Havana Nights: 10 Delightful Activities to Do to Immerse Yourself in the Cuban Culture
Updated On: March 11, 2022
Remember the famous 2004 movie Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights? If you answered yes to this question, we’re pretty sure you fell in love with the captivating atmosphere of the Cuban culture. The settings of this movie induce an impulsive urge to fly to Havana and start a new life.
However, there’s a little secret you should know. The movie was actually filmed in Puerto Rico, yet the filmmakers succeeded in choosing places that bear a great resemblance to Havana, especially the colonial areas of Old San Juan. Nonetheless, Havana is the main star of our article. Being the capital city of Cuba, this city possesses a vibrant ambiance that you can’t deny.
There is so much to enjoy around the Cuban streets of Havana, including the vintage breeze resulting from the old architecture. Being situated on the Caribbean Sea, this city is also home to splendid beaches to spend your vacation chilling and relaxing while sipping on its tempting cocktails.
Cuba is a fascinating place to be, especially if you enjoy being introduced to new cultures. The Cuban culture is also one to die for, being a fascinating mix between Afro and Hispanic ensures the result of unique customs. Thus, here is the best things to do while exploring this mesmerizing city and have your own Havana nights!
1. Walk through History at La Habana Vieja (Old Havana)
La Habana Vieja is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the city. Its historical ambiance have always been a magnet to visitors, especially history buffs. The cobblestone streets maintain their unprecedented beauty, adding even more charm to the colonial area. Moreover, La Havana Vieja is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There is so much history to explore around this area and the displayed architecture can easily tell . It is home to thousands of buildings that bear a historical significance along with several plazas and squares to explore. There are several main attractions in this area that you’ll definitely enjoy visiting.
The Malecón is the most prominent landmarks of La Havana Vieja. It’s an avenue that stretches along the seawall at the northern shore of the city. Besides the fascinating avenue, there a couple of fortresses around here for you to see, with Castillo del Morro being the most prominent. It dates back to the colonial times. Situated on the entrance of Havana Bay to guard the city from potential attacks.
Other fortresses are La Cabaña, San Salvador de la Punta Fortress, and Castillo de la Real Fuerza. They were constructed a hundreds of years ago, serving as protection structures of the country. These fortresses proudly stand around the area of Old Havana, telling tales of the colonial era through their sturdy walls.
2. Take a Ride in a Vintage Car
One of the best ways to have an authentic Cuban experience is to get into one of those 50s classic cars. They are an iconic symbol of the country that many visitors enjoy taking a tour around the historical places in one of those cars.
Such experience will allow the gentle breeze of Havana caress your face while you explore the city’s fascinating streets. The best part is this tour may take you to places you never knew existed or weren’t on your itinerary to begin with. Definitely, such classic rides mainly stroll around the Old Havana area. However, this little mustang may also take you across the Havana Forest.
If you are up to this lively experience, you need to make sure you have your Havana car booked in advance. You will have a welcome drink at the Hotel Nacional before having your car ready for you two-hour tour.
3. Drink Mojitos in La Bodeguita del Medio
You step foot into La Bodeguita del Medio and you can instantly feel the history lingering in its air and trapped within the walls. So, if you are wandering about the streets of Havana in summer, you may treat yourself to a mojito cocktail to beat the heat. The restaurant is an iconic destination in Old Havana.
It has been around since the 40s, and, despite being that old, it has been gaining more popularity through the years. Rumors have it that Ernest Hemingway used to frequent at this bar a lot. There are also other bars that are pretty known to be Hemingway’s favorite spots. Moreover, there are claim that this restaurant is the birthplace of mojitos.
Today, La Bodeguita became a hot tourist destination. No matter when you visit this spot, you will always find it packed with people. While you may need to stand in a line to order your mojito, we assure you it’s worth the wait.
4. Visit the National Museum of Fine Arts (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes)
For all of the art lovers out there, you should head to the National Museum of Fine Arts while in Havana. This is a must-see destination for those who admire the beauty that lies within artsy matters. Not only will the insides of the museum fascinate you, but also the well-maintained exterior is mesmerizing.
The museum is set across two buildings that date back to the 20s. Before housing the museum, the building used to be the Palacio del Centro Asturiano. It used to be home to a wide array of art collection from all over the globe, especially the ancient cultures. Egyptian and Roman paintings used to fill the whole place.
In the late 50s, the museum’s collection of art started to rather be dedicated to Cuban Art. You will find an imposing collection of sculptures, paintings, and other forms of art, narrating the history and culture of Cuba. It’s a great place to be if you are eager to learn about everything that is Cuban and admire its richness.
5. Stroll Along the Paseo del Prado
Bearing the same name of a renowned street in Spain, Paseo del Prado is deemed a fantastic street in Havana to wander about. It’s more of a promenade that divide between the popular area of Old Havana and Centro Habana. This street is one of the oldest streets in Havana, it earned many names through the years.
