When planning a trip to Cuba most likely your trip will start and end in Havana. Havana is one of the best places in Cuba so make sure to spend a few nights in the city before venturing out.
Havana is an amazing city, you could easily spend an entire week here if your time allows. Most tourists only spend a few nights so we’ve put together this guide of all the best things to do in Havana.
1. Ride in a Vintage Car
There’s nothing more iconically Cuban than hopping in a vintage car and cruising around on an Old Havana tour. Not only is this a unique way to see the city, but it’s also a great chance to dive deeper into Cuban culture.
Whether you’re driving a hot pink 1950s Oldsmobile or a bright blue Ford Mustang, you’ll be exploring Havana in style.
Drive through Old Town and stop at some of the biggest attractions in Havana, like the Christ of Havana, Revolution Square, and Fraternity Park. Don’t forget to bring your camera, because you’re going to get some amazing shots while you’re behind the wheel of your oldie!
2. Smoke a Cuban Cigar
If you’re a cigar aficionado, then there’s no better place to visit than Havana. Known for their high-quality hand-rolled cigars, Havana is the heart of the Cuban cigar industry. Why not shop straight from the source and pick up some fine Cuban cigars during your trip?
In Cuba, authentic cigars are often referred to as Habanos. You’ll find plenty of shops located throughout the city, and you should make sure to purchase them directly from the government-run LA Casa Del Habanos (LCDH). If you buy them from a street vendor or unofficial shop, you risk purchasing fake cigars.
Keep in mind that it’s very difficult to purchase single cigars. Individual cigars need to be accompanied by a government receipt to ensure quality. For this reason, it’s much easier to buy cigars by the box.
3. Explore Old Havana
For an authentic taste of real Havana, take a walk through Old Havana. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most unusual places in the city, with vibrantly painted buildings and picturesque vintage cars lining the streets.
Visit the Catedral de San Cristobal, which sits at the center of the city surrounded by quaint cafes and restaurants. Take a stroll through the Art Nouveau and Cuban Baroque buildings in Plaza Vieja, which is one of the most popular meeting spots for locals and tourists. You can also spend some time in Plaza de San Francisco, which boasts beautiful seaside views over Havana.
You can join a walking tour or visit Old Havana on your own. Either way, it’s small enough to explore on foot.
Old Havana is also home to some of the best restaurants in the city. Whether you’re snacking on chiviricos (fried dough) or bar-hopping through the city’s trendiest cocktails bars, you’ll find something to keep you entertained in Old Havana.
Related Article: Trinidad Cuba Ultimate Guide
4. Stay in a Casa Particular in Havana with a Local Family
Skip the hotels and hostels! Staying in a Casa with a local family is one of the most memorable experiences you can have during your trip to Havana. Click here for our where to stay in Havana guide.
A Casa Particular (which translates to “private house”) is a type of homestay and a great alternative to a traditional hotel. You’ll stay in a private room or apartment inside the home of your host. Generally speaking, most hosts will cook breakfast and dinner, as well as give you tips and advice on where to go in Havana.
Staying in a Casa Particular is a great way to see what daily life is like in Cuba, it was one of our favorite things to do in Cuba. Besides, you’ll also have the insider’s guide on the best attractions and must-see places in Havana!
5. See the Cabaret Tropicana show
Havana offers quite a few different activities when it comes to nightlife. Although you might be tempted to spend your evenings huddled up in a cozy restaurant or cocktail bar, you should also book tickets to Havana’s Tropicana in advance they sell out.
Located in a lush, tropical garden, this entertaining cabaret show has been around since 1939, making it one of the longest-running shows in the city. Be dazzled by the elaborate costumes and live rhythmic music while you marvel at the traditional singers and dancers gracing their way across the stage.
To make the most of your night, you can also upgrade your experience with a welcome drink and dinner package. If you’re looking for a taste of historic Havana, then don’t miss out on a spectacular night at the Tropicana!
- Address: 72 e/ 45 y Línea del Ferrocarril , Marianao, La Habana. Cuba
- Hours: Monday – Sunday: 8:30pm
- Ticket Prices: $90 – $130 per person – Book Tickets Online Now
6. Walk the Malecón Esplanade
The Malecón Esplanade stretches five miles down the coast of Cuba, connecting Old Havana to the Centro Habana neighborhood. Take a walk down this impressive seawall and admire some of the best views Havana has to offer. Throughout the day, you’ll find couples, families, and leisurely joggers enjoying the length of the esplanade.
You’ll discover some of the city’s best attractions dotted along the way. Stop by the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta, and the Torreón de San Lázaro during your walk.
There are also several seaside coffee shops and restaurants where you can stop for a bite to eat if you get hungry. The Malecón Esplanade is an excellent place to people watch and soak in the quieter side of Havana.
7. Ride in a Taxi Particular
Taking a taxi in Havana is a very different experience compared to other parts of the world. Although you will find some regular taxis with official meters, most of the cars you’ll take will probably be privately owned.
Cars are somewhat of a rarity in Cuba, so most car-owners will jump at the chance to give you a ride to make some extra cash. Most rides should be perfectly safe, although you should always use your best judgment before hopping into any vehicle.
If you’re lucky, you may get to ride in a vintage car. A fair number of taxis on the island are American or Russian cars from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. It’s definitely one of the most stylish ways to get around Havana!
Remember, it’s in your best interest to negotiate the price upfront. If you get a good deal, then you can probably get a ride for the same price as you would with a normal taxi.
Related: How To Travel To Cuba As An American
8. Go to a Jazz Club for Live Music
Spend an unforgettable night in Havana at one of the many jazz clubs around the city. Sip on handcrafted cocktails while listening and dancing the night away to some of the best live entertainers in the country.
