Claudia Tevani shares her best things to do in Havana Cuba. Since publishing this article, we have been to Havana ourselves. So Dave and I wanted to add our own recommendations to the list.
This Havana guide takes the best of two different trips to help you plan the best trip possible.
Things to do in Havana
Updated March 2019
Cuba is an amazing country. It has topped many a travelers’ bucket list, and for good reasons.
It is one of those places that grows on you: for as different, difficult and at times simply frustrating I found it, I could not help falling completely in love with it.
Since leaving the country both Claudia and ourselves want to go back! As Claudia says "One place I would surely like to go back to would be Havana."
Here are the top things to do in Havana, Cuba
To skip to any excursion or section just click on the links below. You can also close the table of contents tab.
1. Take a Classic Car Tour
When arriving in Havana, book a classic car tour to see all the major sites. These impeccable classic cars are the best way to see Havana.
Havana is known for its classic cars. Being isolated from the world due to the American Embargo, the time has stood still since the 1950s when America left and left its old cars to the locals.
We booked with Cubatur and had fantastic guides to take us from our hotel at the Iberostar Grand Packard all around the city.
The tour takes you through all the Havana Neighborhoods.
We drove along the five-mile waterfront known as the Malécon through the residential district of Vedado to the embassy area of Miramar. This is where the rich and diplomats live and the architecture is beautiful.
A drive through the forest made for a beautiful drive before heading back through the main road of Old Havana through Central Park and the Capital Buildings. For an overview of the city, this is a great tour to start with.
2. Ride in a Taxi Particular
If you don't want to splurge on an organized vintage car tour you can easily take a taxi particular. For about $5 - $10 you can hop in a classic cab to take you from point A to point B like Claudia did.
Not all taxi particulars are created equal. Some of those vintage cars are kept perfect and shiny. Others are simply old and rusty. But all of them are incredibly large.
Taxi particular (privately owned taxi) rides are shared taxi rides. Meaning that when I got in one, other people also got in.
If they are going in the same direction, you'll have company. It's a good way to meet some locals!
We took a few taxi particulars ourselves and the drivers are proud of their cars. One of the drivers we had told us this cab was his grandfather's car. He inherited it and had recently had the upholstery redone and had the engine restored.
You'll see people working on their cars regularly in the streets.
Book your own 2-Hour Classic American Car Tour when visiting Havana.
3. El Floridita for Hemingway Daiquiri
Hemingway frequented El Floridita so often, there is a statue of him sitting at the end of the bar with his namesake on the bar.
Walking from Parque Central towards Old Havana, you'll easily spot El Floridita. It's packed with tourists visiting on day trips, but head out later at night and you'll be able to go in with less of a crowd.
Ernest Hemingway frequented El Floridita where the daiquiri was invented. He has a cocktail named after him called the Papa Doble which is a daiquiri without sugar and double the rum
4. La Bodeguita del Medio
Another Hemingway Bar is La Bodeguita.
There is a note from Hemingway where he apparently wrote "My Mojito in La Bodeguita, My Daiquiri in El Floridita"
There are many spots in Havana Vieja (Old Havana) to have cocktails and I am sure Hemingway frequented many.
Claudia stated, "It is almost impossible to let a day pass in Cuba without having a mojito."
Mojitos were invented in Cuba and are one of the island's oldest cocktails. That's old considering Havana is about to celebrate its 500th anniversary!
What's in a Mojito?
The recipe consists of white rum, (a lot of it in Havana cocktails), sugar (traditionally sugar cane), lime juice, soda water, and mint.
recommends mojitos at La Bodeguita. This was Hemingway's mojito bar, so if you are on the Hemingway train, this is the place to go!
She says the mojitos are average at La Bodeguita , (while daiquiris at El Floridita are delicious) but you have to go because it's a historic hot spot!
5. Mojito Mojito
We recommend the restaurant Mojito Mojito, we were told its claim to fame is that the Mojito was invented there!
We had lunch in here with an excellent band entertaining us. The food was good, and the atmosphere was great. It was much bigger than most of the bars we went into in Havana.
