Everybody’s talking about Cuba these days. While the country is under-going massive changes and gradually opening its borders, even to its biggest neighboring country, tourists are getting crazy about traveling to Cuba, with its capital Havana being the ultimate travel destination nobody wants to miss. If you only have one day in Havana to spend, it could be pretty challenging to fit into schedule all the sights and activities this charismatic and exuberant city has to offer, but it’s still enough time to let the city captivate you with its energy and crumbling charm.
What’s the best time to visit Havana?
Ideally, it would be from March to June. The summer is way too humid and warm, and due to raining season, it’s expected to rain almost each day. Winter, on the other hand, can get too busy, packed with the travelers from the Northern Hemisphere.
What’s good to know about Havana?
Havana City is a vibrant capital of Cuba founded more than 500 years ago as a Spanish colonial city. Its unique charm comes with picturesque streets of the Old Havana, historical plazas, old Cadillac cars and Salsa sounds. The colonial architecture, with its colorful yet crumbling facades, is undergoing some huge renovations these days, and with the support of the UNESCO World Heritage program, it manages to revive the former splendor.
One Day in Havana Itinerary
Top things to do in Havana, Cuba
Follow this guide and make the best of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do on your one day in Havana.
Start your day at Habana Vieja
Habana Vieja, internationally known as Old Havana, is the oldest and most mesmerizing part of the city, shaped by various influences since the city foundation in 1519. Its cobblestone streets, impressive colonial buildings and the vivid atmosphere around them make it a perfect spot to start your one day in Havana adventure.
Visit the Cathedral and the Royal Force Castle
Wander through the picturesque streets, get lost and finally find your way to Cathedral Square. Visit the Cathedral, one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Cuba. Get around the corner and check out the Royal Force Castle, which is considered to be the oldest stone fort in the Americas.
Shop some old books at the Square of Arms
Take some rest in the shade of the trees at the Plaza de Armas. It’s a nice place for interaction with locals as it’s usually full with people all ages. There are also many stalls selling old books, posters and other vintage items.
Visit Central Havana and have a lunch at Barrio Chino
Central Havana is nothing like Old Havana. With its crumbling facades and broken pavements, it’s not the most representative place to be, but with its slightly chaotic atmosphere and the bustling streets, it’s the best place to get to know the local culture and the Cuba of today. If hungry, visit the Barrio Chino, or the Havana China town. There is a nice mixture of both Cuban and international dishes for very fair prices.
Shop the arts and souvenirs at Almacenes San José Artisans’ Market
The San José Market is the ultimate place for art and souvenir shopping. There’s basically no Cuban souvenir you can’t get there. It’s also a great place to have some fresh pineapple or coconut juices, or Pina Colada cocktails.
Watch the sunset at Malecón
Start your late afternoon walk near Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta, walk down the Malecón and watch one of the most spectacular sunsets. You will notice how the whole promenade transforms into a great chilling place in just a few hours and gets loaded with locals hanging out and drinking the rum.
Have a dinner at Paladar La Abadia
Located on the Malecón promenade, Paladar La Abadia is a great place to have a cheap (from 4 CUC on), yet quality local dinner meals. It usually gets full in the late hours, so make sure you get on time. It’s a nice place to have a few mojito cocktails too.
Night in Vedado district
After you fill your belly with some nice Cuban dishes, it’s time to have some fun. If you’re at least a bit into jazz, head to Zorra y el Cuervo for some late night jazz jamming. The 10 CUC entrance fee includes two cocktail drinks. Make sure you don’t wear flip-flops.
Have an arty night out Fabrica de Arte Cubano
Fabrica de Arte Cubano is the perfect place for those who don’t want to choose between the night at the Art Gallery, Movie Cinema, Dance Club and Fancy Rooftop terrace. It’s actually the best place on the Earth to spend the evening at. Anyways, don’t come too late – it works only until 3am.
Where to stay in Havana?
Melia Cohiba is a 5-star hotel located at Vedado neighborhood. It’s a central business district and a great choice for travelers interested in tourist attractions and dining. The hotel offers beautiful ocean views from the certain rooms, the pool and evening entertainment.
Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Hotel Nacional de Cuba is another 5 star hotel in the Vedado area. This historical hotel has a beautiful, grand lobby, nicely decorated rooms in a classical style and stunning outside area with the sea views.
Boutique Hotel 5tay8 Vedado
Impressive boutique hotel in Vedado district, Boutique Hotel 5tay8 Vedado successfully combines the old colonial look and feeling with a very comfortable, modern and minimalist interior. The neighborhood is safe and beautiful with many old colonial buildings, but not too far from old Havana.
ARTeHOTEL Calle2 Havana
ARTeHOTEL Calle2 Havana will leave you with high impressions. The hotel is located in a beautiful colonial building and offers really amazing designs. It’s also one of the top rated accommodation by the travelers in Havana.
EXTRA TIPS FOR VISITING Havana
– There are two currencies used in Cuba – CUC and CUP, neither of which is international. That means you’re gonna need to change your money once you’re in the country. Make sure you don’t bring USD cause they charge additional 10% on it.
– The tipping is Cuba is usually not compulsory, even though they sometimes charge additional 10% for the service. If not, at least 5% is expected.
– Always check your receipt in bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, many times the bill is incorrect, and you end up paying more than you should.
– Public transport, even being super cheap, is not the most efficient way of transportation. Taxis and taxi bicycles are pretty cheap, but be prepared for some bargain.
– The English is not widely spoken in Cuba. Before traveling there, learn some basic Spanish. You’ll definitely gonna need it during your stay.
– Make your trip to Havana even more exciting! Check out Tripadvisor for all the activities and organized tours in Havana or around the area. Make sure to purchase your tickets to all the attractions right away to skip the queues.
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