You’ll feel more alive when you try these 10 amazing Havana experiences

Havana is a city full of history, culture, music and charm, but beyond the usual attractions, there are also some hidden gems and quirky activities that will make your visit more memorable and fun. Here are 10 under-the-radar experiences that you shouldn’t miss when you go to Havana.

Dance salsa with a Cuban

Cubans love to dance, and if you are at a nightclub or any other public place where there’s music, both men and women will offer to dance with you—teach you if necessary—as if they were trying to correct all those terrible years of salsa deprivation that you have had to suffer. Take the opportunity! It’s a lot of fun.

Have a beer sitting on the Malecon seawall

The Malecon is Havana’s iconic waterfront promenade, where locals and visitors alike gather to enjoy the breeze, the views and the atmosphere. You can join them by grabbing a beer from a nearby vendor and sitting on the seawall, watching the waves crash and the people pass by. It’s a simple but satisfying way to experience Havana’s vibe.

Take a ride in a vintage American car

One of the most distinctive features of Havana is its fleet of classic cars from the 1950s and before, which have been preserved and maintained by their owners despite the US embargo and the lack of spare parts. You can hop on one of these vintage vehicles and take a tour of the city, feeling like you have travelled back in time.

Have a drink Hemingway style

American author Ernest Hemingway has all kinds of links to different places in Havana—where he lived for a good part of his life—including his preference for two bars in Old Havana. As a framed handwritten text reads at the famous La Bodeguita del Medio, Hemingway loved the Mojitos at that bar-restaurant and the daiquiris at El Floridita, another nearby bar-restaurant. As a tribute to those links, and as a strategy to attract more customers, both places offer these drinks “the way Hemingway liked them.”

See street art in Fusterlandia

The pinnacle of Havana’s alfresco art scene and a community project extraordinaire, Fusterlandia was the dream of Havana-based artist José Fuster that grew over the course of two decades into a spectacular art district. In the 1990s, Fuster began decorating the walls and houses of his home neighborhood, Jaimanitas, with a pastiche of surreal murals and mosaics that paid tribute to the work of Gaudí and Picasso. Infusing them with Cuban motifs and complementing the area with avant-garde sculptures, Fuster expanded the project until it covered more than 80 buildings, from bus shelters to the local doctor’s office. The impression today is a kaleidoscopic ensemble of color and creativity that has made the fishing neighborhood into one of the city’s top sights.

Cross the bay in the ferry

A ferry terminal in Old Havana connects that side of the bay to the towns of Regla and Casablanca. For just one peso (about four cents), you can hop on one of these boats and enjoy a scenic ride across the water, admiring the views of Havana’s skyline and fortresses. Once on the other side, you can explore Regla’s Afro-Cuban culture or Casablanca’s hilltop attractions, such as the Christ statue and the Che Guevara museum.

Absorb the strange beauty of Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón

Havana’s huge Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón cemetery is more than a city of the dead; it’s a shrine to ecclesial architecture. A stroll through its hallowed grounds is like a walk through the chronicles of Cuban history. From the Byzantine-style entry gate to the neo-Romanesque central chapel, you’ll wander past marble crucifixes, ornate mausoleums, haunting tombs and poignant memorials, each etched with its own intriguing story.

Jam with Cuban musicians

You don’t need to be Mozart to join the band in Havana. Cubans are music-loving people who’ll gladly let you play with them, even if you don’t know how to play a proper musical instrument. Some of these bands include very simple instruments such as claves (two wooden sticks that are stricken one against the other repeatedly to set the beat), maracas or chequeres, or even bongos. If none of these suit you, you can still get to be the lead singer of “Guantanamera.” One of the best places to jam with Cuban musicians is the Fabrica de Arte Cubano, an art factory that hosts live performances and exhibitions of various genres and disciplines.

Enjoy a rooftop view

Havana’s architectural landscape is pretty unique, and having a look at some of it from a very high place (preferably while enjoying an ice-cold drink) is something that you should definitely try to do. There are several rooftop bars and restaurants in Havana that offer stunning views of the city, such as La Guarida, El Cocinero, Hotel Ambos Mundos and Hotel Saratoga.

ENS Editors

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