Established in 1819, more recently than most major Cuban cities, and the only city in the country founded by French settlers, Cienfuegos is an easy-going place, noticeably cleaner and more spacious than the average provincial capital and deserving of its label as the "Pearl of the South". The most alluring side to Cienfuegos is its bayside location, which provides pleasant offshore breezes and some sleepy views across the usually undisturbed water. To get the most out of the city and its surroundings you should catch the Jagua ferry to the fort at the mouth of the bay, a wonderfully unhurried journey and a great way to enjoy the fantastic views back to the city and over to the nearby mountains.
Cienfuegos is one of the easier Cuban cities to relax in, especially in the south of the city where the stylish, open-plan neighbourhoods, similar to suburban Miami, provide wide-open spaces and uninterrupted views to the south, east and west across the calm waters of the bay, a stark contrast to the crowded, narrow colonial streets which characterize the heart of most Cuban provincial capitals. Despite the city's relatively comprehensive tourist infrastructure, two or three days here is more than enough to exhaust the available sights and entertainment. As a base for seeing what the rest of the province has to offer, however, Cienfuegos is ideal, with several easy day-trip destinations – beaches, botanical gardens and an old Spanish fortress – within a 25-kilometre radius.