There are so many brilliant things to do in Havana including, below are my five favourite activities including eating out, day trips and top travel tips.
- Walk the streets of Central Havana, downtown Havana.
To get a good feel of the anywhere I visit I love to roam the streets and they busy back streets of central Havana are easy to navigate and give you the real taste of the city. They are potholed, busy, loud and exciting. Looking into the doorways you can see the spiralling staircases, colourful tiles and intricate details which give you a hint of what the previous decades. The buildings which are a confusing mix of architecture are run down with a faded colour theme running throughout the streets creating the perfect photo backdrop.
- Dine at La Guarida or San Cristobal
Don’t make the same error we did and forget to book your tables at these two prestigious restaurants as they are both well known in Havana as the best spots to dine and you don’t want to miss out. With Obama leading the way at San Cristobel and the famous, Oscar nominated ‘Fraise y Chocolat’, film being shot at La Guarida you’ll struggle to get a table without booking first.
La Guarida is simply beautiful, after going through a wonderful wooden door, up three flights of gorgeous stairs, past breath-taking murals and two headless women statues you reach the unique restaurant. There is an open-air cocktail bar at the top of a few more winding staircases where you can look out over Havana whilst enjoying a well made cocktail. The menu is forward thinking and exciting, I enjoyed their signature pork dish with plantain mash and ice cream for dessert. Dining at La Guarida was a great way to end a fun holiday.
- Visit Valle de Viñales
If you are a Jurassic Park fan this trip out of Havana to Viñales National Park is definitely for you! After booking through an information centre the day before we headed out of Havana at 8am on a full coach. During the tour we visited a rum factory, tobacco farm, Viñales caves and the magnificent Parque National Viñales. The national park is a world heritage site and has numerous view points that look out over the dramatic scenery complete with towering palms and limestone mountains.
Joining an organised tour was a cost-effective way to travel out to Viñales, the other visits were a welcomed addition to the day but the caves do take time to wander through. Depending on the caves the timings of the tour can be quite relaxed so give yourself plenty of time if heading back for a dinner reservation.
- La Fabrica Arte
Think Shoreditch warehouse crossed with an art gallery and a famous Berlin nightclub and you’ll be getting close. La Fabrica del Arte, also known as Fabrica is a place where we were lucky enough to spend New Years Eve and it was, by far, one of my favourite experiences in Cuba. Perhaps as this Fabrica shows and edgier, younger side of Cuba with numerous floors, brilliant art galleries, pumping music rooms and well-staffed bars. It was great to wander between the art instillations, mojito in hand and then slip onto the back of a dance floor. It was also a great place to meet other international travellers and share Cuba adventure stories and experiences over a roof top cocktail. This would be top of my list if I was heading back to Havana tomorrow.
- Ride around town in a 1950’s Chevrolet
The cars are what makes Havana Havana. Now, you don’t need to do this as hungover as we were on New Years Day but I would definitely suggest you do it! I loved it. There was something really exciting about riding in the back of a topless, pink, car around Havana.
The colourful cars are a reminder of the strong USA – Cuban bond back in the day and these 1950’s cars are proudly and meticulously maintained by their owners. The city car tours are a key part of the tourism and income for the locals and we paid 40cuc for an hour. Seeing all the different cars on the streets of Havana made me feel like I was in the set of a live 1950s museum – a very special experience.
A little preparation is all you need ahead of a visit to Cuba.
Helpful Tips for Cuba:
- Tell your bank you are going.
- You cannot pay with card in Cuba.
- Take some dollars for your arrival or first few days in Cuba, at least enough that once converted to get to your hotel (we made this mistake!)
- Cashpoints will not always work so make sure you withdraw enough money where you can.
- If you are going to a bank to withdraw some cash make sure to take your passport.
- Take a great guide book – our bible was the lonely planet, it is current and often provides useful recommendations, maps and information.
- Be prepared for little to no Wifi so be prepared for little to no contact with the outside world and plan all your excursions, accommodation and down load any apps well in advance to avoid relying on any internet based information.
- Book restaurants in advance: with the growing food scene in Havana the best restaurant are extremely popular and you will find they all get booked up for weeks in advance.
- Get a visa ahead of arriving in Cuba and print any documents you need to take with you.