Havana: Main Sights
Capital of Cuba
Statue of Máximo Gómez
In the Northern part of the Old Town of Havana, in the middle of the Parque Martires del 71, lies the statue of Máximo Gómez. A hero of the war of independence, Gómez used small guerilla units to disrupt Spanish plantations and attack troops. The great man is depicted on horseback, and the monument is absolutely magnificent. Havana is littered with monuments to its heroes, and this is amongst the most impressive. The statue is situated on the traffic island of a main road, so it is possible to cycle or to drive right up to the statue of Máximo Gómez itself.
Gran Teatro de Habana
The neo-baroque Gran Teatro de Habana is one of the city of Havana’s most impressive sights. The original theatre was built in 1838, though the current building was completed in 1915. The auditorium has seating for 1500, and historically the building has played host to legendary opera seasons and ballets. Today it is the home of the National Ballet of Cuba, and the main stage for the International Ballet Festival of Havana. It comprises of concert halls, conference rooms, as well as galleries and dance studios.
Castillo del Morro
The Castillo del Morro is a magnificent Spanish fortress guarding the entrance to Havana bay. Designed by an Italian engineer named Juan Bautista Antonelli, the castle was built in 1589. It was initially built to defend against raids that had been occurring on the city, and protected it by means of a giant chain strung across the entrance to the harbour, moored on the castle’s wall. The picturesque lighthouse was added to the castle in 1846, and the fort is still home to numerous cannons and guns that historically defended it.
Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña
Locally known simply as ‘la Cabaña’, Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña is a large 18th century fortress situated on the east side of Havana’s harbour entrance. The fortress was built by the Spanish and completed in 1774. During its long and colourful history the fortress has acted as both a prison and a defensive fort, and in 1959 was captured by Che Guevara and his rebels, who used it as an HQ. Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña now comprises several museums and is a major tourist attraction in Havana.
Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Havana
Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Havana (the Cathedral of Saint Christopher of Havana) is one of the main sights on the magnificent Plaza de la Catedral. A Baroque oddity for its asymmetrical construction, the building was started by Jesuits in 1748, though it was finished in 1777 after the Spanish king of the day had them expelled. Note that one of the two towers on the outside is significantly larger than the other, resulting in the cathedral’s famed asymmetry.
El Capitolio (the National apitol) was the House of Representatives of the government of Cuba until the revolution of 1959. It is an imitation of the Capitol building of the United States in Washington DC, and is now home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences. Work began on the building in 1926, and via a combination of incredibly long hours and hard labour, it was completed and inaugurated in 1929. It also contains the third largest indoor statue in the world, the resplendent La Estatua de la República. Much of the building is open to visitors, making it a must-see on a trip to Havana.
El Cristo de La Habana
Constructed in 1958, El Cristo de La Habana (The Christ of Havana) is a large statue of Jesus of Nazareth, located in the suburb of Casablanca. Created by legendary Cuban sculptor Jilma Madera, the statue is made of Carrara marble. The statue stands at 167 ft above sea level, giving it incredible views over the city of Havana. It is some 66 feet high and weighs over 300 tons, and is highly recommended to any visitor to Havana.
Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón
The Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón, or Colon Cemetery, is a landmark cemetery reminiscent of the famed Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France. Filled with vast mausoleums and innumerable monuments and statues, it is an incredibly peaceful environment and perfect for a tranquil walk to get away from the hustle and bustle of Havana by day. Like Père Lachaise, the cemetery is also home to a large number of famous and celebrated people, including many heroes of Cuba’s past.
Museum of the Revolution
The Museum of the Revolution in the Old Town of Havana is a beautiful building in itself. Situated in the former Presidential Palace of Cuba, it became the Museum of the Revolution after the communist revolution of 1959. The Museum is a monument to the revolutionary war and the history of post-revolutionary Cuba, and houses many attractions for the visitor to Havana. An opportunity to see 20th century history in a stunning example of 20th century architecture.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana
The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana, or National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana, is a museum of fine arts that showcases famous Cuban artists from throughout the history of the nation. The buildings, like so many in Havana, are beautiful. All kinds of exhibitions take place at the Museum, and it is an absolute must for any visitor to Havana.
Karl Marx Theatre
With a seating capacity of 5500, this behemoth theatre is the venue for all the biggest acts playing in Havana, both domestic and international. The Manic Street Preachers were famously the first Western Rock band to play in Cuba at this theatre in 2001, with Fidel Castro himself in the audience. The band were given an audience with Castro before they played, and they warned him that the concert would be very loud. “It can’t be louder than war, can it?” came Castro’s famous reply. The band then named their album recording of the event ‘Louder than War’.
The Malecón is a renowned boulevard that stretches along the north side of the city, providing stunning views of the bay. It is a great place to take a romantic stroll or to go and meet the locals, most of whom are incredibly friendly. The bars along the Malecón are famed for their cocktails, in particular the famous Cuban Mojito. The Malecón is a total of 8km long, linking the harbour in the Old Town of Havana to Vedado. Construction began in 1902, and it was completed in three stages.