Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Cuba: 18 of my favourite things in Havana (and beyond)

I'm teasing you today with a list of eighteen of my favourite things in Havana and beyond.  It's a trailer for future episodes, a chance to toss in some more breathtaking photos of this amazing country that might not otherwise find a home, and, if you're planning a trip to Cuba very soon, I hope it will give you some quick pointers to special experiences.   It's an eclectic mix (and if you've been following me regularly, you'll know I love eclecticism!) and it's in no particular order.

I'll be writing about them all in more detail over the coming weeks.

1.  Communal taxis.  These are the beautiful, beaten-up 1950s taxis that transport Havanans around the city along set routes.  As a tourist you can share the ride too.  I urge you to!
10/10 for fun and authenticity.

2.  The Ballet Nacional de Cuba.  One of the most uplifting dance performances I've ever seen.  Don't miss it, even if you don't think of ballet as your bag,

3.  The Camerata Romeu  A fabulous, all-female string ensemble who play music so breathtakingly well, it makes your soul soar up into the basilica of the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi (Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis), the group's home venue.

4. The St. Nikolaos Greek Orthodox Church  A sacred jewel with a peaceful garden full of beautiful sculpture and statuary

5. Esto no es un cafe  This was our favourite restaurant,  Read my and other people's reviews here.   

6. The fruit and vegetable markets of Havana  Wherever I go, I just love stalls of fresh produce, it must be the hunter gatherer in me.    In Havana there are produce barrows on every street corner, small greengrocers in most streets and, heaven, several large markets of ripe, delicious produce.

7.  The havana tourist bus  This bright red, open-topped bus is definitely for tourists and not authentic Cuban, but it's a great way to get a feel for the city.

8.  The Colon Cemetery (Cementerio de Cristobal Colon) in the Vedado part of Havana, this is a fascinating place and said to be one of the great historical cemeteries of the world.

9. Cuban coffee  It's roasted differently, I think.  For a good cup, follow the aromas that greet your nose.  I have a few tips to share.  And don't forget to bring some home.  There's nothing like it to evoke memories of a wonderful trip.

10 Breakfast at the Hotel Inglaterra  An early morning walk across the city and breakfast at the Hotel Inglaterra.  Such a serene way to start the day.

11 The Palacio de los Capitanes Generales  I fell in love with its verdant interior patio; the shady home of snooty peacocks and a place to dream.

12 Vinales  Our three week trip focussed on Havana because we believe things are set to change more quickly here than in the countryside.  But I'm a country girl at heart and a weekend in Vinales was one of my absolute highlights.  Wish we'd stayed longer.  The Cuban countryside beckons for our next trip ... See:  The Road to Vinales and all the fun of the fair, Vinales: breathtaking rural landscape and Vinales: the tobacco harvest

13 The flower market  Every so often we came across flower sellers in the dusty streets and my heart sang.  Then we found a small flower market.  I was over the moon!  We humans need natural beauty like never before, I'm convinced of it.

14  The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes  A fantastic museum of Cuban art dating from around the 18th Century to the late 20th Century.  You'll have it almost all to yourself!

15  The architecture  If you're going to develop an unexpected interest in architecture, then Havana could be where it'll happen.  I fell in love with so many of the buildings, especially the ones that are on their knees.  Who decides what to save when there is so much in need of rescue?  I'll be trying to find out and attempting to unravel some of the architectural styles in my own words!

16  Hummingbirds  Magic on wings.  You find them in the city and the countryside.

17  The Plaza Vieja  A gorgeous square in Havana, beautifully restored and said to be the most architecturally eclectic one in Havana - well, I had to like it then!  Vibrant, lively, very popular with tourists and Havanans because it is such a glorious space.

18  Coppelia Ice Cream Parlour  The Ice cream institution in Havana.


  1. Love the photo of the red car! So colourful :)
    Don't forget to link your open bus tour post to point 7 - all help!
    Lou x

  2. The cars were wonderful, brightly coloured and full of character, like they'd been around the block a few times and got plenty of stories and a few dents!
    Loved your A to Z guide to Costa Rica (www.borntobeatourist.co.uk). Perhaps you could visit Havana when you make your next trip. Kelly x