Havana

Havana's historic buildings, wonderful climate and lively entertainment have a very special charm all of their own.

The capital of Cuba, Havana is a city awash with history.

Founded in 1519, the city rapidly became one of the most important settlements in the Spanish colonial empire in the Americas. Briefly occupied by both the UK and the USA, Havana developed into a mecca for tourists in the 20th century, thanks in part to its pleasantly warm climate. Temperatures rarely drop below 10°C and usually hover around the mid-twenties for most of the year. The driest months are November through to May, and many people like to buy their airplane tickets for travel during this time of year, although special offers
may be available on flights at any time of the year.

The currency generally used by tourists in Cuba (although not by locals) is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Before setting off on your journey, please consult the relevant section in the Air France website for more information on visas and customs regulations
, not to mention health precautions and vaccinations. Havana is 7 hours behind South African time.

Havana still boasts many colonial-era buildings in the Old Havana part of the city. The most famous of these is probably the National Capitol, the former parliament building, which looks very much like the US Capitol but which was actually modelled on the Pantheon in Paris.
Like most Spanish-designed cities, there is a wide central square, the Plaza de Armas, as well as a Roman Catholic cathedral, the Catedral de San Cristóbal, a stunning baroque construction dating from 1777.

Being a city of great strategic value, Havana was heavily fortified. The Castillo del Morro and the Castillo de la Cabaña are just two of the fortresses that defended the city and harbour. Great views of the city are to be had from both these castles.

It's worth extending your stay in Havana to avoid missing out on its vibrant arts scene, from cinema and ballet to music and theatre.

Havana is justly famous for its music, with most restaurants and hotels having their own house band playing Cuban music, salsa, jazz or other musical genres.
A major jazz festival, the Havana International Jazz Festival is worth trying to catch, as is the Havana Film Festival and the International Ballet Festival of Havana. This event is held in the Gran Teatro de La Habana, a real city landmark and home to the internationally-renowned Cuban National Ballet. You might be able to watch a performance of another kind during your stay if you visit one of the city's sports stadiums, with baseball being a particular favourite for many Cubans.

There are plenty of other attractions to keep you amused in or near the city, whether your holiday is long or short:
  • Stroll around the Plaza Vieja or along the Malecón (an 8km-long promenade)
  • Go to the Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón, one of the world's greatest historical cemeteries
  • See 'Fusterlandia', a unique neighbourhood art collection (tile art and ceramics)
  • See the city from a different angle at the Camera Obscura
  • Enjoy the art on display in the National Fine Arts Museum
  • Visit writer Ernest Hemingway's Finca Vigia home
  • See how cigars are made by going on a factory tour
  • Take it easy on the beaches of the Playas del Este
.

Have a happy holiday in Havana with advice and ideas from these travel websites:

The essential Havana travel and tourism websites:
Cubadiplomatica.cu
Travel2cuba.co.uk