If you are looking for things to do in Havana Cuba, you have come to the right place. Due to a somewhat tumultuous political relationship, Havana, Cuba, features a vibrant history that has only been frequented by American travelers in recent years. Featuring a colorful art scene, vintage style, a rich food scene complimented by famous cocktails, striking architecture, and a very short flight from the southeastern US, the increasing popularity Havana has received is fully warranted.
Below you will find a comprehensive list of things to do in Havana, Cuba spanning a variety of interests.
Visiting Cuba for the first time from the USA? International travel requires a valid passport. Be sure to read the U.S. Department of State’s information on Cuba travel with plenty of time before you depart, as you will require a visa and added restrictions may be in place.
We’ve lined up the top things to do in Havana, Cuba for you to include on your next trip. With art, history, local traditions, dancing, and sites to see on this list, you can enjoy a trip very rich in Cuban culture with just a long weekend available, or a more leisurely exploration with more time to spare.
Things to do in Havana, Cuba:
Visit Old Havana
You could easily invest the better part of an entire day just exploring Habana Vieja, or Old Havana. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since the early 1980s, although the area is commonly referred to as a touristy part of town, you’ll find many gems that overcome its reputation. Visiting Old Havana is one of the best things to in Havana, Cuba!
The architecture across Old Havana is eclectic and representative of Havana’s various periods of growth. Neoclassical, baroque, and various other design elements are featured prominently in the brightest colors imaginable. Spanish influence in the architecture is evident as their occupation endured from the 16th century when the port town of Havana thrived.
Aficionados of history will find Old Havana’s attractions worth a visit. Located just one block from one another, you can easily conquer both the Museum of the Revolution and enjoy the Museum of Fine Arts for a few hours.
Take a stroll around Plaza Vieja’s main square. You can take a curated walking tour (there are many tour guides and companies available) to orient yourself with Havana’s history and jump-start your journey with a local expert, then visit locales on your own after.
Many fabulous hotels and independent Airbnb units are available in Old Havana. When considering accommodations, you’ll find this central location is a quick taxi ride away from the many popular venues on this list.
Take a Ride: Havana’s Classic Cars
Start your trip with a spin in one of Cuba’s ubiquitous rides. Classic automobile aficionados will ogle at the glorious beauty and simplicity of Havana’s colorful convertibles. Evoking what is truly “cool” about driving around town, they stand out among the rest, cruising around the avenues of Havana. Riding in a classic car is one of the top things to do in Havana, Cuba.
Why does Cuba have so many cool, classic cars? Trade restrictions hindered Cuba from importing new vehicles from the United States, the closest country producing its own automobiles. Due to the costly nature of importing cars from countries much further away, there were not many other cars available for Cubans. It is quite miraculous to consider that the mechanical skill and craftiness of Havana’s residents has sustained the classic cars from being drivable for well over half a century.
You can drivers offering tours around town for a ride or even as a taxi service to your destination, primarily located at the Hotel Inglaterra at Parque Central. Think about what a unique photo-op you’ll have with a colorful convertible in Cuba!
For a greater experience, book a two-hour vintage classic car tour in Havana during your stay. Your convertible driver can pick you up from your hotel, Airbnb, or even after a dinner reservation for a cruise around town. You’ll even be able to ask about local tips for exploring Havana. Several companies offer similar tours with varying price-points.
Check out Colon Cemetery
Think about how dramatic it would be to walk through an expansive, 141-acre cemetery with over 800,000 graves housed there. Experience the Cementario de Cristóbal Colón with its statuesque figures and elaborate tombs. This might sound like a strange tourist stop, but it is actually one of the interesting top things to do in Havana, Cuba.
The Cemetery is located about 20 minutes from the center of Havana, easily accessible by taxi. You can read through the headstones and famous figures eternally remembered at Colon Cemetery for just $5 CUC to enter. Maps are also available to purchase for you to locate where many of Cuba’s artists, bishops, and politicians are buried.
