Havana is guaranteed to instantly charm you with its untamed way of life; the way you can walk down the street and not see another European face; or how the local merchants will barter with you over the price of an onion just for fun. However, because this beautiful city hasn’t yet become a touristic destination, it’s hard to ﬁnd information on things to do and see there. There are so many unique places to visit in Havana, but here is a round up of the best places to see as a ‘local tourist’.
This is the main street in Havana Vieja, and as soon as you step out onto the cobbles you can see why! There are countless shops running one after the other, with designer brands rubbing shoulders with family run souvenir stalls. Here you can also ﬁnd kitch little bars and restaurants, where the locals hang out at to listen to live salsa and afro-cuban bands. The main banks and exchange houses are also along this street, just incase your money accidentally disappeared on one too many mojitos.
We all know that this country is renowned for their deep, rich coffee blends and their aromatic brews, but Cafe O’Reilly takes it to a whole new level. As soon as you walk in you are greeted with the aroma of freshly ground coffee, and the feeling of going back in time before social meetings included cell phones, a time when people could sit down and really appreciate a great coffee. In O’Reilly’s you can chose from a huge selection of coffee cocktails, containing every alcohol you can think of, ﬁne espressos, traditional cappuccinos, shakes and even drinkable deserts! They use blends of only the best crops from the various coffee regions of Cuba, producing both the arabica and robusta beans, giving their coffee an exquisitely deep, fruity taste and hypnotizing aroma.
I guarantee that you’ll have never seen a warehouse so full of colour and life! As soon as you walk in you can smell the freshly cooked churros, hear the live bands and feel the buzz of trading everywhere. The artwork in Antiguos Almacenes is so unique, and the artists are usually the ones sat selling, so you can ask them all about their works. For anyone into art, music or street food this is a place not to be missed!
Don’t be fooled by it’s name, this museum is more like a ‘stuff yourself with every form of chocolate available to man’ sort of deal. The ‘museum’ is actually just a collection of ingredients and tools, in small cases, scattered around a lovely little cafe. The reason this little place has made it to the list isn’t its educational value, but for its unbelievable selection of delicious chocolates available. Each chocolate is made and cooled right before your eyes, and you can choose from a list of different models that come in all shapes and sizes, from a dolphin leaping out of the sea to a small cigar. The thing that will really steal your heart though, is the hot chocolate. It is the thickest, most decedent hot chocolate you will ever try, and with local prices it’s no wonder this place is such a big hit. For info check here.
New Port Ave. Brewery
I actually stumbled across this place because I was drawn to it by the music (you’re probably seeing a trend here, yes everywhere you go in Havana you are accompanied by music!). The brewery is hidden in an abandoned-looking warehouse, a few minutes from the old train station, however once you enter it’s a whole different story. The interior is decorated with brightly coloured murals, and in the centre is a large platform for the ﬂamenco band that plays daily. New Port Ave brew their own beer using equipment they shipped from Austria, which they display proudly on a large stage behind ceiling to ﬂoor glass windows. As non-imported beer is very hard to come across in Cuba this is well worth checking out.
Plaza de Armas
Local Market Old books, antique jewellery, vintage vinyls and original poster prints… what more could a person ask for? The hustle and bustle of this outdoor market is so alluring you just cant say no. This is the place to ﬁnd that rare record, missing from your collection, or the ﬁrst edition of your favourite book. Once you step into the beautiful Plaza de Armas square you instantly feel like a local. People are bustling around you going about their local trade, while couples sit on the bright white benches, whispering sweet nothings to each other. This is deﬁnitely the place to visit to soak up the culture, and grab yourself a bargain.
If you want a nice relaxing stroll in the afternoon then I couldn’t suggest anywhere better than along the Malecón. With beautiful views of the ocean, and local ﬁsherman going about their daily work, the only thing more relaxing is stopping at one of the ocean front bars, and sipping on an ice cold beer. At night, the Malecón comes alive with parades of the old imported cars, glittering lights, and an outstanding view of the night sky.
The Town Square
The architecture in this part of the city is simply breathtaking. Compared to the older part of Havana, El Vedado, the buildings here were mostly commissioned in the 20th century, when the capital was surprisingly rich, so they were designed with many international inﬂuences such as Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Eclectic Design, leaving them breathtakingly exquisite and detailed. You will also ﬁnd countless fountains and statues in this area, all engraved with snapshots of the rich Cuban history. The town square is deﬁnitely one of the best places in Havana for a that special photo op.