Historical Architecture Tour (Self Guided), Havana

Havana, once a major sea power in the Caribbean, still retains an aura of royalty and splendor. Take this walk and explore the architectural landmarks of the city and see mixtures of all the styles that have dominated major civilizations in the past several hundred years.
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Historical Architecture Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Architecture Tour
Guide Location: Cuba » Havana (See other walking tours in Havana)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: kane
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Palacio Cueto
  • Cámara Oscura
  • Lonja Del Comercio
  • Palacio de los Condes de Santovenia
  • Palacio de los Capitanes Generales
  • Palacio del Segundo Cabo
  • Edificio Santo Domingo
  • Palacio del Conde de Lombillo
  • Havana Cathedral
  • Palacio del Marqués de Arcos
  • Palacio de la Artesania
  • Edificio Bacardí
  • El Prado
  • Fuente de la India
Palacio Cueto

1) Palacio Cueto

Referred to as the finest Art Nouveau example, Palacio Cueto is one of the masterpieces of Arturo Márquez. Finished in 1906, it displays Gaudí-esque details and the richly-ornate facade distinguishes it from all of the other surrounding buildings. A renovation is planned in order to restore the building's proper look.
Cámara Oscura

2) Cámara Oscura

Located on Plaza Vieja, the Cámara Oscura offers an instant view over the architecture of the entire Old Town of Havana, and here is also where you can get narratives in English and Spanish. This makes Cámara Oscura the ideal starting point for your architecture journey through Havana. The tower is part of the Gomez Vila, worthy of a visit just for itself.
Lonja Del Comercio

3) Lonja Del Comercio

The Lonja del Comercio (Chamber of Commerce) building served as the Stock exchange in the capital until the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Today it is an office building. In the building are based local and foreign companies, the Brazilian Embassy, news agencies like CNN Havana Bureau, and the Habana Radio Station.

Its construction began in 1907 and ended in 1909, on land that belonged to rich families. The imposing building was designed by architect Thomas Mur and Jose Toraya, under the auspices of the U.S. Company Purdy and Henderson. It is recorded since then as one of the most prominent of the early twentieth century Cuba. In 1995 it began a general renovation project held by the Cuban-Spanish joint venture Aurea SA. Renaissance style and character eminently eclectic. Its façade is varied decorated. At the top was placed a bronze statue of Mercury, the Greek god of trade, which is visible from a distance. In the original design there were only five stories for stock, warehouse, office and other activities of the Exchange.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Palacio de los Condes de Santovenia

4) Palacio de los Condes de Santovenia

Belonging to the counts of Santovenia, the palace was converted into a hotel in the second half of the 19th century, hence becoming one of the oldest hotels in Cuba. The former royal building was taken care of, receiving a renovation in the early 90s, and is today maintained in very good condition. Jimmy Carter, former U.S. president, visited in 2002.
Palacio de los Capitanes Generales

5) Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (must see)

The former official residence of Havana's governors (Captains General), El Palacio de los Capitanes Generales is now home to the Museum of the City of Havana (Museo de la Ciudad) and houses exhibitions of art and historical artifacts, with many of the rooms being preserved with their original Colonial decoration. It is a thick-walled square Cuban Baroque-style building, little altered from the time of its original construction.

The ground floor and mezzanine contain artwork and artifacts from Havana's past. "La Giradilla", a statue that became a city symbol, and was originally located on the tower of the nearby Castillo de la Real Fuerza, stands at the foot of the stairs leading to the mezzanine. The Cenotaph, the oldest colonial monument in Cuba, taken from the original Parroquial Mayor church, is on display in one of the rooms on the lower floor. The Hall of Heroic Cuba contains important objects from the wars of independence and many flags of national significance including the flag of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, the "Father of the Homeland" (Padre de la Patria). The building also houses the Office of the City Historian, headed by Eusebio Leal, which is responsible for the renovation work in Old Havana.

Why You Should Visit:
To admire not only the aristocratic house and its colonial architecture but also the well-preserved paintings, luxurious furnishings and exhibits inside.
The lovely patio is typical of courtyards of the time, designed to have wind flow through for cooling effect, and you can get good views across it from the 1st-floor galleries.

Make sure that you buy a ticket that shows all the exhibits.
Highly recommend having an English speaking guide so you don't miss anything.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Palacio del Segundo Cabo

6) Palacio del Segundo Cabo

Erected around 1772, the Palacio del Segundo Cabo was the headquarters of the Spanish vice-governor, then later a post office and a palace for the Senate, and currently it houses the Geographical Society of Cuba. The architectural uniqueness of the palace is shown in its courtyard, which is amazing in its detail.
Edificio Santo Domingo

7) Edificio Santo Domingo

The Edificio Santo Domingo is one of the architectural wonders of Havana. Constricted originally in the late 18th century in the new-for-the-time Baroque style, the Edificio Santo Domingo was used throughout the years for many different purposes. Recently, a vast and ambitious renovation was undertaken and the results are a mixture of old and new - restored fine architecture replacing some of the ugly semi-modernistic walls, as different parts were unable to be restored.
Palacio del Conde de Lombillo

8) Palacio del Conde de Lombillo

The Palacio del Conde de Lombillo is famous for several different reasons. First, its gentle yet strong lines and the unique architecture combine with original murals representing daily scenes from early Havana are a treat for the eyes. The second interesting fact is that it was the first post office in the city and actually the comedy/tragedy masks were a mailbox!
Havana Cathedral

9) Havana Cathedral (must see)

Constructed by the Jesuits (1748–77) on the site of an earlier church, La Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana (Cathedral of The Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception) is also dedicated to Saint Christopher, thus it is sometimes dubbed as Catedral de San Cristobal.

