42 Best Things To Do In Havana

The range of things to do in Havana is incredible, and you will inevitably fall in love with this crumbling, charming city.

Full of mystery and charm, Cuba is a favorite of travelers who are inevitably fascinated by it. Once called San Cristobal de la Habana, the Cuban capital is the typical starting point of a trip around the country. Dusty, noisy, crowded and with bad traffic, it may at times feel overwhelming. Yet, this is where you will get a proper introduction to Cuban culture and history, and to its people.

Spend 3 days in Havana (or, as they say, La Habana) and visit all the main attractions – the city is actually quite spread out. If you have an extra day or two to spare, it’s even better – this way you will have a chance to explore it more in depth.

Not sure where to start exploring? Don’t worry! This post highlights all the unmissable things to do in Havana, and shares a few tips to make the most of this incredible city.

things to do in Havana
There’s little doubt that one of the ultimate things to do in Havana is riding a vintage car

42 Incredible Things To Do In Havana

Ride a vintage car

One of the things La Habana is most famous for are the beautiful old cars. They are everywhere – on any street corner, traffic light, parking lot. Some of these cars are perfectly restored and well-preserved. You may come across shiny 1950s Fords dating back to pre-revolution times and that are the pride and joy of their owners. Others are falling apart – but in a country where nothing goes to waste, they get fixed and keep running. Needless to say, one of the most fun things to do in Havana is riding one.

If you are keen on going on a ride, you have three options:

TAKE A TAXI PARTICULAR: If you speak Spanish just hail an old taxi particular (private taxi) for a ride. This is cheapest option, as taxis particulares are actually shared so chances are that some local will jump on board too and you’ll get to mingle. However, you’ll only stay in the car for the duration of the ride, and haggling is a must.

GO ON AN OFFICIAL RIDE: This can last anything between one and two hours and is easy to find – chances are that a vintage car driver will try to catch your attention. Beware that it is likely that the driver will inflate the prices: you’ll have to haggle fiercely to get a fair rate.

things to do in Havana
A walk in Habana Vieja is one of the things to do in Havana

Walk around Havana Vieja

Going for a walk in Old Havana (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) most definitely is one of the unmissable things to do in Havana. This is a great way to discover the city and see most of its attractions.

Among the must-sees there are:

PLAZA DE LA CATEDRAL – A gorgeous square where all the buildings, including the Cathedral (Catedral de San Cristobal) are in Baroque style.

PLAZA DE ARMAS – The oldest square in Havana and where the statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, who initiated the fight for Cuban independence, is located.

PLAZA VIEJA – The most eclectic square in the city and baroque style buildings sit right next Art Nouveau ones. You’ll also have a chance to see the crumbling buildings Havana is famous for.

PLAZA DE SAN FRANCISCO – The second oldest square in town, it’s located in Havana Harbor and it’s where you’ll find an 18th-century basilica and the old Havana stock exchange.

A guided tour may be a good idea if you are pressed for time and yet don’t want to miss out on the most important attractions. There even are free walking tours.

things to do in Havana
Taking in the views from Camera Obscura

Visit Cámera Obscura in Havana Vieja

Located in Plaza Vieja, the Gómez Vila building is the tallest in Old Havana and houses the only Camera Obscura in Latin America and the Caribbean. The camera projects real-time images of the city onto a dark screen. The views from the rooftop terrace are definitely an added bonus. Admission is just $2 USD.

Discover the hidden gems of Calle Mercaderes 

Calle Mercaderes has been beautifully restored to its original 18th century splendor, and it is packed with small museums (most of them, such as the Museo de Bomberos dedicated to firefighters, or the Museo del Tabaco, are free), shops and restaurants, but you can also pop in to get to know one of the many social projects that have their headquarters here.

Havana books
Exploring Plaza de Armas is one of the things to do in Havana when searching for a book

Buy a book or two in Plaza de Armas

Book worms will be happy to know that the oldest square in Havana hosts a daily book market. Make sure to stop by the stalls and search for your next read. 

