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Things to do in Havana, Cuba for First-Time Visitors

Things to do in Havana, Cuba for First-Time Visitors

I visited Havana, Cuba in 2017 and it was a memorable trip.

It’s a tough place to describe, with the vibrancy and resiliency of Cuban people juxtaposed against a grim political situation and decades of strife.

While there, I took the chance to support as many local businesses as possible.

Here are some of the best things I did while in Havana, Cuba.


Ride in a Vintage Car

Classic cars lined up on the street

One of the most popular ways to get around in Havana is by riding a classic car.

Those wanting to rent one can book by the hour (or part thereof).

While it’s tempting, don’t book online ahead of time. You will be paying inflated prices and there is no shortage of supply to meet your demand, so booking online is not necessary.

Simply go to the city center and walk around — they are impossible to miss. You’ll find cars lined up along the street with local drivers soliciting your business.

Pick the car you like best, agree on a price and duration, and have fun. Be prepared to pay with cash.

See Fusterlandia by Jose Fuster

An amazing place to see art is Fusterlandia, home of Jose Fuster.

With three stories of intricate mosaic tile artwork and sculptures, this place will have you thinking you stepped through the looking glass.

The artist’s private home is open to the public to explore, with a mosaic fisherman accepting donations at the entry.

Guests can also purchase Fuster’s artwork on site and even meet the artist!

Let’s just say he’s a character, and if you’re lucky he’ll be around to dedicate a book to you.


Have a fun night out at Fabrica de Arte Cubana

Check out Fabrica de Arte Cubana for Havana’s hipster experience.

There is live theatre, musical performances, art galleries, photo exhibitions, and a dining area.

There is even a clothing store hidden inside, featuring the one-of-a-kind designs of Sofia Marques de Aguiar at a small pop-up shop called El Encanto Atelier.

Sofia makes all the dresses and shoes herself, using sewing patterns from the 1940s and 50s.

Listen to live music at Callejon de Hamel

There is a ton of art in Havana, and more recycled art than I’ve seen in any other city.

With limited materials, the Cuban artists have reinvented existing pieces, like discarded keyboards or electronics, and turned them into art.

One example of this is El Callejon de Hamel, an outdoor art gallery with murals and recycled art.

The walls tell the story of the Cuban people, and you’ll find guides eager to point out the significance and interaction of all the pieces (you ring a bell for good luck, for instance) in exchange for a small tip of your choosing.

There’s also live Rumba playing here Sundays at 1pm, and the place gets packed.

Have a mojito

If you head to the John Lennon park, there is a restaurant across the street on the corner called Union Francesca de Cuba.

I can vouch for the mojitos here, made with herbia buena (peppermint) versus spearmint as the American imitations would have you believe (my mind was blown).

The distinction is minor, but makes all the difference.

Instead of tasting like a stick of gum, your drink tastes like a sweet, rum-based nectar instead.

If you’re looking for live music and want to experience Havana like a local, the second floor of this house turned restaurant is your spot.

Stroll along El Malecon

El Malecon is the waterfront area of Havana. You can stroll along the walkway, though heads up this is a wet zone, with waves often crashing up over the barriers.

When I visited in early September, they had a festival along the water at night and there were still installations in place from makeshift stages they’d built.

You can’t necessarily find a schedule but ask around to see if there are any special events taking place during your time there.

These are just some of the things there are to do in Havana, Cuba.

Till next time, safe travels!