11 Things To Do During Your Trip to Havana, Cuba

Havana Cuba

The city of Havana, Cuba is a city unlike any other that I have ever visited in my life.

When I decided take an independent trip Cuba as an American, I really had no idea of what to expect, and nothing could fully prepare me for the adventure that I was going to have.

At 281 square miles, Havana is a decent sized city with several neighborhoods including: La Habana Vieja, Centro Habana, Vedado, Miramar, Habana del Este,  and El Barrio Chino.

Many of the buildings in the city look like their glory days have come and gone, and the facades of a number of the buildings are crumbling and fading. Nevertheless, the architecture in Havana is truly magnificent and reflect a time when Spain colonized the country.

There are a number of ways that visitors can spend their time exploring the city of Havana, and here are a list of 11 things to get you started!

Make sure to check out my Flickr album for more photographs of Havana!

Relax in Plaza Vieja

Havana Plaza Vieja

Located in the neighborhood of Old Havana, Plaza Vieja (Old Plaza) was built in the mid-16th century is one of four major open-aired plazas in Havana.

In the past, Plaza Vieja has held executions, bullfights, slave trades, and has played host to a number of parties for the well-to-do. Today, the plaza serves as a nice place to spend time reading a book and do people watching. The plaza also has small shops, cafes, restaurants, and a microbrewery.

Buy Cuban Souvenirs at Feria Mercado 23

Diony Martinez, a local painter

Feria Mercado 23 is a market located on Calle 23 (aka ‘La Rampa’ or Avenida 23) in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana. The market sells a number of handmade goods (such as paintings, magnets, and woodwork) in addition to clothing. The prices at the market can be negotiated and vendors will happily give you a discount if you buy more than one item from them.

See More Photos from the Feria Mercado 23

Address: Calle 23 | entre Calle N y Calle M

Eat Ropa Vieja & Drink Mojitos

Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja

Havana Club

A Mojito made with Havana Club

Ropa Vieja (meaning ‘Old Clothes’) is the national dish of Cuba. Comprised of shredded stewed beef, vegetables, and spices, this meal is the perfect meal for anytime of the day and can be found in restaurants throughout the city.

A mojito is the national drink of Cuba. This drink is a cocktail comprised of Havana Club white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water, and mint.

Just like ropa vieja, mojitos can be found all around the city in every bar. Looking for some suggestions to get you started? Check out this post ‘Top 3 Bars to Get Drunk in Havana Just Like Hemingway‘ by Just Travelous.

Chat with Local Fisherman & Learn To Fish

Fisherman Havana

Everyday along the Malecón, you can witness fishermen casting their rods into the Havana Harbor, eager to catch fresh fish. If you approach the fisherman and ask politely while striking up a conversation with them, they may even let you try your hand at catching fish. As a person who has never fished a day in my life, I found the task to be a little challenging.

Learn about Cuba’s Perspective of the Revolution

Fidel and Che

Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, leaders of the Revolution

Prior to visiting Cuba, I did not have a very deep understanding of the complicated history between America and Cuba, so when I visited Havana I decided to pay a visit to the Museo de la Revolución, a museum dedicated to telling the history of the Cuban Revolution from the Cuban perspective.

Built in the country’s former Presidential Palace, the Museo de la Revolución is comprised of two floors housed with information that details the history of Cuba’s pre-Colombian era to the present day socialist state. Admittedly, the building is full of a lot of socialist propaganda and most of the displays were in Spanish, so I could not fully comprehend everything, nevertheless, it was interesting to see the Cuban viewpoint of the conflicts that ensued during the revolutionary period.

See more photos from the Museo de la Revolución

AddressCalle Refugio 1 | entre Monserrate y Zulueta

Hours + Cost: Open Daily 09:00 – 16:15, 8 CUC

Take A Stroll Along the Malecón

Malecon Havana

The Malecón is a six lane boulevard that stretches 8 kilometers along the coastline of Havana and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to fisherman, the Malecón is a great place to people watch, listen to performing artists, view modern art, and drink a beer with locals.