Mix with the locals in Calle Obispo

To get a flavor of local life head to Calle Obispo, the main street in Old Havana, where a series of art galleries, shops, and bars are located. It’s one of the busiest pedestrian streets in the city.

What to do in Havana
A view of the Capitol Building

Go to the Capitol Building

The former seat of the government until the Cuba revolution, the Capitol Building – El Capitolio – now hosts the Cuban Academy of Sciences. It’s a gorgeous, imposing building where visitors aren’t admitted, but you can surely look at it from the outside: it’s one of the unmissable things to do in Havana.

Not far from El Capitolio you will find the Parque Central, where a bunch of luxury hotels such as the Kempinski and the Iberostar Parque Central are located. It’s also a cool place to spot local life!

And the Gran Teatro

Built in 1838, the Gran Teatro is one of the prettiest buildings in Havana, and where the Cuba ballet performs. You can go on a tour to visit the magnificent interior, and if you happen to walk around Old Havana at night, make sure to head in its direction as it is simply splendid when all lit up!

things to do in havana

Visit the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

Art lovers will agree that visiting the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is one of the best things to do in Havana. The collection is truly interesting, with pieces of international art – Egyptian, Greek and Roman that date back to 500 AC! Keep in mind that the museum is spread across two buildings, which are in and of itself worth checking out.

One building, the one focusing on international art, is the Palacio del Centro Asturiano and was designed in Spanish-Renaissance style in the 1920s by Manuel Bustos. The other houses a collection of Cuban art from the 17th century, houses in the Rationalist-style Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Make sure to also observe the 1959 Form, Space and Light sculpture outside.

Revolution Museum
The Revolution Museum can be very political

Visit the Museo de la Revolución

If you decide to only visit one museum in Havana, make sure you go to the Museo de la Revolución (Museum of the Revolution). Located in the former neoclassical Presidential Palace, for a really small fee it will walk you through the history of the revolution in Cuba.

The collection comprises a lot of documents and photos, so there is a lot of reading to be done. You should also check out the exhibits about the independence wars against Spain, and the communist reconstruction of Cuba in the 1960s and 1970s

things to do in Havana
Plaza de la Revolucion is one of the most famous landmarks of Havana

Then head to Plaza de la Revolución

Plaza de la Revolución is a must see when in Havana. To be fair, this isn’t exactly the prettiest square in town – the area is grey, somewhat dim. But its historical and political significance are undeniable: this is where political rallies and gatherings take place; where politicians appear to address their electorate; and where Cubans gathered to give their last farewell to their former president Fidel Castro. It’s also the place where in 1998 Pope John Paul II celebrated his mass during his visit to Cuba,

The memorial square is dedicated to one of the heroes of the Cuban revolution, José Martí – the 109 meters (357.6 feet) tower is dedicated to him: you can see a marble statue representing him at the bottom of the tower, by which you’ll find the entrance to the memorial museum.

On the other side of the square, there is the Ministry of Interior building where you’ll spot the huge portrait of Ernesto Che Guevara and his famous motto “Hasta la Victoria Siempre.” The image of Camilo Cienfuegos, another Cuban revolution hero, was added in 2009 on the nearby telecommunications building.

Keep in mind that Plaza de la Revolución is a bit far from everything else and you are better off going by taxi.

El Morro
El Morro Castle

Visit El Morro

Part of Havana’s Parque Historico Militar, you can see El Morro – whose full name is actually Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro – located in the district of Casablanca, from the Malecon of Havana. This castle dates back to 1589 and it was originally built to protect Havana from pirates. The lighthouse there dates back to the 19th century. The fortress was then used at the time of the Spanish America war. The views of the city from the castle are impressive. 

Spot El Cristo de la Habana

Second in size only to the one in Rio, El Cristo de la Havana stands 20 meters (65.6 feet) tall and overlooks the city. It’s close to El Morro, and you can get there by taxi or by ferry – from Old Havana to Casablanca Pier.

