The largest city and capital of Cuba, Havana offers a glimpse into the past. Many
of the Colonial Spanish buildings in Havana have undergone restoration, and in Old
Havana the cobbled squares and colonnades reflect the city's ancient heritage. Stroll
along the Maleçon, the two-mile promenade along the seafront or visit El Morro,
a typical Spanish fort which dates from the 16th century.
Since the U.S. embargo of the island, Cubans have not been able to buy cars, the
only new ones are rentals for tourists, so the streets of Havana are full of vintage
models from the fifties, replete with grills, fins and acres of chrome, lovingly
maintained and nursed along by their proud owners.
Don't miss the 18th-century baroque cathedral. A somewhat unusual tourist attraction
is the Cristóbal Colón cemetery, an amazingly intricate vista of ornate monuments
and headstones which is a great photo opportunity. Hemingway fans won't want to
miss the Bodeguita del Medio, home of the mojito and a million autographs all over
the walls and ceilings.
Cubans have a love affair with music, and you will find many dance clubs in Havana
where the salsa beat throbs out into the night. The famous El Tropicana nightclub
is well worth a visit, with its showgirls and elaborate costumes.
Cuba is not a shoppers' mecca, but a variety of attractive handicrafts are available,
and of course the famous Havana Club rum and numerous excellent cigars are a good
buy. If bargaining at a craft market, Cubans normally ask a fairly low price which
will not move very much, so don't offer half of what they suggest, this would be
an insult. If you are planning on bringing back some Cuban cigars, consider a visit
to La Casa del Habano, where, since 1845, 500 workers have hand-rolled cigars while
a colleague reads a newspaper out loud to them.