Bask in the Cuban Art Factory
Formerly a plant producing cooking oil, Fabrica de Arte Cubano or the Cuban Art Factory was founded by one of Cuba’s prominent musicians, X-Alfonso. The venue is packed with vibrant photographs, incredible art pieces, prophetic writings, unique jewelry pieces, fine films, and much more. But the space is not just a spectacular art gallery; it also houses a bar with handcrafted cocktails, a performance arena for artists and live musicians, and a mecca for eccentric local dancers.
The music scene is eclectic and thriving, prominently featuring local salsa and tango, melodic reggae, hip-hop, and familiar club music you hear globally. You’ll even find some exceptional dance performers enjoying the beat. The dancing never ends in the club – well it does, but 3:00am may not come quickly when the mojitos are flowing and the music is great!
Wander around the winding corridors of the Cuban Art Factory for a special kind of attraction in Havana’s exciting nightlife. With limited hours, plan your visit to this late night gem during their operating hours of Thursday – Sunday from 8:00pm – 3:00am.
Enjoy live music and dance the Salsa
Exotic, fast-paced salsa dancing is ubiquitous with Havana’s exciting nightlife. Live bands perform for an energetic crowd nightly at many indoor, outdoor, and hidden basement clubs throughout Havana.
Many of Havana’s clubs have a small cover charge, but you’ll happily shell out $5-25 CUC to offer the jazz and band musicians their fair share. You’ll be tempted to dance the night away when the music calls your name.
If you visited the Cuban Art Factory and want to arrange for some formal lessons, they are readily available. La Casa del Son offers one-on-one private lessons as well. You may even pick up some steps watching the locals leave nothing on the dance floor.
Depart from Havana with a spirit of movement within you. Imagine how confident you’ll be equipped with the steps to conquer a spirited Cuban beat, able to impress everyone at your next fiesta!
Wander Around Fusterlandia
For the artists and art-lovers interested in seeing what sets Havana apart from all other cities in the world, a visit to Fusterlandia is a must. Cuban artist José Fuster is a brilliant mastermind when it comes to tilework. His work has been compared to Picasso, and this similarity led to numerous successful gallery tours across Europe. See how his work transcends indoor galleries and expands through a full public installation.
Fuster blanketed this neighborhood in his vision of hand painted, colorful tiles. The art is whimsical, naïve and childlike in character. You’ll see people, animals, figurines, and homes depicting stories. The folk art style is quite famous and free to enjoy, while Fuster and other local artists welcome purchases of their work. Talk about a truly unique souvenir from your trip to Havana!
Take in the Malecón Esplanade
An iconic destination spanning 8 km in Havana, you’ll see the gorgeous cityscape of Havana along the Malecón Esplanade. The sidewalk runs along the beautiful water as well as many shops, restaurants, Cuban art, and colonial buildings on the other side. You can easily take a brief taxi ride along the Esplanade, but with a few hours to spare, walking will enable to you fully enjoy the experience.
There are many sights to see along the Esplanade. A few include the once glamorous Deauville Hotel, fresh seafood from Café Neruda, nightclubs and other spots on Calle 23 (or 23rd Street), a historic monument at quiet Antonio Maceo Park, and the famous Hotel Nacional – a very popular stop on this stroll for a refreshing mojito. You’ll truly experience the vibrant colors and authentic charm that radiates from Havana’s locals after spending time on the Malecón Esplanade.
Get fun photos with the locals:
There are people everywhere dressed up and ready for photos. They charge typically $1-2 CUC and you can snap a photo or two of them, with or without you. These types of photos are popular, and you have probably seen someone else with them before.
Cuba has long been famous for its high-quality, hand-rolled cigars. You’ll find locals rolling cigars on the street for tourists to purchase. For a unique experience, check out a tour in one of Cuba’s top cigar factories.
On a factory tour, you’ll observe all parts of the manufacturing process that goes into producing a top export of Havana. Many are offered in English. Several tour companies offer a guided tour, complete with a visit to a specialty cigar shop, a stop at the cigar museum in Old Havana, and a Maridaje ceremony with a cigar sommelier (because yes, they do exist!).
Even those unfamiliar with cigars or who do not smoke will find value in learning more about the pride of Havana. Cigars are heavily embedded in the culture of Cuba, and there is so much to see, smell, and hear when it comes to a top product from Havana.
