As the name suggests, Old Havana or Habana Vieja is the oldest part of the city, founded by the Spanish in 1519 around the Bay of Havana. As an important link in the flow of treasure from the New World to the Old, the city was very rich and the streets and plazas were lined with grand Neoclassical and Baroque buildings. Many of those buildings still stand today, some beautifully restored, some crumbling. Spend at least a few hours here just wandering the narrow streets and people-watching in the many squares. Continue reading
Plaza de Armas
This is where Havana was founded, originally the governmental and ceremonial center of the city, where military exercises and parades were held. Today, you’ll see lots of book sellers, a shady park and the Hotel Ambros Mundos, where Hemingway lived for a while. The stately 18th-century Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, which now houses the Havana Museum, forms one side of the square and Castillo de la Real Fuerza fortress is nearby.
I didn’t know I would be having a love affair with Cuba, back in 2003, when I first visited. In fact, I didn’t know what to expect. I had been to most of the Caribbean islands, but until Ya’lla Tours became a Travel Service Provider to Cuba, I had not given the island much thought. To me, it was just another rock in the sea, though a big one: Cuba is the seventh largest inhabited island in the world. Continue reading
A paladar is a privately owned and operated restaurant in Cuba. Although they have been around since the 1990s (and illegally so before that), paladares are having a bit of a surge right now. That’s an understatement, really, they’re going gangbusters, popping up all over the place in Havana and Trinidad and even in some smaller cities, like Cienfuegos. Since new economic reforms introduced in late 2010, the paladares have a lot more freedom around what they can serve and the number of diners they can seat. Continue reading