History and Havana go hand in hand. The name Havana conjures images of Spanish conquistadors, revolutionary heroes, and the literati and glitterati who once basked on these sun-splashed shores. Today, the fascinating history of Cuba’s capital awaits you at every twist and turn; in the cobbled streets of Old Havana, in the beautiful Cuban Baroque buildings, the historic forts, museums, legendary restaurants, and lively public squares.
Catedral de San Cristobal
Attracting the gaze of every tourist in the Plaza de la Catedral is its elegant namesake, Catedral de San Cristobal. Also known as the Cathedral of The Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception, this striking example of Cuban Baroque architecture was completed in 1777 by the Franciscans, after the Jesuits began building it 29 years earlier. Two large bell towers flank the façade, which is adorned with inlaid columns. During your visit, wander inside to admire the vaulted ceilings and statue of St. Christopher. It is said that the relics of Christopher Columbus were housed here from 1796 to 1898, however, this has never been proven. After a visit to the cathedral, relax at one of the cafés along the square and gaze at its magnificent façade.
Strolling along the Malecón (El Malecon) at sunset is a wonderful way to soak up the feel of this evocative city and see some sights along the way. Havana’s famous seafront boulevard runs about seven kilometers from Habana Vieja (Old Havana) to the Vedado and Plaza area. Overlooking the boulevard is a colorful collection of well-preserved 20th-century buildings in a mix of architectural styles, from Art Deco to Neo Moorish. In the golden glow of the setting sun, they make a beautiful photo.
Castillo de la Real Fuerza
A few steps from the Museo de la Ciudad, the 16th-century fortress, Castillo de la Real Fuerza, was built to fend off attacks from pirates. Unfortunately, it was never used for this purpose, since it was positioned too far inside the bay. Instead, the fort functioned as a storehouse for valuables and a residence for members of the military and gentry.
Designed and built by Francisco de Calona, Castillo de la Real Fuerza is an engineering marvel, with a deep moat, a drawbridge, and walls that are six meters thick and 10 meters high. Today, visitors can explore Havana’s seafaring history at the maritime museum here, with displays such as model sailing boats, weapons, and treasure retrieved from sunken ships.