Havana, a city of paradox
Cuba is one of the top Caribbean destinations. Whether you fly out or cruise there, you will certainly land in the largest town and capital – Havana. It’s one of the original cities of Cuba and there’s no denying that it’s a beautiful place.
Seemingly modern yet frozen in time
Located in the northern coast of Cuba, Havana tells over five hundred years of history through its infrastructure. The city was founded in 1519 and was used as a treasure depository by the Spanish fleets. It was called La Villa de San Cristobal de la Habana then. The architecture of the buildings therefore imitated Spanish’s but also baroque style – especially the churches. However, more modern constructions have been built as time went by. The colonial structures have nonetheless been preserved. In 1959, the communist revolution led by Fidel Castro took place. Buildings collapsed and graffiti filled the walls – creating an aesthetic paradox that has nonetheless made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Since then, Havana hasn’t changed much – like frozen in time. The colonial buildings stand next to failing infrastructures. Old American cars roam the wide streets of downtown for the pleasure of classic cars aficionados. Narrower streets made of cobblestone still remain in the city. They are usually used by pedestrians to stroll around. A deeper look into what seems to be graffiti also shows that they are actually government slogans, for instance “Dignidad no se vende”. The 8-kilometre sea wall by the harbour still stands and people can now enjoy long walks on the Malecon that runs along it. However, the overall infrastructure keeps being improved, bearing in mind the preservation of the heritage. That is because Havana welcomes about a million of visitors every year.
Full of life and warm people
Havana is rather a place for history buffs but anyone who goes there keeps wanting to go back. The streets are never quiet. You will either find people performing or hear music at every corner of the city. Cubans also like to gather to enjoy a drink outdoors, whether it’s soda on the pavement or coffee at a table outside a café. What is also great about Havana is that you that the people make you feel home. Cubans are very welcoming and warm people. They won’t hesitate to invite you to dance – and even drag you on the dancefloor if needed. However, be careful when someone invites you for a drink or a meal. You’ll have to be wallet ready because the guest has to pay for everyone!
Havana is also very safe city. The only thing you really need to be wary of is leaving your valuable belongings in your room. You can leave them in a safe but still make a list because they can disappear. However, that is likely to happen in a hotel rather than in a vacation rental or in a casa particular – a homestay accommodation. The latter is the best way to immerse yourself in Afro-Cuban way of life and culture.