Within a few hours of touching down in Cuba, you’ll soon know Havana isn’t giving up any time soon. Havana boasts an art scene that rivals all cities in the world, cultural traditions that enable hours of exploration and learning, a unique food and beverage scene, and many other attractions all throughout the city. Make your next trip beyond incredible by including these eight prime spots on your list in Cuba’s capitol, Havana.
Whether it s with Hemingway or on the side of the road, one simply does not visit Havana and NOT get a mojito.. or 10. I remember when I was looking for things to do in Havana, Cuba before I arrived, an endless number of people told me “make sure and drink the mojitos.”
Local handcrafts are very easy to find in Havana. It seems almost every store and street vendor is ready for you to take a piece of Havana home with you. Panama hats are a very commonly worn item in Cuba and they are very inexpensive. This is a great way to shade yourself from the heat. Of all the things to do in Havana, Cuba – I am certain that being protected from the sun is one of them.
What a joy to walk the streets of Havana and hear wonderful music from the locals. I found this to be very popular and quite enjoyable. As far as things to in Havana, Cuba, this is one of the best ways to meet people in the city.
Plaza de la Revolucion
Revolution Square is a historical city square in Havana, encompassing the Vedado district and several notable monuments. Millions have gathered for various political rallies over the years that have taken place in Revolution Square, including Fidel Castro’s prominent addresses to the country. Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis both held large masses during their visits to Cuba.
Labor Day is held in the city square every year on May 1st. One of the tallest points in the city of Havana is the memorial of Jose Marti Monumental statue, a landmark in Revolution Square. You can also plan to check out the National Theater of Cuba, featured in the center of Revolution Square.
Rum at Havana Club
Cuba has a long history when it comes to producing rum. According to their website, the Arechabala family began producing rum in Cuba in 1878. Nightclubs and casinos in Cuba poured their rum for tourists and locals to enjoy and dance the night away, until it all stopped abruptly on January 1, 1960, when the Cuban government regime seized the company’s operations at gunpoint. It is reported that some founding family members were imprisoned, while the rest exiled.
The Arechabala family fled Cuba, leaving much behind them except their coveted rum recipe. Bacardi, who re-launched the HAVANA CLUB brand in the United States in 1995, acquired their original recipe and are now producing the rum in Puerto Rico, made with the spirit and flavors of Cuba.
There is some contention between Bacardi and the Cuban government, who claims they hold a global trademark for the brand. Cuba Ron, Cuba’s rum company, and Pernod Ricard, a French company that acts as the distribution arm for the product, argue they produce the authentic “HAVANA CLUB” rum, as their recipe is made in Cuba whereas Bacardi produces in Puerto Rico.
José Martí Memorial
A heavyweight in the literary world, José Martí is celebrated across Cuba as the “Apostle of Cuban Independence” from Spanish rule in the 19th century. As a writer, poet, and persuasive essayist, he forged the way for the Cuban Revolutionary Party to unify and succeed in the Cuban War of Independence. After writing for numerous Latin American and American newspapers, as well as founding his own, he is revered for unifying themes of liberty, freedom, and democracy.
Situated in Revolution Square, the monument is a glorifying statue to the greatness of Martí and how much he means to the people of Cuba. A small museum houses many quotes from José Martí’s writings. You will feel a meaningful impression by his cries for freedom. This should be on your list of things to do in Havana, Cuba.
Touring the museum will make for a short visit, and for an additional $3 CUC, you can take an elevator ride to the top of the monument. An air-conditioned vantage point featuring panoramic views that expand all over Cuba, you’ll see Key West, Florida, a distant yet visible point approximately 169km away.
San Carlos Fortress
Tour the third-largest military fortress in the Americas, the Fort of Saint Charles or Castillo de San Carlos de la Cabaña, also known for short as La Cabaña. You can now explore not only the expansive grounds, but also the Museum of Arms, Command Headquarters of Che Guevara, as well as a museum depicting the history of the fortress itself.
Many visit the fortress for a nightly canon firing at 9pm sharp. This is a very popular tourist activity, but especially worthwhile. Soldiers march to carry the flame to light the cannon, and crowds form in the early evening. The tradition began in colonial times to signal the closure of the city’s walls and still lives on today. You can stand right by the cannon to watch, or climb to the top of the fortress walls to watch from above, and experience expansive views of Havana harbor and the city.