Across the street from where the statue is located you will find Che Guevara’s headquarters, the place where he established his offices at the time of the Cuban Revolution. You can visit the museum for around $6 USD.

Attend the Cañonazo de las Nueve

The Cañonazo de las Nueve ceremony takes place every night in Havana’s San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress, known locally as La Cabaña. The ceremony is a tradition that dates back from the colonial times and started in 1774, when a cannon shot at 9:00 pm sharp would announce the closure of the city gates. This was done to protect the city from the attacks of pirates. The cannon was initially shot from a ship in the harbor, but then it was moved to the Morro Cabaña Castle.

The nightly show sees a representation of the ceremony in original costumes from the 18th century.

You’ll have to take a taxi to the Morro Cabaña Castle and pay a $6 USD admission fee. Alternatively, opt for a guided tour which also includes dinner and drinks.

A walk on El Malecon is a must-do – it’s one of the unmissable things to do in Havana

Walk along El Malecon

You can’t write a post about the things to do in Havana without mentioning El Malecon – visiting is simply a must, and you get bonus points if you go at sunset!

This 8 km (5 miles) paved road connects the outside of the Old Havana (where the Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta, a fortress dating back to 1590, is located) with the residential Vedado was conceived between 1901 and 1902 and is where Havaneros hang out in the late afternoon – and hence a great place for people-watching. Along the Malecon you’ll be able to spot a lot of beautiful buildings, and it’s a great place to observe Cuba’s famous vintage cars drive by.

For a truly local experience, you may even go fishing on the Malecon!

Or along Paseo del Prado

One of the most famous streets of Havana, it includes the length of Paseo Martí from the Malecon all the way to Calle Máximo Gómezand and divides Centro Habana from Old Havana. 

Callejon de Hamel
Entering the Callejon de Hamel

Take a small detour to visit the Callejón de Hamel

The Callejón de Hamel is a really tiny street not far from El Malecon and a real must-see. Here, you can find some interesting street art and get a feel for the Afro-Cuban culture that is so typical of the country. Beware of the touts that hang out in this area, and be prepared for a lot of cat calling.

Hotel Nacional
Hotel Nacional is one of the most famous landmarks in Havana

Make a stop at Hotel Nacional

The most famous hotel in Havana is Hotel Nacional, and it is right on the Malecon. This neoclassic / art decò building has a beautiful garden and a fantastic terrace with views of the ocean. It’s where some Cuban army officers sought refuge in 1933, hoping to get help from the US after Fulgencio Batista’s coup d’état.

Nowadays, the hotel remains a great place to visit; it hosts events, wedding celebrations and parties such as “quinzeneras” (15 years old birthday celebrations) and it’s a great place to enjoy a sunset drink. 

Cuba missile crisis

Explore the Cuban Missile Crisis Tunnels

Right behind the Malecon, on the far right corner of Hotel Nacional, you can look for the signs that point towards the tunnels where the missiles set up and aimed at the US were kept during the Cuban Missile Crisis (learn more about it here). It’s a rather interesting place to explore and to understand more about the country and its place in the international arena.

The lovely Vedado

Go to the Vedado

This is one of the nicest areas in the Cuban capital, with gorgeous colonial style homes, beautiful gardens and where the traffic is much less compared to the rest of the city, and significantly less touristy. The main highlight is Parque Almendares, also known as Parque Metropolitano. 

The Vedado is a great area to stay and you will find some excellent casas particulares. Another lovely residential area of Havana is Miramar, where embassies and large mansions are located.

things to do in Cuba

Visit the Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón

Outside the center of Havana, Colon Cemetery is a massive cemetery of 141 hectares and more than 800,000 graves, with beautiful statues by famous sculptors of the past, and the tombs of some of the most prominent people in the country. Don’t miss the main gate, designed by Calixto Arellano de Loira y Cardoso. There is a small admission fee, and you will need to get there by taxi.

things to do in Havana
Cigars are common in Cuba, and visiting a cigar factory is one of the many interesting things to do in Havana

Visit a tobacco factory

One thing Cuba is really famous for is its cigars. The Real Fábrica de Tabacos Partagás is one of the places to visit if you want to learn a bit more about how Cuban cigars are made, and to buy a few that you can carry home with you. If you do, make sure to store them in the fridge covered with a wet cloth to keep them nice and moist (I learned this from a local!).

