Photo Series: Wandering Havana

Cuba is a fascinating place. There are few other countries so able to allure and induce curiosity in the minds of travellers. It most likely stems from its relationship with the USA and an image of it being forbidden fruit. Whatever the case, people want to get to know this small Carribean country. While I may have only gotten a glimpse into what this country has to offer, I think Havana is a great first step in building up an idea of life in Cuba.

To start with, there are three main neighbourhoods in the heart of Havana:

  • Havana Vieja, the old town home to most touristy parts spreading from the Capitol building to the harbour entrance;
  • Vedado, the vast and well-worn barrio where you’ll see the reality of life in Havana; and
  • Miramar, tucked up against the waterfront with a much more open and suburban feel to it.

I was staying down the western end of Havana Vieja only a few blocks from Paseo di Marti, the main thoroughfare past the Capitol building and core of the city. Staying on the outer edges of the old town was useful when arriving as the the deeper you get into Vieja the trickier it is to make your way by car, with seemingly spontaneous roadworks popping up all over. Walking the short distance out towards Paseo di Marti I could soon spy El Capitolio, the Capitol Building which was once the seat of government. Were it not for the scaffolding and surrounds, I could picture it fitting in with another national capital like Washington DC with ease.

Balcony View

Yellow Car

Havana Graffiti

Capitol

 

Once on Paseo di Marti you witness the bustle of the city, the traffic full of the vintage cars for which it’s well known. Passing crowded bus stops and heading further up the road you come to the beautifully ornate Great Theatre; hard to miss with its giant winged angel statues. Over the road you’ll find Parque Central, home to tourist buses, vintage taxi and surrounded with high-end hotels. The park is basically a useful tourist hub if you need to find internet or arrange transport.

Vintage Cars

Paseo di Marti

 

As you pass further and further along Paseo di Marti, you’ll get more and more glimpses into the barrio neighbourhood of Vedado. You’ll also come across some really fascinating architecture, even glimpses of Moorish design which looks great in context surprisingly. Paseo di Marti will eventually take you to the waterfront and to the fortress of San Salvador de la Punta. Hear you’ll find fisherman by the water and great views along the Malecon waterfront towards Miramar. Across the harbour entrance is another fortress, Morro Castle, which is far more impressive with its high walls, lighthouse and spectacular views.

Vedado

Havana Vedado

Havana City

Malecon Wave

Malecon

Fortress

 

Heading out another day back in Havana Vieja, it doesn’t take long to get lost in its huge grid of wide avenues. Here and there, you come across churches and small plazas, always crowded with locals. Every block is covered in apartment buildings, usually 3 or 4 stories high and more often than not suffering a little disrepair – paint chipped away or tiles missing. Interestingly, the state of the buildings has an unlikely endearing quality to it. It’s as if the city isn’t afraid to show off its true character.

Scattered here and there are very simple bodegas often with shelves empty depending on the state of the food supply that day or week. Along the bigger avenues, you’ll find souvenir shops selling trinkets and countless men trying to sell you cigars. You’re likely to encounter the occasional charismatic beggar. They’ll try to lure you in with talk of a special festival or concert that in fact occurs weekly. The closer you get to the harbour entrance the better state the buildings are in and the more touristy the old town feels. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; you’ll find beautifully restored buildings, wide open plazas and countless restaurants, cafes and bars.

 

Vieja Streets

Old Havana

Vieja Streets

Havana Balcony

Vieja Streets

Old Colonial

Vieja Restaurants

 

During the time I was visiting Cuba, Havana was playing host to the United Buddy Bears, a travelling international art exhibit promoting tolerance. The exhibit incorporates large bears painted by artists from over 100 countries with styles and motifs reflecting their individual countries. I thought it was a really positive and fun way of promoting such a noble cause.

Church

Bears

Mosaic

 

If you’re after spectacular views of Havana then you must go to the Camera Obscura. The Camera Obscura is effectively an old fashioned device that projects an image on to a screen, in this case live views of Havana. The projection is fascinating, with exceptional image quality considering how low-tech the concept is. After the presentation of the Camera Obscura, you’re free to head out onto the rooftop where the views of the city are spectacular.

Square

Havana View

Havana's Rooftops from Camera Obscura, Havana Cuba

Afternoon Havana Light

 

So I hope I’ve given you a glimpse into what Havana is like and that you can better appreciate what a remarkable place it, and the whole of Cuba, is.

 


For more of my advice on Cuba please see this article.

Have you been to Havana? What was your experience like? Please share in the comments.

Havana

 


This post is part of Fly Away Friday over at Life in Wanderlust. Please head on over for more great posts.

13 Comment

  1. Debz says:

    Fantastic photos! Cuba is on my bucket list!

  2. mymeenalife says:

    Havana looks like such a colorful place to visit! I love the Buddy Bears, I saw several in Berlin and they made the city seem very friendly. Great post! #FlyAwayFriday

    1. David says:

      It definitely is a colourful city. This was my first time seeing the Buddy Bears but I thought it was really cool.

  3. I am thinking about a trip to Cuba so your article is just on time! Looks like a very pretty and cultural place to visit. Thank you for sharing! #FlyAwayFriday

    1. David says:

      Glad you found the post useful. I hope you do get a chance to visit Cuba and that the photos encouraged you to go.

  4. Havana looks beautiful. The vintage cars seem enough to make you feel like you have gone back in time! #FlyAwayFriday

  5. Ruth says:

    Awesome photos! Being from Puerto Rico, I am very interested in visiting Cuba. In many ways because of the historical, political and cultural issues that tie the two countries. But, I think the number one reason I want to visit is because of the people. People are so friendly and fun in Caribbean islands! #FlyAwayFriday

    1. David says:

      Thanks as always Ruth, I’m actually super keen to see Puerto Rico and make a comparison between the two. There is a certain vibe you find in the Caribbean for sure.

  6. Like many in the US who have not been able to legally visit Cuba for over 50 years, I’m intrigued with visiting now that some of the restrictions are being lifted. Enjoyed your photos and information. #FlyAwayFriday

    1. David says:

      I think it will be exciting for all the people from the US who have wanted to go to Cuba to finally get the chance in the coming years. Thanks for reading Vicki.

  7. Natalie says:

    Such gorgeous pictures! Really inspiring the wanderlust!!

  8. ttbchloe says:

    This is so cool!! I’m dying to get to Cuba before it becomes to overran by tourists or “spoiled”. Just seems like such a throwback in time!!

    1. David says:

      I think Cuba will still be fascinating for years to come, even if Americans are able to visit easier. I hope you get to visit soon still 🙂

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