Skip to content

Havana is a living, breathing museum piece. Live salsa and son can be heard at almost any time of day, while in the evenings, everyone flocks to relax on the malécon, the waterfront esplanade that gazes out over the Gulf of Mexico.

Havana Streets, CubaArchitecturally, Havana has an assortment of styles brought over from successive waves of settlers: Moorish-inspired Spanish colonialism, French

Havana is a living, breathing museum piece. Live salsa and son can be heard at almost any time of day, while in the evenings, everyone flocks to relax on the malécon, the waterfront esplanade that gazes out over the Gulf of Mexico.

Architecturally, Havana has an assortment of styles brought over from successive waves of settlers: Moorish-inspired Spanish colonialism, French neoclassicism, and European Baroque and art nouveau. There’s even American mimicry: note how Cuba’s Capitol Building bears more than a passing resemblance to the USA’s. Post-revolution, Havana was tattooed with a rash of political slogans, while a few severe Sovietesque monuments and edifices sprang up.

Thanks to the soupy Caribbean heat, hurricane winds and years of economic hardship, the whole city has gained a careworn look. Stucco and paintwork are peeling, walls are cracking, plaster crumbles.

An air of nostalgia pervades everything: vintage Cadillacs and classic sedans in bright fruity shades rumble through the streets and there’s a distinct lack of commercial billboards, signage or fast-food restaurants. Cuba’s resistance to capitalist norms is under threat ― private enterprise, for example, is on the up ― but, for now, Havana wears its political and historical heart very much on its sleeve.

Havana Vieja, the old town, is a good place to focus your explorations, and you can see much of it on foot. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a cobbled confusion of plazas, churches, al fresco cafes and art galleries. Some houses, including a stretch along the malécon, are painted in sugary pastel shades.

Cuban big bands often set up inside bars or on their porches, playing their distinctive blend of New-Orleans-inspired jazz and Latin rhythms. Locals gather to dance salsa and rumba, sometimes spilling out onto the streets. Humble fruit carts and drink stalls sit side by side with grandiose palaces (now museums) of the 16th century, when, under the Spanish, the city grew rich on the sugar, rum, tobacco and coffee trade.

Havana Vieja also has a handful of guesthouses, known as casas particulares. Consider staying in one, as they’re known for offering a more authentic, personal experience than Havana’s hotels.

Classic cars in HavanaTo get a broader feel for the city, it’s best to take a tour in a classic car. You can zip along the length of the malécon and see monuments to communism, such as a concrete tower dedicated to national hero José Martí. Just opposite, the faces of the fathers of the revolution, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, stare out from the façades of buildings.

Ernest Hemingway looms large in connection to Havana. You can visit a couple of his former drinking holes, the Floridita ― all masculine, dark-wooded interiors ― and the hip La Bodeguita del Medio, whose walls are scrawled with the signatures of visiting writers, intellectuals and politicians from all over the world.

Although both bars are touristy, both also attract a dedicated local clientele who call in for a regular after-work drink. And, both bars still serve Hemingway’s beloved daiquiris and mojitos.

If you’re particularly interested in Hemingway, you can take a tour to visit his former home just outside of the city, Finca Vigía.

Best time to visit Havana

Head to the city between November and April for pleasant temperatures and more reliably sunny weather.

Temperature
Rainfall
Daylight

Speak to someone
who's been there

Audley Travel specialist Alison

Start planning your tailor-made trip to Havana by contacting one of our Cuba specialists

Suggested itineraries featuring Havana

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Havana, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Havana

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near Havana

    Accommodation choices for Havana

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Havana. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    • Casa Vitrales - Havana

      Casa Vitrales

      Simple

      As an old converted historical building in Havana, Casa Vitrales is a state run boutique hotel that provides superior service in a modern style with some traditional touches of Cuba.

    • Iberostar Parque Central, Havana

      Iberostar Parque Central

      First Class

      With great facilities, an impressive rooftop pool and a central location, the Iberostar is one of best places to stay in Havana.

    • Saratoga Hotel, Havana

      Saratoga Hotel

      First Class

      The Saratoga is one of Havana's very best hotels and is perfectly located for exploring many parts of the city.

    • Hotel Palacio del Marques de San Felipe, Havana

      Hotel Palacio del Marques de San Felipe

      Medium

      The hotel's full name is the Hotel Palacio del Marques de San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal, and it has a superb location on Plaza San Francisco in the heart of Old Havana.

    • Hotel Santa Isabel, Havana

      Hotel Santa Isabel

      Medium

      The Santa Isabel is the most impressive of Havana's many colonial hotels and has been a favourite hotel for merchants, artists and distinguished travellers since 1867.

    Ideas for experiencing Havana

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Havana, and which use the best local guides.

    • Guided photography tour of Havana
      Havana, Cuba

      Guided photography tour of Havana

      Guided photography tour of Havana

      Havana is a hauntingly beautiful city, with an impressive and unique mix of architecture.

      View details
    • Morning walking tour of Havana Vieja
      Havana Vieja

      Morning walking tour of Havana Vieja

      Morning walking tour of Havana Vieja

      Discover Havana Vieja, the historic colonial heart of the city. This morning walking tour covers the four most important squares, each of which has its own character and history.

      View details
    • Havana City Tour
      Malecon, Havana

      Havana City Tour

      Havana City Tour

      Modern Havana contrasts strikingly with the attractive colonial heart of the city. The tour is completely flexible and usually involves hire of transportation in a classic American car for 2 hours.

      View details
    • Cigar Factory
      Cigar Factory, Havana

      Cigar Factory

      Cigar Factory

      Havana cigars are considered the world's finest and the processes involved in hand rolling them can be seen at a number of Havana's famous factories such as Romeo y Julieta and Partagas.

      View details
    • Vivero Organoponico Alamar Horticultural Tour
      Organoponico, Havana

      Vivero Organoponico Alamar Horticultural Tour

      Vivero Organoponico Alamar Horticultural Tour

      Nestled between the harsh lines of the Soviet style apartment blocks is the Vivero Organoponico Alamar, effectively a four hectare urban allotment.

      View details
    • Salsa Dance Lesson
      Havana, Cuba

      Salsa Dance Lesson

      Salsa Dance Lesson

      Salsa is a part of the national identity in Cuba and is built into the psyche of its people. It is a national pastime with the locals dancing in atmospheric nightclubs, on the beach or in the streets.

      View details