10 MUST DO'S IN HAVANA

Havana is everything I thought it would be, and more. When I heard that there is plenty to do in the Cuban capital, I decided that our visit should be of at least 5 days, but if you remember my 14-day itinerary around Cuba, you know we ended up staying longer. It's no wonder, Havana has enough to keep you busy for a while, and as it is still being explored by tourists, you can always find something off the beaten path amongst the most popular attractions.
However, if you find yourself trying to decide what's worth the visit or not, with some effort, I put together the 10 must do's in Havana. These are the 10 things you just cannot miss while visiting the city. Unfortunately, (or not) you won't find on this list smoke a Cuban cigar or dance salsa. Why? We aren't smokers and don't really like to dance, and we know that many of you feel the same way, and well, there are more things to Havana (and Cuba) than salsa and cigars. Though, feel free to add them to this list, if for you they are a must.

HAVANA VIEJA
If you had only one thing to do in Havana to pick from this list, walking around Havana Vieja should be THE one. The old town is a world in itself, busy, noisy, with incredibly breathtaking architecture (you can never get tired of the buildings), the old timers, museums, cathedrals, squares, theaters, iconic hotels, street food, and I can go on and on. This place is amazing, and we never got tired of it while in town. Therefore, Havana Vieja is a MUST.

TAKE A WALK ON MALECON
The Malecón is an 8km long seawall that goes from Vedado neighborhood until Havana's harbor, passing by Central and Old Havana. There is where strong waves crash into the wall and where the sunset is not to be missed. It is a must when in Havana, one of the city's post cards and most iconic places.

PLAZA DE LA REVOLUCIÓN
The most important square in the city, and in the whole country. Plaza de la Revolución is where Che Guevara used to have his office, where important events are held (including Fidel Castro’s funeral and the Pope’s visit), and just behind it it’s where the seat of the Cuban government is located.

STROLL AROUND VEDADO
If you believe that because of communism Cubans have social equality, you need to visit Vedado and experience some jaw dropping with the mansions you will find there. There is one more amazing than the other, and you will be sure that even in Cuba there are clearly rich and poor.

LA CABAÑA FORTRESS
Officially named Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, this fortress dated back to the 18th century, is the third largest in the Americas. It is one of the most remarkable landmarks of Havana, located in a hill just across the harbor, to where you can go by boat or by crossing the underwater tunnel of the city. The fortress offers an incredible view over the capital, especially at night, and something you can’t miss is the Cañonazo Ceremony, which happens everyday at 9pm, when the canons are fired. This event is a ritual, it used to mean that the city’s gates are closing.

RIDE AN OLD TIMER
Because, even if it’s incredibly touristic and expensive (around 50 to 60 Euros a ride) you can’t just visit Havana and not ride a convertible old timer. Though, if you aren’t willing to pay this crazy amount for a ride, you can still experience an old timer by simply taking a taxi in the city. It won’t be the same, but I assure you that it’s a heck of an experience too.

GOOD TO KNOW:
♦ You are not allowed to drive the cars, though the driver always let you take a picture pretending that you are.
♦ The driver is also a guide, and he will tell you the stories of the places you pass by, is available for questions and even assists you with taking pictures.
♦ There are different companies that offer the ride, some allow you to make reservations online and can pick you up wherever you are. However, you find most of the cars located at Parque Central, where you can decide which tour you want to take (they normally take 1 hour and there are 2 different tours you can pick from).

TAKE A LOOK AT MERCADO ARTESANAL
This market is filled with local art and handcrafts. If you are looking for some authentic souvenirs, here you will find plenty, otherwise, it’s already worth getting inside and take a look and stroll around the beautiful paintings.

RIDE ON A COCO TAXI
Riding a Coco Taxi is nothing like riding an old timer, but it’s funny, fun, different, interesting, cheap and an experience you can’t miss in Havana. Besides, you don’t get to ride on a “coconut” everyday.

HAVE A MOJITO AND A DAIQUIRI
For those who didn’t know, Havana is the home of Mojito and Daiquiri. Even though very touristic, you can’t possibly visit Havana and not have a Mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio (later on I also discovered that there is one in Trinidad) and a Daiquiri at La Floridita, where Ernst Hemingway used to spend time. Both venues are on the same street, the famous Calle Obispo.

GO TO THE BEACH (PLAYAS DEL ESTE)
No, you can’t miss Havana’s beaches, yes, they are worth it. They aren’t exactly reachable by foot from Havana’s downtown, as they are located in the surroundings of the city, which require a car or a bus to get there. There are three of them, one beside the other, Tarara, Santa Maria and La Terraza. We spent some time between Tarara and Santa Maria and found it beautiful, and not so packed with tourists.
Getting there: the best way to get there is by taking the bus at Parque Central. Once you get there ask where you can take the bus to the beach, as there are several buses stopping going to different destinations. There is a bus every 30/40 minutes (good luck with the line) departing between 09:00 and 18:00, the price is 5CUC both ways (recommended, otherwise the way back costs more)

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