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A Trip Down Memory Lane.

Old Havana


View over Old Havana.

We stayed in Vedado very happily for three nights then moved to Old Town Havana. We had planned this in advance as we thought having two locations would enable us to see more. It turned out not to have been such a smart move as we hated our second accommodation. Suffice it to say, it was totally unsuitable for our needs. That's not to say all accommodation in Old Havana is bad. We were just unlucky on this occasion. The only good thing about our new accommodation was its location. It was near restaurants, bars, transport and all the sights of Old Town, Havana. The Old Town itself was wonderful with lots of interesting places to visit. Plus with all the old cars, the slower pace of life, the music, the lack of internet, it was like going back in time.

We began our explorations of Old Town Havana at the Capitol Building. This was being restored, so its dome was partly covered up. Construction of the Capitol Building began in 1926. Upon completion, it was home to the Cuban Congress until the Cuban Revolution in 1959. After the revolution, it became the headquarters of the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment. An impressive flight of stairs with huge statues on each side leads up to the Capitol's entrance way.

The Capitol Building.

The Capitol Building.

A bit further inland from the Capitol Building we found the Park of the Fraternity. This area began life as a military training ground. It first became a park in 1892 and later in 1928 it became the Parque de la Fraternidad in commemoration of the Sixth Pan-American Conference. In the centre of the park a stands a silk cotton tree, planted in soil from twenty-eight different countries of the Americas. There are also statues of important Latin Americans dotted all around the park. These include busts of Venezuelan, Simón Bolivar and Mexican, Benito Juárez. This park is in a busy part of the city and there are many people passing through as well as many taking a rest on one of the park's stone benches.

'Tree of American Fraternity'.

Paraguayan statue.

Old buildings near the Capitol Building.

Onion sellers near the Capitol Building.

Behind the Capitol Building in Central Havana we discovered Chinatown. It has an impressive gateway, a row of Chinese restaurants, Chinese lanterns, Chinese lion statues and even Chinese dragons on the bins, but, rather oddly, it has almost no Chinese people other than tourists looking at Chinatown.




Returning to the Capitol Buiding and going in the other direction towards the sea we reached The Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso. Alicia Alonso is Cuba's most famous ballerina. She was born in 1920 and has been almost blind since she was nineteen years old. The theatre is an extremely impressive building and there is a statue of Alicia Alonso inside.

The Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso.

The Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso.

Not far from the theatre stands the Hotel Inglaterra dating from 1875. This became our home from home when we lived in Old Havana. It was a huge relief to escape here from our accommodation. We often ate here, drank here and bought our internet cards for just one CUC here. These cards work in the lobby here and at other wifi hot-spots. One of the things that amused us about Cuba was we always knew when we had found a wifi spot as suddenly there were hundreds of people sitting around everywhere staring at their lap-tops or phones.

The Hotel Inglaterra.

The Hotel Inglaterra.

The Hotel Inglaterra.

The Hotel Inglaterra.

Wifi hot spot.

Wifi hot spot.

In front of the theatre and the Hotel Inglaterra the long narrow Parque Central runs to the sea. It is yet another place with a statue to Jose Marti. It also has several lion statues. It is lined with stalls selling paintings and souvenirs. The buildings that border it have been beautifully restored and add a splash of colour to the surroundings.

Parque Central.

Parque Central.

Parque Central.

Parque Central.

Parque Central.

At the end of the Parque Central on the other side of a busy road there is a fort on the Malecon and across the sea there is another fort. We passed these on the hop on hop off bus but did not visit them.

The fort on the Malecon is the Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta which was built in the late 1500s and completed in 1630. The one across the bay is the Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro. This castle was designed by Italian engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli. It was built by slaves and dates from the sixteenth century. It is said that a 250 foot copper chain was strung across the bay each evening between these fortifications to protect the harbour from enemy ships.

The Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta.

the Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro.

Both castles.

We sat for a while on the Malecon near here with yet another impressive castle across the bay behind us. This was the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress. Ernesto Che Guevara’s headquarters were located here during the early days of the Revolution. There's a huge statue of Christ on the other side of the bay, too.

On the Malecon with the castle in the background.

On the Malecon.

On the Malecon, Christ statue.

There is another fortress in Old Havana further down the Malecon and on the side of the road away from the sea. This is called the Castel de la Real Fuerza. This was once home to Cuba's Spanish governors and dates from the sixteenth century.

The Castel de la Real Fuerza.

The Castel de la Real Fuerza.

The Castel de la Real Fuerza is close to a large tree and statue filled square called the Plaza de Armas. This used to be the parade ground and later became the main administrative centre of the city.

Plaza de Armas.

Flower seller in Plaza de Armas.

The main street leading inland from the Plaza de Armas has many sights including The Hotel Ambos Mundos where Ernest Hemmingway used to live and where he wrote some of his books. We could not see his room as it was closed, so we just had cocktails and beer here instead.

Hotel Ambos Mundos.

Hotel Ambos Mundos.