We had one of their mojitos and they were good, but not nearly as delicious as our favorite bar in Old Havana, Van Van.
6. Los Van Van
We loved the bar Los Van Van and it seemed that everyone else did too! We wemt there two nights in a row and ended up seeing a lot of people from the night before.
The Mojitos were delicious and strong. (and yet there was no hangover) and the live music was outstanding and entertaining.
The had the entire bar up dancing.
Los Van Van is located in Old Havana.
Suggested Havana Tours
It helps to begin exploring a city with a walking or driving tour. It's a great way to get your bearings Get Your Guide is a company we have used for city tours around the world and it is easy to book last minute tours or cancel up to 24 hours in advance.
Private Half Day Tour of Havana - Book a private walking tour, up to 6 people for your own introduction to Old Havana.
Havana City Tour - A more affordable option is to join a group and take a city tour of Havana as you check out all the sights.
Vinales Valley - This 5-hour guided tour takes you out of Havana to visit a local tobacco factory, plantations, and a cruise the Cueva del Indio by boat.
Classic American Car Tour Havana is known for it's classic cars, so see it in style driving around in an old beauty with a cocktail in hand!
7. Best Sunset Views In Havana
The new hot spot for sunset is on the 6th floor of the Iberostar Grand Packard. It has the best view of the Malecon and lighthouse.
Enjoy a cocktail overlooking the infinity pool as the sun goes down.
8. La Guarida - Best Dinner in Havana
La Guarida in Centro Havana is also a popular spot for sunset. It is one of the most expensive restaurants in the city with meals costing around $40 per person.
Made famous by the Academy Award-nominated movie Fresa Y Chocolate.
It's not easy to find as it is on the third floor of an old mansion. If you don't know where you are going, one would walk right past it.
The setting is beautiful and its terrace is one of the most sought after spots for sunset in Havana. Many a movie star has frequented La Guarida and they have the photos on the walls to prove it!
When you are there, have one of their Pina Coladas, they claim to have the best in the city, and we can attest, they are tasty!
9. El Malecon at Sunset
El Malecon is great: 8 km of paved road where the locals go at sunset, to relax after a day at work.
During sunset it is very busy and beware, many a tout will approach you to buy something or ask for money.
But for the most part, locals will leave you alone as they go about their business working out, listening to music, fishing or simply just going for a jog.
Ocean waves crash on the shore and often soak unsuspecting tourists.
It spans 5 miles (8km) all the way from Old Havana to Rio Almendares where the chic neighborhood of Miramar begins. You can walk the entire way!
One side is ocean and the other passes along Centro, Vedado along the way showcasing beautiful (sometimes very decadent) buildings on one side – such as the Hotel Nacional.
All of these make it a perfect place to relax.
Note from Claudia: "I also recommend a brief detour from El Malecon to go to the Callejón de Hamel, to look at some interesting street art and enjoy the Afro-Cuban culture."
Interested in learning more about Cuba? You may like The History of Cuba in 50 Events.
Recommended Hotels in Havana, Cuba:
10. Explore the Crumbling Buildings of Centro Havana
Our hotel was located right beside Centro Havana and we loved wandering the streets for amazing photography moments.
The buildings are literally crumbling before our eyes, but as tourism picks up, you can see many are under construction and I have a feeling in 10 years it will be an entirely different place.
We took a pedicab through Centro Havana to cover distance quickly, but the joy of walking through here is getting lost in the streets.
It is safe and people are friendly. We even walked home at 3 am one evening and the streets were alive with people walking late into the night while nobody bothered us at all.
11. el Cañonazo de las Nueve
Every night, at 9 pm sharp (may as well be the only thing that is punctual in the country) in the fortress of La Cabaña, the ceremony of “el cañonazo de las nueve” takes place. La Cabana dates back to 1774 rising 200 ft (60m) beside El Morro
Soldiers dressed in the traditional costumes of the 18th century shoot the cannons to warn that it is time to close the city gates.
This has been done for centuries, to protect Havana from its enemies.
Havana used to be surrounded by a city wall (much of it can still be seen today) and at 9 pm the canon was shot to warn people that the gates would be closing. If you didn't get in on time, you'd be locked out for the night!
