Welcome to Havana, Cuba!
Oh, Habana… One of the most vibrant and colorful cities in the world, Havana is a magical place for both travelers and locals alike. However, around nearly every corner there is a special place that is reserved for the local Habaneros and those in the know. Havana has so much to offer, but most of the time visitors just scratch the surface of the Cuban Capital. The tourists arriving in droves to the Havana Airport know the well-known attractions, but a worldwide local knows how to experience it best. This is an insider’s guide of some of Havana’s finest local spots.
Start in a Can’t-Miss Neighborhood
While you are in Cuba, you should always embrace as much of the local color as possible. Be sure to visit Fusterlandia, a town formerly known as Jaimanitas. Named after Cuban artist, José Rodríguez Fuster, this entire neighborhood is decorated with art pieces inspired by the artist. Fuster is one of the most iconic artists in the world and is even nicknamed the “Picasso of the Caribbean.” Be inspired by the bold and vibrant mosaic artworks on almost every surface in the fantasyland. Fusterlandia is truly a unique place to admire Cuba’s modern art scene.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you want to visit the coolest bookstore and café, you need to visit Cuba Libro, described by the owner as a bookstore, café & oasis, and that description pretty much nails it. Located in the beautiful Vedado neighborhood, it provides coffee, travel advice, and the books you are not likely to find anywhere else in Cuba. The café is in a beautiful yard with hammocks and lots of shade. There is a lovely community feeling to it and everyone always feels welcome.
Havana Restaurants and Cuisine
Cuba is known for having amazing food throughout the country and a lot of that “homestyle” cooking the country is so famous for originates right here in Havana. If you want to grab a snack or a milkshake, a local favorite, you should check out Los Primos. Located in an old Mansion in the Vedado, it serves delicious food and the best milkshakes and home-made lemonade. This is known as more of a local “watering hole,” but since the prices are low, it can get crowded during lunch hours. You shouldn’t leave without trying the batido (milkshake) de guanábana or mamey.
Things to Do in Havana, Cuba’s Liveliest City
As you could imagine with all of the bright colors and lively culture, Cuba is truly alive. The food, drinks, cigars, rum and of course music! Music in Cuba, especially in Havana, is pouring out of every corner shop and down every alleyway. It really makes you feel like the city is alive and the music is the heartbeat of the entire city. The city is your dance floor--just be wary of traffic! Listen for and groove to the clave rhythm, the most iconic rhythm in salsa music that can be heard on almost every street, a beat which is as hot as the Havana weather!
Worldwide Local Tip: Don’t just hover near your hotel: Havana is much more than just exciting urban adventures. If you want to enjoy every aspect, believe it or not, you will have to get away from just the city. There is a forest locally named El Bosque de La Habana in the middle of the city. Here you can escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and take a walk through lush forest. It is located where the neighborhoods of Vedado and Playa meet.
A Can’t-Miss Music Venue
If you want to enjoy your evening listening to live music but also enjoying a nice drink too you need to go to Café Teatro Bertolt Brecht. This is where all the greatest Cuban musicians have played! Formerly the Jewish Community Center, it has now been converted over to a music venue.
Worldwide Local Tip: Don’t pay a fortune to rent one of those classic 50’s style cars you see driving around. Save yourself some money and take a taxi instead. They are still the 50’s style cars but you don’t have to rent them, plus they aren’t as detailed as the show cars for rent. You can still get the Havana máquinas experience without having to spend a lot of money.
Witness the Classic Havana in La Habana Vieja
If you want a true Havana experience, head out of La Habana Vieja or Old Town and visit Centro Habana. The roads are dusty and broken, but the atmosphere is what draws you in for more. You will see people sitting in their doorways watching the children playing in the street or talking to their neighbors, and mothers handing coffee out the kitchen window to friends as they run a café out of their kitchen. Everything about Centro Habana is true Havana.
Enjoy Your Stay!
Havana is a place of wonder, magic, and music! With colorful people, streets, dance, and houses, it is no wonder that you wanted to visit in the first place. Soak up the food and the coffee and especially the local culture. Roaming the city as a worldwide local will grant you unparalleled access to its amazing sights and fascinating sounds.