The National Capitol Building, or El Capitolio, is the equivalent of Washington, D.C.’s central government fixture. It is in fact modeled after the U.S. Capitol, and it features three museums and a planetarium.
You can enter the facility for $4 CUC and explore the various exhibits on your own. You’ll find it is easier to navigate and much more accessible than the U.S. Capitol building. To see even more of the unique corridors and hear more of the history that frames Cuba’s politics, you can purchase a guided tour, taking you through the first Parliament room and observing the elegant marble floors and ceilings, traditional upholstered furniture, and other features.
At the time of this writing (February 2019) the Capitol building is currently closed for renovations, including significant scaffolding repairs and interior remodeling. Please check before visiting to ensure you can enter. If not, you will still be able to see the exterior of the building within Havana’s city center.
SANTERIA AT CALLEJON DE HAMEL
Art, history, music, dance, and more intersect at this marvelous yet short street in Havana. Santeria is a very spiritual religion blending African traditions into Cuban Catholicism, with a lively and mystical theme.
The streets are covered in bright murals, sculptures, musical instruments, and bathtubs covered by one of Cuba’s most famous artists, Salvador Gonzales Escalona. For a unique experience, Escalona is often present to greet tour groups at the entrance to his gallery, offering many art pieces for sale at various price points.
SCUBA DIVE (OR SNORKEL) IN BAY OF PIGS
Many visit the Bay of Pigs for its historic museum describing the conflict set to prevent the spread of Communism in the Americas. While there is great history in this region, crystal clear water makes for ideal aquatic activities in the Caribbean, and the bay of pigs in Cuba exceeds expectations. Roughly 2.5-3 hours from Havana, you can see all kinds of coral, fish, and aquatic life in their natural habitat.
The water is deep, and snorkeling gear is available for rent in the area. If you are staying in Playa Giron or around the Bay of Pigs, your host can even arrange for you to take the Dive Bus, a tour group that arranges for inclusive rates for rentals and pick-up/drop-off, once you arrive in town. Divers report spectacular experiences in the warm water environment exploring all over the clear waters.
Plaza de San Francisco
San Francisco de Asis Square features a Fransican convent built in the 16th century. While the convent has not been active for many years, the Museum of Religious Arts resides inside, accessible for a fee of $3 CUC. If you’re not interested in checking out a museum, several small streets abound for you to wander around into shops and cafes, exploring the culture and history of Havana.
Many visit this Plaza for a great walk around to take in the architecture and history from the nearby cruise ship port. Be aware that locals dressed in traditional Latin American costumes, generally with cigars, will ask that you pay them for photos – this is your chance to get that photo op you see online everywhere. This is one of the most sought out things to do in Havana, Cuba when visiting.
Be sure your trip to Havana includes a stop to see the legendary cabaret show, taking place for over 80 years. The cabert is a must among things to do in Havana, Cuba. Arrive at the large outdoor theater in true style to Havana’s well-known club in one of Cuba’s ubiquitous classic cars, and you’ll be in store for a special night of vintage glamour, filled with big band music, fun cocktails, rhythmic dancing, elaborate costumes, and much more.
Entertainers are decked out to the nines with elaborate feathered headdresses, singing, dancing, and performing for the nightly crowd. The show is roughly 90 minutes and moves quickly, with live musicians and carefully choreographed dance routines. It is a spectacular show, and tourists rank it high on their list to check out in Havana for an authentic step back in time, much like the shows once performed in old Las Vegas.
You can book a premium ticket in advance, ensuring you have prime seats for the show, as well as a cigar, a bottle of Havana Club room, bottle of Coca-Cola, glass of sparkling wine, and a bowl of mixed nuts to snack on. Some tickets include a prix-fixe meal as well. Performers and attendees even dance through the aisles as you dine!
This is a quintessential activity that is not to be missed on your trip to Havana. You can book tickets in advance directly through the venue or check with your host/concierge for any information.
When you are planning your trip and looking for things to do in Havana, Cuba, there is no shortage of culture, history and arts. I would recommend staying in Havana for a few days to really take in all it has to offer its visitors.
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