You might think that seven days in Havana will be enough to see the best that the Cuban capital has to offer. You will certainly be able to see a lot, since in the grand scheme of things, Havana is not a huge city.
But when your time in the city is winding up, you will feel that you need more just a little bit longer.
Maybe you’ve seen everything you want to see, but experiencing Havana is more than just sightseeing. You’ll want to hang around simply to soak up the legendary atmosphere of the city, and this is something that feels like it could take an indefinite period of time. Sadly, it’s not as though you can just stay in Havana forever (although you might well be tempted). So let’s look at how you can cram as much as possible into your week in Havana.
Lingering in Old Havana
You can always tell the locals from the tourists in Havana, and not just from the way they’re dressed. The locals stride purposefully past achingly beautiful buildings, seemingly ignoring it all. This is because they’ve seen it all before, and actually have somewhere to be. Maybe by the end of your seven days in Havana you’ll be doing the same, but for now take the time to linger. This is especially true when you explore Havana’s Old Town (La Habana Vieja). The area is fairly compact, so is best seen on foot.
There are many walking tours on offer, or you can plot your own path depending on what you want to see. If you’re not sure how to decide, choose one of the main squares in Old Havana (Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja, or even Plaza de la Catedral) and work your way outwards from there. While in the area, you should also check out the Almacenes de San Jose (located on Avenida del Puerto y San Ignacio). It’s a gigantic artisans market where you can happily browse (and enjoy the shade).
You could easily spend your whole seven days in Havana in this part of the city.
But onwards we go! There’s far more to experience.
When You Don’t Want to Walk
Your seven days in Havana will not be complete without a ride in one of those fabulous vintage cars (affectionately referred to as “Yank Tanks”). Some of these vehicles operate as taxis, but you can also find privately owned vintage cars that will take you on a tour of the city. There are usually a few waiting at Parque Central (Havana’s central park), but be sure to negotiate a reasonable price before you set off. You could also rest your legs while taking in a view of the city from another angle.
Head to the ferry terminal and get on a boat to Casablanca. This might sound dramatic, but you’re in fact just going to take a short trip across the harbour (with sensational views when you look back at the city). You’ll arrive at La Cabaña, an 18th century fort constructed to protect the city against any hostile forces who might have wanted to invade by water.
If you take this boat ride in the evening, be sure to stick around for the ceremonial firing of the cannon at 9pm, which (many, many years ago) was a signal that the city gates were about to be closed.
Seven Days in Havana… But What About the Nights?
Seven days in Havana can readily filled by simple wandering. It’s not a city that’s big on internationally recognised monuments, so it’s not as though you will need to have a checklist of certain key sites you have to see. Sightseeing feels more organic in this city, and you can not only linger in Havana’s Old Town, but you can easily reach the other districts of the city by foot, allowing you to appreciate the different atmosphere of each part of this amazing place. One place you will also want to linger is in Miramar.
This once upmarket district has been reclaimed by the hip young things of Havana, meaning that Miramar is now a vibrant hub of art and music. A number of the once grand mansions have been turned into entertainment venues, and when walking along it can be hard to determine if you’re seeing a private party at someone’s home or a really cool club. If you only go to one club during your seven days in Havana, make sure you check out Casa de la Música de Miramar (located on Calle 20/ Esquina 35). It offers a nice, all-inclusive type of evening with a combination of live bands and more traditional DJ sets.
It’s open from 10pm until 3am, each and every day, and is housed inside one of those awesome old Miramar mansions.
Hit the Beach
As your seven days in Havana draws to a close, you might be tempted to see another side of the city, or as much of the city as can be seen by laying on the beach. Havana has some stunning beaches on its outskirts, and this is yet another reason why you’ll fall in love with this city. The main stretch of beach is known as Playas del Este, and this contains a number of smaller beaches with fairly distinctive atmospheres.
Avoid Santa Maria del Mar if you want to have a relaxing day, since this is one of the more popular spots and can get a little festive on warm summer days. Head a little further along to Playa Boca Ciega, which is infinitely less busy and gives you enough quiet time to stare out at the ocean and wonder how it might be possible to move to Havana, your new favourite city in the world.
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