Cuba is one of the most unique, interesting and challenging countries I have traveled solo to. Even with so many super interesting things to do in Havana, I was struggling to figure out basics like – language, directions, internet, food.. the list goes on.
That being said, the lack of internet and language barriers in Cuba allowed me to explore the country at a slow and easy pace.
Going to bed without a phone, waking up without a screen in my face, figuring out how to get to places without GPS and relying solely on the feeble public wifi or wifi cards in hotels for my work/ research.
Using internet for just 30 mins a day was a blessing in disguise. I wasn’t living in one of the fancy hotels but a local homestay, which is why there was no luxury of wifi in the hotel lobby.
With classic cars all around, people walking on the streets actually smiling at you (vs buried in their phones), felt like I was back in the 80’s.
Cuba fascinated me!
With my lack of pre-planning and research, I simply landed in Cuba with zero intel and no idea what to expect and I returned feeling refreshed and surprised that a country like this still exists in our modern world.
Luckily, I with a sweet girl from Guatemala via Couchsurfing (my fave solo travel app) whose Spanish was bang on. This ensured we both “Tackled” Cuba together.
However, with lack of internet, even the time we planned to meet etc had to be set in stone and stuck to. Which was fun – going back to being a teen without a phone, yes, why not. We were up for the challenge!
Table of Content
- 16 Best Things to do in Havana Cuba
- Things to do in Havana (From Other Travel Experts)
16 Best Things to do in Havana Cuba
When you think of Havana you think of salsa, cigars, cabaret, classic cars and of course “Che” Guevara 🙂
Havana is all of that – and much more. Here I have collated a list from my own personal experience plus notes from other travel experts and curated this epic list of “Top things to do in Havana, Cuba“.
Smoke a Cuban Cigar
When in Cuba.. smoking a lovely hand rolled Cuban cigar is an absolute must. Infact, I got several packs back home as gifts.
If you buy these cigars from the factory in Vinales, they are much cheaper (Though not branded) than the ones you find in luxury hotels in Havana.
In Vinales, we even got a complete tutorial on rolling and smoking a Cigar 🙂
Watch the Cabaret at Tropicana
Booking a cabaret was one of the fanciest things we tried in Havana. Even though tickets start at $100, this was the best time we had in Havana.
It gave us a chance to dress up and witness a beautiful night of colors, music and grandeur.
Most shows are at dinner time, so its good to watch on a full stomach. Try to get your cabaret show with an all incl meal. We booked the one at Tropicana as we heard its the best – I have to say we were impressed.
Surely this is one of the best things to do in Havana at night.
Walk along the Malecon
Stretched across 8 km along the Havana seafront, the Malecon is a popular hangout spot for tourists and locals alike.
It attracts fishermen and bystanders, runners and first timers to its banks.
Ride a Classic Car
This is one of the most popular things to do in Havana – hands down. All tourists love to ride in one of these jazzy classic cars with open tops.
With wind in your hair and a chauffer to drive you around this lovely town, there’s no reason why not to try a vintage car tour, whilst here.
From Cadillac’s to Buick’s, you can pretty much take your pick!
Take a HoHo Bus Tour
The best way to both commute and sightsee is taking a Hop on hop off bus in Havana.
They depart every 20-30 mins from Parque Central and cost just around $10. You can then explore at your own pace, getting off places where you would like to spend more time.
It can easily take an entire day and at an easy pace and will give you a good insight of Havana for 10 bucks!
Free Walking tour of Old Town Havana
Yes that’s right – Havana has tons of “free” tours. One of the best free things to do in Havana is taking the old town tour.
Even though these tours are free, it is advised to give some tip to the tour leader.
The tour we undertook was fun and interesting. We walked across all the cool spots – like Hemingways haunts in Havana, local markets, gawked at old town architecture, and wrapped it up by eating at a rooftop restaurant.
Live in a Casa Particular
You absolutely MUST stay in a Casa particular for an authentic Cuban experience.
Skip the hotels, even though those are the only places you can be assured of getting wifi. However, you can chalk out few days of digital detox and book a cute casa particular.
You get to live with a local family which is an incredible experience.
Cubans are very warm and welcoming. Living in a casa particular helps the local economy and I would rather support them then tha big hotel chains.
