The Top 10 Sights of Havana, Cuba

Old Havana, with its imposing fortifications and a multitude of colonial buildings from the last four centuries, is clearly one of the world's most interesting historic districts.

You can stroll for hours through the typical Caribbean alleys, have a mojito in one of the many bars, learn about Cuban history in the museums, shop at the book or arts and crafts market, or discover hidden corners among the spacious squares and cozy stores.


Of course, vibrant Havana deserves a place on our list of the top 10 sights of Cuba and is also one of our top 10 sights of the Caribbean. Since 1982, the historic center of Havana and its fortresses have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

To describe all worth seeing buildings of the old town would lead here too far, therefore here only the absolute top 10 sights of Havana.

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas is the oldest square in Havana and the best starting point for sightseeing in the old town, Cuba - © Roxana Gonzalez / Shutterstock
© Roxana Gonzalez / Shutterstock

Plaza de Armas is the oldest square in the city and the best starting point for sightseeing in Havana's old town. It is flanked by magnificent buildings, including the former Governor's Palace and the oldest fortress in the Americas.

The Plaza de Armas (translated as "Square of Arms") still hosts a spectacle popular with visitors. As in the 16th century, military ceremonies with uniformed soldiers still take place here. Those who are not attracted by this may find the daily book market interesting, where primarily writings about Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and novels by Ernest Hemingway can be purchased.

Castillo de la Real Fuerza

The Castillo de la Real Fuerza was the first fortress in Old Havana to be rebuilt in 1558 after the raid by Jaques de Sores, Cuba - © BasPhoto / Fotolia
© BasPhoto / Fotolia

The Castillo de la Real Fuerza, just across from the Plaza de Armas, was the first fortress in Old Havana to be rebuilt in 1558 after being attacked by the corsair Jaques de Sores. It is now considered the oldest stone fortress in the Americas. At that time, the Spanish crown sent the master builder and 14 official stonemasons to supervise the construction.

Today, the Castillo de la Real Fuerza houses the Havana Maritime Museum. The exhibits range from pre-Columbian times to the 18th century. At that time, Havana's shipyards were among the largest in the world, with nearly 200 ships launched for the Spanish Crown. On display are ships, navigational instruments, gold and silver treasures from the colonial period, and archaeological finds from the sea.

Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro and San Salvador de la Punta

The Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro on the rock "El Morro" guards the entrance to the bay, Cuba - © Maurizio De Mattei / Shutterstock
© Maurizio De Mattei / Shutterstock

The Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro guards the entrance to the bay. The construction was prompted by the danger posed by the notorious pirate Sir Francis Drake and was built on the rock "El Morro" - not to be confused with the Castillo del Morro, about 10km southwest of the Cuban city of Santiago de Cuba.


Opposite it is the castle of San Salvador de la Punta. It is located at the beginning of the Malecón, a waterfront road that leads along the coast directly into Old Havana. In order to protect the bay even better from the intrusion of pirates at night, a thick iron chain was stretched up to the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro.

Fortaleza La Cabaña

La Cabaña Fortress is directly adjacent to the Castillo del Moro and is arguably the most impressive Spanish Crown fortification in Havana, Cuba - © Studio MDF / Shutterstock
© Studio MDF / Shutterstock

La Cabaña Fortress, located on the east side of the bay, is directly adjacent to Castillo del Moro and is arguably the most impressive fortification built by the Spanish Crown. The 10-hectare complex was built from 1763 to 1774 and is considered the largest Spanish fortress in the Americas.

Aside from the sheer size of La Cabaña (literally "The Hut"), attractions at the imposing fort include the fortress church, nuclear missiles from the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fortress museum, the weapons museum and Che Guevara's office, including some of his personal effects.

Colonial tradition: to this day (interrupted only during World War II), ceremonial cannon shots are fired every evening at 9 o'clock by uniformed soldiers - they commemorate the closing of the city gates for the night at that time.

Palacio De Los Capitanes Generales

Patio of the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (Governor's Palace) and City Museum in Plaza de Armas - Havana, Cuba - © Diego Grandi / Shutterstock
© Diego Grandi / Shutterstock

Completed in 1792, the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales on the east side of the Plaza de Armas once housed the governors of Cuba. It also served as the presidential palace from 1902 to 1920, after which it housed the city government before being opened to the public as a museum in 1968.

To this day, the magnificent baroque building houses the city museum and provides information about the turbulent history of Havana and the entire Caribbean island. In addition to art exhibitions, the Governor's Palace presents its wonderful rooms with furnishings, some of which are still original from colonial times.

