoy a leisurely stroll down Port Avenue Promenade. It is best suited to romantic evenings but anyone who enjoys Cuban music and a relaxed atmosphere should spend a night exploring this leafy promenade. The Malécon is another popular evening spot.

All of our travel consultants have lived or travelled extensively in Cuba. Please feel free to ask your consultant about their favourite after-dark hotspots in Havana.

How Long to Stay

To really get a feel of Havana’s music, history, and sheer vibrancy, we recommend a minimum stay of three nights, preferably at a casa particular close to the historic centre.

Havana has better transport links than any other city in Cuba, making it an excellent base for exploring other parts of the country, including the beautiful landscapes of Viñales, Soroa and Las Terrazas to the west, the history rich Bay of Pigs, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad, or the white-sand beaches of Varadero just over two-hours east of Havana.

Things to Do

Havana boasts a busy calendar of cultural events, including art exhibitions, concerts, museum programmes, dance shows and theatre spectacles. Well-known international events include The International Ballet Festival, The Latin-American International Film Festival, The Biennial of Havana, The International Book Fair, The Jazz Plaza and JoJazz Festivals and Cubadisco Fair amongst many others.

We recommend checking out Havana’s rich offering of museums for an introduction to the history and culture of Cuba. The streets of the city’s historic centre play host to over 50 museums and cultural institutions.

We offer a number of Havana tours for those looking to experience something unique and off-the-beaten track during their trip, including a Santería experience and farm-to-table food tour.

If you’re overwhelmed by all the choice, just give us a call to speak to one of our Cuba specialists. Simply tell us what your interests are and we’ll give you quality recommendations and expert advice – the kind that very few guides can offer – based on personal experiences, not a search engine.

Suggested Itineraries

For your first visit to Cuba, we recommend a multi-centre holiday including Havana, Viñales, Trinidad and Varadero. This base itinerary can be tailored to your exact specifications by one of our specialists to match your interests, time, and budget. Our sample itinerary Classic Cuba will give you an idea of the multi-centre trip experience.

Since we strongly recommend starting your holiday in Havana, you’ll find that many of our holidays feature the city. Take a look at our self-drive holidays or private escorted holidays for further inspiration.

Discover Havana on Your Holiday