We are Domi and Frida. Welcome to our guide on the best things to do in Havana. We are both wanderlust-obsessed with passports always ready.
Domi was 16 years old and Frida was 14 when we first met in high school. Over the years we have grown together and have gained a huge passion for travelling to new countries and experiencing new cultures.
After high school, Domi graduated in pharmacy and Frida became an architect. We started to pursue our own careers. As travel enthusiasts, we’ve never given up on our passion for travel and discovering new cultures. In addition, photography became a passion as well.
First Impressions of the Cuban Capital
Havana had been on our bucket list for a long time. We were lucky enough to visit it just before the Covid-19 situation began. Time seems to stand still in Havana with its historic buildings and gorgeous convertible cars.
For this reason, Havana is different to all the other cities we’ve visited so far. Its history and traditions combined with its culture make it such a unique destination. These are the first impressions we had during the first few days in the Cuban capital. It was like being transported back in time.
Three Amazing Weeks Spent in Havana
We spent three amazing weeks in Havana. With these 21 days, we had the opportunity to visit the city deeply – exploring its neighbourhoods and understanding the culture. However, four to five days would be enough.
Most of our time was spent in Old Havana (Habana Vieja), the colonial heart of the city. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. We also visited the neighbourhoods of Centro Habana, Barrio China, Vedado and Miramar. Plus we spent a few days in a place called Playa.
Havana has a fantastic range of different neighborhoods. We recommend touring through its neighborhoods to better understand how locals live. There is no better experience than driving around the city in a vintage, old car. Most of the spots we loved were in Habana Vieja and Habana Centro.
We’ll never forget our first day in Havana. We started our walking tour from Parque Central through the various neighborhoods of Havana. At the end of the day, we had walked for almost 18km on foot. For this reason, we were very tired but happy to have seen so many things in one day. Wow!
Favourite Places in Havana: Buildings, Pools and Cars
The capital city of Cuba is full of beautiful spots that can brighten up your Instagram. Our favourite places were: the facade of the El Capitolio, the infinity pool of the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski, and our vintage pink convertible with pastel-coloured houses in the background.
El Capitolio is the landmark building of Havana. We loved two perspectives for our shots: one in front of the wide staircase and the other from the left side on the central pavement. The infinity pool of the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski is truly gorgeous and offers a fantastic 360-degree view.
And finally who wouldn’t want a photo in a vintage pink car?
10 Best Things To Do in Havana
Havana stole our hearts with its culture and its vintage character. The city boasts unique attractions that are loved by tourists from all over the world. Below you will find out list of the top 10 things to do in Havana:
1. Explore Old Havana (La Habana Vieja)
La Habana Vieja is the site where the city first took root in the year 1519. The architecture of this area can only be described as a masterpiece. There are beautiful town squares, magnificent palaces and a lively urban community that is bursting with bars, restaurants, boutique stays and artisan shops.
2. Visit Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes/Museo de la Revolución
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is one of the most recognised art galleries in the Caribbean. There are two main campuses: Arte Cubano and Arte Universal. Both have a collection of Cuban and international art. Meanwhile, the Museo de la Revolución showcases Cuban history.
3. Watch the Sunset from a Rooftop Bar
Picture yourself on a Havana rooftop sipping on rum and puffing a cigar (if you’re into smoking) while the sun sets majestically over the city. Music is playing in the background and the atmosphere picks up as day turns into night. We recommend El Surtidor Pool Terrace and the bar at Kempinski.
4. Ride in a Vintage Convertible Car
There is nothing more quintessential Cuban than riding in a vintage convertible car. Drive down the gorgeous streets of modern Havana and Casa Blanca on one of the many tours offered throughout the city. Stop at the most popular landmarks and take stunning photos along the way.
5. Stroll down the Malecon Esplanade in Havana
This six-lane avenue with ample sidewalk is the perfect place to enjoy a stroll alongside the ocean in summer. El Malecon is undoubtedly one of the highlights and symbols of Havana. Stroll down the five miles of walkway and experience the scenery of the seawall, take photos and stop for lunch.
6. Visit the Largest Square – La Plaza de la Revolución
La Plaza de la Revolución is one of the largest city squares in the world and is a must-see destination on your visit to Havana. This plaza is home to the iconic mural of Cuba’s revolutionary hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara. The facade can be found on the eastern side of the Ministerio del Interior.
7. Eat at the Local Paladares of Havana
There are two types of restaurants in Cuba. The first is a government owned restaurant. The second are privately owned restaurants called paladares. Chefs at paladares can create whatever food they want and often the food in these restaurants is higher quality and more unique.
8. Explore the Inside of a Historic Building
One of the best historic buildings to explore is the Gran Teatro de La Habana. The building was erected in 1907 as a Galician social club. It has magnificent ornate features and exquisite architectural details. The theatre is often used for the Cuban National Ballet. Tours are available daily.
9. Enjoy a Beach Day at Playas del Este, Havana
The beautiful beaches of Playas del Este are the go-to place to enjoy sunbathing and swimming in Havana. They’re located along the north-central coastline of Cuba, only a 20-minute drive from the capital. It’s the perfect getaway for the day if you’re craving some time in the sea.
10. Discover the Urban Forest, Parque Almendares
Located along the banks of the Almendares River is Parque Almendares. This is the only urban forest in the city and has been a popular recreation area for many years now. Here you can enjoy walks in nature, amphitheatre shows, mini-golf, playgrounds, boating and snack bars.
The Amazing People of Cuba
Cuban people are super friendly and love tourists. This is partly due to tourism being a large source of income for locals. Many people think that Cuba is a dangerous place. But they are wrong. In fact, Cuba is one of the safest countries in the Americas and crime is almost at zero.
Havana is the cultural center of Cuba. For this reason, the capital boasts the most important museums and monuments. If you want to fully understand the culture of this country, Havana will be your starting point.
Habana Vieja and El Capitolio area can be a bit touristy. For this reason, we recommend you visit Habana Centro to understand how Cubans live.
Cuban Cuisine: Mix of the Caribbean, Africa & Spain
In addition, there is plenty of exotic fruit and fresh juices. In fact, in Havana, we ate tons of papaya and delicious guayaba every day. It was so healthy.
You will find most traditional dishes in the famous paladares, scattered in the Cuban capital. Usually located in well-restored colonial buildings, these paladares are self-employed, family-run businesses. Our favorite paladares are Dona Eutimia, La Guarida and Paladar Los Mercaderes.
Biggest Challenge Traveling to Havana
Not only Havana but all of Cuba is a country full of challenges. If you are used to scrolling your Instagram feed every five minutes, in Cuba you will have problems. Connecting to the internet is a real challenge.
However, if you have a digital detox holiday in mind, Cuba is the right place for you. To access the internet, you need to buy the ETECSA card which will allow you to connect for one hour at a cost of $1. However, the connection is slow and is only possible where there are public WiFi hotspot areas.
Tips for your Visit to Havana
Cuba operates a two-currency system with Cuban Peso (used by the locals) and Cuban Convertible Peso (only for tourists). If you are an American tourist, we recommend you exchange your US dollars (in Euros for example) before arriving. Cubans charge an extra 10% on dollar exchanges.
Stay in a Casa Particular, a private house that is licensed by the state of Cuba to host tourists. This type of accommodation allows you to be more in touch with the locals and costs much less than a hotel in Havana.
Thanks for reading our guide on the best things to do in Havana. We hope you enjoy visiting this fabulous city just as much as we did!