When was the last time you visited a museum in your home town? Unless you happen to live somewhere that is host to one of the greatest museums on earth, the answer probably is… not for a while. Museums are for school field trips, and of course, for visitors to town. You might not even have the slightest interest in visiting a museum unless you happen to be a visitor as well. Sometimes you arrive at a destination that is so magical that you feel compelled to learn as much as you can about it. Guidebooks can give an overview, but for a truly immersive experience, you’ll need to do what you wouldn’t do in your home town – go to a museum. When you visit Havana for the first time, you’ll want to breath in this magnificent city and learn all about it; the city, its people, its history, its culture. So what are some of the many museums in Havana that can offer a unique and unforgettable look at the beautiful chaos that is the Cuban capital?
1. The Museum is Revolting! Museo de la Revolution
It’s best not to sidestep the issue: the Cuban Revolution remains a very big deal to the Cuban people. Whatever your views on the Cuban government happen to be, the locals remain proud of their revolutionary history. The story of the revolution is impeccably laid out within the beautiful surroundings of the Museo de la Revolution (Museum of the Revolution), and the loveliness of the neo-classical building offers a strange juxtaposition with the horrors that the country went through during this time. There is a massive shortcoming to this, one of the most remarkable museums in Havana, and that’s the lack of English language signage. You might be scratching your head at the significance of a particular exhibit, since if you can’t read Spanish, you’ll probably be left in the dark. There are some guided tours available in English, so make sure you plan ahead. The Museo de la Revolution is located on Calle Refugio.
2. One of the Sweetest Museums in Havana, If Not the World: Museo del Chocolate
Even if you don’t speak Spanish, you’ve probably worked out that the Museo del Chocolate is the Museum of Chocolate. Cuban history goes hand in hand with the story of chocolate, since the fertile soil of Cuba is ideal for growing cocoa. The strength of Cuba’s tobacco, sugar, and cocoa production helped Havana to prosper, and as such, some of the old machinery on display at the Museo del Chocolate is really quite interesting. Having said that, chocolate is something that you’ll want to experience here and now, rather than in a historical context. Take a quick stroll through the museum’s small display area, and then head to the chocolate store and cafe that takes up the bulk of the building. Yes, you can sit there for hours and gorge on succulent chocolate while still technically being at a museum. Unfortunately, there aren’t any diet museums of Havana nearby. The Museo del Chocolate is located on Calle Amargura.
3. Drive into History (and Also the Present) at the Museo del Automovil
Old cars noisily navigating the narrow streets is an image synonymous with Havana. You can’t stop progress, and now that the US and Cuba have agreed to resume formal diplomatic relations, it might be the case that new cars will finally be able to be imported into the island nation with a minimum of fuss. Cubans zipping around in hybrid roadsters is not something that will happen anytime soon, and for now, the entire city operates as a kind of car museum. For a detailed look at some of these beauties that have been lovingly maintained, you need to go to the actual Car Museum (Museo del Automovil). The vehicles on display are significantly different to their brothers and sisters driving around outside, and this is simply due to not having been driven continuously for 50 years. It’s basically a classic car showcase, and yet the exhibits are all the more remarkable when you consider that these are the latest models available in Cuba… for now, anyway. The Museo del Automovil is located on Calle Oficios.
4. Drink and Learn at the Museo del Ron Havana Club
Ever wanted to get drunk while still legitimately claiming that you were “learning”? Welcome to the Havana Rum Museum, or to use its proper name, the Museo del Ron Havana Club. Yes, it’s that Havana Club, one of the most widely known rums of Cuba, and this place is perhaps the most fun of all the museums in Havana… and no, not just because you can taste samples. The museum is a detailed recreation of how Havana Club was produced during the 1930’s when the company started.
It’s actually all very interesting, particularly the areas of the museum that house models of the steam train specifically designed to haul raw materials from the countryside to the Havana distillery. And of course, at the conclusion of the tour, you’re brought into the museum’s bar where you can further immerse yourself in the history of rum by drinking rather a lot of it. The Museo del Ron Havana Club is located on Avenida del Puerto.