Walking around Old Havana

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Getting to see the capital of the Freedom Island in one day is difficult, but possible. Especially for those who are going to take a day trip to Havana, I compiled this itinerary based on my own experience. By the way, I have a lot of experience. I fell ill with Cuba five years ago, and now we meet twice a year: in late spring and fall. So, in terms of convenience, it is more convenient to start a walk through Old Havana from the Cathedral Square. In my opinion, this is the most iconic place of Havana, it is impossible not to fall in love with it. Here – and the sultry Cuban women in colorful skirts with cigars in their teeth, and nice cafes, scattered along the perimeter of the old square, and the main attraction – the Cathedral of San Cristobal, where for a long time was the tomb of Columbus. The next point of the itinerary covers two attractions separated by O’Reilly Street – the Fortress of the Royal Forces and Plaza de Armas, aka Plaza Vieja (turn off at Cuba Street and move to the intersection of O’Reilly and then up it to Cuba Tacon Street). If you want, you can visit the Municipal Museum of History in Havana, located in the former Captains Palace or the Maritime Museum in La Fuerza Fortress, the oldest in all of America. But I recommend spending this time to see the sights in the surrounding area: kilometer zero, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the Arc de Triomphe, the city park, and of course a stroll through the flea market that unfolds daily on Plaza de Armas. From there, it’s back down O’Reilly Street to Belichick Avenue. It promises to be a fascinating stroll through colorful alleyways and masterpieces of the Soviet and American car industry from the time of Detroit – freshly painted beauties and real leaky buckets. Each model is a rarity, seen only in museums these days. Turning onto the long Paseo de Marti boulevard that crosses Central Havana, we find ourselves in the heart of the city. Here the main attractions are concentrated: the huge Capitol in Havana, which is one meter higher than its counterpart in Washington, D.C., the nearby Park of Brotherhood, which was founded in honor of the 400th anniversary of American discovery, and the grand building of the Grand Theater of Havana with marble columns and sculptures. Nearby is Cuba’s oldest tobacco factory. It’s a must-visit to see how the best quality cigars on the island are rolled. This is not the end of my Cuban Odyssey. In the second part I will tell you what to see on the other coast of Havana, and why it is worth to finish the walk around the city, on the seafront of Malecon.

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Re: One day trip: Walking in Havana

Lada-78 ” October 18, 2014, 12:27

Naxos, Greece. Where is it and what to see?

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Re: One day trip: Walking in Havana

TonyS ” October 18, 2014, 22:51

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Re: One day trip: Walking in Havana

Lada-78 ” October 18, 2014, 23:22

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Re: One day trip: Walking in Havana

obert ” October 20, 2014, 21:47

Something of a vinaigrette coming out of the author’s mind.

“The next itinerary point covers two landmarks at once, separated by O’Reilly Street – the Fortress of the Royal Forces and Plaza de Armas, aka Plaza Vieja (turn down Cuba Street and move to the O’Reilly intersection and then up it to Cuba Tacon Street).”

Plaza de Armas and Plaza Vieja (Old Square) are two different squares located in Old Havana. The photo shows Plaza Vieja (Old Square). And it would also be worth checking out Plaza de San-Francisco de Asis (Plaza San Francisco de Asis) on the way from Plaza de Armas to the Old Plaza.

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Re: One day trip: Walking in Havana

Vas 0500 ” October 22, 2014, 16:31

People who can’t find time to rest will sooner or later be bound to find time to get sick. John Wanamaker

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Itinerary of Havana for three days

Cuba – the island of real freedom, where all the troubles, unnecessary thoughts, the endless stream of different experiences, you just need to let go and give in to enjoyment, to be completely at the mercy of Cuban passions.

If you are planning to go on an unforgettable trip to the country of revolution on their own, without the help of various companies that organize recreation, it is the best decision that you could make! Many “packaged” tourists have not figured out the beauty of this unique island. And where is there, because everything is scheduled – and time and place, but there are so many interesting things that are not included in the program excursions.


Tips for lovers of freedom

Book accommodation better through Cuban sites. It is much cheaper. Even not a bad way to save money if you prefer a hotel accommodation in a particular casa, a small room with amenities that locals rent officially and even pay taxes. They are denoted by a special icon.

The most convenient place to stay in Havana is in the old city. All domestic flights are also better to book in advance, so that then do not run around the island in search of places to buy tickets. It is best to change a small amount at the exchange office at the airport, because the rate is not happy.

