Welcome to your ultimate guide of things to do in Havana, Cuba!
As we all know Cuba is on the rise and more and more people want to visit this magical country every day.
Before heading to Cuba, I had A LOT of questions. Most importantly was things to do in Havana and since WiFi does tend to be an issue in Cuba, I literally screenshot a bunch of to do list for Cuba, so that I don’t miss a thing. After visiting Cuba for a week, I can tell you that there is a lot to see in Havana, especially in the city center.
Havana can be overwhelming to some, especially those who don’t travel often, but I can assure you, you will be busy and have a great time.
Here is a list of the must do things while visiting Havana, all of which I have done. I also wrote a couple of others blog posts about Cuba since I often get asked many questions about it. So feel free to check them out too.
- Horseback Riding & Cuban Tobacco Farms In Viñales: GUIDE
- Cuba: Everything You Need To Know BEFORE You Travel; Questions & Answers
- Where To Stay In Cuba: Everything You Need To Know
- 40 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Cuba
Now let’s start!
1.The Capitol Building (El Capitolio)
When I arrived in Havana, I felt like I had definitely entered a time warp. None of the buildings or houses were renovated (of course, I knew all of this before hand), however, when I took a taxi to the city center of Havana, also known as Old Havana, I was completely shocked to see the Capitol Building (El Capitolio), I felt like I had just entered a whole other world, it was beautiful, brand new and massive! It looks just like the Congress building in Washington D.C. I know that there are small tours where you can actually enter a part of the building. So if you’re interested definitely check it out. You literally can’t miss the building.
2.Visit the Museum of Revolution
There are probably 2 renovated building in “Old Havana”, one is the Capitol Building (government) and the other is the Museum of Revolution. While wandering the streets of Old Havana, the moment I saw the building from afar, I knew it had to belong to the government and as it turned out, I was right. The Museum of Revolution aka Museo de la Revolución is housed in what was the Presidential Palace of all Cuban presidents. It holds the largest collection of exhibits from Cuban history and devoted to the revolution of Cuba that took place in the 1950’s. There are also some classic pieces outside of this museum like tanks, planes and cars.
3. Walk the Malecón (Watch the Sunrise or Sunset)
The Malecon is the sea’s boardwalk that runs across 5 miles long. It’s not necessarily a place to go swimming and you probably won’t find anyone in the actual water because the ocean can be rough and there are many big rocks.
In the early morning, you’ll find joggers there, but it’s mostly empty. If you’re lucky enough to catch the sunrise, do so! During the day, it’s normally pretty empty as well (surprisingly), you’ll probably see a few random fisherman. However, at night time, it’s the happening spot! Many of the locals love hanging out there during the night; catching up with old friends, going on romantic walks, just winding down after a long day of work. It’s seriously packed with hundreds of people, mostly locals, and some tourist. Just be careful, at nights those waves can be pretty rough and splash over to the sidewalk.
4. Ride in a Classic Vintage Car 1950’s Style
Everyone by now knows that Cuba has the most beautiful collection of vintage cars. What most people don’t normally know, is that most of those cars are taxi’s (also owned by the government), especially the convertible ones. There are 2 ways of riding in a classic vintage car. One is by renting a pink convertible car, that normally cost $125 for an hour tour of Havana. The other option is using it as a taxi, BUT, this taxi doesn’t drop you off in front of your hotels. Most classic cars have a route, kind of like a bus would and they basically go around in that route all day. You can hop on in and ask the driver to stop at any time but also know that other passengers might join you. This cost about $5 for tourist.
5. Explore Old Havana
Havana is a place you just need to explore on your own to really get a true Cuban experience. Don’t be afraid to wander the streets and get lost. Just download a WiFi free map of the city that works offline so you have a better idea of where you’re at. My first day in Old Havana, I just went exploring and got to see so much. It’s the only way you will ever get to see how people really live in Cuba — for better or worse. It’s also a great way to capture some amazing photography and see all the beautiful colorful buildings of Havana. Remember this is a third world country and although it might not seem safe because of living conditions, Havana is a very safe city and the crime rate is low. Just make sure to always keep a good eye on your belongings, as you would anywhere else in the world. I traveled to Cuba alone and had a great traveling experience. The locals are friendly and very helpful.
6. Visit the Plaza de la Revolución
The Plaza del la Revolucion is a bucket list hot spot for most also known as Revolution Square. Although there isn’t too much to do in the square, as it’s a huge parking lot, it’s still worth that selfie. It’s not close at all to the City Center in Havana, so you can either take a taxi or take the Havana City Tour bus which only cost $5-$10 (depending on which one you take).
7. Visit Chinatown
Before the Cuban revolution, there was an active Chinatown in Havana, however, before/during the revolution, all the Chinese locals left Havana. So although there aren’t any Chinese people in Chinatown, it’s still a cute little spot to check out while visiting Havana and is located right next to the Capitol Building.