Revolution Museum

The Revolutionary Museum in the former presidential palace houses the largest and probably the most interesting exhibition of Havana, Cuba - © dennizn / Shutterstock
© dennizn / Shutterstock

The Revolutionary Museum in the former presidential palace houses Havana's largest and probably most interesting exhibition. On three floors, about 9000 exhibits inform about Cuban history - with a focus on the Cuban Revolution.

In the forecourt of the Museum of the Revolution, it is possible to visit the yacht "Granma", the ship in which Fidel Castro and his men crossed from Mexico to Cuba in December 1956 to overthrow the Batista dictatorship. At that time it went ashore in the southeast of Cuba, today's Desembarco del Granma National Park. On the ground floor at the stairs of the Revolutionary Museum, even the bullet holes are still visible.


Cathedral of San Cristóbal

The imposing Cathedral of San Cristóbal and is one of the oldest churches in the Americas, Havana, Cuba - © Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock
© Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock

The imposing Cathedral of San Cristóbal is hard to miss. It dates from the middle of the 18th century and is thus one of the oldest churches on the American continent. Even from afar, its two asymmetrical towers and ornate facade attract all eyes. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In contrast to the ornate details on the towers and the outer walls, the interior is rather sparsely furnished. Cuban life takes place in the square in front of it, especially on Sunday mornings when mass is held.

Capitolio Nacional

The Capitolio Nacional, a domed building about a hundred meters high, was modeled on the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Havana, Cuba - © Regien Paassen / Shutterstock
© Regien Paassen / Shutterstock

Another eye-catcher is the Capitolio Nacional, a domed building about a hundred meters high, modeled on the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The Capitolio is the most impressive building in pre-revolutionary Cuba. The Capitol dominates the skyline of the city and is one of the most impressive buildings of pre-revolutionary Cuba.

Inside you will find the Estatua de la Republica, the third largest indoor sculpture in the world . The female bronze statue symbolizes Cuban nationalism. In the entrance hall, the 25-carat "Star of Cuba" is on display, which originally marked the kilometer zero in Cuba - but only as a replica for security reasons.

La Tropicana

A dance show to live music at La Tropicana in the Cuban capital Havana, the largest nightclub in the world, Cuba - © gary yim / Shutterstock
© gary yim / Shutterstock

With 24,000m² of space, La Tropicana is the largest nightclub in the world . Conga music and salsa dancing with about 200 performers offer its visitors a breathtaking entertainment program to 3-course menu, drinks and cigars.

Numerous prominent visitors have already enjoyed the elaborate shows, including Ernest Hemingway, Marlon Brando and Edith Piaf. The performances are highly priced, but spectacular and thrive on breathtaking costume, color and light shows.

After the show, the stage is transformed into a dance floor and from now on it's up to the guests to rock the nightclub - until the early morning hours!


Museo del Ron (Rum Museum)

Havana Club bar at the Museo del Ron (Rum Museum) in Havana, Cuba - © Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock
© Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock

The Havana Rum Museum was established in an elegant colonial house from the 18th century. It tells about one of the most successful export stories of Cuba: the famous rum "Havana Club".

The entire process of creating the rum can be traced in the Museo del Ron. You can see the wooden fermentation barrels, the copper distillation kettles and the aging barrels in which Havana Club rum gets its exquisite taste. At the end of the tour, of course, is a tasting with store - for probably the tastiest Cuba souvenir ever.

PICTURES: Old Havana

Photo gallery: Old Havana

Havana history

The Plaza Vieja with its beautiful colonial architecture in the old town of Havana, Cuba - © Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock
© Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock

Havana was founded by the Spanish in 1519 as a trans-shipment point between the New World and the Old World. The colorful mix of Indian, African and Spanish culture in the trading metropolis between Europe and Central America is still clearly visible today.

After the corsair Jaques de Sores conquered Havana and did not find the riches he had hoped for, he burned the city to the ground. This was a lesson to Havana and the city was fortified with forts and walls to protect it from pirates. The walls built at that time now border Old Havana, known in the local language as "La Habana Vieja" (Old Havana).

Magnificent colonial buildings in the Baroque and Neoclassical styles from the last four centuries, grand palaces and mighty fortifications take the visitor back to the time of Cuba's colonial rule. Some of the venerable buildings are among the oldest Spanish colonial settlements in Central America.

Unfortunately, during the early years of the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s, several buildings were damaged or collapsed as a result, but their restoration has been supported since 1993 by international donations and, in part, by UNESCO.