Walk around the Barrio Chino

There is a Chinatown in Havana. Or perhaps I should say there was. Once upon a time there used to be a large Chinese community in Cuba, but nowadays there are no more Chinese people left. Yet, the Barrio Chino is a cool place to visit: it’s so small it won’t take you more than 15 minutes to walk through it and browse at the various Chinese restaurants.

Shop at a local market

Visiting the local markets (such as San José market) is one of the nicest things to do in Havana. There are various small fruit open-air markets where you can buy fruit for a real steal. There also are some crafts market where you can get small souvenirs – the same you can see in souvenir shops, to be fair.

things to do in Havana
One of the things to do in Havana is having a refreshing cocktail

Eat at a paladar

When in Havana, you have to try local food. The best food in Cuba is found either in local homes or at paladares, privately owned restaurants. There, for a real steal, you can have huge portions of the most delicious local dishes. The price of a meal at a paladar can be as cheap as $7 USD and as expensive as $35, depending on what you eat and on the location.

Or from a hole in the wall

Scattered around all Cuban towns you will find tiny holes in the walls – literally a window – where you can get all sorts of street food. Sandwiches such as the Cubano, churros and “mariquitas” (fried plantains) or yuca chips are the most obvious choices, but for a truly local experience go for the pizza.

You can imagine how I, the pickiest Italian on earth, reacted at the idea of a pizza served through a window and cooked on a tiny charcoal or wood oven. But I must admit it is quite tasty! What makes it so is the sofrito – a mix of onion, garlic and bell peppers fried in oil, to which tomato sauce is added. Sounds more like the kind of sauce we’d put on pasta in Italy, but why not?

The best spots for pizza in Havana are Bella Ciao and 5 Esquinas Trattoria.

Enjoy dinner at La Guarida

One of the best paladares in town is La Guarida. Not only it serves excellent food, but the atmosphere is incredible and the building really impressive, with a staircase that you will want to climb and take photos of. To give you an idea, it’s where the movie Fresa y Chocolate was filmed. Reservations are recommended.

havana things to do

Drink guarapo

Sugar cane juice can be found in all Caribbean countries. It’s an incredibly sweet drink, but if you add a good dose of fresh lime juice, it can be nice and refreshing, and give you a boost of energy and a break from the exhausting heat. Besides, seeing how guarapo is prepared is one of the coolest things to do in Havana.

Have a good cocktail

Speaking of lime, lemon and drinks, there is no denying that cocktails in Cuba are good. La Bodeguita del Medio, in 156 Calle Empedrado, near Plaza de Armas, was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite cocktail bar and remains the most popular spot for a mojito.

The best place for daiquiris is definitely El Floridita. It’s just as touristy as La Bodeguita (and another of Hemingway’s spots in town), but who cares when they are so good?

Another great bar serving good mojitos and playing live music on a regular basis is Los Van Van. For the best Cuba Libre, head to El Presidente Hotel. 


Have a sip of Planchao

Before my trip to Cuba, my friend who’d been there told me that Cubans drink “rum in a box.” It didn’t take me long to come across a liquor store that sold it -less than $1 USD for a box of 200 mil. It literally looks like a carton of juice, except it’s for adults only. I tried Planchao and can testify it’s pretty bad. You may want to try your luck with Tumbao, the other brand.

Fun local ladies

Get to know the locals

One of the biggest perks of traveling is getting to meet the locals. Cubans are friendly enough people, but you really need to watch for scams – pay particular attention when they appear overly friendly. If you are into baseball, a good idea to catch some local actions and get a chance to talk to the locals may be attending a baseball game at Estadio Latinoamericano.

To find out more about my experience with locals in Cuba, check out this post.

things to do in havana
Live music is everywhere in Cuba – walk by a building and you’ll hear it!