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To get from the airport to the right place can be by cab, it’s a pleasure costs 30 cuc or 23 euros.

It is important to remember that Cuba is the only country that uses two currencies. One is the cuc, the tourist currency, and the other is the local peso. And often in cafes, which are not located in the tourist zone, on the menu all prices are in local currency, with a sign of the usual dollar, and waiters are deliberately silent about it, and the difference between the total is good, overpaying a considerable amount. In such cases, if you see high prices on the menu, such as $20 for a dish, it is pesso, because in Cuba a whole meal for two with drinks comes out around 30 cuc, except for lobster, it is expensive.

To move around the city you can take a coco cab. This is a mode of transport that looks a lot like an orange and is inexpensive, about 4 euros per trip.

Coco Taxi

Day 1. Strolls around old Havana

Upon arrival in Havana, the capital will greet you with the amazing smell of mangoes. It’s amazing, because every country smells different. And it’s not the smell of anything in particular, it’s the flow of the wind that smells everything in its path.

The sounds of salsa, cigar smoke, poured rum in the glasses, loud shouts in Spanish and the chaotic movement of the hands of Cuban women, all this she – Havana. The city is steeped in history, unbelievable buildings, when you look at them, you get the feeling that if you walk up and push a little – everything will collapse. Around the corner are kids running around, there is a cart with a bunch of bananas, and next to huge mountains of garbage. But this is not repulsive, on the contrary, gives more color to everything that is happening.


The Capitol

Special attention is the Capitol. Cubans are proud of it, they say it is an exact replica of the Capitol in Washington, only in smaller form. On the site of the government palace was once a swamp, and after, it dried up and organized a botanical garden, and only then built the Capitol itself. Nearby, too, there is something to see, every building is an architectural masterpiece. And so throughout the capital, be sure to have an extra flash drive to store photos.



Another place where the sound of bells ringing in a special way, this is the Cathedral Cathedral of gray stone with particles of real coral. The building stands out from the overall style of the city, but at the same time, it fits in so harmoniously that Swamp Square would lose all its charm without this lacy structure. The interior is painted by Italian artist Giuseppe Perovani. If you want to be immersed in the times of two hundred years ago, you should definitely come to listen to the organ.

Undiscovered routes


Turn to the Empedrado Alley

If you are strolling through Havana’s old streets you might want to take a shortcut to Empedrado, because you are probably about to have lunch and the great emotion has used up your last stores of energy. You need to get to the point where a huge number of people with cameras are concentrated, advance to the entrance, you are there. This is one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite spots in Havana, where, in his opinion, they served the best Mojitos in the whole world.

The interior of the room is disconcerting, instantly forgetting that the purpose of coming is for lunch. The walls speak of history in the truest sense of the word, because everything here is painted by visitors – the furniture, the walls, and even the ceiling. The food is very good, but more expensive than in other places, a meal for two with drinks costs around 60 euros.

Sementerio de Colón Cemetery

After a hearty lunch, it was time for mystical and mysterious places. Sementerio de Colón Cemetery, the place where angels reside, a world of white marble in a 50-hectare area. Nowhere else in Cuba can you find a place more peaceful. Time ceases to exist here. What at first glance seems scary and frightening, in the end brings only detachment from the outside turmoil. Silence and tranquility completely envelops you from head to toe. The internal infrastructure is surprising; the cemetery has its own streets with names and there are road signs everywhere.

Sementerio de Colon Cemetery

José Martí’s Plaza de la Revolución

Not far from Sementerio de Colón, just a 20-minute walk away, is the austere place of form and content, Jose Marti’s Plaza de Revolution. The towering gray concrete tower looks very gloomy, not a single window, just an upward looking structure, with big black birds flying around the very top. In front of the monument stretches a spacious square, where revolutionary meetings were once held. In the tower, on the first floor, there is a museum dedicated to José Martí. Admission to the site and inside costs about three euros.

Jose Marti Revolution Square

You can spend the sun over the ocean, listen to the sound of waves crashing on the reefs and breathe in the fresh air, visiting the waterfront. Incredibly nice place and a wonderful end to the day.


Day 2. Immersion into the world of the fortress

The second day promises to be no less unique, so hurry to go. But the first thing you should do is have breakfast, and the best place to do this is where you are staying. If you are staying in a hotel, then in a nearby restaurant, if you rent a room, then ask the owner to cook something in advance or do it yourself. The fact is that all catering establishments in Cuba do not start until noon.