Most live Jazz shows in Havana start around 11 pm and go late into the evening.
One of the most popular jazz clubs in Havana is La Zorra y el Cuervo. This intimate basement club attracts some of the best acts in the city. You can also visit Cafe Jazz Miramar and Jazz Cafe, two other clubs with live music almost every night of the week.
- La Zorra y el Cuervo
- Address: between N and O, Avenida 23, Havana, Cuba
- Hours: Open Daily 10pm – 2am
- Cafe Jazz Miramar
- Address: 5 ta Avenida y 94, Havana, Cuba
- Hours: Open Daily 10 pm – 3 am
- Jazz Cafe
- Address: Avs. Paseo Calle 3, Havana Cuba
- Hours: Open Daily 9pm – 2am
9. Daiquiri at El Floridita
Ernest Hemingway lived in Havana for over 20 years, and one of his favorite hangout spots was at the El Floridita. As soon as you step inside, you’ll feel as if you just stepped back in time to the 1950s. The Regency-style decoration of the bar and the uniforms of the service staff are exactly as they were during the golden years of Cuba.
Although El Floridita is known for its decadent seafood dishes, the most popular item on the menu is their legendary daiquiris. Hemingway himself would often sit at the bar and down a few of these refreshing cocktails before heading off for the night. There’s even a bronze statue of him sitting in his favorite seat at the bar. You’ll also find photographs and other memorabilia of Hemmingway scattered around the restaurant.
If you’re looking for mouthwatering Cuban cuisine and delicious daiquiris, then look no further than El Floridita.
- Address: Obispo, La Habana, Cuba
- Hours: Open Daily 11 am – 12 am
- Cost: $6 daiquiris
10. Have an Authentic Cuban Meal
One of the best things about visiting Havana is having the opportunity to indulge in authentic Cuban food. Whether you’re splurging on a five-star meal or snacking your way through the street food stalls, you’ll have no problem finding something to satisfy your cravings.
Meat lovers must try Ropa Vieja. It’s a braised skirt steak that is simmered with fragrant tomato sauce and served over white rice and plantains. Another classic dish is Pernil Relleno De Moros Y Cristianos, which is pork shoulder stuffed with beans and rice.
For seafood, try the deviled crab. It’s fresh blue crab meat sautéed and smothered in spicy enchilada sauce.
If you’re on a budget, you can find a variety of cheap eats sold at street food vendors. Empanadas, pizzas, sandwiches, and small pastries are all popular street snacks that you can find in Havana. You can also visit one of the many markets to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices that can only be found in Cuba.
11. Mojito on the Hotel Nacional de Cuba’s Terrace
After a long day of sightseeing around Havana, why not treat yourself to a fresh, refreshing mojito? Rest your feet at the Vista al Golfo Bar at Hotel Nacional de Cuba, a historic landmark that dates back to the 1930s.
Considered the world’s best mojito, the outdoor terrace bar specially concocts the cocktail with fresh spearmint, rum, and lime. It may be more expensive than other bars in the city, but it’s worth visiting just to say you’ve had one of their world-famous mojitos!
The terrace also boasts some of the best views of Havana. Towering over the shore, you’ll have sweeping views of the ocean, which makes it one of the most peaceful places to watch the sunset and listen to live music.
- Address: Calle 21 y O, Vedado, Plaza La Habana, 10400, Cuba
- Hours: Open Daily 10 am – 12 am
If you’re looking for one of the best hotels in Havana consider staying at Hotel Nacional de Cuba. Click here to check rates now.
12. Get Lost With Your Camera
There are very few cities in the world as picturesque as Havana. Between the brightly colored vintage cars and the old-school atmosphere, Havana is a photography lover’s dream. Take a walk along the coast or through the streets, and you’ll see exactly what the fuss is all about.
Although Havana is stunning at every angle, Old Havana is where the most beautiful landmarks are. You’ll find that getting lost in Old Havana is the best way to capture those authentic moments. Walkthrough the winding cobblestone alleys and duck into the charming courtyards to find some of the country’s best photography spots.
Don’t forget to take photos of all the vintage American cars. Many of the cars are rare and can no longer be found outside of Cuba.
Other beautiful spots include the Malecon, Antonio Maceo Park, the Havana Capital building, and Chinatown.
13. Cigar Factory Tour at Partagás
Havana is synonymous with high-quality cigars. That’s why you should make a stop at the Partagás factory. They’ve been hand-rolling the famous Montecristos and Cohibas cigars for over 160 years.
Take a tour of the Partagás factory and learn first-hand how their cigars are produced. It’s one of the only companies in Cuba that will allow visitors inside the factory. You’ll see how the leaves are sorted, how the tobacco gets pressed and rolled, and how the final product is packaged and boxed.
At the end of your tour, you’ll also have the chance to purchase your own cigars at their on-site shop.
- Address: Penalver, La Habana, Cuba
- Hours: Monday – Friday: 9am – 11am, 12:30pm – 2:30pm
- $10 per person for the guided tour
14. Parisienne Show at Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Learn more about Cuban culture at the Grand Show Cubano, and Parisienne cabaret held at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. Cuba is a melting pot of cultures, and you’ll get to see other nations that left their mark on this diverse country.
Watch singers, dancers, and musicians from Native American, Hispanic, and African cultures. You’ll be mesmerized by the flashing lights, extravagant costumes, and tropical music as you learn more about Cuba’s fascinating history.
- Address: Calle 21 y O, Vedado, Plaza La Habana, 10400, Cuba
- Hours: Open Daily 9 pm – 12 am
- $35 per person
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