Things to do in Havana - Havana travel tips

10 hotspots not to be missed in Havana

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I dare you to name another city as sexy at Havana! Cuba’s capital city is electric. This high-charged city simmers with salsa, cocktails and classic cars. Havana has a population of over two million who reside in Centro Habana, La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and Vedado. Here’s your guide to the unforgettable 10 things to do in Havana.

Vintage Cars Havana | 10 things to do in Havana

10 things to do in Havana

Malecón

Take a stroll along the 8km seawall of Havana which starts from La Habana (Old Havana), runs past Centro Habana into Vedado. Grab a 1 CUC pizza from a ‘hole in the wall’ café and head for the waves.

Malecon Havana | 10 things to do in Havana

Plaza de la Revolución

Be like Obama! Capture that that iconic Che Guevara monument at Plaza de la Revolución. If you are slightly besotted with the handsome freedom fighter try to get your hands on the 5 CUP note which has his face on it. Need to more about the currency? Check out our Cuban money guide.

Revolution Square | 10 things to do in Havana

Revolution Museum

To cast your eyes on legitimate clothing worn by Cuban soldiers during the revolution as well as newspaper articles and authentic bullet holes check out Havana’s Museo de la Revolucion. You can’t miss the striking old Presidential Palace building as it is surrounded by Cuban artillery. There are scripts of information (some poorly) transcribed from Spanish to English which details the events of the revolution.

Tip – don’t be fooled if a local tells you that the museum is closed and then tries to tempt you to a bar of their choosing. This happened to us! It’s one of the many scams in Cuba, I detail more here.

  • Entry fee: 5 CUC / $5 / £4
  • Address: Avenida Bélgica, La Habana, Cuba

Revolution Museum Havana | 10 things to do in Havana Revolution Museum | 10 things to do in Havana

Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña

Every night at 9 pm tourists flock to the Havana’s La Cabaña (fort) to watch the cannon show, cañonazo ceremony, where locals re-enact an 18th – century shoot out over the water. In addition, I would recommend going for sunset to watch the sky flood with baby pinks and blues before dark falls. By day travellers can visit La Cabaña’s museums, there is often art shows around the area too.

  • Entry fee: 4 CUC / $4 / £3.20

Sunset at Havana La Cabana | 10 things to do in Havana

Take a ride in a classic car

 Yes! The number one thing to do in Havana is to take a spin in one of those famous Cuban 1950s cars. We jumped in the back of a yellow (my favourite colour!) mustang during a full day tour of Havana. The experience took us through the streets of Vedado to Havana forest and along the Malecón. Check out our honest review. Alternatively, you can hire a car (with driver) for 40 CUC per hour and up. You’ll see lots of cars and PRs outside of the main hotels.

Classic cars in Havana | 10 things to do in Havana Classic cars Havana | 10 things to do in Havana

Visit Vedado

The ‘newer’ area of Havana has restaurants and bars and can be reached by cocotaxi, the tiny yellow helmet looking cars. We watched a young salsa/rock fusion band play at a venue in Vedado which was not what I expected to be doing in Havana, the city if full of surprises.

Cocktails in Havana

Much of life in Havana is built around socialising and salsa and when the rum is so damn tasty why not?! You’ll want to try a mojito at Hotel Nacional de Cuba (Calle Obispo Esquina) and a margarita at La Floridita on Obispo (expensive, had better). For modern cocktails and tasty food check out 304 O’Reilly (O’Reilly).

Hey, beer drinkers! You’ll find a craft beer distillery called Factoria Microbrewery at Plaza Vieja. I love the art sculpture by Roberto Fabelo in that square too. Check out how much we spent in Cuba, it was surprisingly more than we hoped.

La Bodeguita del Medio | 10 things to do in Havana

Stalk Hemingway 

The American novelist, Ernest Hemingway, was a big fan of Havana and you can follow his footsteps by having a drink in his favourite haunts La Bodeguita del Medio and La Floridita, then a nosey at where he collapsed at night at the Hotel Ambos Mundos. Head to the top of this elegant hotel (aka The Mirador of Old Havana) for lovely views of the city.

The lungs of Havana

Feeling a tad claustrophobic in the city? Head to Cuba’s green space El Bosque de la Habana and breathe in some fresh air. This swamp-like forest is home to Almendares River and is a popular spot for with wedding shoots. There is something quite enchanting about the area.

Lungs of Havana | 10 things to do in Havana

Escape Havana! 

If you have more than three days in Havana I would recommend taking a day trip to the lush Viñales Valley to see where the tobacco for Cuba’s cigars are made and the unique limestone hills called mogotes. This is what we did (and where we stayed if you have longer) in Valle de Viñales.

Vinales Cuba | Day trips from Havana

Getting to Havana + getting around

Most nationalities require a Cuba Tourist Card which can be purchased through most airlines. Cheap flights to Havana are often made cheaper by going via Mexico, be flexible in your flights search for the best rates. Many Americans have been visiting Cuba through Mexico during the stricter entry days which are now becoming more relaxed.

Cuba is notoriously difficult to get around. The local bus service, Viazul operates in most towns and cities but due to the lack of Wi-Fi availability and the Cuban desire to make cash, getting honest bus times is tough. Print out all potential route times before you leave.

Although hiring a car in Cuba sounds like a dream, the reality is painful. We met couples who were hanging around Havana for a few days, waiting on cars returning. Again, a tranquillo outlook and lots of patience are required. Another couple who had successfully hired a car were often told that petrol stations and roads were closed when they were not. We mindful of the Cuban hustle.

