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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 31 March, 2024
Expert travel writer: Claire Boobbyer

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.

Recommendations

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Bacardi Building

Havana, Cuba

Bacardi Building

Built in 1930, this 12-storey art deco masterpiece, topped by a ziggurat and the iconic bat motif, was the former headquarters of the rum giant. The preserved art deco-styled interior is equally dazzling.

Best for ages 18+

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Christopher Columbus Cemetery

Havana, Cuba

Christopher Columbus Cemetery

Dating from the 19th century, Havana’s remarkable cemetery is an architectural gem, home to marble mausoleums, winged angels, sparkling mosaics, wrought-iron motifs, Art Deco sculptures, vast government monuments and 1959 Revolution memorials.

Best for ages 13+

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Hotel Sevilla

Havana, Cuba

Hotel Sevilla

The neo-Moorish facade of the Hotel Sevilla is a Havana architectural highlight. The hotel was one of the city’s best in its early 20th-century heyday, accommodating mobsters, movie stars, and Graham Greene.

Best for ages 18+

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National Capitol Building

Havana, Cuba

National Capitol Building

This imposing wedding-cake mansion is the seat of the Cuban government. Stop by to see the marble 400ft Hall of the Lost Steps, the gigantic Statue of the Republic, the bronze bas-relief front doors, and the statue of the devil in a patio devoid of shade.

Best for ages 18+

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San Cristobal Cathedral

Havana, Cuba

San Cristobal Cathedral

This twin-towered 18th-century masterpiece of Cuban Baroque, with beautiful undulating facade and mismatched bell towers, dominates Old Havana’s main plaza. Peek inside: the altar is made of Carrara marble and Italian frescoes crown the altar recess.

Best for ages 18+

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Tour the Hotel Nacional

Havana, Cuba

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Bucket List Experience
Tour the Hotel Nacional

Get the low-down on the Mafia, Hollywood stars and Cold War tactics during a history tour of the famous Hotel Nacional.

Adult price: £4

Best for ages 13+

Duration: 1+ hours

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

It’s easy to stroll the Old City’s winding streets; if you want to explore independently, download the Guru Maps app to your smartphone.

Guided tours, however, are very insightful; Locally Sourced Havana Tours have several different options. Cubyke offer electric bike tours of the city, which cover greater ground and are a lot of fun.

When to do it

Tours are available all year round, seven days a week, on request. The Old Town is less busy in the morning before the city wakes, so that’s the best time to go.

Destination guides

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Havana

Cuba

Colorful colonial buildings, Havana, Cuba

Sensual and sultry communist Caribbean capital, home to captivating, crumbling architecture, and enlivened by dance, music, avant-garde art and cocktails. Impossible to describe, there’s nowhere else quite like it.