Habana Vieja - Old Havana, Havana
Plaza San Francisco and Plaza Vieja may not be as lively as the two other plazas but it's still worth walking to both of them. There are two popular cafes at Plaza San Francisco: el Cafe del Oriente and El Cafe Mercurio. Both have sidewalk terraces that make it possible to enjoy the view of the beautiful buildings surrounding the Plaza, such as the church San Francisco de Asis and the old Chamber of Commerce, as well as the many horse carriages that gather around the plaza's fountain.
Plaza Vieja is the perfect place to go for an afternoon drink: there are many restaurants around the plaza, including a pina colada stand and if you like pina coladas, make sure to get one from that place - they taste like heaven! On weekdays, you'll probably bump into elementary school classes out to get some exercise. Stand close and you might get to learn a couple Spanish nursery rhymes!
"Breathtaking" is the first word that comes to mind when I think about La Habana Vieja. I had never seen anything quite like it before, and the best way to enjoy it is by walking through the streets of Old Havana, letting the faded beauty of the city soak in. Now part of Unesco's World Heritage, a lot has been done to restore the grandiose, sometimes pompous buildings constructed during the island's more prosperous times, but there can be a lot of differences going from one street to the next. You have to be somewhat careful when you venture out of the more touristy streets as there aren't as many policemen around but those more remote streets, crowded with workers and kids playing baseball, give you a better picture of life in Cuba.
This small neoclassical building is located in a corner of Plaza de Armas. This is the place where legendary was founded the city, which was named San Cristobal de La Habana, in 1599. But the Templete itself was built in XVIIIth century.
Este pequenho edificio neoclasico esta situado en la esquina de la Plaza de Armas. Es el lugar donde legendariamente fue fundada la ciudad, a la que se dio el nombre de San Cristobal de La Habana, en 1599. Pero el Templete fue construido a finales del siglo XVIII
It is funny that Plaza Vieja (old square) was named at first as Plaza Nueva (New square) at XVIth century. After the urbanization of Plaza de Armas, this square stopped being the most important public space and it received the name of Plaza Vieja. It is a porticated square with a lot of historical building from four different centuries. The most important of them is Casa del Conde de Jaruco, which dates back from XVIIIth century. Hotel Cueto also deserves a special mention: it is a art-deco hotel built at the beginning of XXth century, and it is presently being reconstructed by the hotel chain Habaguanex.
Es curioso que la Plaza Vieja de la Habana fuese denominada en principio Plaza Nueva, en el siglo XVI. Despues de la urbanizacion de la plaza de Armas, esta plaza dejo de ser el espacio publico mas importante y recibio su actual nombre de Plaza Vieja. Es una plaza porticada con muchos edificios historicos, de cuatro siglos diferentes. El mas importante es la Casa del Conde de Jaruco, que deta del siglo XVIII. El Hotel Cueto tambien merece especial mencion: es un hotel art-deco construido a principios del siglo XX y esta siendo reconstruido en la actualidad por la cadena hotelera cubana Habaguanex.
Dark and white - just the way a Cuban Rum (Ron) is presented. Old and recent - just the way it is - a national drink - next to Havana Club - Bacardi and Ron's preserved in several ages and called Silver dry/ Carta Blanca/ Carto oro and Anjeno.
The purchase prices are different - from 3 upto 20 american dollars depending on the age.
The history of the rum goes back to the 1500s when the distillation production was first obtained by sugarcane products.
The mixed drink of Rum and Cola dates from the american influence during the independacy war and was called "Cuba Libré" - maybe now the americans regret it !!
The price for the locals in "Bodega" markets is cheap and almost available (20 pesos a bottle ) - A gouvernment drug ??
Plaza de San Francisco: Old Havana has very beautiful squares and this one, just besides de harbour, has Spanish style. In the middle of the square it lies Fuente de los Leones (Lions Fountain), which is inspired by La Alhambra, in Granada, Spain. The most remarkable building in the square is San Francisco Church, which dates back from late XVIth century. It was erected to house franciscane monks community.
Plaza de San Francisco: esta plaza, justo al lado del puerto, tiene estilo espanhol. En el medio de la plaza esta la Fuente de los Leones, inspirada en La Alhambra de Granada. El edificio mas destacado de la plaza es la Basilica de San Francisco, que data de finales del siglo XVI. Fue erigida para albergar una comunidad de monjes franciscanos.
