We’ve been researching Havana to create this extensive guide. It includes our personal reviews on the best places to eat, things to do and best sightseeing in Havana, Cuba.
Havana is the capital of Cuba with 3 main areas, Old Havana, Central Havana and Vedado. The big concrete sea wall running along the northern edge of the city is called the Malecon.
We’d suggest a holiday of around 3 to 5 days in Havana to really get a feel for the place and see all the sights. There are lots of things to see and do for free or very cheap in Havana.
This is the most popular tourist destination with stunningly renovated buildings dating back 100’s of years and cute cobble stone streets. It’s clean, really safe, police patrol everywhere, with a number of roads closed to traffic. There’s plenty of sightseeing, just walk around all day you’ll see heaps really interesting things.
The most popular street in Old Havana would have to be Obispo Street, it’s lined with upmarket shops, restaurants, bars. Walk down here anytime of the day and late into the night, it’s very safe and no cars. We did a bit of salsa dancing with a friendly local while listening to one of the many bands located along this street one night it was great fun.
The beautiful Plaza Vieja square is located in Old Havana and is well worth a visit.
It can be a lot more expensive than other areas to stay in Old Havana. We recommend you stay in Central Havana close to the Parque Central, this way it’s very handy for walking around everywhere and much cheaper.
There are loads of great Casa's you can rent, these are usually much nicer than the hotels and way more personal. Get to see and talk to the real Cuban people this way.
We stayed in Central Havana and found it was the easiest place to get to everything.
Made up of tight noisy streets, usually pretty shabby, it’s an authentic Cuban experience to walk around this area. Again it’s safe although not as many police around the place. Most of the people are Cuban with very little tourists about. You’ll share the streets with lots of locals, kids playing with their marbles, bike taxis, slow cars and trucks, a few motorbikes, dogs, cats and a far bit of rubbish.
House parties and music spill out onto the streets at night, it can get quite loud. Glancing down a typical road in Central Havana you’d think it was mostly made up of houses, but you’d be amazed at the number of small local businesses operating hidden within the buildings.
The largest area mostly suburban and more pleasant, richer as well. Not so many tourists hang out here either. Calle 23 is a big busy road with the huge dated Habana Libre hotel dominating the skyline. We took a walk down to the Hotel Nationale but weren’t impressed enough to write about it, the views were pretty nice though.
We found Vedado was too far away from the centre of Havana. You have to catch a taxi everywhere which can be expensive.
Like everywhere in Cuba you need a card to connect to the Wifi, at least in Havana there are plenty of places to connect including a quite a lot of restaurants. Most hotels will have their own Wifi, however some operate with their own login which means you can’t use a card unless you’re a guest. Basically when you see a whole bunch of people with their heads in their mobile phone you know there is a Wifi hotspot around, this is easy to spot. If you’re staying in Old or central Havana you won’t have a problem finding the Wifi, outside these areas ask your casa owner, they will know what’s the closest.
TIP: My favourite hangout for Wifi is at the Hotel Parque Central upstairs in the lounge area, they don’t bother you here, I’ve spent many hours in a nice comfy chair in the air con doing my work. They don’t like it so much if you sit downstairs at one of the tables, unless you plan on having something to eat or drink.
We were in Havana on and off in Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov & Dec 2017 and the weather was great, even though we experienced hurricane Irma first hand in Havana the city was back up and running in just 2 days, it was amazing. There is far less rain in Havana even in rainy season. Jan, Feb & March are a bit cooler which makes for walking the streets a lot more pleasant. However Dec & Jan plus July are busy months, and I mean busy, try not to come at this time of the year the place is packed and more expensive.
It seems that just about every house in Havana has a “Casa” sign on it, meaning they have a room for rent. In the low season I’m sure you can just rock up on the day and get a room no problem at all. But I wouldn’t chance this in high season as the place is packed.
Airbnb has a number of casa’s in Havana but it’s still missing loads of them. There are more on Homestay.
There are plenty of good hotels in Havana. Some are government run and others are private, all are self star rated. To get the true rating always knock off at least one of the stars.