Since the moment you set foot in Havana it impacts you. It has a completely different atmosphere than any other place. It is a place where for sure I will want to come back and get to know it better.
Before you arrive
download the offline maps maps.me It will help locating streets, restaurants, museums in Cuba without issues.
Jose Mart International Airport
Your first step on Cuban soil is at the airport. Here is the first time you experience one of the favorite sports of the Cubans the endless queues :). After the security check it will take a lot of time to receive your luggage. Once you have it's time to grab a taxi to the city. At arrivals there is a billboard on the right hand side that states 25 CUC official taxi to Havana. Keep that as reference. There are 2 exchange office at arrivals the one on the right (once you exit being with the back to the airport) is more crowded the one on the left less. You can negotiate a tiny bit with the drives to actually bring you for 25 CUC as they might ask for more. When I was there exchange rates were exactly the same everywhere.
is limited and it is a good thing in a way. To be honest I enjoyed the relaxed no social network experience for a while. Of course this is not something I would not have huge issues getting used to for longer times but for 2 weeks of holiday was a good break.
You will need to buy Internet cards from ETCSA. As a tourist you can buy as many as you want. You do need an ID to get them. Price is 2 CUC/h and you can find 30 min, 60 min and 5h cards. Remember you need to queue at the ETCSA office to get the cards. Alternativelly you can buy them a bit more expensive on the street. The places where you can connect to WiFi are either hotels or some squares around the city. it is easy to spot them
Where do I sleep?
well, best for the complete Cuban experience choose a Casa Particular. I recommend casa de Daniel y Fina, you can get all the details HERE.
Where should I eat?
Ask the people at the Casa Particular where you stay as they will be able to guide you at the places they know. We had no problems with the food we had anywhere in Cuba but is good to get a recommended place. I will have a post of dishes in Cuba and the restaurants we ate, but this is not limited to that of course.
What to see & do?
Depending on how much time you have in Havana you can see a lot of things around Habana Vieja, but what I found the nicest thing to do is just walk around. Below some of the highlights of what we saw. Remember real Cuba lays all around you and not in museums but on the streets where it's people are.
Callejon de Hamel
Easy to miss but for sure nice to pass by and see the exposed art of Salvador GonzÃ¡les Escalona. I am big fan of street-art and consequently enjoyed discovering this place by "pure" coincidence.
Salvador is a world renowned Cuban artist. This place is used to expose his art but also to give art workshop to kids or there are organized rumba performances on Sundays.
Take a walk on Avenida Maceo, el Malecon. It's a 8km roadway & promenade from Havana Vieja to Vedado.
below the view at sunset from the beginning of the esplanade at Havana Vieja.
one of the top hits of when we've been there and what turned into our roadtrip hit was the reggaeton song of Jacob Forever - Hasta que se seque el Malecon :)
Jump in a old American Taxis on Calle 43
don't forget to change a few CUC in CUP and enjoy a ride on Calle 43 in an old American car. Ask them to drive you till calle 12, from there you can walk down to the Cementerio de Colon. there is an entrance fee of 8 CUC if I am not mistaken. We decided not to enter but had a look from the entrance
Selfie with Che in Plaza de la Revolucion
if travelling from Europe you will arrive in the night in Havana and on your way to the city you will see the faces of Che and Cienfuegos on the buildings in tha Plaza de la Revolucion and then of course you will want to come during the day to take a picture as did we
on the opposite side of Che you can find the Jose Marti Memorial. We could not get close to it as apparently there were some meetings going on, the security officers were not very keen in giving us more information.
still some energy left? take the road back and stop for lunch at Nardos. This is located opposite to the Capitolio on Paseo de Marti, the Capitolio is still under constructions but you can already see how the area will look like when ready.
Here is also where you can pick an old card for a tour of Havana (25 CUC) or see people dancing Salsa.
Plaza de la Catedral
The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception is one of eleven Roman Catholic cathedrals on the island of Cuba. (wikipedia). and is located in the very specious Plaza de la Cathedral.
Plaza de San Francisco
Here you can find a post office if you need to drop some postcards and also an exchange office.
It looks very relaxed and full of energy and color in the same time. We did not stay at one of the cafes around due to lack of time, but you should for sure not miss it.
When we've been there in March 2016 there was a temporary exposition representing famous artists from around the world. It was for sure an interesting approach.
Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta
The best part of the trip till here is the view. We did not enter the museum but just walked around.
Museo de la Revolucion
I am not a person that likes museums but there are some that should not be missed as for example this one :)
The entrance fee is 8 CUC. You can read the story of the revolution and how the museum was founded and at the end you will find some caricatures....I won't comment will let you make your own impression on them ;)
just walk the streets you will find so much more....
I selected some pictures that I though would give a good overview of what Havana is. Have a look.
Both places are in all travel guides because Ernest Hemingway used to come here for drinks. I was disappointed for the quality of the cocktails in both places, but we had to try ... :D
La Bodeguita del Medio
Famous for it's Mojitos (5 CUC!!!)..not really bad but far under expectations, I would recommend you to try the Camarones Enchilados best I had in Cuba ;)
I had so many better Daiquiris around the world, these were definitely overpriced at 6 CUC
Where do I go out?
La Fabrica de la Arte Cubana
is a place where art and music combine in an awesome way. Students from the art faculty expose their art and in the same time you can get cheap cocktails and different music styles in the same place. GREAT initiative!
Casa de la Musica
we did not manage to get there in the end unfortunately but you should definitely try it out. I heard so many good things about it. live bands and you can learn some salsa steps.
the 24/7 bar at the corner of the street
true they don't have it everywhere but hey, if you find one take the opportunity. you will have cheap drinks and a lot of fun. Cuban people are nice so they will help you on the dance floor with any steps from the latin repertoire.