There are many areas in the city center with an optic that would alarm all my senses to keep out in any other Latin American city. Not in Havana. As there are drastic punishments for crime to tourists and it seems to be out of the mind of the well-educated and friendly people here, you can walk any place any time. It?s sad that this is so special, but it just is so special. This way you get a good chance to see behind the facades of the touristic Cuba.
This area has the most colonial buildings and is the most visited area for tourists who visit Havana but it's also its most beautiful spot. Foreigners walking through the streets getting hustled by jineteros, taking pictures or just having a (Cristal) beer. Habana's Vieja is famous for the Catedral de San Cristoal de la Habana at the Plaza de la Catedral, and for Hemingway's bar, "La Bodeguita del Medio", where you can buy an expensive mojito. Havana Vieja is a part of "cultural Heritage of humanity" and the larger colonial center in Latin America.
Time seems to stand still over here which is absolutely unbelievable.
The only thing which push me off from this place is people begging and hussling you. It so hard to move around. I gave away lots of soap, pensils and run out of most of our change. After the while is very annoying , because even that locals are not allowed to bother tourist they still can be very pushing and hard to et rid of.
During our visit to Havana, one of my favorite things to do was to just walk through the streets of Habana Vieja, admiring the contrasts of both people and structure. It's an opportunity to see freshly painted colonial-era historical buildings right next to run down apartment complexes, a sense of real life in Cuba mixed in with the tourist attractions. In the early morning the streets are filled with "business as usual", but at night they're alive with music and activity, and I felt totally safe walking after dark.
Take the time to wander the streets through beautiful old buildings and churches, and enjoy an evening stroll through the plazas to watch some great live music. I would recommend staying in Habana Vieja; you're close to so much, and you really get to see the vibrant atmosphere and sense of community Havana has to offer.
Havana is separated into two sections: Old Havana and New Havana. If you go to Old Havana, you'll see the castle where they used to protect the city from. Ships filled with raiders used to come into the harbour at this point, and loot the city. To stop this, Cuba created a big castle here, complete with cannons to protect the city.
I originally thought that this was the Cathedral when I went back through my photographs of Havana. It's easy to get confused - after all, why wouldn't the Cathedral have the tallest bell-tower in the entire city of Havana? Iglesia y Convento San Francisco de Asís was built in the 17th Century and has a beautifully maintained exterior, although the interior has fallen into a bit of disrepair. The truth is that the big draw is not really the Church or the Convent at all. For $1 you can climb to the top of the belltower with the guide (who NEVER shuts up) and get the most spectacular view of the entire centre of Havana. There really is no better photo-taking opportunity for tourists to Havana.
Old Havana has been around for close to 500 years. Many of the buildings date back to the 1700's. It is a mixture of narrow cobblestone streets, elegant beautifully restored buildings and ancient crumbling ruins. Hurricane Wilma hit hard here in 2005 and the country is still struggling to rebuild.
There are 5 main areas to Old Havana: Plaza Vieja, Plaza de Armas, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de San Francisco and Parque Central. All of the plazas have been beautifully restored and maintained. We had the most delicious coffee I have ever tasted at the coffee shop in Plaza Vieja - coffee, ice cream, and booze - yummo! Make a point of stopping there if you need a break.
There are many markets and shopping areas in Old Havana. You can easily lose yourself for hours wandering through the narrow crowded streets. Keep a close eye on your wallet in crowded areas.
Havana is a different city. It has a special, soothing sense. Havana people are modest and calm. We stayed there for 4 nights in mid February. We felt it was a safe place, but it is always good to be awake as any other big city.
People are trying to earn their lives, so it is customary that they come and ask you if you but cigars, want to go to Salsa club, taxi rides etc. But they do not insist if you expres that you do not want.
Well, we loved Havana. Too many things to see. Best part was live music in La Lluvia del oro, the group was Son Tradicional.
One point was use of credit cards. Using credit cards means using US dollars and they charge you 11%. You can not pay with Euor through credit card. So, if you use Euros, keep that in mind.
Old Havana has some great architectural treasures, one of which is Fuente de los Leones (Fountain of the Lions). This fountain was built in 1836 by the Italian sculptor Gallini. It provides great picture taking opportunities in the middle of one of Havana Vieja's squares.
Finding a patio in Old Havana and settling in is a wonderful way to fill an afternoon. Old havana has many cafe with some type of musical entertainment, do expect to offer up a tip but only upon leaving. If your lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you perceive it) you may be asked to join in!