Set in the former Plaza de La Ciénaga or Swamp Plaza, the Cathedral is said to be the only example of a baroque facade that was designed with asymmetrical features – one of the towers is wider than the other. This particular feature was conceived in order to allow the water that tended to accumulate on the plaza to freely flow through the streets during the colonial period when it was built.

Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier famously described the Cathedral as "music set in stone". In fact, its structure is notable for being built with a stone which is very different from what folks are used to in Europe. It lends it a particular color but it is really beautiful. Nearby there are terraces, music, and people all around offering drinks, food, cigars, and many more – the essence of the city.

Note that despite the official opening times, the Cathedral is often locked, though you can sometimes gain access just before mass.
Admission is free – although there is a small charge if you wish to go up the bell tower – and there are free cover-ups for those with short shorts or bare shoulders.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10:30am-3pm; Sat: 10:30am-2pm; Sun: 9am-12pm

Mon, Fri: 7:15am; Tue, Thu: 8:15pm; Sat: 5:30pm; Sun: 10:30am
Palacio del Marqués de Arcos

10) Palacio del Marqués de Arcos

Erected in the late 18th century, the Palacio del Marqués de Arcos appears to be colonial style with the Spanish-American architectural influence. Most notable inside the luxurious mansion is the wide and vast staircase and five arcades. The architectural masterpiece of that time is the residential house.
Palacio de la Artesania

11) Palacio de la Artesania

Palacio de la Artesanía is the area with the highest concentration of antique and specialty shops in Havana. Tourists can choose from a huge variety and at good prices. Clothing, jewelry, crafts, souvenirs, musical instruments, and of course cigars - everything is displayed right in front of your eyes and all you have to do is make the choice of what you want to buy.

Operation hours: 10 am - 7 pm.
Edificio Bacardí

12) Edificio Bacardí

The Bacardi legacy lives on in Santiago and Havana through their grand buildings of historic significance. The Bacardi Building (Edificio Bacardi) in Old Havana, is regarded as one of the finest Art-Deco buildings in Latin America. Built in mid 20th century, it's quite distinctive to the skyline of the city. The bell tower is open to visitors and presents an opportunity to have a look around and admire the preserved architectural spirit of Old Havana. Bacardi drinks are not found in Cuba today. The Bacardi distillery sells in Cuba under the name Caney.
Sight description based on wikipedia
El Prado

13) El Prado

Although constructions started in the late 18th century, the boulevard wasn't finished until the mid 19th. El Prado was a project of Captain General Miguel Tacón, and his intention was to build a boulevard that could rival any other in the leading cities of Europe and in Madrid, Paris and Florence in particular. The widely recognized lions made from bronze were added in the early 20th century, and they gave the final touch to what is today known as one of the main sites in Havana.
Fuente de la India

14) Fuente de la India

Fuente de la India represents the Indian woman "Habana" in whose honor Havana was named. The fountain was brought from Italy in 1837, and was modeled in Carrara by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Gaggini. India is a fountain of white marble on a rectangular pedestal with four dolphins, one on each corner, whose tongues are dispensers that pour water on the huge shells that form its base.

On a marble rock sits the beautiful young Indian woman looking to the east as if searching for some long-lost thing on the horizon. Her face is that of an Indian, but, and this is one of the strongest criticisms towards its creator, the statue shows a typical profile of a Greek woman, which, for its time, was the epitome of female perfection. She wears a crown of feathers and a quiver full of arrows is fastened to her left shoulder, while with her right hand she holds the upper end of an oval shield, which bears the original symbols of the city. In her left hand she carries the cornucopia of Amalthea, but the Italian artist replaced European fruits with Cuban ones, and it is topped with a pineapple. Her image is highlighted by a pedestal adorned with laurels and garlands, which four large dolphins support.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Havana, Cuba

Create Your Own Walk in Havana

Create Your Own Walk in Havana

Creating your own self-guided walk in Havana is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Havana City Center Walk

Havana City Center Walk

The city of Havana was founded in 1511. Today, Havana is the capital of Cuba and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Havana is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean region. Almost perfect weather conditions makes it a great spot for taking a vacation. This walking tour will help you explore the center of Havana.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Cuban Freedom Fighters & Battles

Cuban Freedom Fighters & Battles

Since it was discovered by Spain, the Island remained under its rule until the late 19th-early 20th century. During that period, it saw a series of wars, revolutions, and coup d'etats. On this tour you will see the key places in Havana related to those events, as well as monuments to the key people who made them happen.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Old Town Walk

Old Town Walk

Old Town of Havana is a perfect place to feel the Spirit of Cuba. This part of the city has a unique atmosphere and history. The city was founded by the Spanish in 1519. Thousands of tourists visit it each year. UNESCO proclaimed it a world heritage site. Take this astonishing walking tour in the middle of Old Havana.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Specialty Shopping in Havana

Specialty Shopping in Havana

Shopping in Havana will leave you not only with unique and beautiful memorabilia, but it will also let you walk in the shoes of Cubans themselves. Stroll the narrow streets of Havana and see all that the city has to offer. Choose from a variety of unique objects representing the culture of the city and its history. Below, you can see how to visit the best of the shopping spots of Havana.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Christian Churches of Havana

Christian Churches of Havana

Discovered and conquered by the Spaniards, Havana has turned into a major religious center of Catholicism in the Caribbean. Although a communist regime is in power at the moment, many of the churches, cathedrals, and other religious buildings are preserved and still give a glimpse of the religious heritage of Havana.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Museums of Havana

Museums of Havana

Havana has a rich history and was once the Spanish center of power in the Caribbean and South America. Later, it became the center of art, architecture and military power in the region. The museums in Havana can show you much of the city's history.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles

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