Old Town Walk (Self Guided), Havana

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.
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Old Town Walk Map

Guide Name: Old Town Walk
Guide Location: Cuba » Havana (See other walking tours in Havana)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 km
Author: alex1007
1
El Capitolio

1) El Capitolio (must see)

Equal parts inspiring and imposing in its palatial opulence, El Capitolio is an iconic part of Havana's skyline. It was the seat of government in Cuba until after the Revolution in 1959 and is now home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences. Its design and name recall the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., but it is only superficially similar. Completed in 1929, it was the tallest building in Havana until the 1950s and houses the world's third largest indoor statue.

The neoclassical building was inspired by the Panthéon in Paris. The cupola, which is stone clad around a steel frame which was constructed in the United States and imported to Cuba, is set forward on the building to allow for some large rooms at the rear, including what is now the National Library of Science and Technology. In the original design, the dome was to be decorated with stylised palm leaves but this addition was never executed. Around the building are gardens laid out by French landscape architect and designer Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier at the time of the original construction. Based on the designs of some of the beautiful simple European gardens they consist of areas of lawn bordered by paths and highlighted by palms.

Why You Should Visit:
This is the best landmark to navigate Havana as it marks the end of Old Havana and the start of Centro Havana.
After extensive renovation works the building is partially reopened and can be entered with a guided tour. Exceptional variety and craftsmanship!

Tip:
Remember to tip your guide – it is a free tour, but they do a wonderful job answering questions. Better yet, if you give the guide an early tip, you may get to see parts not usually available.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Thu-Sat: 10am-4pm; Wed, Sun: 10am-12pm
Guided tours are on the hour and last one hour
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Real Fabrica de Partagas

2) Real Fabrica de Partagas

The Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagás is a cigar factory museum in Havana, Cuba. The world famous Habanos cigars are produced in this factory. It is one of Cuba's oldest cigar factories and is located across the street from the massive capital building in Havana. The Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas is housed in a well-preserved industrial building dating from 1845. The building stands out amongst its peers because of the ornate, colorful, maroon and cream exterior. Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas was started by Jaime Partagas, but foundered after his mysterious death. Ramon Cifuentes took over and the business grew under his stewardship.

"(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)"
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Gran Teatro de La Habana

3) Gran Teatro de La Habana

The Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso (English: "Great Theatre of Havana Alicia Alonso") is located in the Paseo del Prado in Havana, Cuba. The theatre has been home to the Cuban National Ballet and, on its main stage, to the International Ballet Festival of Havana. It facilities include theatres, a concert hall, conference rooms, and a video screening room, as well as an art gallery, a choral centre, and several rehearsal halls for danzarias groups and dance companies.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Jose Marti Monument

4) Jose Marti Monument

José Julián Martí Pérez was a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. In his short life he was a poet, an essayist, a journalist, a revolutionary philosopher, a translator, a professor, a publisher, and a political theorist. Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol for Cuba's bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century, and is referred to as the "Apostle of Cuban Independence". Martí is considered one of the great turn-of-the-century Latin American intellectuals. After his death, one of his poems from the book Versos Sencillos (Simple Verses), was adapted for the song, Guantanamera, which has become the definitive patriotic song of Cuba.

"(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)"
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Granma Memorial

5) Granma Memorial (must see)

Granma is the yacht that was used to transport the fighters of the Cuban Revolution from Mexico to Cuba in 1956, for the purpose of overthrowing the regime of Fulgencio Batista. The 60-foot diesel-powered cabin cruiser was built in 1943 and designed to accommodate twelve people. It is said to have been named for the original owner's grandmother. Since 1976, the yacht has been on permanent display in a glass enclosure at the Granma Memorial adjacent to the Museum of the Revolution in Havana. A portion of old Oriente Province, where the expedition made landfall, was renamed Granma Province in honor of the vessel and the Landing of the Granma National Park, established at the location.

Tip:
To get a close-up view of the yacht and a sample of 15 military vehicles used in the Cuban Revolution, pay the price of admission to the Museum of the Revolution.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-4pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Museum of the Revolution

6) Museum of the Revolution (must see)

The Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolución) is housed in what was the "Presidential Palace" of all Cuban presidents from Mario García Menocal to Fulgencio Batista. It became the Museum of the Revolution during the years following the Cuban Revolution. The building was the site of the Havana Presidential Palace Attack (1957) by the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil.

The former "Presidential Palace" was designed by Cuban architect Carlos Maruri and Belgian architect Paul Belau (who also designed the Centro Gallego, presently the Gran Teatro de La Habana) and was inaugurated in 1920 by President Mario García Menocal. It remained the Presidential Palace until the Cuban Revolution of 1959. The building has Neo-Classical elements and was decorated by Tiffany Studios of New York City.

The museum's Cuban history exhibits are largely devoted to the period of the revolutionary war of the 1950s and to the country's post-1959 history. Portions of the museum are also devoted to pre-revolutionary Cuba, including the 1895-1898 War of Independence waged against Spain.

