Havana, also known as La Habana is not only the capital, but also the largest city, major port, and leading commercial centre in Cuba. Walking the streets of Havana feels like time-traveling into the past. With its old colonial period buildings and people cruising around in their vintage cars, you’ll feel like you’re in another time in history.
There’s so much to explore, see, and experience in this vibrant and intriguing city. So, hop on to this time machine of facts about Havana and it’s colourful life, before you hop off and start packing…
Since its founding in 1515, Havana has been one of the most important cities in Latin America, and an increasingly popular holiday destination.
The British captured Havana in June 1762. They held it for less than a year, before trading it back to the Spanish in exchange for Spanish territories in what is now Florida.
Properly called Ciudad de la Habana, the city is home to 2.1 million residents, making it the largest in both Cuba and the Caribbean.
In 1848, Havana became the third city in the world to receive gas lighting.
The former Presidential Palace built between 1913 and 1920 and used through Fulgencio Batista’s presidency is now the Museum of the Revolution.
Behind the museum, inside a glass enclosure is the Granma yacht, which Fidel Castro used to sail to Mexico in 1956 along with 81 other revolutionaries.
Standing 39 floors, the Edificio Focsa is the tallest high rise in the capital. At the time it was built in 1956, it was the second-tallest building made of concrete in the world.
One of the most popular sites in the Old Town is the Catedral de San CristóIts baroque exterior and classical interior were designed by Italian Francesco Borromini and originally built by the Jesuits in the 18th century.
Cuba’s famous rum, Havana Club, has its museum in the Old Town inside an 18th century colonial townhouse.
Before 1959, when Fidel Castro came to power, Havana was a mecca for tourists from the U.S.
Citing the grand architecture that characterizes much of the city, Havana’s official nickname is the City of Columns.
Havana is home to a street cobbled with wood. It runs right next to the Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales. A wife of one of the capitanes was afraid that horses walking on stone cobbles outside her window would keep her awake, so she had the lane paved with wood.
In 1964, Fidel Castro banned the Beatles’ music in Cuba, but by 2000, he had changed his tune and was at the dedication of Havana’s John Lennon Park unveiling his statue, saying “I too am a dreamer who has seen his dreams turn into reality”.
The El Capitolio or also known as National Capitol Building was the seat of government until after the revolution but is now home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences.
Designed as the Pantheon in Paris, the building’s dome stands at 92m (300ft) and up until the 1950s, it was the highest structure not only in Havana but also in the whole of Cuba.
In the centre of the building, stands an enormous bronze woman. She’s 11m tall, and symbolises the mythical Guardian of Virtue and Work. It’s considered to be the third tallest indoor statue in the world.
Havana’s museum of Napoleonic art and artefacts includes one of Napoleon’s teeth and the general’s death mask. The museum has more than 7000 pieces of Julio Lobo’s collection, purchased by the government when he left the country in 1959.
The giant bronze sculpture of Che Guevara on the Ministerio del Interior building was completed in 1995 and was based on the famous photograph taken by Alberto Korda.
The Plaza de la Revolución is one of the world’s largest city squares at 72,000 square metres.
Castillo de la Real Fuerza, known as the English Castle of the Royal Force is the oldest military construction in Havana originally built to defend against the attack of pirates. It’s a part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Havana.
The fort is now Cuba’s premier museum and houses an impressive collection from Cuba’s maritime past. The main feature is a huge four-metre model of the boat Santisima Trinidad, which was one of four Cuban-built ships at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
El Floridita is the bar where the original daiquiri cocktail was invented. It used to be one of the favourite hangouts of Ernest Hemingway. There is a bronze statue of him in the bar.
There is a museum for Ernest Hemingway in the city. The museum is his house and outside of it is his fishing boat, Pilar. The strangest sight in the entire museum lies close to the boat: four tombstones marking the graves of the writer’s dogs, with countless smaller mounds for the more than 60 cats he kept while in residence.
Hotel Ambos Mundos was the writer’s first Havana’s home, where he stayed for seven years during the 1930s. Room 511, where he wrote ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, is now a museum.
There are an estimated 60,000 vintage cars in Cuba, mostly around Havana.
Singer Gloria Estefan was born in the Cuban capital on the 1st of September, 1957.
Andy Garcia was also born in Havana. A couple of years after he was born in 1956, his family lost ownership of their land during the revolution and migrated to Miami.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about Havana that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!