I truly enjoyed it. The view of Havana by night from La Cabaña is amazing, the ceremony is engaging, there are a lot of museums and exhibits inside the fortress and the entrance ticket includes a drink!
Definitely one of the most fun things to do in Havana.
12. Visit the Morro
El Morro is the castle dating back to 1589. It's Havan's most prominent landmark and can be seen from the Malecon.
Located across the bay, it offers some great views of the Havana skyline.
El Morro was initially built to protect Havana from pirates, in later years it was used to protect Cuba during the Spanish American War.
You can tour the fort and explore the many guard boxes and tunnels.
Watch our video: What to See in Havana
13. El Cristo de La Havana
Havana has its own Christ the Redeemer, just like Rio!
Take a taxi or tour across the bay to spend the morning exploring the area.
This Christ of Havana stands 20 meters (66 ft) high and is located on an outcrop overlooking the city of Havana. Its location offers excellent panoramic views of the Havana Skyline.
14. Che Guevera's Headquarters
Just across from Christ statue is the headquarters of Che Guevera.
We didn't go inside, but you can tour the museum for about $6.
This is where Che held many meetings when planning his revolution.
15. See the Cuban Missle Crisis Relics
It was the beginning of the entire isolation of Cuba. The Soviet Union pointed missiles directly at America from Cuba.
While across the bay visiting the Christ of Havana, the Fort and Che's headquarters, take a look at the display of the missiles that have been moved from their original locations to the fort and museum of La Cabana fortress in Havana,
This could be (hopefully) your one and only time to see a Soviet-era SS-4 medium range nuclear capable ballistic missile up close and personal.
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16. Visit The Capitol Building
The Capital Building is one of the best places to visit in Havana. People who know me (Claudia) are well aware that I am not a huge fan of big cities.
My general rule is that, regardless of how many museums, churches, bars, and restaurants there are to visit in a capital, I get tired after a mere two days and make my swift escape.
Havana is the exception to this rule.
In fact, it was hard to leave, because I really had a blast there.
17. Parque Central
It is probably the first place you'll venture to in Havana. Parque Central is where everything happens.
This is the spot where you'll see all the old cars lined up waiting for tourists to take a taxi particular ride.
It's a place where men chat in the park, musicians play on the street and people catch some shade away from the sun.
Central Park is surrounded by grand hotels like the Iberostar Parque Central and The Kempinski.
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18. Grand Teatro de La Havana
The Grand Theatre dates back to 1838. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
You can take a tour to go inside and see the grand stage, and we recommend taking a walk downtown at night to see it lit up.
21. Revolution Square
When visiting Havana, you must stop at Revolution Square to see the monument to the people and the facades of the Ministry of Interior and Che Guevara.
It was here that Fidel Castro made many of his long-winded speeches to the people. We were told that thousands of people would sit for up to three hours in the heat listening to what he had to say.
Pope Francis celebrated mass from here in 2015.
22. Cuban Cigars
I am not a smoker – in fact, I find smoking quite disgusting habit. And I have asthma too.
So I thought I may as well try one too. Ok, here’s a little secret: I did not even light it up. But I got to smell the delicious tobacco and found out a lot on how to properly save cigars.
And they are fun to chew on and pretend.
Did you know cigars are best kept in the fridge, on a wet cloth? When you take your cigars home from Cuba make them last this way.
23. Go to the Barrio Chino
There is a Chinatown in Havana.
But there are no Chinese people there. In fact, there once was a huge Chinese community in Cuba.
What's left today is just about 2 blocks of Chinese restaurants. Still interesting to see. I enjoyed it for sure.
The one thing you can be sure of is a Cuban tout saying the word "this is China Town but there are no Chinese people. They will then try to sell you. something.
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24. Listen to Cuban Musicians
Ok, this is not a hard one. I noticed that Cubans are very musical, and they carry around a radio wherever they go!
Pretty much at every corner in Havana Vieja, someone will be playing some great tunes and it is nice to stop and listen to the tunes.
