Havana, the capital city of Cuba, is a place where history, culture, and vibrant energy converge. From the welcoming and humble nature of its people to the rich tapestry of music, art, and dance, Havana is a city that captivates the hearts of visitors.
Let's delve into the fascinating culture, family life, ambiance, and must-visit places that make Havana such a beloved destination.
Culture and Ambiance:
Havana is a city alive with culture and vibrant ambiance. Its streets pulse with the rhythm of salsa, son, and rumba, creating an infectious energy that permeates the city. Music and dance are deeply ingrained in the Cuban culture, and you'll find impromptu performances and lively dance clubs throughout the city. The unique architectural blend of Spanish colonial, art deco, and neoclassical styles adds to the city's allure, with colorful buildings and vintage cars creating a picturesque backdrop. Exploring Havana's historic neighborhoods and strolling along the iconic Malecón waterfront promenade immerses you in the city's vibrant and nostalgic ambiance.
Family plays a central role in Cuban society, and Havana is a testament to this. The warmth and hospitality of the Cuban people are evident in their close-knit family ties. Family gatherings, known as "tertulias," bring generations together to share meals, conversations, and celebrations. Engaging with locals and embracing their welcoming nature allows visitors to experience the sense of community and family that defines Havana. Through genuine interactions, you'll gain insights into the Cuban way of life and create lasting connections with the locals.
I spent nearly a week with a beautiful family and I couldn't imagine a better way to really get to know what the lives are like for the people of Havana, especially when you sit down at the table with a rum and catch of the day.
El Malecón: Take a leisurely stroll along Havana's iconic waterfront promenade, enjoying breathtaking views of the sea and lively street life. Join the locals for an evening gathering, where music, laughter, and camaraderie fill the air.
Museum of the Revolution: Discover Cuba's fascinating revolutionary history at this museum, housed in the former Presidential Palace. Explore exhibits that chronicle the country's struggle for independence and the revolutionary movements that shaped its identity.
Fusterlandia: A whimsical and colorful neighborhood adorned with vibrant mosaics created by local artist José Fuster. Marvel at the creativity and artistry displayed in this unique artistic enclave.
Fabrica de Arte Cubano: A must-visit for art and culture enthusiasts, this dynamic arts venue showcases contemporary Cuban art, live performances, music, and film screenings. Experience the vibrant art scene that thrives in Havana.
Top Things to Do:
Dance the night away at a salsa club, where the infectious rhythms will have you moving to the beat.
Attend a live music performance, whether it's traditional Cuban music, jazz, or Afro-Cuban rhythms. The music scene in Havana is unparalleled.
Indulge in the vibrant flavors of Cuban cuisine. Savor classic dishes like ropa vieja (shredded beef), congrí (rice and beans), and moros y cristianos (black beans and rice).
Explore the local markets, such as Mercado de San José, where you can find Cuban handicrafts, artwork, and souvenirs.
Take a vintage car tour through the streets of Havana, relishing the nostalgic charm of these classic automobiles.
Visit the Havana Club Museum of Rum to learn about the history and production of Cuba's famous rum. Enjoy a tasting session and sample some of the finest Cuban rum.
Take a relaxing stroll through the beautiful Jardín Botánico Nacional (National Botanical Garden), a lush oasis filled with exotic plants, trees, and stunning floral displays.
Explore the vibrant street art scene in Havana, where colorful murals and graffiti adorn the walls of neighborhoods like Callejón de Hamel and Fusterlandia.
Immerse yourself in Cuban history at the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, an impressive fortress that dates back to the 16th century. Explore its exhibits and enjoy panoramic views of the city.
Don't miss the opportunity to witness a captivating performance of the world-renowned Buena Vista Social Club. Experience the soulful melodies of traditional Cuban music that will transport you back in time.
Cuban Cocktails and National Dishes:
No visit to Havana is complete without indulging in its famous cocktails and savoring the flavors of its national dishes. Sample the world-renowned Mojito, made with rum, mint, lime juice, sugar, and soda water. Enjoy the refreshing Daiquiri, a blend of rum, lime juice, and sugar. For a taste of Cuban cuisine, try the succulent roasted pork dish called Lechón, accompanied by yuca con mojo (cassava with garlic sauce) and tostones (fried plantains). Don't forget to indulge in the classic Cuban sandwich, filled with roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard.
Must try cocktails:
Mojito: A refreshing cocktail made with rum, lime juice, sugar, mint leaves, and soda water. It's a classic Cuban cocktail enjoyed worldwide.
Daiquiri: Originally a simple blend of rum, lime juice, and sugar, the Daiquiri has evolved into various flavors. The classic version remains popular, but variations like strawberry or banana daiquiris are also common.
Cuba Libre: Also known as a "rum and coke," this cocktail is made with rum, cola, and a squeeze of lime juice. It's a simple and popular drink.
Piña Colada: Although its exact origin is debated, the Piña Colada is enjoyed in Cuba. It combines rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream, and ice, blended together for a tropical delight.
El Presidente: A classic Cuban cocktail made with white rum, vermouth (typically dry), orange curaçao, and a splash of grenadine. It has a rich, sweet flavor.
Canchánchara: Originating from Trinidad, Cuba, this cocktail consists of rum, lime juice, and honey. It's traditionally served in clay pots called "jícaras."
Mary Pickford: Named after the famous American actress, this cocktail includes light rum, pineapple juice, grenadine, and maraschino liqueur. It's a sweet and fruity drink.
Floridita Cocktail: This cocktail is associated with the famous El Floridita bar in Havana. It typically consists of white rum, lime juice, sugar, and maraschino liqueur.
Guarapo: Not strictly a cocktail, but a popular Cuban drink nonetheless. Guarapo is made from freshly pressed sugarcane juice, often served over ice.
Hemingway Special (or Papa Doble): Created for Ernest Hemingway, this cocktail is a twist on the classic Daiquiri. It combines rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and maraschino liqueur.
I can't stress the importance of going for a long walk around with no expectations, no google map and no plans. I spent hours everyday getting lost in the city, meeting people and staying away from the tourist spots. This therefore gives you a real sense of the city and the people of Havana.
Havana, with its warm and humble people, rich cultural heritage, and captivating ambiance, is a city that leaves a lasting impression on every visitor. From its historic sites to its vibrant music and art scene, Havana offers a unique and enchanting experience. Explore its charming streets, immerse yourself in its culture, indulge in its culinary delights, and create memories that will stay with you long after you leave this beautiful city. I honestly felt that I left a little piece of me there and would happily go back now to work and live in Havana. Also Cuba is a huge island so it has so much more to see and I can't wait to get going again.
So pack your bags, embrace the rhythmic beats of Havana, and let this remarkable city captivate your senses with its undeniable charm. Viva Havana, the soul of Cuba! A Cultural Gem.
Peace, love and travel. xx