Please know that you are staying in a simply local house with basic amenities so please don’t expect anything more and you will be thrilled.
Take Pictures around Plaza de la Revolucion
Plaza de la Revolucion aka Revolution square is one of the top spots in Havana for taking those Insta worthy photos.
This iconic plaza is among the world’s largest and definitely worth a visit. This will be one of the stops on your HoHo bus tour.
Take a Day Trip to Vinales
Vinales is absolutely stunning and it was a great decision to take a day trip there from Havana.
I loved how green, pretty and refreshing Vinales is. You can visit the Cigar making factory where you can learn how to roll Cigars and buy some at more affordable rates. You can even buy amazing coffee / coffee beans here.
Mural de la Prehistoria is another epic point of interest in Vinales with a large open air mural on huge rocks. This is a sight to see and the artwork is stunning. Plus there are valleys, caves, villages – all making your day trip to Vinales worth every penny.
Things to do in Havana (From Other Travel Experts)
Since one person can only see and explore as much – I decided to add some flavor to this piece by inviting fellow travel bloggers to share their favorite things to do in Havana.
Watch the Ballet at Cuban National Ballet
– By Suzanne from SuzanneWandersDelhi
Most people think of salsa and rumba when it comes to Cuban dance. But did you know Cuba is home to one of the best ballet companies in the world, the Cuban National Ballet?
Not only that, but the Gran Teatro where the ballet company performs is a destination in itself, on many Havana tour itineraries. It’s a beautiful, neo-baroque, white confection and one of the most luxurious theatres in Latin America.
The ballet school and company was started by Alicia Alonso in 1959 when Fidel Castro endowed the school with annual funding. He wanted to ensure ballet would be accessible to everyone. Alonso was a powerhouse, directing the company and breaking many ageism stereotypes by performing well into her 70s.
Enjoying the ballet with a mostly Cuban audience in such a gorgeous venue was one of my favourite experiences in Havana. It felt like an authentic evening out and much more budget friendly than the tourist targeted evening shows.
Some things to remember:
– Tickets can be purchase at the theater directly (you will pay more going through a third party)
– There is a dress code – no flip flops or shorts
– Photography is prohibited during performances but we did take pictures before and after
– Give yourself extra time to tour the theatre – it’s beautiful
Explore the Best Rooftop Bars in Havana
– By Agnes from The Van Escape
Havana offers amazing activities. So, after an exciting day of attractions such as a vintage car ride, smoking a Cuban cigar, walking the Malecon, or taking a salsa class, you may feel a little exhausted. Especially since the sun is blazing all day long.
One of the best ideas for a relaxing evening is to explore the best rooftop bars in Havana and enjoy cocktails and views of the city. The choice of places where you can enjoy excellent cocktails while admiring the sunset over Havana is quite large.
Several hotels have rooftop bars that are not only open to hotel guests. Without spending a fortune on a night in a hotel, you can visit four- and five-star hotels with rooftop bars.
One of the best views has the modern hotel SO Paseo del Prado La Habana, with an amazing 360-degree rooftop terrace. The view of the sea and the Malecon is breathtaking.
If you’d rather admire the sunset over Old Havana, choose the Iberostar Parque Central. The most famous Hotel Nacional de Cuba is also worth a visit, as it has a rooftop bar and a beautiful garden terrace.
Enjoy Cuban Street Music
– By Beck from Meet Me In Departures
When you think of Cuba, I’m sure one of the things that pop to mind are people smoking Cuban cigars whilst sitting in a bar listening to live music! Both are synonymous with the country, so much so that just wandering the streets it’s not uncommon to see groups of musicians.
You may find just a lone guitar player, serenading passers-by, or a whole group playing cheerful songs. Because of the colonial past, Cuban music is a rich myriad of the Spanish guitar twinned with African percussion.
It’s difficult to stand still and passively listen to the music, as the energetic rhythms play. You’ll frequently see locals dancing, children right through to elderly people, the rhythm is in their blood and they all move so effortlessly, somehow not tripping over on the cobbled streets.
Music players pop up all over the place and begin busking. Although you don’t buy a ticket to listen, it’s customary to tip them. Some even have a CD (not sure who uses CDs now) for sale!
The best way to encounter street musicians is by walking through the streets of Havana, in particular the old town, before too long you will probably come across them.
