Havana’s most famous plazas

Cuba. The famous plazas of old Havana

Finishing our walk along Obispo street we arrive at Plaza de Armas square, which is known as a place of trade of antique literature. Here you will find a lot of booths and stalls with books, but the impression is that no one else in the country was written about except a few people. The real heroes of Cuba, according to all these publications, were the American Ernest Hemingway and the Argentine Che Guevara. A strange neighborhood with all these antiques was the presence of Life magazines, preserved from the 30’s and 40’s of the early 20th century.

Even a little less, but still you could find publications about the ideological leader of the Cuban liberation movement – Jose Marti, and yet – Fidel. Now it can be noted that in Cuba there is practically no cult of personality of Fidel, to his credit, there are no slogans, no sculptures, no portraits. Guevara and, after him, José Martí occupy this dominant position here. The latter is considered the classical ideologist of Cuba in our time. He is akin to our Lenin and Marx.

We met big posters with such slogans all over the city and the country in general: “All the glory of the world is placed in a grain of corn”, or “The most difficult profession is to be a man”, or “He who does not want to study will never become a real man”.

Everything is available to every commoner. There you go. Of course, without the famous wish for children, too, “Learn, Learn and Learn again. An interesting fact – Jose Marti is depicted on the national currency in the face value equal to 1 peso, and at all times and under any ruling party. And it doesn’t really matter whether the Batista regime was pro-American or the Fidel regime was pro-socialist.

Old Plaza

Turning from Calle Obispo to the right we arrived at the Old Square. There you can enjoy the old Spanish architecture. Almost all the buildings, probably with foreign investment, were reconstructed and now look quite decent. If you head down Brasil Street in the direction of the Capitol, you can come across a cafe called Chocolate. You can get some great chocolate drinks there. There are also some good inexpensive Cuban restaurants on this street, with a chicken dish you can eat for as little as 3 cukes.

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After 2-3 blocks, the luxury and glitz ends, and then the very real Old Havana looms. The shabby, peeling walls of houses, old wooden shutters with holes, metal bars. But there are people living everywhere, cooking dinner and going to bed outside the windows. But each of these houses is a work of architectural art, and once there was a completely different life.

The first and second floors are sometimes up to 5 meters high and often have large halls and columns inside. In some places you can even see huge chandeliers of those times. At the turn of the 17th-20th centuries, tens of thousands of inhabitants were quite wealthy, and trade was mainly a source of financial well-being.

Now, the large open windows show that the floors are divided by boarded ceilings, and one window shows the life of the feet of those who live above and the heads of those who live below. Some of these windows still have remnants of rich ancient stained glass. It is sad to see such a picture, and it is not clear how one can live such a life…

Cathedral Square

Take the left turn off Obispo and you’ll come to the marsh square (Plaza de La Ciénaga). In this square we can see the Cathedral of St. Christopher. The walls of the cathedral are painted with copies of paintings by Murillo, Rubens and Veremey. From 1,796 to 1,898 Columbus’ ashes were deposited here. The statues of saints were removed from the outside of the cathedral and went to the Vatican for storage after the revolution, which makes it seem unfinished.

After walking around the square, we were stuck for two and a half hours in a local restaurant with a huge number of tables, and musicians from the National Theater played in front of us. We listened to Cuban songs by various ensembles and then classical virtuoso performances by musicians.

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Not far from the Cathedral there is a restaurant called La Bodeguita, which I have already mentioned.

We were not lucky enough to visit the Nacional de Bellas Art Museum because it was closed during our visit to Havana. It is located at the intersection of two streets, Agramonte and Trocadero, near the Museum of the Revolution. We did not want to go to the latter museum, but we saw all the exhibits of Cuban military equipment, which are on display in the square of the museum. Entrance ticket to the museum costs 6 kukas. If you decide to use the camera you need to pay another 5 kukas. Residents say that previously you could enter here for free. And before there was a museum in the building was the Presidential Palace. Until 1 974, the entire Fidel government worked there fruitfully.

Plaza de Havana

Francis of Assisi Square (photo)

The square owes its name to St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the temple which was created in the 16th century. At the moment, this sacred place is the seat of the government.

In the center of Piazza Francis of Assisi is an eighteenth-century cathedral. Before the remains of Christopher Columbus were transported to Spain, they rested in this cathedral. It is impossible to walk past the temple – the two asymmetrical towers immediately attract the eyes of tourists. During the revolution, the cathedral’s utensils and most valuable possessions were donated by the Catholic Church to the Vatican for safekeeping.

The building has deteriorated over time, but it was decided to restore it and more recently the facade of the Sierra Maestro on St. Francis square which connects the port with the old part of the city has been restored.

Coordinates : 23.13745900,-82.34855700

Revolution Square

Revolution Square (photo)

The square of the Revolution is located in the northwest part of the center of Havana. During the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista the square was called Republic Square. The buildings on it belonged to the government of the time. Since 1960, a new government elected by the revolutionaries took over these buildings (now the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba) and the renamed square became the center of all festivities related to the Revolution. Until his retirement, Fidel Castro gave his fiery speeches from the rostrum of the José Martí Memorial on May 1 and July 26 every year.

