Havana is something of a hidden gem, filled with incredible architecture, rich history and - contrary to popular belief - great food. As with any other city my favorite thing to do was simply to wander the streets and soak in the sights. Here are my top ten must-see’s/do’s/and eat’s:
This museum has an incredible collection and it is worth spending at least an hour or two perusing the exhibitions. There are two buildings, one dedicated solely to Cuban art (Sede de Arte Cubano) and the other to global art (Sede de Arte Universal). We chose to only visit the Cuban art building, and for me it was definitely the right decision.
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 9AM to 5PM | Sunday 10AM to 2 PM
Admission: 5 CUC (Free for Children under 12)
2 | Walk down the Malecón
The Malecon (officially Avendia de Maceo) is a 5 mile-long promenade along the waterfront that stretches from Old Havana to Vedado. On particularly hot days I would suggest taking the walk around sunrise or around sunset as there’s not much shade along the esplanade. There’s great light for photos at golden hour.
3 | Wander through the streets of Old Havana
4 | Take a cooking class!
We signed up for a cooking class on AirBnB prior to leaving for Cuba and I would highly recommend it. There are several options avalilable on AirBnB and we chose one that cost $29 per person (inclusive of all supplies) for 2.5 hours. Including Matt and I there were about 8 people in the class, and we learned to make traditional Cuban food including friend plantains and mojitos. The class size was ideal as everyone had the opportunity to participate hands-on in the cooking. Everything was absolutely DELICIOUS; the chef was super sweet (she didn’t speak any English, but her friend acted as a translator); and it was really cool to be able to see a casa particular (they also rent out the rooms in the home where the class takes place).
6 | Dine at La Guarida
La Guarida is a charming paladar - a privately owned restaurant - that has been open since 1996. We arrived just as they opened for lunch and were able to get a spot, but reservations are typically recommend for dinner and can be made here. I had the rabbit along with a piña colada, and would highly recommend both.
FAC is a cultural center that is a little bit of everything (a “laboratory of interdisciplinary creation”), simultaneously acting as an event space, bar/club, exhibition space, restaurant and shop. Focused on supporting contemporary artists in Cuba, when we went on Friday night the club was in full swing with art exhibitions, a fashion show and multiple dance floors.
Upon arrival you’ll be given a stamp card. Do NOT lose this card! There was not much of a line when we arrived around 9PM, but by the time we left around midnight the club was extremely busy and the line was long.
Hours: Thursday to Sunday 8PM to 3AM
Address: Calle 26, Esquina 11, Vedado. La Habana, Cuba
Admission: 2-5 CUC*
(*reported by patrons as admission is not officially listed - I believe we paid 5 CUC)
8 | Take a day trip to Viñales
There’s no good way to describe Viñales other than a place of prehistoric beauty. The landscape is incredibly unique and it does look like dinosaurs might appear at any moment.
While we chose to do the day trip through a travel company we found online before leaving for our trip, you can definitely find a driver to take you once you arrive in Havana. That’s probably the cheapest option but we preferred having a full guided tour as we weren’t planning to stay overnight. If I ever make it back to Havana I’ll definitely opt to stay at a casa particular in Viñales for at least one night.
That being said the tour was fantastic and our tour guide - who was from Viñales - was super knowledgable about the region and very friendly. The trip included visiting a lookout point, a horse ride, a trip to a cigar factory, and a private lunch at a farm where the farmers taught us how to roll cigars.
9 | Check out the Camara Oscura
10 | Take a dance or art class
We signed up for a stained glass class on AirBnB.