In 1982 Havana Colonial or Old Havana was declared Patrimony of Humanity by Unesco. The historian of the municipality of Havana, Eusebio Leal Spengler, received the opportunity of the Cuban government to establish the company Habaguanex which has as prime goal the protection, restoration and use of the historical buildings classified by Unesco. Since then many buildings have been restored in Old Havana and are used as museums, social services to the local population, administrative areas but also many are small hotels, restaurants and music bars. All this makes of the Colonial Havana streets an experience of going back into the 18th and 19th century colonial times but in a very accessible and genuine way for the visitors and inhabitants alike. Nowhere else in Cuba you feel the Cuban history and present day life in such an invigorating way.
A walk through Old Havana
A walk in Old Havana should begin at the Parque Central, the historic border between Old Havana and the extensions of the city in the 19 th century. This lively park has hotels of different category like the 5* NH Parque Central and 4* Plaza and Inglaterra hotels. You find historical buildings like the Capitol and the Theatre Lorca, and also the Museum of Fine Arts located in the former Social Club of the Asturians. Or drop by in bars like the famous Floridita or the always lively Monserrate.
You take the pedestrian Obispo Street where the locals do their shopping, artists show their work in the many work shops, and music plays in the bars like Café de Paris, Lluvia de Oro or La Dichosa.
Before the end of the street at the Café de Paris you go right and continue till you reach the Plaza Vieja. On the way you pass on your left a farmers market selling tropical fruits and vegetables in national currency. On your right you pass by the beautifull Raquel hotel, a restored 19 th century mansion and decorated in honour to the Jewish community in Havana.
The Plaza Vieja or Old Square is one of the hugest squares in Havana. Here you find in the colonial buildings the restaurants Santo Angel and a bar serving their own beer from a brewery inside. In the buildings Habaguanex provided a school and appartments for local people of Old Havana.
You continue to the left and walk through a small street with in the middle an open undergound tunnel which is a relic of the colonial water system. At the end of the street you turn left again till you reach the Plaza San Francisco, named after the big church and monastery of the Order of Francis in Havana. This square is always full of city pigeons that are being fed corn by the locals as a pass time. Here you see many horse coaches for tourism but also poneys for the local kids to have a ride around the square. It is here that occasionally cruise ships dock and visit Old Havana. In front of the cruise dock you see the office building Lonja del Comercio where on the top floor you find the office of www.cubafortravel.com(Transnico & Cuba Caribe Express). You are happily invited to drop by and enjoy the view.
You continue passing by the CADECA office where you can change foreign currency or withdraw Cuban pesos with your credit card.
At the end of the street you arrive at the Plaza de Armas, the main square of Old Havana. The former residence of the Captain Generals of Cuba is a museum now about the colonial history of Cuba and Havana. It is worth the visit. In the bar-restaurant La Mina typical creole food is served in the colonial patio on the life tunes of traditional Cuban music. The Santa Isabel hotel used to be the Palace of the Dukes of Santovenia, rich merchants who were renowned for organizing luxurious parties on their roof terrace overlooking the bay of Havana. In the corner of the square is the first castle of Havana and on the other side of the bay you see the other castles Morro and La Cabaña.