To really explore a city you need to be strolling through it, looking around every corner
My first few hours in Havana, I was just taking in all the amazing views, getting to see as much of Havana as possible. A little overview you can see in my last post: First impressions of Havana, Cuba. After driving around through the great Malecón (a dream to walk there forever next to the ocean!), I couldn’t wait to dive into the streetlife. Preferably the smallest little streets I could find, with the most interesting houses and colors.
It seems like in Havana at every corner of every street a new world opens. Be led by the music that you hear, follow an interesting drawing on the wall and see where it brings you. Get a little bit lost, I think is the only way to really get to know a city.
My favorite area to start walking is La Habana Vieja, the old part of the city (Old Havana). We stayed in a casa particular in this area, right next to the famous La Bodeguita del Medio on Calle Empredado. A casa particular means instead of staying in a hotel, you stay with a Cuban family that hosts you. This is the most common way of sleeping in Cuba, and also the best way to really get to know a place and the people that live there. La Bodeguita del Medio is a cafe well known for its arty vibes. Famous for all the artist, writers, celebrities that used to spend their time around there. And last but not least, the fresh authentic mojitos! (the best in Havana?)
La Habana Vieja has 4 major plazas: Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de las Armas and Plaza de San Fransisco. Walking between them is perfect and gets you right in the old centre. You’ll find a combination of history, colorful houses, old churches and galleries. When I was walking from La Bodeguita del Medio, I first got to Plaza de la Catedral, with the beautiful Cathedral of Havana.
From there you can easily stroll through Calle Mercaderes, all the way to Plaza Vieja, the liveliest plaza of the 4. Calle Mercaderes is a car-free street with lots of little shops where you can just wander around. Except for that it has the museums, the galleries, the restaurants.. The other big street in La Habana Vieja is Calle Obispo, the main shopping street. In summer it is packed with music, people, bookstores.
While you’re wandering through the Old Centre, don’t forget to go into the little side streets on your way.. little streets can give you the most amazement and surprise!
The best way is to just follow your instinct, your sight, your hearing.. You see something interesting, walk towards it. You hear beautiful music, go listen. You see interesting people, talk with them, ask them questions, show interest. It’s amazing how you get to know a place in that way.
When you get back to the bigger streets, a little into La Habana Vieja you have Plaza Vieja. Plaza Vieja (literally, Old square) has the most little bars with sunlit terraces and the most going on during the night as well. This afternoon we sat down at the microbrewery La Factoria Plaza Vieja, which sells nice homemade beer. The most perfect was the spot as well though, in the sunshine in a nice little corner of Plaza Vieja, where you can look all over the plaza and just enjoy the view and the different music passing you by.
From Plaza Vieja you can take a left turn towards the Parque Central, where the typical American cars are used as the main transport, especially in Havana. And especially in tourism, if you ever wanted to feel like a 1950s moviestar, this is the time and place. These beautiful cars are used as taxi’s in Havana and they have every color you can dream of.
How do you like to explore cities?
The Dreamy Discoverer