There are many ways to learn about Havana. You can read the novels of Alejo Carpentier and enjoy his imagery of the life that runs between the columns of this city. Maybe you prefer the Havana that Hemingway describes, or the one that is portrayed in hundreds of songs. The conspiracy and espionage in Nuestro hombre en La Habana can take you back to nights in the fifties. But there is no better way to discover Havana than to explore its streets and to get to know some of its most interesting places and people.
If you have few days of vacation and have a passion for history, a trip to Old Havana is like a ticket back in time, with no stops until the time of Spanish rule on the island. It’s almost enough to just go through the colonial squares, the Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de Armas, Plaza de San Francisco de Asís, Plaza Vieja and the Plaza del Cristo del Buen Viaje. In two or three days, if you’re a good observer, you can get an idea of the colonial history of the city as told by the buildings that stand around each plaza. From the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, to the peculiar architecture of the Cathedral, the palace of the Condes de Jaruco, or the contemporary Santa Isabel hotel, each one has a story to tell.
Then, if there is time, continue on this route to the group of military fortifications that have withstood the passing of time on both sides of the bay, and which have, as the most important point, the Morro-Cabaña complex, with its iconic lighthouse and an interesting ceremony of a cannon shot at 9:00 p.m. This is a ritual that takes place every day to remember the times when the city fit within its walls.
If you’re interested in stories of famous American mafiosi and artists like Lucky Luciano and Nat King Cole in Cuba in the fifties, the ideal place to go is Vedado. Don’t miss la Rampa, 500 meters along 23rd Street that takes you from the Coppelia ice cream shop to the ocean, and make sure to go to the National Hotel, a place where the stories of the past are part of the present.
Interesting additions to this tour are the places that Hemingway loved in the years he wrote and lived here. From the small room of the Ambos Mundos hotel where he wrote Goodbye to Arms, to the coastal town of Cojímar on the other side of the bay tunnel, and his farm Vigía, in one of the poorest neighborhoods of the capital.In the evenings, if you like contemporary Cuban music, don’t miss the Cuban Art Factory, a very popular center for young people, an ideal place to enjoy almost all musical genres and where national and foreign artists gather. But don’t limit yourself! The city is a musical hotbed of small, private spots that offer live music.
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