Top things to do in Havana
I have always wanted to go to Havana… I loved the idea of the music, the classic cars, the buildings and of a city, I imagined was kind of “halted” in time. Is it how I imagined? Sort of, but not really!
Havana definitely has the wow factor, the architecture is simply stunning. It is a city like no other because alongside the pristine and well preserved sits the fading decadence and splendour of what once matched its neighbour. Equally beautiful, these buildings tell their own story. This is a city of contrasts, influenced by its many cultures. There is a “buzz” a positivity, an enthusiasm and for some an opportunity for change. To see, firsthand how life is for Cubans, to listen to their tales, witness their resilience and resourcefulness was a real privilege. We felt welcomed, safe and very much “looked after” throughout our time in Cuba. Was this something I anticipated or thought would make the trip? No, but it did!
Choosing our “top things to do in Havana” was tricky… certainly many of our favourite moments where unscheduled/planned! That is why Havana is definitely a city which deserves some time, at least 5 days. Yes, you can hurtle about from one sight to the next but to really get a feel for the place, stay in a Casa Particular, live life alongside the locals and fully embrace Havanas uniqueness, culture and eclectic vibe.
Ride in a classic car!
Discover the secrets of Havana in your own classic convertible! Book ahead or head down to El Capitolio where there will be plenty to choose from. Negotiate your price anywhere from $25-50 CUC per hour depending on the season.
Beer or Mojito?
Factoria Plaza Vieja serves up its own beer, light, medium or dark…fancy sharing? Order a beer bong and soak up the atmosphere of this lovely plaza. Is a mojito more you? Then head to La Bodeguita del Medio, it has to be done!
Havana Vieja, Cuba
The birthplace of the city, now a UNESCO site is a sight to behold, crumbling streets, grand plazas and restored buildings make the old town a feast for the senses. Wander the streets, stop and listen to the music, sip a mojito and be enchanted.
Fancy a cigar?
The Partagás Cigar factory is a great way to spend a few hours. Learn the skill of hand rolling and then head to the shop to take some home for friends and family. If the factory isn't for you check out the women around the cathedral who will pose for a photo!
Crumbling streets with a unique past, grand plazas, elegant buildings, classic cars and cigars…but Havana is so much more, spend some time here and glimpse the heart of Havana, take time to wander, watch and listen… what will you discover?
Stroll along the Malecon
Havana's 8km seaside boulevard stretching from the old town down to Vedado. Filled with locals hanging out, fishermen & lovers strolling along watching the sunset. Take a detour and visit Callejón de Hamel, an alley filled with street art and recycled sculptures.
Ajiaco Cafe, Havana
Fancy learning to cook a traditional Cuban dish? Then head to Ajiaco cafe in Cojimar for a cookery school with a difference. Meet the gardeners who provide the organic veg, cook with the chefs, make a mojito to die for and then sit and enjoy your hard work.
Fabrica de Arte Cubano
A multi-level cultural warehouse in Vedado plays host to live music, DJ's, art exhibitions and dance performances. It has something for everyone, move around this art space and discover some of the newest talents alongside Cuba's most famous names…
Keep it local!
Whilst in Havana be sure to stay in a casa particular, a local house! Many Cubans are now renting out rooms and this is a win win for both sides, we get to spend time with a family, in the heart of the city and they get to supplement their income.
Do you have a little more time?
As you can see, there are plenty of top things to do in Havana! If you have a little more time, why not consider spending some time in the beautiful national park of Vinales. Only a short 3-hour bus ride away, if you are looking for an antidote to the vivacious capital then head to the countryside to experience a slower pace of life and the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature.
Gorgeous pastel-painted homes make for a picturesque, quaint feel. Many are “Casa Particular,” we stayed at Casa Nolo which was perfect. There are a variety of different eatery options and a host of nature-related activities to partake in. We enjoyed a guided walk through the National Park and a visit to the nearby Santo Tomás caves. Horse riding may be a good option, or visit the organic tobacco/honey farms or perhaps simply sway in a hammock and soak up the atmosphere.
Havana if a fabulous city, we could easily have spent a couple of weeks exploring this vibrant, pulsing and very much “alive” corner of Cuba. Definitely try to take advantage of all the top things to do in Havana but remember to take your time! Two days is not enough! What we loved most was wandering… stumbling across squares in the quieter parts of town, mingling with the locals and enjoying impromptu bursts of music and dancing, whilst sipping a mojito or three…
Read our review of the Ajiaco Cafe Cookery School. We spent a fabulous morning with some of the friendliest guys in the city!