Enjoy a Meal with a Cuban Family

Cuba

My Cuban host father

Choosing to stay in a casa particular during my trip to Havana was one of the best decisions that I could have made. Prior to arriving to the city, I booked a room on the website AirBnB and ended up staying with an absolutely wonderful host family.

The experience staying with them was more than just booking a room, but they treated me like I was their own daughter. On the night before I was due to leave Cuba, they prepared a large meal for me and I ate with my mother, father, their daughter, their son-in-law, and a friend of the family.

Cuban dinner

Dinner with my host family

A great way to eat with a Cuban family is either by staying at a casa or asking around to see if there are casas in your neighborhood that sell meals.

Discover Hemingway at Hotel Ambos Mundos

Hemingway Havana

Did you know that Nobel Prize laureate and American author Ernest Hemingway spent a number of years residing in Cuba?

During the 1930s, Hemingway resided at Hotel Ambos Mundos, where he wrote three novels: Death in the Afternoon, Green Hills of Africa, and To Have, Have Not.  Today, Hemingway’s room has been transformed into a small museum where you can see all of his original artifacts including the typewriter that he wrote the novels on, and the bed that he slept on.

Ambos Mundos Havana

The view of Havana from the rooftop of Hotel Ambos Mundos

On the rooftop of the hotel at Restaurante Plaza de Armas, you can look out at the city of Havana while sipping on a mojito or enjoying a fresh bowl of ice cream. The view is quite stunning and is definitely worth paying a visit to.

AddressHotel Ambos Mundos, 153 Obispo

Hours + Cost: Open Daily 10:00 – 17:00, 2 CUC

Ride in a Vintage Cuban Taxi

Cuban Taxi

A trip to the city of Havana would be incomplete without riding in one of the many vintage taxis that drive around the city; it is truly an experience that is not to be missed!

Take a Bus Tour

Transtur operates a hop-on hop-off bus through the city of Havana called the Habana Bus Tour. For 5 CUC, this bus will whisk you through the city of Havana and make occasional stops at major points of interest.

Make sure that when you hop off of the bus, you check to make sure that the bus will pickup in the same location (so you don’t get stranded like I did!)

Main Pickup LocationParque Central

Hours + Cost: Open Daily 09:00 – 17:00, 5 CUC

See the Statue of General Máximo Gómez

Maximo Gomez Havana

General Máximo Gómez is a famous Dominican army general war hero that served as Cuba’s military commander during the Cuba’s War of Independence (1895–1898) against Spain.

A giant statue of him riding a horse can be found facing the sea in Parque Martires del 71. It is said that there is an old man that lives inside of the statue and you may get lucky and get an opportunity to see him during your trip!


Looking for more suggestions of things to do during your trip to Havana? Check out the following articles:


Looking to explore Cuba outside of Havana? Check out Viñales, the home of Cuban cigars.

Have you ever been to Havana? What did you do there?



By | 2017-07-30T01:09:58+00:00 August 21st, 2015|Havana, Travel Guides & Itineraries|35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. kailasmith Aug 24, 2015 at 3:51 am - Reply

    Great post! I think if there was one thing I regret not doing when I went to Cuba was visiting Havana. You’ve definitely help me decide what to do next time I head over there!
    Thanks!

  2. Lesley Sep 19, 2015 at 8:15 am - Reply

    I love Cuba; it’s one of my favorite places to visit in the Caribbean. Varadero, Cayo Caco and Holguin are my favorite relaxing tourist spots but if you want the history and culture, Havana is the place to be 🙂

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Sep 19, 2015 at 10:03 am - Reply

      Unfortunately during my trip I was only able to get to Havana and Viñales but I hope to see more of the country in the very near future!

  3. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Sep 19, 2015 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    Yes, I also wanted to visit it early. I traveled to Cuba independently under ‘journalism’ and I did not have to fill out any paperwork to do so 😀

  4. Hitch-Hikers Handbook Sep 20, 2015 at 1:32 am - Reply

    Great recommendations! Taking photos of the old town and drinking mohitos would be my favourite thing to do! And of course I would choose no other accommodation but casas particulares! 🙂

  5. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Sep 20, 2015 at 8:27 am - Reply

    Yes, I found museum was very interesting 🙂 I am sure you will have a great time when you make it to Cuba!