Another lovely looking hotel in the area was the Hotel Florida. There was also a wonderful handicraft market from which we bought lots of souvenirs. We encountered our first long queue for internet cards in Old Town Havana but we did not join it. We also saw some beautifully dressed flower sellers in traditional clothes.

Hotel Florida.

Craft Market.

Queueing for internet cards.

Flower sellers.

Naturally we visited a few churches on our travels, too. The first was Havana Cathedral which is also known as The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception. This was beautiful inside. It is set on a busy square called Cathedral Square. We also visited the basilica and monastery of Saint Francis of Assisi which dates from the sixteenth century. There were many interesting statues outside this church. At one point we were parked outside here on the hop on hop off bus and were kept entertained by the amazing passing traffic.

Havana Cathedral.

Church of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Statues near church. The conversation.

Statues near church. Chopin.

Traffic near the church.

Traffic near the church.

Traffic near the church.

Not far from here we came to a rather strange hotel called Los Frailes Boutique Hotel Havana. It is located in a former monastery. The staff dress as monks and there are monk statues all around.

Los Frailes Boutique Hotel Havana.

Not far from the boutique hotel we found Plaza Vieja - The Old Square. This dates from the sixteenth century and was at one time a market place. Under Batista it was largely destroyed and converted into a car park. It has now been beautifully restored back to its former glory. There are lots of restaurants here.

Plaza Vieja.

Plaza Vieja.

Plaza Vieja.

An important building in Old Havana which I have not mentioned yet is the Museum of the Revolution. This was near where we lived. The museum is housed in the former Presidential Palace. All Cuban presidents from Mario García Menocal to Fulgencio Batista stayed here, but after the revolution it became a museum. Its exhibits are mainly about the revolution and it houses the Granma memorial. The Granma was the boat that Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and Che Guevara sailed from Mexico to Cuba on to start the revolution.

The Museum of the Revolution.

Also near our home was a lovely bar/restaurant called La Farmacia. This is housed in an old pharmacy. We went here most days. The staff were lovely.

Near La Farmacia.

La Farmacia.

Another bar we visited was Sloppy Joes.
Sloppy Joe's.

In the old town we also saw lots of pro-revolutionary murals.


I found it difficult to find up to date information about Havana's hop on hop off buses. There were two routes. I'll put their route maps here.

T1 route map. Day ticket ten CUC.

T3 route map. Day ticket CUC. This route confused us.It had a Transtur bus not the usual hop on hop off one. We found it too late and did not use it.

Posted by irenevt 06:15 Archived in Cuba Tagged churches buildings town cuba cathedral old capital bars

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Great. Looks very tidy


Hi Adam, hope you are well. Do you mean Havana or my blog?

by irenevt

As an ex-mechanic I love old cars, if it was not for my apprehension of flying I would like to see Havana, I also remember back in the 1970's when I travelled through Istanbul several times there were lots of 1950's American gas- guzzlers still in daily use as taxis.

I was watching a TV documentary entitled "why do airplanes fall out of the sky".....apparently those on frequent short haul flights are the most affected by a phenomenon known as fusilage swelling, when the aircraft is at its cruising altitude the cabin is pressurised to help passengers breathe comfortably, but on descent the pressure drops (and your ears pop) this puts a constant strain on the fusilage panel rivets which can form into a crack and a hole suddenly appears when the panel becomes detached, in one case the hole was large enough to allow a stewardess to be sucked out!

I hope this does not affect decisions about your onward air travel, I'm feeling a bit nervous about booking my Easyjet flight to Spain later this month, I always specify a seat at the rear of the aircraft because statistically in a crash it's the best part of the fusilage for survival when the plane breaks up on landing!

by Bennytheball

Hi Benny,
If you are fortunate enough to have a vintage car in Cuba, you can earn a really good income, as you can charge tourists quite a lot in convertible pesos for tours around Havana. A couple of tours and you will have earned more than other Cuban's monthly wage. People love their cars and keep them in excellent condition.There are some amazing ones driving around.
As for air travel. I hate flying, not because I'm frightened, but because I cannot sit still or stand being in a small space. I am one of those annoying passengers who goes to the toilet all the time and walks up and down the aisle for no reason, other than I cannot sit.
If you do get a chance to go to Cuba, I am sure you will find it interesting. It is certainly different. At certain points in our trip we were pining for going to Hounslow (we went there after Cuba) just so my husband could buy crisps and I could buy a chocolate bar from Tesco Express. I don't usually start dreaming about Tesco Express on holidays. We also had withdrawal symptoms from the internet. It is an eye-opening experience.You think your values are world peace, but they turn out to be a mars bar and some wifi. All the best, Irene

by irenevt

Love the flower sellers. They are so pretty. My father loved Havana. He used to go deep sea fishing from there. By the time I was old enough to travel, we were no longer allowed to travel there. Perhaps someday I'll get to see it but I did enjoy your photos in lieu of a visit.

by Beausoleil

I hope you get to visit some day. The people are very friendly and there are some lovely old buildings. Thank you for visiting my blog.

by irenevt

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