Visit La Guarida Restaurant
– By Nicola from Polka Dot Passport
An institution of Havana, this is one of the city’s most famous and most loved restaurants. A visit to La Guarida is about more than just the food- the restaurant itself is an experience.
As you enter the unassuming entrance and take the first set of stairs, you enter into a chandelier-clad ballroom that you picture being the height of grandeur in its hey-day.
Ascend the sweeping staircase and you arrive at the restaurant- to one side, a festoon-lit terrace area and to the other, an eclectic indoor space, walls laden with photos and memorabilia of the restaurants previous owners.
On the menu, you’ll find refined takes on Cuban dishes. Appetizers are mostly light and fresh, with the likes of beef carpaccio, melon gazpacho or tuna tartare making a feature.
Mains are protein-centred with an extensive choice of sides. Think confit suckling pig, roast chicken in honey sauce or the fish of the day. The wine list is impressive, but of course in true Havana style, the cocktail menu is the star of the show.
Eat Ice Cream at Coppelia, the “Cathedral” of Ice Cream
– By Adam McConnaughhay from CartagenaExplorer.com
Located in the Vedado area of central Havana not far from the Hotel Nacional is one of the more unique things to do in Havana and a good chance to rub shoulders with locals.
Coppelia was built in 1966, not long after the Cuban Revolution and has an interesting modernist architecture. It is made up of an entire city block and is one of the largest ice cream parlors in the world.
According to legend, Fidel Castro himself helped plan the building and hoped it could produce better tasting and more varieties of flavors than American ice cream shops.
Celía Sanchez, one of Castro’s long time close colleagues named the place after her favorite ballet.
You will most likely encounter a long line outside to get in. Once inside the massive park, you’ll find stands serving up the ice cream and seating in the shade of trees scattered around. You can also head to the central area where there is some limited indoor seating.
The ice cream is quite good and quite cheap since it is meant to be affordable for the average Cuban. Bring along some pesos nacionales with you.
There is often only a limited number of flavors available daily, but usually there will be at least a few choices. Eating ice cream here is definitely one of the more unique and fun things to do in Havana!
Visit Fábrica de Arte Cubano
– By Carley from Home to Havana
A Havana nightlife and cultural hotspot that you can’t miss, Fábrica de Arte Cubano is a must on any Havana itinerary. A visit isn’t just one of the best things to do in Cuba, it’s one of the best things to do anywhere! Time Magazine selected it for its illustrious 2019 list of the World’s 100 Greatest Places.
This former cooking oil factory turned mixed-use arts and cultural space has revolutionized Havana’s nightlife and art scene since it jumped on the scene just a few years ago. The building is divided into several “naves,” offering unique areas to explore as you spend an evening here.
Spread among the space are rotating fine arts and photography exhibits, pop-up shops, five unique bars, a small restaurant, and several performance halls.
Open from Thursday to Sunday from around 9PM until the wee hours of the morning, Fábrica de Arte Cubano offers a rotating lineup of DJs, musicians, short plays, fashion shows, exhibits, talks, and more.
Recognizable faces can always be spotted in the crowds, and everyone from Michelle Obama and Questlove to Anthony Bourdain has visited this unique destination. You don’t want to miss it!
Take La Lanchita de Regla
– By Carley from Home to Havana
If you’re looking to travel from Old Havana across the Havana harbor to visit such famous sites as El Morro or El Cristo de la Habana, you don’t have to take a taxi or bus through the tunnel under the harbor. Take La Lanchita de Regla instead!
For years the small ferry known as the “Lanchita de Regla” has taken visitors across the harbor to two important spots in Havana: the neighborhood of Regla, and to just below the Cristo de la Habana statue of Christ that towers over the harbor. It’s a great way to see the city from the water, while traveling comfortably and affordably to your next destination.
Be careful when traveling! While colloquially known as “La Lanchita de Regla,” most tourists use it to travel across the harbor to “Casablanca.” At the station in Old Havana, you’ll find lines for passengers heading to both destinations. The “Regla” line heads to “Regla,” and the “Casablanca” line heads to the Christ statue.
Walk from the ferry arrival point up the hill to the statue for stunning views over Havana. In fact, this is one of the best spots in the city to enjoy a sunset!
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These were our favorite things to do in Havana, Cuba – which are yours? Share in comments below.