There are four historic plazas in Old Havana--Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de Armas, and Plaza de San Francisco--and you can visit them all for free! In fact, walking to the different plazas is a great way to explore Old Havana. I love Plaza de la Catedral because of the cathedral--it's also probably one of the more popular so there are people in traditional dress that you can take pictures of (for a tip) and activity all the time--so much people-watching! Bodeguito del Medio of Hemingway fame is also right nearby. Plaza Vieja is the largest and there is a really great brewery in one corner. Plaza de San Francisco is (in my experience) is the least crowded and has an awesome fountain with lions on it. Plaza de Armas has a used book market set up most of the time, which is also really fun to visit. The plazas can provide hours of fun in Old Havana, and they are totally free!
The embargo is still there but you only have to tick a cultural interest and you no longer need special permission and no need to fear of persecution by American Authorities! on a recent visit to Old Havana I couldnt get over the fact that, in the short period since Obama and Raul announced the end of the neurotic relationship between the two countries, the place is already full of americans. The travel to Cuba from America is in its infancy but one year from now, the Cuba (especially the tourist cuba with its hangers on ) would be different
COME TO CUBA IF YOU WISH TO SAVOUR THE WONDERFUL SOCIAL NATURE OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION BEFORE IT IS GOBBLED UP BY SUPERFICIAL EFFECTS ON THE SOCIETY BY THE MASS TOURISM FROM THE USA
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.
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.
One of the best ways to get your bearings in Havana is to take in the four main Plaza's and their surroundings which form the heart of Habana Vieja (Old Havana). There's no better place than to start with Plaza de la Catedral with the Baroque facade of the Catedral de San Cristobal forming a backdrop to this beautiful square.
At the opposite end of the Plaza is the Museo de Arte Colonial. An 18th Century colonial residence built around a sedate courtyard. Once the home to the Governor of Cuba, it now houses an impressive collection of colonial furniture and various other decorative pieces from 18th & 19th century aristoctratic houses in Havana. Amongst the collection is an impressive array of stained glass windows known as "mediopunto". Well worth a visit.
The old part of Havana is full with colonial buildings, churches, plazas and even a replica of Washington'c Capitol, the Capitolio. Some of the must-see places are la Catedral and the adjacent plaza, el Parque Central with the Teatro Nacional, the Prado promenade, and of course the Malecon.
The old quarter is a dilapidated area of stunning architecture that is gradually being restored, and brought back to its original grandeur. Just wander around all the old back alleys off of Obispo Street to discover great little bars & restaurants...
The first thing to do is get a quick 1 day Cubanacan tour of Havana that takes you round the old town, over to the castle, revolution square, Capitol building and a rum factory. Gives a quick feel for the city and you can pick out things from the coach window that you might not have seen had you just been walking round.
It gives you a feel for where everything is and helps you navigate the city more easily after that.
Sadly I cannot remember the exact details since my trip was a year ago but I will try my best. There is a tower in Old Havana. Lifts take you to the top. You enter a darkened room. The guide with the help of a contraption enables you to see all the sights of Havana on the ceiling! He focusses the contraption on a particular sight and you can see it on the ceiling. He can even zoom in so that you can see it in greater detail. This contraption was invented by a famous scientist (sadly cannot remember who it was) and there are just three of them in the entire world.
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.
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!