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35 Best things to see & do in Havana

  • Havana, Cuba

Last updated: 04 July, 2023
Expert travel writer: Claire Boobbyer
  • Havana, Cuba

Tourists enjoying a ride on a classic american convertible car at the famous seaside Malecon avenue in Havana

Bucket List Experience

City tours in classic cars

Americans poured into capitalist Cuba in the 50s bringing with them the latest consumer goods and beautifully finned cars.

Going for a spin in a classic, chrome-festooned gelato-coloured Chevy, Dodge or Ford – preferably a convertible – is one of the highlights of any trip to Havana.

Tourists are not permitted to drive classic cars themselves; instead, Gran Car’s vintage vehicles are dotted throughout the city, often outside the big hotels, and easily recognisable as the vehicles in the best condition on the streets.

Adult price: £560

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 1+ hours

  • Havana, Cuba

Colorful colonial buildings, Havana, Cuba

Bucket List Experience

Havana’s best architecture

Havana’s rich, eclectic architectural fabric spans 500 years of Spanish Colonial, American and Independence buildings.

The Old City, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, offers up a feast of eye-catching Spanish colonial buildings – plazas, churches, mansions and civic buildings – all hallmarked with Andalucian decorative flourishes. The rest of the city, much of it neglected and crumbling, boasts an equally fascinating mix of art deco, art nouveau, modernist and colonial wonders.

Good for age: 18+

  • Havana, Cuba

Tropicana Cabaret

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Tropicana Cabaret

This sizzling, sparkling floorshow is one of Havana’s most iconic experiences. Cuban dancers, flamboyant in exotic costumes of feathers and sequins, perform exquisitely choreographed dances to a razzle of great music and lighting on a vast open-air stage.

Running since 1939, and once the world’s most famous nightclub, today it’s still a must-see on any Havana visit, and worth every penny of the expensive (for Cuba) entrance fee.

Adult price: £65

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 1 hour 15 mins

When: Daily

Freq: daily

  • Havana, Cuba

Cigar factory tours

Bucket List Experience

Cigar factory tours

Winston Churchill puffed on Romeo y Julieta, Che Guevara on Montecristo, and Fidel Castro’s favourite smoke was a Cohiba.

Cuban cigars are famous around the world. There’s a reason: it’s the combination of a perfect blend of tobacco plant terroir in southwestern Cuba, the climate, and the 200 artisanal processes that crafts a cigar from its tiny beginnings as a pinhead-sized tobacco seed to luxury smoke.

There are around 40 cigar factories in Cuba, with Partagas – one of the biggest – offering tours on weekday mornings.  This is a unique chance to see the cigar-making process in one of the very few Havana factories open to the public.

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 1+ hours

  • Havana, Cuba

People walking and resting near the sea shore of Malecon Avenue, in the evening sunlight which reflects into Carribbean Sea, in Havana, Cuba.

Bucket List Experience

The Malecon

Known as ‘Havana’s sofa’, the Malecon, an 8km stretch of sea wall on Havana’s waterfront, is where lovers, friends, musicians, swimmers and fishermen crowd before dusk to enjoy the cooler hours.

Swing your legs over the wall with a bottle of rum, or just lean against the wall with your back to the sea to chat to locals and enjoy the stunning light on the architectural line-up that curves around the Atlantic-facing sea road.

Good for age: 13+

  • Havana, Cuba

Art in Havana

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Art in Havana

In the last 10 years, Cuba’s art scene has exploded across Havana, with state-run galleries and private art spaces emerging to showcase exciting and challenging contemporary art. New photography galleries have also opened their doors in a city buzzing with creativity.

The place to go for Cuba’s best art is the Cuban section of Havana’s Museum of Fine Arts, which exhibits a rich body of work, spanning more than 400 years of works. Cuba’s most famous artist, Wilfredo Lam, working mid-century and considered a Cuban Picasso, has sold works for vast sums at auction. Tomas Sanchez’s dreamlike landscape paintings are mesmerising, and fetch high prices.

Cuba doesn’t have a domestic art market as such, so artists rely on international tourism and in particular the popular Havana Biennial (Bienal de la Habana) art fair.

Good for age: 18+

  • Havana, Cuba

Paladar La Guarida Restaurant staircase. The name La Guarida means means the Hideout. Teh restaurant is located on the third floor of the historic building.

Bucket List Experience

Dine at a paladar

The best way to experience Cuban cuisine, international dishes, and hospitality is to eat at a paladar – a private restaurant run by Cuban entrepreneurs. Hundreds of such private restaurants (paladares) have opened in the last 2 decades years across Havana.

Initially restricted to mom-and-pop outfits – in private homes and limited to only 12 chairs, a recent relaxation of the rules has seen these small-scale restaurants expand to fill entire homes (e.g. Otra Manera) or open in dedicated venues.

On the menu you’ll now find simple and elaborate seafood dishes, ropa vieja (shredded beef or pork and veg in a tomato-based sauce), roasted suckling pig, Cuba-made goats’ cheese, chicken Kiev (in the one Russian paladar) and Chinese dumplings (made by a Tianjin chef).

Adult price: £15+

Good for age: 18+

  • Havana, Cuba

Havana brims with artistic talent, and while several artists have studios in Old Havana, most of the more well-known and emerging artists have studios squirrelled away all over the city.

Sussette Martínez Montero (sussem@gmail.com), a long-time Havana art curator, has extensive contacts in the Cuban arts world and access to studios others cannot reach. She offers fully customisable half-day, full-day and up to four-day insider art tours that take visitors to the private studios of Cuba’s top painters, photographers, sculptors and installation artists.

A Havana highlight, they offer the chance to meet the artists at work, and learn about their methods, inspirations and techniques.

Adult price: £30

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 4+ hours

  • Havana, Cuba

interior of Gran Teatro de La Habana, Great Theatre of Havana, officially opened in 1838, It is a home of the Cuban National Ballet

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Performances at the Grand Theatre

The magical neo-baroque Grand Theatre on Central Park, decorated in muses and angels, houses Havana’s most magnificent theatre.

Come for the variety of performances including ballet by Cuban National Ballet dancers; modern performance by Carlos Acosta’s new Acosta Danza troupe, and contemporary moves by Danza Contemporánea de Cuba.

Tours of the building are available, too, giving access to the gorgeous marble staircase and upper floors.

Adult price: £20

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 2 hours

  • Havana, Cuba

Tour the Hotel Nacional

Bucket List Experience

Tour the Hotel Nacional

This Havana landmark – a huge, vanilla-hued confection looming above the sea – is the city’s most storied building. From its opening in 1930, it has hosted Olympians, presidents, Hollywood stars and mots notoriously perhaps, the Mob. Johnny ‘Tarzan’ Weissmuller dived into the Nacional pool from his room, and the Mob dined on roast flamingo during their 1946 Mafia conference.

The hotel has a unique and extraordinary history, and offers excellent daily guided tours. These fascinating tours divulge the gossip on the famous guest list, delve down into tunnels buried in the gardens dug by the government during the tense days of the 1962 Missile Crisis, and end in the ‘Hall of Fame’ – a room decorated with hundreds of photos of famous guests on the walls.

Adult price: £4

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 1+ hours