Today, it goes by Paseo del Prado nowadays and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, given its historic ambiance. It also embraces a wide array of iconic buildings. While going down this street, you will come across several landmarks that attract tourists from everywhere. These landmarks include some iconic museums like Reina Sofia Museum and Naval Museum.
Tourist enjoy taking a leisurely stroll down the historic street, contemplating the pleasing scenes of the trees that line up the whole street. In the late 20s, the well-known French architect, Jean-Claude Nicholas Forestier altered the street’s design. He was the one to add the hypnotizing stone benches, bronze lions, and marble that we see today.
6. Explore El Bosque de La Habana (The Lungs of Havana)
The Metropolitan Park is one of the well-known spots in Havana that makes for a great tourist destination. This park is rather a green forest known as the lungs of Havana for its dense trees that provide the city with its fresh air. However, some of the locals also refer to it as Almendares Park. It sits in the heart of the capital city, providing scenic views that tranquilize the visitors.
The vast natural area is home several natural charms and tropical trees. It makes for a perfect spot where you can relax away from the noise of the busy streets. The Almendares River also happens to stream among the green lands.
El Bosque de La Habana is the only tropical rainforest in the city. It has been serving as a recreational area for the locals for so many years. Activities that you can do while the green forest include boating, mini-golf, pony rides, and getting silly in the children’s playground.
7. See Che Guevara in La Plaza de La Revolución
Who doesn’t remember the reputable Argentinian Marxist revolutionary, Ernesto Che Guevara! While he wasn’t particularly Cuban, he was a major figure that played an active role in the Cuban Revolution. In honor of his memory, a huge mural made of steel can be found on the façade of the Interior Ministry building at the Revolution Plaza.
Rather known as Plaza de La Revolución, this square is one of the oldest, largest, and most prominent ones in Havana. It stretches over a vast area, embellished by several old buildings that house administrative offices. The plaza, unfortunately, lies a bit away from the heart of Havana city. However, tourists usually flock there via a classic car ride while enjoying the fresh air.
Driving around the plaza will give you a strong sense of history and heritage. You can’t help but feel the power of the Cuban resistance. The presence of memorials and sculptures also add to the historic spirit of the area. One of the iconic landmarks around the plaza is the huge tower known as Jose Marti Memorial.
8. Visit the Revolution Museum of Havana
The revolution is one of the highlights of Cuba’s history. Many things have changed during that significant event. Thus, it was important to shed the light on such historic events for the upcoming generations to know the truth and heritage of their country. If you happen to be a history buff, the Revolution Museum is the right destination for you.
The museum proudly sits in the historic area of Old Havana. This building used to serve as the Presidential Palace before it was transformed into a historic museum. The museum will walk you through prominent events in the timeline of Cuban history. You will get to witness a myriad portraits of Cuba’s struggle towards independence.
It houses several objects that go back in time, including tanks and military vehicles. Those objects were the actual ones used during the operation known as Bay of Pigs. You shouldn’t also miss the yacht displayed that transferred Cuba’s 15th president, Fidel Castro, from Mexico to Cuba. The most interesting part is the bullet holes displayed in the central staircase. They prove the assassination attempt of President Fulgencio Batista that ended with failure.
9. Climb the Staircase of La Guarida Restaurant
Havana is famous for the abundance of old buildings. The good part is most of these buildings are not left abandoned but rather innovated. La Guarida Restaurant is embraced by a pretty old building, serving as the only Paladar in Havana.
This chic corner has become a hot tourist destination, attracting even Hollywood celebrities. It preserves the Cuban roots, creating a unique ambiance narrating the history and culture of Havana. The restaurant is quite pricey, yet it is known for offering delicious food and drinks of premium quality.
Besides enjoy a hearty meal from the Cuban cuisine, you will also come in contact with the reputable staircase of La Guarida. The restaurant owns a huge set of a staircase entirely made of marble. Tourists fly from all over the world to dine at this restaurant and snap a picture or two on its grand staircase.
10. Relax at Playas del Este
Well, since Havana possesses a summery weather all year round, you shouldn’t miss the Caribbean side of this beautiful city. A short drive away from the city center of Havana can take you to the splendid views of Playas del Este. There are more than a few beach resorts around Cuba, but this one is the closest to Havana.
Playas del Este is a picturesque beach that stretched for several miles, featuring a wide array of pretty palms. Given the quite wide stretch of the beach, it is divided up into different sections with different names. Santa Maria del Mar is the most popular beach among tourists, and it offers plenty of facilities that make it a hot spot.
On the other hand, Guanabo is another section that you will always find crowded. It doesn’t offer as many facilities and services as the other beaches though. However, it is a perfect spot to take the stress off your mind and enjoy some quality serene time.
Exploring Havana is a fascinating experience of learning a new culture and discovering history. No matter where you choose to stay, you will always find something interesting to unearth in Havana. You can also head to the beach and enjoy a real Caribbean experience.