If we were going to do a comprehensive list of all the reasons why you’ll fall in love with Havana, this list would contain some 5382 items. So we have cherry picked 9 of the most pertinent reasons and spots in Havana that will most definitely make you embark upon a lifelong love affair with this city… a place that is nothing less than magnificent.
1. O’Reilly in Havana’s Old Town
You can (and probably will) spend days wandering around Havana’s UNESCO-protected old town (La Habana Vieja). The street known simply as O’Reilly is a great place to get started. It’s the heart of what is typically thought of as the tourist zone in Havana, but this doesn’t detract from its authenticity. It’s the best starting point for your explorations with plenty of stores, restaurants and bars.
2. Callejón de Hamel
Officially known as the Callejón de Hamel, this small alleyway in central Havana is often just referred to as that weirdly cool arty place. It’s simply a small street in which a number of Cuban artists have set up shop. There are galleries and workshops, and much of the actual street has been taken over by the artists with bold, even psychedelic murals and street sculptures. There is generally live street music on weekends, so this can be the best time to drop by.
3. The Malecón
If the Old Town is the heart of the city, then the Malecón is… well, a major artery at least. It’s a long esplanade that stretches along the harbour and is a major social focal point. Whether you want to wander along for hours or simply sit with a cold beer and watch the people go by, this is the best spot to soak up the atmosphere of Havana. The project originated from the engineer Francisco de Albear, although it did not even begin construction until 1901, four years after his death.
4. Vivacious Vedado
The Malecón starts in Old Havana and stretches through to Vedado. This is a part of the city that is really rather fascinating. It was one of the wealthier areas of the city prior to the Cuban Revolution and now a lot of the old mansions and grand homes have been repurposed as restaurants, accommodation and nightlife spots. It’s a better bet than Old Havana when it comes to something to do when the sun goes down.
5. Calle 23
Leading off the Malecón and into Vedado is Calle 23. This is yet another spot in Havana to wander and soak up the atmosphere. Much like the Malecón, this is a place where the locals come to simply hang out. If you want to join in the fun, start exploring the area of Calle 23 between the Coppelia ice cream shop and the Yarra Cinema.
6. The Cars
Havana is known for its classic cars, but this is not all that will be on the road. You might also encounter a number of older Soviet-made and Chinese vehicles, but these drab, unremarkable cars are almost invisible when seen on the street alongside those boldly-coloured classic cars. Many of these old vehicles operate as taxis, so try to take a ride (either negotiate the cost before you leave or insist that the meter is turned on). Even if it’s just a short drive through the centre of the city, a classic car ride is essential when you come to Havana.
7. The Nightlife
Even if you’re not a night owl, you might find yourself in for some late nights in Havana. There is a rich social culture here, so dinner can quite easily turn into cocktails, followed by beers at a bar, followed by dancing until the sun comes up at the Casa de la Musica.
8. The History
Even if you didn’t pay much attention at in history class, you are no doubt aware that Cuba has had a turbulent history. This often difficult evolution of the country has given it its distinctive cultural identity, which can be experienced on a full day tour in Dubai.
9. The People
Havana’s (and indeed all of Cuba’s) greatest asset is its people. Many travel guides overtly state that the people who populate a certain destination are the warmest of earth (or such information is tactfully missing when even the most charitable assessment of a place could not consider this to be true). But the people of Havana are warm, friendly and curious. Nothing is too much trouble, and whether it’s your hosts at your Casa Particular or the friendly strangers you share a beer with on the Malecón, you will find yourself pleasantly confronted by the kindness of strangers. It’s not something that’s put on for visitors either… it’s just the way that people are in Havana.