8. Visit the Hotel Nacional de Cuba (Hotel National)
The Hotel National is truly spectacular. Before arriving in Havana, I had heard so much about it and didn’t understand what the hype was all about until I saw it for myself. For some reason, it reminded me of the Bellagio hotel in Vegas from afar. It looked massive! It’s a truly stunning masterpiece. It’s the most luxury hotel in Havana and one of Fidel Castro favorite hang out spots back in the day. The architecture of this hotel is a true classic and one of the best parts is the outdoor patio that looks over the ocean. You can enjoy a cocktail at sunset with the perfect view. I’ve had a few dinners here as well with live music. Great vibes.
You can also book tours at this hotel lobby, even if you’re not staying at the hotel.
9. See the Cabaret Tropicana
Speaking of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, if you’re already in the area, make sure to go see the classic Cabaret Tropicana. The show originally debuted on Christmas in 1940’s, it’s truly a Cuba classic. Upon arriving, you’ll be given a cigar and you can enjoy a dinner after the show.
Please book in advance because the show tends to sell out pretty fast.
10. Try the Local Churros
OMG! The churros in Cuba is to die for! Truly amazing and a must try while visiting Havana. You will find locals selling it on the streets for only a few cents! SO GOOD!
11. Take a trip to Santa Maria Beach
You don’t have to go to the complete other side of the island to find beautiful beaches in Cuba, there is actually a stunning beach called Santa Marina del Mar which is only a short 30min drive (12 miles). Every day there are buses that leave the city center of Old Havana and take you to the beach. The bus picks you up in front of the hotel Inglaterra (at the park across the street) and is only $5. Just ask around where the pickup spot is or if you see a bunch of people in bathing suits, you’re in the right place. It’s totally worth it and a must see in my opinion. For a second, you’ll think you’re visiting a whole other country. Check out the amazing sunset below.
12. Take a Photo with the Famous John Lennon statue (Havana park)
Believe it or not, Castro was actually a fan of the Beatles, so he unveiled at a ceremony the John Lennon statue in the Havana Park which is right next to the Capitol building. There is actually a funny story behind the John Lennon statue, throughout the years, people have stolen his iconic sunglasses. So now there is actually someone whose job is to put the glasses on John Lennon when people take photos with him.
13. Take a Day Trip to Vinales
Vinales was by far my favorite part of my Cuba adventure! It’s where the tobacco plantations are and where the famous Cuban cigars come from! It’s a completely different vibe from Havana, it’s more of a country vibe. You can purchase bus tickets from Havana but make sure to get there super early if you intend on traveling the same day. You can also buy tickets for the following day. Also, know that you do need to be there in person since WiFi in Cuba is a struggle. There are also day tours that you can purchase at most 5-star hotel lobbies.
Vinales isn’t close to Havana though, so just keep that mind. It’s a 3hr drive each way and may take longer. I saw a huge part of Vinales in 1 day, but if you ask my opinion, you should definitely book 2-3 days there because it seemed like one of my longest traveling days of all time.
For more on my adventure in Vinales plus vlog check out: Horseback Riding & Cuban Tobacco Farms In Viñales: GUIDE
14. Visiting The Oldest Pharmacy – Santa Maria Novella
Havana has one of the oldest pharmacies in the world called Santa Maria Novella and is still an operating pharmacy. It’s seriously such a beauty. Very 1950’s and well kept. It was established in 1221! If you’re wondering the streets of Old Havana, you must have a look!
15. Visit the Partagrás Cigar Factory
Cigars are such a huge part of Cuban culture, it’s where cigars were first created. While visiting Cuba, check out the Partagrás Cigar Factory. You get to see how they are made and get to purchase real cigars. Many places in Havana sell fake cigars, here is a place you know you’re getting the real deal, as well as in Vinales.
16. Ride in a Bicycle Taxi
An interesting and fun way of getting around town is using a Bicycle Taxi. It’s a great way to get to the exact destination you need and are really affordable. Try to negotiate before getting on one, you can pay anywhere from $3-$6. The locals normally get charged $1. It’s a great way for the locals to make extra money, so if you can use them, do so.
17. Stay at an Airbnb
To get a true Cuban experience, stay at an Airbnb! In fact, if you’re an American, it’s your only option as far as booking accommodations since there are still restrictions on American tourist. Websites like booking.com won’t let you book hotels from the USA. Staying at an Airbnb in Havana gives you a true cultural feeling and allows you to meet locals.
I also have a $40 off coupon for your first Airbnb stay! You can use it anywhere in the world. CLICK HERE.
To learn more about Airbnb in Cuba check out: Where To Stay In Cuba: Everything You Need To Know
18. Take the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour Havana
This might be a cheesy choice, but if you have no shame like me, want to save money and see the entire city of Havana, take the popular touristy Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour of Havana. It normally costs between $5-$10 and is about a 2hr bus ride. I’m not gonna lie to you, some of this goes completely off the grid to unnecessary places, but still, you get a broader view of the entire city of Havana and is totally affordable. Whenever I visit a country/city I’ve never been to, I like to take these tours as they give you a good perspective of where you are, what there is to see, what you should go back to and you also get to learn some interesting facts about the city you’re in.
