Cuban cigars are every bit as amazing as you’ve heard. You can visit a cigar factory and see how they’re made. One touring factory is located off Peñalver and San Carlos, about a mile southwest of Old Havana La Habana Vieja. They even have English tour guides. Understand however, photography is not allowed. After the cigar factory, you can take a tour of the Havana Club Rum Factor and see how quality Cuban rum is made. English tour guides are always on hand. What makes Cuban cigars so special is not only the way they are wrapped (an art form as they describe it here) but also the soil the tobacco is grown in.
The museums of Havana, as well as historical landmarks, are one of the best reasons to visit. The Piazza or main centre is always a tourist spit, as well as Habana Vieja, which still contains many of the original buildings that started Havana centuries ago. The Lighthouse and the Castle of Tres Reyes del Morro are wonderful to behold, as is Plaza Vieja in Old Havana, though it has some macabre history—plenty of executions were held here.
The Christ of Havana is a 20-metre high statue of Jesus Christ made in 1958 from marble. It is located near the east hillside of the bay. Meanwhile, the Great Theatre of Havana features opera and ballet. The Sea Wall stands on the northern coast of the city and provides some wonderful scenic views.
Old buildings and their distinct style and architecture will be of great interest to visitors. Remember that some of these buildings date back to 500 years ago and so it’s an ideal location to see Neoclassical work of the 1800s, Colonial and Baroque style of the 1500s and onward, and an eclectic and art deco style familiar of the early 20th century.
The Museum, also called Museo de la Revolucion, details past Cuban history and can be found in the Presidential Palace area. Another museum, of the open air variety, is Necropolis Cristobal Colon, a cemetery dating back to 1876. It contains almost one million tombs, with surrounding sculptures. The Christopher Columbus cemetery is another historical figure and has marble tombs you can behold.
The Catedral de San Cristobal and the Plaza de Armas area are excellent places to see old buildings from centuries ago, many of which still have monuments and antique items for viewing. The Napoleon Museum offers exhibits of the historical figure, as does Ernest Hemingway’s former homer, which now has some of his books, hunting trophies and pet graves. Other museums in the area include one for classic cars, a Casa de Africa, revealing contributions of travelling West Africans who came to Cuba.
You can also enjoy walking around certain historical locations in the city such as Old Town La Habana Vieja with restored buildings and UNESCO site designation, or Plaza de la Revolución. You can see statues, monuments and other landmarks signifying the importance of past political leaders like Jose Marti and Che Guevara. Even John Lennon has his own memorial in the city, at John Lennon Park. It’s the only statue of any English musician in the city. There is also an extended walking tour presented by Jazz photographer Havana Frans.
The old fortresses are in a category all their own, as the Fortress San Carlos de la Cabaña, El Morro Castle and Fortress San Salvador de la Punta, each offer insights into 18th century war. They were all very impressive structures for their day and were built to protect the city against pirates and under threats.
The oldest bastioned fortress is also a maritime museum, Castillo de la Real Fuerza. This museum has exhibits in addition to old architecture. It includes a very big four metre model of the Santisima Trinidad, with computer guides in multiple languages. Other items of interest include colonial era gold and silver, ancient navigational guides and other artefacts that will fascinate the world-wise traveller.
Don’t think that Cuba is all about history. Havana is also a great place for a party, which might surprise you. The Malecon location, speaking of the seawall, always has a party going on and the locals will join you. The beaches, particularly around Playas del Este are always lovely and easy to arrive to thanks to buses, taxis and rentals.
The El CapitolioNacional is a large building with a dome that reaches high, taking up a great deal of the skyline. Inside, you will find the La Estatua de la República, one of the largest interior statues anywhere on the globe. There is a natural history collection here, assembled by the Cuban Academy of Sciences.
The Latin American New Cinema Festival is one of the city’s highlights of the year and is held in December. This is where artists come to screen their films, even from other countries. Similar to Cannes, this festival draws a huge crowd. Expect about 500,000 people to show up and enjoy the show.