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The José Martí Memorial is opposite the Central Committee building. It is the tallest structure in Havana, with a height of 138 meters. The memorial has an observation deck from which you can see the whole city as if in the palm of your hand.

In front of the square on Avenida La Indepencia is the Ministry of the Interior building. A backlit portrait of Che Guevara adorns one of its walls.

Coordinates: 23.12080500,-82.38752600

Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square (photo)

The Cathedral Square is one of the five large squares in the old part of Havana. According to historical information, as early as the 17th century, a marsh formed on this site every year during the rainy season. Nevertheless the city was built around it, an aqueduct was built and the area gradually dried up. Until the XVIII century “Swamp Square” as it was originally called, was not suitable to arrange a market or build houses on it.

In the early 18th century St. Christopher’s Cathedral was built on the edge of the square, which gave it the name of “Cathedral Square”. To this day, the square has almost retained its historic appearance. The most interesting buildings in its territory are: the house of Captain Luisa Chacón, the house of the former elder Francisco Ponce de León, the house of the Marquis of Aguas Claras, which is adjacent to the houses of the Count of Lambillo and the Marquis of Arcos, the royal treasurer. All the houses have museums and galleries.

Coordinates : 23.14079900,-82.35167600

Old square (Plaza Vieja)

The Old Square (Plaça Vieja) (photo)

The old square with the Spanish name “Plaza Vieja” was originally called “Plaza Nueva”, that is, “New Square”. It appeared as early as 1559, during the rapid construction of the city. With the development of Havana, however, this part of the city lost its importance and the square got its present name. Nevertheless, it is still the biggest square in the old part of Havana. Since the square is located at the crossroads of 4 streets built at different times, the houses standing on the square belong to different architectural styles – Baroque, Classicist and Art Nouveau.

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Practically until the end of the 19th century, Plaza Vieja had a great social significance. But over time, this importance has changed. From the middle of the last century until almost its end, the square was used as a parking lot. After a major reconstruction it again became a cultural site in the old part of the city.

The most interesting landmarks of the square are: Casa del Conde Jaruco which houses the Art Gallery, the Center for the Development of Visual Arts, Hotel Palacio Cueto, the 1796 fountain with the city’s coat of arms.

Coordinates: 23.13604900,-82.35311900

Plaza de Armes (Havana)

Arms Square (Havana) (photo)

The square is the classic beginning of every medieval town in Spain. The tradition of beginning the construction of a settlement by marking a central square came to Cuba with the Spaniards. Originally, the Plaza de Armas was the site of exercises of the Spanish army, and then, in 1828, the place was turned into the “Square of Arms”. The El Tempo Chapel was erected in the center of the square and it survives to this day. Every year on the day of Havana’s patron saint, St. Cristóbal, the same Christopher Columbus who discovered the New World, Havanaans come to the chapel. It is believed that if you walk three times around the old seiba growing by the chapel and make a wish, it will certainly come true.

In the center of the square is a monument to Carlos Manuel de Sespendes, the “father of the nation. Sespendes was the first to let his slaves go free.

Today the “Square of Arms” is one of the central places on the tourist map. Most of the square is occupied by booksellers with their shops, sellers of paintings and clay pots, fortune tellers, dancers and simply grannies in kerchiefs and spectacles with samokrutki clamped between their teeth.

Coordinates: 23.14020200,-82.34954600

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Plaza de San Francisco

Plaza de San Francisco (photo)

The Plaza de San Francisco is named after the church of St. Francis of Assisi located nearby.

In the 16th century this square was part of the city’s promenade, but gradually became the city’s center for the celebrations that took place on St. Francis’ Memorial Day. Today the Plaza de San Francisco is also an important urban center. The church hosts classical music concerts and the plaza hosts celebrations following the many weddings that take place in the temple.

In the square there is a fountain created in 1836. Next to the Church of St. Francis there is a large commercial terminal, which today houses the offices of commercial and tourist companies.

Coordinates: 23.13757300,-82.34830100

Havana sights

Malecón Embankment, Havana, Cuba Ernest Hemingway House Museum, Havana, Cuba Las Terrazas Reserve, Havana, Cuba Gran Teatro de La Habana, Havana, Cuba Revolutionary Museum, Havana, Cuba El Morro Fortress, Havana, Cuba

Squares in Cuba

Plaza Mayor Square, Trinidad, Cuba Plaza Martí, Villa Clara, Cuba Plaza de Marte, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba Plaza Dolores, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba Plaza del Higue, Trinidad, Cuba Plaza Martí, Cienfuegos, Cuba

Peace Square

Duomo Square, Milan, Italy Red Square, Moscow, Russia Puerta del Sol Square, Madrid, Spain San Marco Square, Venice, Italy Wenceslas Square, Prague, Czech Republic Old Town Square, Prague, Czech Republic Liberty Square, Porto, Portugal Market Square, Lvov, Ukraine Republic Square, Florence, Italy Taksim Square, Istanbul, Turkey Slaveikova Square, Sofia, Bulgaria

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