Most bars and restaurants in Havana also have live music, at just about any time.
If you go into a restaurant for a drink, chances are a band will start playing.
- Note: They will come up to you to ask to buy one of their CDs. We bought one for as low as $5 and we spent $20 on a set of two another night. The prices range quite a bit. I suggest paying more around $5-10 tops.
Check out another musical city at Montreux and its Music Legacy
25. Learn to Salsa
Can you actually listen to salsa without wanting to dance to it?
I can’t. I am a nearly hopeless dancer, but I still had to give it a try, and took one salsa lesson in Havana, so that I could make a fool of myself for a good afternoon.
The teacher was less than impressed with me and kept saying I needed to relax and let go.
I was really stiff. Yet, I had a great time!
There are several places to learn salsa in Havana, all you need to do is Google "Salsa Lessons Havana."
Or you can do we what (Dave and Deb did) just go up and dance with the band, they'll lead the way for you.
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26. Browse The Book Market of Plaza de Armas
The oldest square in Havana hosts a lovely book market in its center.
I am a book junkie, and I had to browse.
Besides, I met some interesting people there too and took some cool pictures. Peple are very friendly in Havana.
But be prepared, they will want money for a phto like this.
27. Explore the Plazas of Old Havana
Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is worth spending a day exploring each of the plazas.
No vehicles are allowed in Old Havana (save for city workers) and the streets weave through narrow cobblestone walkways leading to different plazas.
Get lost and see if you can. find all the plazas of Old Havana: you will feel like you are walking through a Spanish City rather than being somewhere in the Caribbean.
- Plaza de la Catedral
- Catedral de San Cristóbal
- Plaza Vieja
- Plaza de San Francisco
- Plaza de Armas
Plaza Vieja has some excellent cafes to enjoy a frozen lemonade overlooking the square.
28. Visit the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Arguably one of the finest art gallery in the Caribbean, this is a must visit for art lovers.
I love art, and I spent a good afternoon browsing through the collection of this incredible museum that hosts international art from 500 AD onwards.
The museum is now divided into two buildings, one is dedicated to Cuban art and another dedicated
29. Bonus Tip: Try Guarapo
I find the heat exhausting and at times I need a good dose of sugar to recharge my batteries.
Nothing beats guarapo for this: it is pure sugarcane juice, freshly squeezed.
I don’t like the particularly sweet taste, so I added some lime and it was perfect!
Cuba Resources & Information
- Ready to fly to Cuba? Check out Cheap Flights here.
- Cuba uses the Cuban Peso, ATMs are available to withdraw money. 1 Cuban Peso = 1 USD. Be sure to select CUC (not CAC) CUC is the tourist Cuban Peso. The other is for locals only.
- Bring US cash with you in small bills to be able to change at your hotel upon arrival.
- Are you a U.S. Citizen? Make sure to check with your Airline about Visa costs as they are different for each carrier. Typically they range from $50 to $110. Learn more about the legality of traveling to Cuba as an American by visiting the Treasury Department’s Cuba FAQ.
- Make sure you have travel insurance. We never travel without it and recommend World Nomads for short term trips. If you are looking for something more long-term check out Allianz Travel. Read more about the value of Travel Insurance here.
- Looking to plan your trip? We recommend checking out Lonely Planet Cuba
- Don't forget that the water in Cuba is not drinkable. We recommend bringing along the Lifestraw Go Waterbottle. We bring this with us everywhere.
- Internet: It is available through the ETECSA telecom company and you can buy prepaid cards for around $2-3 per hour.
Enjoy What to Visit in Havana? Why not pin this to Pinterest for future reference.
Have you ever been to Havana? What were the best things you did there?
Do you have other suggestions of things to do in Havana that I may have missed?
My Adventures Across the World
Claudia Tavani is from Cagliari (Sardinia) and is obsessed with travelling. A former human rights lawyer and academic, after devoting her life to the protection of cultural identity, in November 2013 Claudia decided to give in to her biggest passion and started travelling around Latin America, and she has hardly stopped since. Blogging came as a natural consequence, for Claudia wanted to let her family and friends be updated with her adventures.