  6. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Sep 20, 2015 at 8:28 am - Reply

    You’re welcome Sky! Have a great trip when you go 😀

  7. globetotting.com Sep 20, 2015 at 10:58 am - Reply

    These are great suggestions, I particularly like the idea of staying in a casa particular, what an amazing way to get to know the people of Cuba!

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Sep 20, 2015 at 12:00 pm - Reply

      Thank you 😀 Staying in casas particulares around the country was definitely a great way to meet Cubans 😀

  8. Karilyn (NoBackHome) Sep 21, 2015 at 12:46 am - Reply

    Ahh I am dying to go to Cuba! Some great suggestions here!!

  9. Mallory Aliaga Sep 21, 2015 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Great to see Cuba not just for the beaches and all inclusive resorts. Looks like there’s a wealth of stuff to do there!

  10. Buddy The Traveling Monkey Sep 21, 2015 at 10:18 am - Reply

    As an American, how easy/difficult was it for you to go? Here in Miami there are mixed feelings about going to Cuba. Nonetheless, I’d like to eventually go to see the old style architecture and learn more about its history.

  11. Joe Ankenbauer Sep 22, 2015 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Great list for visiting Havana! Great timing too, with all the restrictions being lifted!

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Sep 22, 2015 at 9:01 pm - Reply

      Thank you Joe! Have you ever been to Havana?

      • Joe Ankenbauer Sep 22, 2015 at 10:17 pm - Reply

        I have! I’ve been to Cuba twice, Havana once. I’ve always enjoyed Cuba and plan to go back soon!

  12. Bharat & Supriya Sep 26, 2015 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Neat stuff Chanel! Cuba is so high on our wish list.
    Did you had a tourist card when you flew from Mexico? We have heard/read of passports being stamped upon entering Cuba.

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Sep 26, 2015 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      Oh then you must go! They stamped my tourist card, not my passport, however they did stamp my friends’ passport, but she had no issues returning to the States 😀

      • Bharat & Supriya Oct 3, 2015 at 4:32 pm - Reply

        ah ok! we are not yet PRs in the US which is why we fear of passports being stamped and then issues upon landing back in the States. But I guess we’ll definitely be going there soon due to our curiosity winning over our fears 😀

  13. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Oct 9, 2015 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    It definitely was a great way to experience the culture and people Nicole! It was a wonderful experience and I cannot wait to get back 😀

  14. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Oct 9, 2015 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    It was wonderful Patrice and there is so much more that I want to eat on my future trip there! 😀

  15. Staci Ann Oct 11, 2015 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    Wow! Looks like you had a great time. I love the pictures, especially the fishermen.

  16. Chrystal, ChryssVI Oct 12, 2015 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    Nice! The meal before you left was such a sweet gesture. Reminds me of back home in St. Croix.

  17. Nicole Williams Oct 12, 2015 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing. All i know and see of Cuba is usually from the media’s perspective, so it was refreshing to see it through your eyes.

  18. Arlett R. Hartie Oct 13, 2015 at 2:25 am - Reply

    Sounds like an intersting place. I like the archtecture you described.

  19. Jonna Oct 13, 2015 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    Beautiful! I’ve always been nervous about AirBnB but the more I hear of these experiences like this, I want to try it. Having a host family sounds like an amazing experience! It felt like you were a resident from all of the sites you experienced which is what I love about visiting new places. I like to feel like a local and not a tourist.

  20. Tyra Oct 15, 2015 at 2:27 am - Reply

    I want to get to Cuba so bad. I need to do a legal tour and they are so darn expensive. This is making me want to go all over again.

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Oct 23, 2015 at 5:34 pm - Reply

      Yes, going through a tour agency tends to be on the pricier end unfortunately Tyra. Have a good trip when you do go! 😀

  21. Meriam | PLANES&POLAROIDS Jan 19, 2016 at 9:16 am - Reply

    This is such a great article. Thanks for providing such an insight. Three of my friends and I are headed to Havana at the end of the month and I’m going to do all of these things 😀

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