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La Fuerza Fortress

After a hearty meal, you should start on your way to La Fuerza Fortress, which you can get to by taking a leisurely stroll if the starting point is Old Havana. This place locals like to loudly call the Castle of Royal power. It has no equal in age to either of the two Americas.

The fortress is still surrounded by a moat filled with water to this day. Tour guides tell of an unprecedented number of attacks by pirates, but Havana did not surrender without a fight. Inside the castle is a museum with various models of ships and there is a separate room containing all the treasures that once lay at the bottom of the strait.

La Fuerza fortress

La Cabaña Complex

After visiting La Fuerza Fortress, you have to go to explore the rest of the defenses, so after stopping a cab, it’s time to take an underwater tunnel to the other side of Havana to visit the La Cabaña Fortress Complex.

La Cabaña fortress complex

It is the longest structure at 700 meters long and is already 240 years old. Constantly, finding out the age of this or that building in Cuba, just amazed how it all still stands, and even in such a beautiful form. If you go there in the morning, the tourists do not have time to create a crush, then you can climb higher and sit, thinking about life. A very beautiful view opens up, because behind the defensive walls of La Cabaña the ocean spreads out.

El Morro Fortress

After resting, you can safely go to the lighthouse, and a working one at that. The view from the very top of the lighthouse, where the signals come from, is simply gorgeous. The combination of the blue smooth surface of the ocean, with the orange stone roof of the neighboring structure attracts the eye and the lens of the camera like a magnet. All this beauty, along with the lighthouse is called El Morro Fortress, one of Havana’s symbols.

For 384 years it has protected the entrance to the harbor at the most vulnerable point of the bay. Today, in the evenings you can watch the cannons blazing as an entertainment for tourists. After a walk through the defense sites, you can go back to the old town and enjoy a refreshing Mojito in some bar.


Havana is not shy, it takes and explodes colors. Just stepping onto the street, the road is covered in an incredible amount of color and it’s all cars. Everywhere you look – blue, red, yellow, green. Okay, the color, but what models! Fantastic! A country of real rarities.

Here, not only the architecture breathes with time and history, but also the cars, though the breath is not very fresh…. Because of all these old cars, the air in the city is very unpleasant, everything just reeks of exhaust fumes. It’s good that this is not happening in all neighborhoods, but only in places with large crowds of tourists. After all, they are the drivers who make the main money, driving holidaymakers to different corners of the city.

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Day 3. Exploring remote places of interest.

National Botanical Garden

The last third day is worth devoting to driving outside of Havana and enjoying the surrounding beauties. The first thing worth seeing is the National Botanical Garden. Getting to it is possible, but a little problematic, cab drivers either don’t know the way or overcharge too much. But after a few tries you will definitely find your driver.

The garden is 10 km from the city center and covers an unbelievable area of 600 hectares. There are about 4 thousand species of plants offered for viewing to holidaymakers. Park can be walked around on foot or you can pay 2 euros and explore all areas on a special wagon, which is attached to the tractor.

Perhaps this is the only place in Cuba, where, choosing between walking and transport, it is better to choose the second. The territory is very large, it is simply impossible to go around, and for the whole botanical garden there is only one dubious cafe, which is not a fact that will be open. And there are no stores to buy water. So do not skimp and buy a ticket for the “tractor-truck”.

National Botanical Garden

Japanese Garden

The most beautiful place in this park is the Japanese Garden, a truly peaceful state of mind is assured…

It is important to know that it is better not to let the cab driver go, let him wait until you see everything, because it is enough to find transport for the return trip, especially if the trip is made in the morning hours.

Cottage where Ernest Hemingway lived

And now, it’s time to visit the cottage where Ernest Hemingway lived. Unfortunately, no one is allowed inside, though it’s probably fortunate that tourists wouldn’t have left it all in pristine condition. Within the walls of this house, the English writer created such famous works as For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. The cottage is surrounded by a beautiful view, you can safely walk around and familiarize yourself, with his favorite boat. Also, there is one amazing place, behind the house, not far from the pool. There are four pet graves there. It looks very touching.

Here we are at the end of three unique days of travel through the capital of Liberty Island. Until the last one you have the feeling that you missed a lot, but unfortunately the allotted time is just not enough, no matter how hard you try. And finally, I would like to give some advice to those who are planning to go to Varadero on their own, don’t book a car in advance, of course, unless it is Cuba Taxi. It is better to go to the train station with your things, and ask the driver right away.


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