We came upon an artisan market in Old Havana. I wish I could tell you where we were; unfortunately it was May, it was 38C, crowded, and all I could think about was how I was sweating from body parts I didn't even know I had..... we were down the street from Central Park. The market was shaded, which was a little relief from the heat, but there were so many people in the market that the body heat offset any heat loss that may have been gained by the shade. Don't get me wrong, there was some really beautiful stuff in the market. I just wasn't much in the mood for shopping, all I could think about was air conditioning. And ice cold beer. And, lucky for us, we found both a short walk from the market.
On this particular visit to Havana we were there a few days before Mother's Day. This may have accounted for the crowded streets.
Every Sunday, the Artisans Market takes over the area overlooking the Canal de Entrada on the Tacon near to the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. It's a real mix of crafts, lacework, prints, oil paintings etc and there's some interesting things to pick up - good for those momentoes and/or presents to take home with you.
The beautiful and colorful market.
Closed on Sunday's (maybe also on Sat', sorry i can't remember). Don't miss it, its very nice. You can find nice souvenirs to buy and meet people.
From there you can go on into the old Town.
If you walk around downtown, you'll eventually find this huge artisan's market. Here you can buy bracelets, hand-woven rugs, wood carvings, and of course, fake cuban cigars. If you think you can buy real cuban cigars on the streets, you need to think again. Every local selling cigars will tell you some story about how they have a brother in a factory that sneaks a cigar out a day, and he makes these boxes, etc.. I wanted to bring some cigars back for friends and family, and was forced to do a bunch of research before I went. Every box of cigars I found being sold on the streets were fakes. If you want real cigars, you're going to be forced to buy them from an authorized government store.
One thing people don't realized is that Cuban cigars are *very* expensive, even in Cuba. A good cigar will run you $10 USD per cigar here. My friend bought a box of 20 to take home, and he paid nearly $200 USD. I also bought a box: although I don't smoke at all, my friends and family sure enjoyed them..
Most guides will direct you to the indoor artisan market, yet the truly interesting market is the one outdoors, only a few blocks away. As in most artisan markets, you'll find a mix of everything. I especially enjoyed the handcrafts and paintings. Oh and don't forget to negotiate the price!
Casa Hammel - Afro cuban art and the local kids - asking for nothing but emotions and respect - The street of Salvador Gonzales