Are you thinking about traveling to Cuba? Will you stay in Havana for a few days? If so, you might be wondering where to go and what to see. I think I have a few ideas that just might help you decide how to spend your days in Havana.
Eat Cuban Food – It’s Awesome
If I’m being honest, Cuban food is really the only food you’ll be eating in Cuba. There just aren’t many outside options. But what’s great about Cuban food is that there are all kinds of things to eat, especially in Havana. Here’s what I recommend.
Jugos Naturales (Natural Juices)
Be careful what kind of fruit drinks you have in Cuba. Some of them are concoctions of fruit and tap water, which will probably make you quite sick. But never fear! There are alway ‘jugos naturales’ (natural juices) that are simply fresh squeezed fruit with absolutely nothing added. These are possibly the best fruit drinks you’ll ever have, and they’re great for staying hydrated in the heat. Most places serve jugos naturales. Just ask around, and make sure the juice you drink is ‘natural’.
Churros con Leche
I have no idea where I was when I stumbled across a local shop selling churros, but I recommend finding someone who can point you to one. Churros con leche are churros with thick, rehydrated milk drizzled over the top. When it comes to great snacks, it’s the simple things in life that work best.
Aquí – A Restaurant
There is a restaurant in Central Havana called ‘Aquí’ (Here) that serves all kinds of local Cuban dishes, all at local prices! I absolutely recommend coming here for both dinner and breakfast. It was right next to the hostel I was staying at, and I went almost every chance I got.
If you’re looking for a place to sit down, enjoy food with friends, and soak in the atmosphere of local Havana, this is the place. It’s right by the Estadio Latinoamericano do Béisbol (The Latin American Baseball Stadium), perhaps another place worth seeing if it’s open.
Listen, I don’t know what it was about Cuban pizza that I loved so much, but it’s seriously amazing. Every pizza maker has their own style wherever you go, but one thing seems to remain standard – no tomato sauce. The ingredient just isn’t available on a wide scale. So your pizza is made with just crust, cheese, and whatever else you order.
My favorite pizza? Pizza de cebolla (onion pizza)!
It seems that you can find pizza just about anywhere around Havana, and it isn’t expensive. I recommend ‘La Bien Pagá’ if you’re already walking around Calle Obispo in Habana Vieja.
Visit Habana Vieja (Old Havana)
I would consider Habana Vieja a very touristic area, and I tend to stay away from some of that when I travel in an attempt to have a more authentic experience. That said, I absolutely think it’s worth walking up and down Calle Obispo (Bishop Street) and Calle O’Reilly. The streets are beautiful and there is plenty to see and do in the area.
And if you can, try walking around here at night! It’s crazy during the day, but the nights are warm, quiet, and calm. It’s a completely different experience.
Here are some hotspots you might stop at.
La Bodeguita del Medio
La Bodeguita del Medio is the birthplace of the mojito! Who would want to miss such a historic place? And of course, the bar is still open. It’s said the Hemingway frequented the bar, but I think that may be true of most bars in Havana. Do yourself a favor and stop here to buy the best mojito you’ll find in Havana.
Seriously, most of the mojitos I had in other places were crap – practically water with sugar. At La Bodeguita they have pride in their creation, and I promise you’ll enjoy it.
There is live music all over the place in Habana Vieja, but 2 spots in particular stick in my memories of my time there.
The Bar-Cafetería La Dichosa (The Happy One) sits on a corner as you walk down La Calle Obispo with an open front and a festive band that invites you to have food and drink while they play loudly with smiles and gusto. It’s such a positive atmosphere that you can’t help but enjoy yourself there.
A little further south of Call Obispo is La Plaza Vieja (The Old Plaza) where you can sit in the lively plaza with a drink and listen to a live jazz band perform some nights. Or maybe all nights, I don’t really know. I walked through one night, and it just seemed like the perfect place to soak in Cuban music. I couldn’t stay because I was a little sick (more on that in another post), but if I ever return to Cuba I intend to spend my nights in Havana here.
If you see a performance, get some video for me!
Go To a Museum
I’ll admit that I really didn’t go to any museums, but that won’t stop me from telling you that they’re all over the place. And they seem to be pretty cool. I just had a different agenda.
One spot I did visit, at least on the outside, was El Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro (The Castle of the Three Kings of Morro). It’s the fort across Havana Bay. It’s big. You can’t miss it. If you like exploring old forts, you can easily spend 1-2 hours in there and come out with an appreciation for Italian engineering in Cuba.
If you want some more museum and monument ideas, I think this post from PlanetWare should get you started. Let me know if you see something cool!
Walk on the Malecón
The Malecón is the massive 6-lane highway that spans the northern coast of Havana. It’s a beautiful place for a seaside walk, and if you want to see all of the classic cars in action (or even catch a ride in one!) this is the place to be. I spent many hours just moving up and down the Malecón, watching fisherman run back and forth to follow their catch, listening to street musicians at night, and seeing the sky paint itself with colors as the sun set over the bay each night.
Walking the Malecón may not be as active as most travel activities, but if you want to relax, breathe in the saltwater air, and hear the waves crash gently just over the seawall… well, I’d say you should give it a shot.
Whether you follow my suggestions or not, there are a ton of things for you to do in Havana. You just have to find what’s right for you. Happy travels.
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