Havana was every vacationer's paradise before the Cuban Revolution. Back then, the leisurely attitude of the people and the natural beauty of the city made it the premier Caribbean retreat. But with the political turmoil and strife that Cuba was plunged in during the 1960s, the former tourist hub closed its doors to visitors. This experience, however, only added character to the people of Havana and the place itself, when the city welcomed tourists once again in 1995. Now, it is a vibrant metropolis that draws even more visitors because of its authenticity and the genuine warmth of its people.
Havana is a great city to explore on foot. The 8-kilometer promenade of El Malecon is a picturesque place for a stroll with its stunning views of the bay in front and the crumbling buildings behind. Another great place to wander is Old Havana, where museums and shops abound. Within this part of the city is Central Park, a green space to relax, as well as the the pedestrian-friendly streets of Calle Obispo and the bustling street market of Calle Tacon. Another space to take in the beauty of nature is the National Botanical Gardens, a 600-hectare facility that grows exotic plants, trees and flowers and features a landscaped Japanese Garden. If you are vacationing with kids, bring them to see the dolphins and sea lions at the National Aquarium or the hippos and other animals at the National Zoological Park. The Castillo de la Real Fuerza in Plaza de Armas is a maritime museum worthy of a visit.
Most of the fine dining establishments in Havana are government-run eateries and are relatively expensive compared to family-run paladares. But it is only in government-run restaurants where you can eat lobster, prawns and beef. Fine dining may be had in Centro and Old Havana. If you fancy seafood, head to the restaurants along El Malecon. Other good places to eat in include the districts of Miramar, Playa and Vedado. There are also good restaurants in Havana's Chinatown. Charming cafes can be found along Prado Street.
Shopping You can't leave Havana without buying cigars or rum to take back home. The Partagas Cigar Factory on Calle Industria behind the Capitol Building has the best quality cigars in town. Afro-Cuban handicrafts, souvenirs and Che Guevara shirts may be found in abundance in Calle Tacon, Havana's largest street market.
53 Calle Oficios
La Habana Vieja
Trocadero entre Zulueta y Monserrate
La Habana Vieja
Calle 48 Number 1311
Between Calles 13 and 15
Calle 23/La Rampa y Calle L