19. El Floridita for a Hemingway Daiquiri
El Floridita is also a Havana classic. Touristy? Yes, but one of Hemingway’s favorite spots, he raved that they had the best Daiquiri’s in all of Cuba. Located in the heart of Old Havana, a few blocks away from the Capitol Building, El Floridita is your go to spot for Daiquiri.
Side note, this place is normally very crowded. So be patient.
20. Locals Artwork- Paseo del Prado
If you’re visiting Havana during the weekend, make sure to visit Paseo del Prado. There are beautiful arts and crafts that the locals sell. Seriously stunning stuff! Even if you’re not there to shop, it’s just really beautiful to see. If you’re thinking of getting a souvenir, this is the place to do it.
21. Try the locals food & juices
If you didn’t know by now, the locals in Cuba make between $20-$30 a month. Yes, the entire month. However, many of them also sell juices outside their houses and are delicious. It’s totally normal in Cuba. Also, many of the Airbnb and Casa Particular’s that you may stay at, also offer a breakfast, for a small fee. It’s a great way to try the real local food and help them make extra income. I’ve had really good experiences.
22. Explore Plaza de la Catedral – Euro Style
I didn’t get to visit the area until my last day and I really wish I had found it earlier. This part of Havana personally reminds me of Europe by the architecture. It’s classic, clean and well kept. It’s one of the five squares in Havana and is less crowded than most places in the city.
23. Visit the Local’s Vegetable & Fruit Market
I randomly came across this place and just loved it. I love the vibes of a hectic farmers market. There are many of them all over the city, some smaller than others, but if you want to try some of the local’s fruit and vegetable, go for it. Just don’t forget, that Cuba has 2 currencies and this goes by the locals currencies CUCs, so it’s much cheaper.
24. Talk to the Locals
Beyond what you see and do in Havana, the only real way of finding out the truth about what’s going on in Cuba is by talking to some of the locals. It’s true, some of the locals won’t tell you everything and definitely not out in the open street because after all, Cuba is a communist country and laws are strict. However, if you do stay at an Airbnb, Casa Particular or become friends with your taxi driver, ask questions, they will most likely tell you the truth. It’s very interesting to hear their point of views on their country and the life they live. It was definitely eye opening, I knew a lot before going into Cuba, but found out so much more from making friends with the locals. Some of the stories may be shocking, but they are important and need to be told. On the flip side of things, they also want to know about you and the world you come from.
25. Watch The Cannons Fire
Every night at 9pm there is a Cannons Fire ceremony, where soldiers dress up in 1800’s uniforms and fire a cannon over Havana Bay.
26. Enjoy Lunch with Live Music
If there is one thing Cuban are known for, it’s that they know how to have a good time and love music and dancing. There are many awesome spots all throughout Havana to check out. Just wonder the streets and if you see a spot that has live music, go for it. Enjoy local food, have a mojito or a daiquiri (local drinks) and enjoy live music and dancing.
27. Visit Hemingway’s House
If you’re a big fan of Hemingway, you can actually go visit his house, which has now turned into a museum. It’s only 10 miles east of Havana. The house is formally known now as Finca La Vigía and is where he wrote 2 of his great novels the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. For more on visiting Hemingway’s house, CLICK HERE.
28. Practice your Photography Skills
If you love photography, you have landed in the right place! Havana has hundreds of thousands picture perfect moments for you to capture, literally everywhere you turn. So make sure to bring an extra battery or two because you’ll be snapping away.
29. Practice your Spanish
I always think there is something special about a place that hasn’t been taken over by the westernized world, where the locals embrace their culture and language. Most Cuban’s don’t speak English, which can be a bad or a good thing, depending on how you look at it and how well your Spanish is. I probably know about 100 words in Spanish and understand a lot more than I speak, however the best way to learn a language is by practicing! On my trip, I realized I knew more than I gave myself credit for and I also learned new words along the way. If you don’t know Spanish well, you can also download a Spanish offline app with basic words, which I also did just in case.
30. Channel your Inner 1950’s Style Pin-Up Girl
I love fashion and I won’t lie to you, but I love dressing up according to the theme of the country I’m visiting. Cuba allows you to channel your inner 1950’s style. So grab your vintage style dresses, shirts and jewelry, wear your favorite flowery dresses, have fun with it. Ideally, Cuba is very casual, so don’t worry about fancy dresses or high heels, you can leave those at home. Dress comfortably. It does tend to get really hot and humid, I even actually got a sunburn, without noticing.
HAVE FUN IN HAVANA, CUBA!
If you have any more questions, feel free to check out my blog post: Cuba: Everything You Need To Know BEFORE You Travel: Questions & Answers!
I also made 7 videos of my trip to Cuba to give you all a better understanding of Cuba. To watch videos, CLICK HERE.
Love it? Pin it!