Views from Camera Obscura | 10 things to do in Havana

Where to stay in Havana

Daily, I receive frantic comments and emails regarding accommodation in Cuba. Please believe me, if you plan to stay with locals in casas particulares it is the norm to rock up to Cuba and book on arrival. However, I understand that might seem daunting. You can research casas online and read reviews from fellow visitors or check out Airbnb which is becoming increasingly more popular. We’ve used Airbnb all over the world, get $30 / £25 off your first stay with our referral. Airbnb will let you filter to meet your budget, we never spent more than $10 each per night.

Check out our guide to casas particulares for more information.

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to stick to hotels in Havana, there are many to choose from but at a hefty price starting at £156 per night. There are hostels in Havana, three at last count (this will explode soon I am sure), which will suit those on a budget as well as solo travellers. Booking into a dorm for a night or two is a great way to meet fellow travellers to take a trip around the island with (we ended up touring with two fellow Brits and their Dad!) Beds can be found for under $12 / £9.

Views from Revolution Museum | 10 things to do in Havana

Havana and beyond

You could easily spend four nights in Havana then move on to the other cities and towns of this Caribbean island or marry up a Havana city break with a week relaxing at the turquoise beaches of a Cuban resort at the touristy Varadero.

Dreaming of Cuba?

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10 things to do in Havana - Havana tips

We’d love to know what we missed?

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Comments 43

  1. We have been intrigued by Havana for a while. Well, better make it happen right?! Your suggestions about Casa Particulares is really what we do. Hostels can be a great way to meet other travellers, right. But isn’t staying with the locals the best way to find out the ins and outs about the local culture? 🙂
    Driving that classic car must have been great! Oh you should have had a video!
    As per the “sexiest city”…. erm what about Lisbon? hahahah

    xx

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      1. I LOVED Mexico. Amazing food, kind people, great for hitchhike and a ton of nature and culture 🙂 Also rather cheap. We only had a month, but will be back for sure!

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          1. Ha! It took me some getting used to with cilantro too, at first I thought it was disgusting but now I like it 🙂 In Mexico, they use it a lot, but if I remember it right, you can put it yourself from a bowl on the table – or ask them to not put it. I mostly ate at the street stalls so it´s easy to see what they put 🙂

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  2. A ride in a classic car peaked my interest immediately! I’m a sucker for all vintage vehicles. Sigh… I’ll keep dreaming of Cuba until we get there.

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  3. Great list and I definitely agree with all of it! Havana is by far one of the best cities I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.

    Did you guys go to Fusterlandia while you were there? It was one of my highlights!

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  4. Hello from India, Cuba looks amazing. I would love to go there but first I need to go to US which is my childhood dream.

    Rohit I Lifeselfmastery

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          1. I sell ebooks and sell physical products. My audience is in US 😀 Great thing about the internet is that I don’t need to go anywhere. Moreover, I have got lots of friends from India who are in US. We are in love with US 🙂

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  5. Just stumbled across your website and may I say …so much real useful information. My wife and I are flying into Havana week after next for ten days and your advice and guidance is brilliant.
    Thank you
    VJ

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  6. Other than spending the first three days in Havana the sheet is still blank. Hoping to travel to several of the sites that you mention on your website and also take a couple of days out for a complete rest at the beach.
    Kind regards
    Virinder

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  7. I love my home city of Austin, Tx so glad you married here and I know you had a great time!

    Headed to Cuba in a couple of weeks, I only planned on 5 days, after reading your blog, I may have to add a few days, lol

    Thank you so much for taking the time blog, to help fellow, like minded, travelers. I am 51 and I always travel alone,

    I have stayed in Hostels, but never a casa familiar, so many to choose from, since I am going it alone, would you suggest a hostel/hotel instead of a casa familiar? I also need A/C and internet.
    Also, I was thinking of renting a car to go to coast to scuba dive, are there car rentals in the city? Are they reliable?

    Sincerely
    Sherry Kennerley

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      Good to hear from you Sherry. I ADORE Austin! I would recommend staying at one of the hostels for the first night or two in Havana to meet other people, the casas are pretty private. WiFi wise, you should check out our article on WiFi and internet as it’s a tricky in Cuba. Our hostel did not have WiFi but some hotels do have it (you have to log on) and now some casas (I’d search online for which ones). We had fans but no A/C.

      Car rental is also quite tough, we met a couple in Havana who were waiting on cars coming back, they had to stay longer than hoped to get one. We also met another couple who were successful, just be wary of the scams in Cuba.

      Hope this helps!

  8. Hello,

    I just returned from Havana. I stayed in an Air BNB in the vedado Section of Havana. I was surprised that the owner and three workers/Maids house workers, not sure what to call them were in the house with us. It was uncomfortable at first. They offered to cook us all meals which we politely declined in the beginning. They explained that it is the routine in Havanan to have “workers” prepare food for the guests upon request.

    Be carful when booking. It said full house private; I guess this meant private quarters. We spend 3 full days in Havana and did two, one day trips to Veredaro and one day trip to Vinales. Both were wonderful, interesting and beautiful. We hired a driver for the day. The cost was $300 including fuel and any tolls. Other than food, everything in Cuba is Super Expensive.

    I saw your site and tips before leaving. Thank you for posting your experiences. It was a huge help in planning my trip.

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      Thanks so much for coming back and sharing your experience Charles! That does seem odd about the cleaner and cook, we definitely never experienced this. Will you leave that in your review on Airbnb? Sounds like you had a good time and that you were at least a little prepared for the expense of Cuba, unlike us!!

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