Listen to great music

Music is everywhere in Havana, and all that it takes to listen to some is turning a street corner (there’s bound to be some band playing in the street) or getting into a bar, since most in Havana have live music. 

If you are into jazz, you will be happy to know that many bars in Old Havana play jazz music! The most popular one is La Zorra y el Cuervo.

Practice salsa dancing

Try to listen to salsa music without wanting to dance. It’s impossible! One of the best things to do in Havana is enrolling in a salsa dancing class. And if you want to have a proper night out, go to Casa de la Musica, in the Miramar district. It’s a huge, indoor nightclub but the cool thing is that they play live music. This is where young locals go to dance salsa, but it’s becoming increasingly more popular with tourists too.

Make sure to either reserve a taxi back home, or to ask the driver who took you there to pick you up, or else it will be a fierce haggling game until you find a taxi that can take you back to your accommodation at a honest price.

Enjoy the hippest night scene at Fabrica de Arte Cubano

One of the most popular clubs in town is La Fabrica de Arte Cubano – AKA the Cuban Art Factory. Founded by musician X-Alfonso and set inside an old cooking oil factory, it’s a fantastic mix of club, art gallery and performing center. It’s open from Thursday to Sunday.


See a Tropicana Club show

The Tropicana is a world-famous Cuban show, and seeing it is one of the coolest things to do in Havana. It’s a nice, cabaret-style (or carnival style, if you prefer!) show that will take you back to a 1950s atmosphere. You will need to buy tickets in advance, as the place fills up really quickly. Once you get in, you will be offered a cigar. You can even eat dinner there.

A similar show is the Cabaret le Parisien which takes place in the famous Hotel Nacional.

Stay at a casa particular

One of the top things to do in Havana is to stay at a casa particular (literally “private home”). Pretty much anyone who has a spare room in Havana rents it out, preferably to foreign tourists, to make a bit more money. Rooms at casas particulares are standard: double rooms with a private bathroom with running hot water.

A room at a casa particular costs anything between $20 to $35 USD, or even more depending on the location and on the size of the room. Breakfast costs around $5, and dinner anything between $8 and $15. 

If you check Airbnb you will find an incredible range of casas particulares for all budgets and preferences.

Casas Particulares are the best accommodation option

Head out to Fusterlandia 

For more unique art expressions go to Fusterlandia, a neighborhood (Jaimanitas) that artist José Fuster reclaimed to art in a way that is similar to Spain’s Gaudi. Visiting de Casa de Fuster – where he recreated a fantastic mosaic piece – is free, and you can get there by taxi but your haggling skills will be tested.

Go to the beach

The good thing about Havana is that it is fairly easy to get out of the city and there is quite a bit to see in the surroundings. If you want to go to the beach Playas del Este is an excellent option in terms of vicinity (you can go there independently), beauty and local feel.

Go to El Bosque de la Habana

Another place to get out of town without really leaving is El Bosque de la Habana, a swamp-like forest which is a favorite of locals, home to the Almendares River. 

Take in the views from Hotel Kempinski

Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski is the perfect place to end a day of exploration around Havana. Located in Havana Vieja, its rooftop bar comes complete with a gorgeous infinity pool and views over the roof of the city and the Capitol Building. Order a perfectly stirred cocktail for an even better experience!

Viñales Cuba
Biking around Viñales Valley

Visit Vinales

Vinales is one of the nicest places to visit in Cuba. It honestly deserves more than just a day, but if a day is all you have, you may as well make the most of.

I recommend going on a guided tour to save some time. You can book it locally with your casa particular.

Visit Finca Vigia and Cojimar

These are two places that Ernest Hemingway loved. The first is large estate with a pool, located south of town, about 16 km (10 miles) and it’s where he used to live and now houses a museum dedicated to his life and works, where you can also see some of his most beloved possessions such as the Pilar, his boat.