Why You Should Visit:
To get a well-done history lesson on the Cuban Revolution. Basic displays (photos, uniforms) are laid out chronologically with reasonable English descriptions. Admission also includes the "Granma" yacht and some of the vehicles used during the Revolution and in the different crises that arose in the '60s.
The building itself is very grand and an important part of Cuban history, which alone makes it worth the visit. Highlights include the Salón de los Espejos – a replica of the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles or the Salón Dorado (Golden Hall) which is made of yellow marble.

Tip:
Go early, wear good walking shoes and be discreet with your cell phone.
Be sure to go to the old ballroom and step out on the balcony for great views of the harbor.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-4pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Havana Cathedral

7) 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.

Tip:
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

Mass:
Mon, Fri: 7:15am; Tue, Thu: 8:15pm; Sat: 5:30pm; Sun: 10:30am
8
Castle of the Royal Force

8) Castle of the Royal Force (must see)

The Castillo de la Real Fuerza (Castle of the Royal Force) is a fortress on the western side of the harbour in Havana. Originally built to defend against attack by pirates, it suffered from a poor strategic position too far inside the bay. The fortress is considered to be the oldest in the Americas, and was listed in 1982 as part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of "Old Havana and its Fortifications".

A stroll around the impressive stone walls of the Castle should be a part of any visit to Old Havana Cuba. Since 2010, they also house a Maritime Museum with a rich collection of underwater finds from the Havana area, including golden coins and weapons. The Shipyard of Havana is one of the greatest contributors to the Royal Spanish Navy, building more than 200 ships for its use. The museum features models of several of them, including models of Columbus' La Nina, La Pinta, and La Santa Maria. But the central piece of the collection is an amazing 4 meters long model of the Nuestra Senora de la Santisima Trinidad – at its time one of the biggest and most equipped ships in the world. There is also an audio tour available in several languages which talks about life on deck in the 18th century.

Why You Should Visit:
Reasonable price for entry. Impressive canons, serious moat, and the views for the top of the fortress are nothing short of amazing – you can see the fortresses on the other side of Havana, and also get a nice view of the old city.
If you're interested in how early ships were built, this is a great place. Staff is very knowledgeable and eager to share their knowledge (as long as you engage them – otherwise, they might as well just stand/sit around an act like guards).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Palacio de los Capitanes Generales

9) 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.

Tip:
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
10
Lonja Del Comercio

10) 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.

"(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)"
Sight description based on wikipedia
11
Plaza Vieja

11) Plaza Vieja (must see)

There are four main squares in Havana all within a few minutes walk of one another. Designed in 1559, this is the most architecturally eclectic one, with Baroque rubbing shoulders with Gaudi-inspired Art Nouveau. Originally called Plaza Nueva, it was the site of executions, processions, bullfights, and fiestas – all witnessed by Havana's wealthiest citizens, who looked on from their balconies. It was later used for military exercises before being converted into an outdoor market. During the Batista regime, an ugly underground parking lot was built, only to be demolished in 1996 as it made way for a huge renovation project. Dotted with bars, restaurants and cafés, today the Plaza has its own microbrewery, a beautiful fountain, and even a primary school. The sun can be a bit strong, especially in summer, but just enjoy the ride.

Why You Should Visit:
This square is a photographer's heaven, as the building facades are stunning. At night they are also nicely lit so it's worth taking a walk later in the evening.

Tip:
Don't miss the Cámara Oscura (or "Dark Chamber") – a building from where going up you will enjoy a 360-degree view of the entire Havana outline.
Off the square, you can see some of the original aqueducts and try to find the street with murals stretching all alongside it.
The Planetarium, the Santo Angel (or "house of rice"), the old Aquarium and many other places are also nearby.
Sight description based on wikipedia
12
Obispo Street

12) Obispo Street

Widely regarded as one of the busiest streets in Old Havana, Calle Obispo (Bishop's Street) is part of the historic city center, filled to the brim with plethora of shops (among which is Havana's #1 bookstore – La Moderna Poesia), art galleries, hotels, restaurants, live music bars and a regular crowd of people. The street is lined with four- and five-story buildings which block out most of the sunlight and altogether give the place a great deal of character. The street is named after the bishop Fray Jeronimo de Lara, who lived here in 1641, and another bishop Pedro Agustin Morell de Santa Cruz, who used to traverse the street regularly from his nearby home. One of the most notable sights here, from both aesthetic and architectonic standpoints, is the Ministry of Finances and Prices, formerly center of the banking triangle, back in the early 20th century colloquially referred to as the Havana Wall Street. Among other attractions is the Florida Hotel and Ambos Mundos Hotel whose distinguished guest - American writer Ernest Hemingway - used to frequent another major local landmark, bar El Floridita.

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.
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
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
Cultural Walk in Havana

Cultural Walk in Havana

Havana is both the official capital of Cuba, and the cultural capital as well. Many galleries, cinemas, theaters, and music shops offer visitors a taste of the local culture - which is a mixture of native habits and ways along with those of the Spaniards, and later, U.S. influence. The following tour will take you for a short walk which will summarize it all.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 km
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
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
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

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