Havana’s story is one that could fill the pages of even the thickest of history books. It has been ransacked by pirates, colonised by the Spanish, conquered by the British and turned into a gambling den by gangsters, but today it is one of Latin America’s most vibrant cities.
Walking through the streets of Cuba’s capital is as good a way as any to get an insight into its fascinating but chequered past, tracing the timeline of events through its architecture. Every corner of the city tells its own story, from the faded colonial grandeur of Havana Vieja to the leafy avenues and art deco houses of Vedado.
The story of Cuba’s struggle is never far away and the Plaza de la Revolucion pays homage to the country’s national heroes with huge murals of Che Guevara and Camillo Cienfuegos and a star-shaped tower dedicated to Jose Marti. Punctuating the skyline are iconic high rises and weaving their way between this rich tapestry are scores of vintage American cars.
Havana’s energy is undeniably contagious; the beats of salsa and regaton permeate the air and life in the city is very much lived out on the streets. Doors are flung open, friends congregate on the pavement to chat and dancing with whoever happens to be passing at the time is just par for the course. In the relative coolness of the evening the Malecon, an 8km sea drive that runs westward from the Havana Vieja, comes alive with families, couples and friends coming to play music, drink rum and chat until the early hours.
Havana may be a city steeped in history but it is also one that has its eye looking firmly to the future. An extensive regeneration project is slowly breathing life back into the crumbling buildings of the old city and a new generation of restaurants, bars and art galleries are springing up to highlight the Cubans’ optimism and love for life.
What to do
- Explore the winding streets and squares of Havana Vieja
- Meet Cuba's heroes at the Plaza de la Revolucion
- Discover Havana's thriving arts scene
- Catch a live Buena Vista-style show
- Enjoy a mojito on one of Havana's rooftop bars