Havana is a city where you wander on and on. So many different places to discover! In my previous Getting around in Havana post you can find everything about the Havana way of getting around & where to stay during your trip. This post will focus on places to go, restaurants to visit & the best spots for daiquiri’s & mojito’s.
Where to wander
When in Havana make sure to make a stroll through Obispo Street. In the heart of Old Havana (Habana Vieja) you’ll find this most peculiar street; it’s full of old book stores, cafe’s and people. Great old buildings and so much to see. There is this cute little market full of handmade souvenirs and this street even offers you a place to witdraw money (with debit cards, which is very rare in Havana). It’s almost the only street in whole Havana where you’ll see this many shops next to each other or so nearby. Very modern for Cuban standards.
Another favorite spot is Havana’s vintage market. Here you’ll discover old vinyl records, revolution posters, timeless old watches and forbidden books. We’ve visited so many times and every time we were amazed by the obscure objects – we couldn’t help ourselves to bring some home with us. You’ll find this little gem at the corner of Plaza de Armas.
Take a walk on the sea side: El Malecón. This 7 kilometer long boulevard is the city’s safeguard from the sea’s waves. Walking along and on the Malecón itself in the sunlight gives you a great, adventures feeling. At one side you have (old) cars passing by and all the noise of the city, at the other you’ll find the restless sea bouncing at this blockade. It’s a great place to have a break in the sunlight and to watch the cars pass by.
Havana has 2 museums you can not skip. First of all it’s most famous Revolution Museum. Situated in Havana’s old presidential palace, with the bullet holes still in its walls. This museum is very complete and gives in a chronological order a lot of details about the revolution. Displaying many objects, from soldiers hats to war stained shirts. Most is presented in Spanish, but there is a lot in English too. If you go downstairs to the courtyard you’ll find vehicles used during the revolution. Ships, tanks and even planes. The way this museum present it’s collection, and of course the historical place of the palace itself, leaves a great impression.
The second museum I am definitely recommending is the Museum del Ron Havana Club – the Havana Club Rum Museum. Here you’ll learn everything there is to know about your favorite Cuban rum. Where it originates from, it’s history, how they make it and the importance of it in Cuban culture. There even is a maquette of a sugar factory and train transportation from the early 1930’s. A highlight for the real rum lovers: at the end of the tour at a Sloppy Joe’s bar replica you’ll get a Havana Club 7 years tasting!
There even is a (different) bar next to it which you can visit separate from the museum.
There are a few more spots I would like to cover. A famous spot for tourist is – of course – Plaza de la Revolución. If you know a little bit of Cubans history – from Fidel’s famous speeches to the goodbye ceremony of Che Guevara – this spot is a must visit.
A familiar looking building at the gates of Havana centrum is El Capitolio. A building build during the roaring 20’s and it’s supposed to be a replica of the US White House. Fun fact: they intended to make it bigger than the original. Unfortunately for the Cubans, the architect took some of the construction money for his own benefit – they had to slim the size of the building mid building it. Therefore its out of proportion thus smaller than the original.
When you’re in the neighborhood of any of the old Cigar Factories, don’t hesitate to take a look inside. We found one behind El Capitolio that was deserted, but still very impressive. Its original cigar shop is still intact and open, and some of the old factory employees still hang around to tell you their stories. Some might even saved some of their daily free cigars – which they will sell (behind closed doors) for a decent price. Worth your money and 100% the real deal.
While doing a vintage car tour – highly recommended! – we stopped at the John Lennon Park. Here you’ll see a statue of John sitting on a bench. Nothing special really, but if you happen to be nearby – why not. Good excuse to get on the picture with the one and only – Cuban statued – John Lennon.
Think I have discussed all my favorite markets yet? Don’t think so. Havana is full of them! The last one I will mention is it’s Hand Craft Market. This is basically a handmade souvenir & art market. This one is nearby the harbor and gigantic. Never have I ever seen so many souvenirs. My interest was most peeked by the outer corners of this market. Here you can find unique local art – and not just the once you see elsewhere in the city. People here are proud of their work – and they should be. I’m a proud owner of a very nice piece hanging in our living room.
Where to eat
Havana has so many options for where to go for a bite. From paladres to state owned restaurants, or street corner food trucks with its own delights. Don’t expect to find state of the art cooking – the Cuban kitchen is simple, therefore very pure in its taste.
Our first night we ate at Cafe Paris. This restaurant has nothing to do with the French! It is a very cozy spot at the corner of Obispo & San Ignacio. Very cheap but very tasteful. Simple food but fine for cuban standards. A lot of nights they have live music – a real cuban get away.
Our second night in Havana we had dinner at Hotel Nacional. We took a blue vintage car to drive us all the way up the Malecón to this marvelous hotel. The building is very large and old and looks a bit extravagant. It is kind of a mythical hotel with a lot of history as well. With a sea view over the Malecón nothing could go wrong – except for the food. It was a big disappointment. Beautiful building so you could always visit for a drink – but I wouldn’t recommend eating here.
We did visit other places to eat as well, but I think these were the main things. Best dinner I had in Cuba happened to be in Trinidad – you’ll read more about that in a later post 😉
Where to go mojito
There we are – the part where we all waited for – where in Havana do they serve the best Mojito’s? Let me start with this: the first day we stumbled upon this cute little bar – La Reliquia – where we tried our first mojito’s in Cuba. The music was giving het Cuban vibes, we even danced – after our second cocktail – and had a lot of fun with the staff.
Feeling a bit naughty? Try sneaking up to one of Havana’s 5 star hotel rooftops. The view is to die for! We’ve been successful 2 out of 3 times. At Iberostar they serve the most delicious fruity mojito’s: we’ve tried orange and pineapple. I know – not the classic ones – but oh my these are just delicious. Sipping these while sitting in the sun enjoying the overwatch view of the city.. Trust me, it’s worth it.
We also had lunch at their gorgeous inside patio – El Portico Bar – it was a delight as well.
For all the Hemingway fans: Havana’s famous 2 Hemingway bars. La Bodeguita del Medio is famous for their mojito’s and it’s Hemingway quotes. Tourists are lined up to see the spectacle of the making of a dozen mojito’s at a time. To be honest – not the best mojito’s in town – and not the cheapest. But hey a true fan will visit anyway. Even if it’s just to read his famous quote: “My mojito in La Bodequita, my daiquiri in El Floridita”.
You may have guessed it, Hemingway’s second bar El Floridita is one you may not mis from your travel list. This bar is legend! With a copper Hemingway at the bar and live music that’s a delight for your ears this is a must visit. Although it’s a very touristic hotspot, never the less worth the wait for a place to sit and to enjoy a daiquiri. My tip: order the one with añejo rum instead of the regular one. This one is darker and has so much more layers of taste! The bites here are a treat too. One of my favorite bars in Havana.
Havana stole my hart. This city is alive and has its own way of doing things. Walking around gives you a stroll through history, with beautiful buildings, vintage cars and the people around you. Don’t hesitate to just wander around and get off the beaten path! This city offers so many possibilities to discover and explore, you won’t get bored. Every corner there’s something going on or something to see.
Bueno Vista! Havana is an experience I will never forget.