The second is a small town where he found inspiration for his writings, such as The Old Man And The Sea (which he actually wrote while living in Finca Vigia) and For Whom The Bell Tolls. They are easy to get to, but you may want to join a guided tour if you want to see them on the same day.

things to do in Havana
Make sure to hang out with the locals, it’s one of the things to do in Havana!

Practical Tips To Organize Your Trip To Havana

Where to stay in Havana

Havana has some excellent accommodation options. There are a few good hotels in town, but you are better off staying in one of the many casas particulares where you’ll have a chance to get right into the culture and way of life of a local family. Most travelers opt to stay in Habana Vieja, but the Vedado is great too. The following is a selection of some good casas particulares:

  • Abalidia, in the Vedado, is a lovely colonial home managed by the charming Felix and Lidia. There are two large rooms, a fantastic patio and Lidia is an excellent cook. You can’t book it online, but you can send an email to Felix at felixhabana12@yahoo.es – definitely mention my name!
  • Gardens Boutique Hotel – if you have the budget to splurge, this is by far the best place to stay in Havana, fantastically combining the comforts of a boutique hotel with the cozy feeling of an Airbnb.
  • Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski – located in the historic Manzana de Gómez building, this is the first five-star hotel in town. From its rooftop terrace, you can enjoy awesome views that span from Havana Vieja all the way to the Capitol Building. There is an infinity rooftop pool too. Keep in mind it is state owned so Americans aren’t – technically – allowed to book it.

How to get to Havana

Most major airlines fly to José Martí International Airport, the biggest in Cuba. Depending on when you wish to travel, and especially if your travel dates are flexible, you can score great deals on flights. 

The airport and is located within easy distance from the city. Taxis to town are in the range of $20 to $30 USD. If you don’t want to have to worry about haggling prices as soon as you land from your international flight, you are better off booking a cab in advance via your casa particular.

You also have the option of renting a car for your trip to Cuba, and you can pick it up directly from the airport. Keep in mind that you need to book it online in advance and that you really won’t need the car in Havana.

Pedicab in Havana
A pedicab is a good way to move around Havana

How to move around Havana

If you are staying in Havana Vieja, you won’t really need to use public transportation to go anywhere. If you like walking, even the Vedado can be reached on an easy walk along the Malecon. Other than that, you can rely on the many taxis that move around town, or the fun pedi cabs. Make sure to always bargain the prices though!

Best time to visit Havana

Any time is a good time to visit Havana. The city is blessed with sunny days year round.

Having said that, Autumn is a great time to travel to Cuba, and prices are generally lower. The other side of the coin is that it is hurricane season – so you may want to avoid that.

The winter months – November to March – are probably the best ones, with days that are hot and dry, but never unpleasant. The bonus is that the country is less crowded then. 

Other useful information and tips

You will need a tarjeta turistica – basically just a visa – to travel to Cuba. You can get it at a good travel agency or online. Ask Easy Tourist Card to arrange your visa for Cuba!

Having a travel medical insurance is another requirement. You can get yours here.

Finally, learn a few words in Spanish before your trip as they may be immensely helpful. Check out my post 20 Useful Tips For Learning A New Language for more.

Further Readings

If you are planning a trip to Cuba, make sure to read my other posts:

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Discover the best things to do in Havana - via @clautavani

6 thoughts on “42 Best Things To Do In Havana”

  1. We were lucky enough to get to Havana a couple of weeks ago. It’s such a fascinating time capsule and Tropicana was easily the best Vegas style extravaganza we’ve ever seen. Would totally recommend it.

  2. Totally recommend dinner and show at The Tropicana. Took my wife end of January, 2019. Fabulous evening. Make reservations long before.

  3. Hello Claudia,

    I’m surprised that after being a former human rights attorney that you would advertise Cuba. A country that violates human rights on a daily basis. Please don’t misinform your viewers, for Cuba is a dangerous country that is controlled by dictators.

    Best regards

  4. Well, maybe you don’t know, but alas… not a single country in the world fully respects human rights. Not Cuba, for sure. Not Italy, where I live. And certainly not the US or the UK.

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