Things to do in Havana Cuba
We spent 5 days in Havana with 2 full-day, day trips outside of the capital city of Cuba. If you’re opting to stay in Havana for your entire visit, we suggest a long weekend getaway.
This shorter time frame gives you enough time to accomplish everything that Old Havana has to offer in this list of top things to do in Havana Cuba!
If you haven’t done so already, check out our How to get a Visa for Cuba as an American guide, which includes:
- booking your flight to Cuba
- obtaining a visa for Cuba
- where to stay in Havana
- phone / Internet cards
The majority of people, especially outside of Havana, do NOT know English, so we highly advise getting a translating app, buying a Spanish dictionary, or learning some basic Spanish.
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Things to do in Havana Cuba
Havana is a beautiful paradox of puzzle pieces that blend together to create an indescribable atmosphere.
With bustling roads that open to European-like, picturesque squares, Havana will not disappoint. Settled by the Spanish during the 16th Century (Havana celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2019), the city sits in a scenic harbor, surrounded by fortresses, high-rise buildings and energetic colors.
Havana’s population is over 2 million people, making it the largest city on the island by over 1.5 million people.
With so many things to see in Havana, you can discover the vibrant culture and unique urban feel of Havana on foot, vehicle, or horse-drawn carriage.
Our reservations were made through Old Car Tours. Notably, this satisfies the “Support the Cuban People” requirement by the U.S. government and we highly recommend them!
Confined to a Havana tour in a car, you can miss some of the history of Havana, so we completed walking tour to fill in the missing pieces.
We walked through the winding cobblestone streets with an English-speaking local and discovered breathtaking churches and squares, which really helped bring the city to life.
Our tour guide, Annie, was perfect for this 3-hour long tour which started in the morning. She provided local advice and told us the best places to get a Cubano sandwich, Cuban coffee, and more.
Our reservations were made through Havana Tour Company. Again, this satisfies the “Support the Cuban People” requirement by the U.S. government. There are many different tours offered through this company, as well as free tours offered through Free Tour Havana.
There are two forts that you can walk to in Havana:
- Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta
- Castillo de la Real Fuerza
The Castle Morro, (Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro), is only accessible via taxi or ferry boat. El Cristo de La Habana (“Christ statue”) is also on this side of the harbor. Both attractions offer some of the best views of Old Havana with multiple Instagram worthy photos!
Most of the classic car tours will stop at both attractions, but you’ll need to negotiate with your driver to stay if you want to explore. We walked the grounds of Castle Morro and it took us over an hour.
*Note: we didn’t take the ferry, but if you’re up for the walk, it’s the more affordable option. 1 CUC is all it costs, however, you will be walking extensively to visit the Christ statue and Castle Morro.
Almacenes San Jose Artisan’s Market is the largest handcraft market in Havana, located in Old town. From original artwork to t-shirts, shot glasses and more, this is a one-stop shop for anything you could want in Havana.
Therefore, you should probably budget at least two hours, if not three, to stroll through this open-air market.
- Nao Paladar – A family owned restaurant tucked away in a small alley that can easily be missed. With delicious food and a cozy atmosphere, we really enjoyed this place. They had a live band that serenaded us with their harmonious songs. *Advice from Samantha – if you’re planning on sitting outside for dinner, take a sweater. The wind from the harbor made this very chilly – but nonetheless, worth it.*
- Habana 61 – Reservations are highly recommended! This was the first restaurant we visited for dinner and we were not disappointed! Scrumptious local dishes and friendly staff.
- Mojito-Mojito Restaurant – A great choice for one of our last meals in Havana! Try the appetizer sampler and their mojito. You can thank us later!
- El Dandy – A petite bar and restaurant offering tapas and drinks. This place has very unique decorations and pictures that are available for purchase. We both ordered tacos off of Trip Advisor recommendations and left satisfied.
- Casa de la Música (Center Havana) – The night we tried to go, it was closed. However, this is one of the most popular salsa dancing clubs.
- Ambos Mundos Hotel – Visit the rooftop bar in this hotel. Great view of the Christ statue and forts.
- El Floridita Bar – This is one of the famous bars that Ernest Hemingway frequented. You can take a picture with his statue located in the left corner of the bar. Make sure you order the daiquiri! It was a refreshing lemony flavor.
- Cerveceria Plaza Vieja – Leave it to Chris to find a brewery in Cuba. The options for beer were literally “light” or “dark”. To quote Samantha, the light beer tasted “like a beer”. Great spot to people watch in a busy square.
The Cuban Art Factory
Fabrica de Arte Cubano – This is without a doubt, one of the most unique places we’ve been to…ever. This might be our top pick of things to do in Havana Cuba.
Every type of art you can imagine is here and it’s a more than an art factory. It’s also a nightclub, theatre, live music performance venue, bar, and restaurant, to go along with the dozens of different art exhibits.
You will be given a card when you enter and it serves as your ticket when ordering drinks or food. You need it to exit so don’t lose it! Also, you need to get there before 9PM. We left at midnight and the line to get in was around the block.
Viñales is a small town west of Havana that is known for its stunning, lush valley, tobacco farms and people.
Disclaimer: Cuba has been in the midst of a lengthy drought for the past several years, said to be one of the worst in a century, and thus, the lush valley was a bit barren and dusty, but still beautiful.
If you’re into nature, cigars and culture, then this is worth a visit. Located roughly 2-3 hours west of Havana (dependent on whether you take a vintage or modern vehicle), Viñales is known for its distinct limestone hills of Valle de Viñales.
Click here to read about our day trip to Viñales Cuba!
Cuba’s world-renowned beach, Varadero boasts over 12 miles of pristine white sand and clear blue water on the Atlantic Ocean. Located a little over 2 hours (90 miles) from Havana, and riddled with shops and all-inclusive resorts, this is a nice getaway for a relaxing, uninterrupted beach day.
There is nothing here in the way of authentic Cuban experiences, so if you’re looking for authentic Cuba, you may want to look elsewhere
On the way to (or from) Varadero, stop at Puente de Bacunayagua (The Bridge of Bacunayagua). This visually impressive bridge helps to connect the passage of two of Cuba’s provinces, Matanzas and Mayabeque.
Havana is a unique travel destination and the majority of the island feels stuck in the past. In hopes that the U.S. and Cuba continue to repair their relationship, this is a very easy weekend getaway! There are so many things to do in Havana Cuba and the mojitos are divine.
What thing did you do in Havana? Comment below!
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We are Samantha & Chris and we are Boozing Abroad (literally). Both stateside and overseas, we are connecting people with local cultures through local booze!