Havana is a snapshot from another century and a postcard to a different way of life. Large boulevards intersect in the city, lined with grand old buildings that are now falling into ruins. Smaller roads twist between them filled with rickshaws and pop-up market stalls. Trees grow through empty windows, but if you look closer you’ll see someone’s washing hanging in an old foyer, and stairs leading to a lighted doorway. Buildings that would not meet the safety code elsewhere are still filled with life. Children play on the streets and people sit in their doorways to watch the world go by. Art is everywhere, and so are references to Ché and Fidel, the socialist heroes. There’s a lot of great activities that you can do in Havana, and here are just a few top things that I enjoyed.
As well as planning what to do in Havana, I recommend you read my post on what you need to know before you go to Cuba. There are so many important details that will make your time easier. It’s not a country that you can turn up to and wing it very easily, even if you’re an experienced traveller like me. The best advice I was given is to arrive in Cuba with an open mind and a relaxed attitude. Nothing works normally, being on time is not a thing, and queueing is a national sport. Just go with the flow, and order another mojito.
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TOP THINGS TO DO IN HAVANA
Havana is a city I’ve wanted to go to for ages, ever since a G adventures rep mentioned it to me all the way back in 2011. Cuba was only just starting to open its borders and it seemed like a treasure trove of unique experiences and beauty. I watched it from afar, fearing that I was missing out on a chance to see something new before it became jaded by tourism. Then a friend announced her thirtieth birthday would be in Mexico, and I knew I would take this opportunity to skip over to Cuba and finally see Havana for myself. There are so many great experiences, so I’ve condensed them into the top things to do in Havana.
HAVANA VIEJA NEIGHBOURHOOD
The Havana Vieja Neighbourhood is the heart of tourism in Havana, it’s also the old town of the city. This is where the most work has been done on restoring the majestic old buildings to their former glory. Art galleries are next to hole-in-the-wall tourist shops, and spruikers will try and get you into their restaurant or bar (did you know they have WIFI?). It’s still a confounding mix of ruined and restored, new and old, but you can see that this area has enjoyed an influx of money. The group behind the restorations have been very careful to keep it a city for the people, and not turn it into a tourists’ playground. There are a lot of hotels and casa particulars here, and it is a popular place to explore, stay, and eat. Wander from plaza to plaza, visit the majestic cathedral, and stop at many of the other top attractions in Havana.