Havana is a vibrant, modern and cosmopolitan city; where past and present mingle at the cultural, political, economic and social heart of Cuba. Old Havana has been declared part of the heritage of mankind by UNESCO, and the beauty of its paved streets, colonial balconies, Baroque and Gothic buildings makes this accolade well deserved. Smiling faces greet you at every turn. At night, this lovely Caribbean city becomes a magical carnival of shows, night-clubs and discotheques inviting you in to join the fun.
Old Havana is a treasure trove of Cuban history and culture. The Plaza de Armas , the Cathedral and the Parque Central are fine examples of Colonial architecture. A walk through these old lanes is a real delight. Everywhere, cafes, restaurants and bars offer the perfect excuse to escape the tropical sun for a Cuban cocktail or traditional meal. Try the Bodeguita del Medio or the Floridita , where Hemingway used to drink his Mojitos and Daiquirís. This historic quarter is also home to several important museums, such as the Museo de Autos Antiguos (if you like antique cars), Casa del Arabe , La Casa de Africa , La Casa de Asia , Museo de la Ciudad, and the fortresses El Morro and La Real Fuerza, where you will see an emblem of Havana, the weather vane on La Giraldilla tower. This is the chief tourist area of the city.
Centro Havana, located in the northern central part of the city is home to many hotels, bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Another feature of Centro Havana is its Chinatown , or barrio chino, which is located here. In Centro Havana, you can visit the world famous Tabaquería Romeo y Julieta for an interesting visit about one of Cuba's most famous products. Also located in the area is the Camilo Cienfuegos Museum , dedicated to the revolutionary hero. A few more attractions in this district are the Havana Cultural Center , the Church of the Sacred Heart and the Estadio Latinoamericano (Latin American Stadium .
Walking up La Rampa from the Malecón, you will reach the Vedado, one of the most charming areas of the city, with its 19th-century houses and mansions, many of them now housing embassies, ministries and cultural organizations. On the corner of La Rampa and L Street is the ice cream parlor Coppelia , famous for its excellent tropical fruit ice cream and sorbets. Up a short slope from here, you will come to the Plaza Ignacio Agromonte and Havana University, a set of impressive Neo-Classical buildings. There are also two museums: the Montane Anthropology Museum and the Felipe Poey Natural History Museum. Continuing in this direction, you will eventually come out onto the Plaza de la Revolución, where President Fidel Castro makes his Mayday speech to the masses every year. At the center of this vast, star-shaped space stands a huge Monument to Jose Martí , the national hero. The view from the top is sensational. Opposite the statue, on the other side of a broad avenue is a fresco of revolutionary hero Che Guevara.
One of the most exclusive areas of Havana, Miramar, is full of beautiful colonial houses, now home to embassies, cultural centers and foreign companies. The ponds of the Emiliano Zapata Park (Avenida 5- Malecón) are worth a visit. The little boats on the River Almendares are also a pretty sight. Palm trees line the avenues and there are a good number of cafes, bars and restaurants around the Marina Hemingway . Try Sakura , Don Alfredo or Don Cangrejo Restaurant .
Many culinary traditions have left their mark on the melting pot that is Havana. Traditional Cuban, or "creole" cuisine is full of variety, with strong Spanish and African influences. The city has a thriving Chinatown, numerous pizza places - Cubans are very fond of pizza - and many other foreign restaurants.
Starting in the historic quarter, which is the main tourist area, one of the nicest and best known places is Terazza La Mina , next to the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales in Obispo Street. Here you can enjoy both Cuban and international dishes as well as Cuban cocktails such as mojitos, cuba libres and daiquirís. Close by, in the Plaza de la Catedral, is El Patio , a long established restaurant in a magnificent colonial mansion with a beautiful inner courtyard. From the cafe in its outer colonnade you can watch life go by in the square. Inside to the left, a bar serves drinks and cocktails from Cuba and abroad. The main restaurant is on the second floor. On the corner of Empedrado Street by the Cathedral is a small but renowned restaurant serving Cuban creole cuisine, the Bodeguita del Medio . This is famous for the distinguished clientèle who have scribbled their names on its walls. A little bar at the entrance sells one of the best mojitos in Havana. Customers spill into the street with their drinks as they wait for a table. Further up Obispo Street you will come to the Hotel Ambos Mundos , where the restaurant has a pleasant international menu. Near the Capitolio, on the corner of Teniente Rey and Bernaza Streets, the tiny Hanoi serves Cuban and Asian cuisine.
The Parque Central is surrounded by hotels with busy restaurants where you can take a midday break. One of the best is the Hotel Inglaterra , which has an elegant restaurant serving international and Creole cuisine. Serene and intimate Oasis is a tucked away little secret in a central location. For Creole and Cuban food, Los Doce Apóstoles , located near the Military Museum. The huge portions and spicy food make it for a very Caribbean experience. Tien Tan has an extensive menu of Chinese dishes, from the classic and ordinary to the unusual and unconventional.
Away from the bustle of the historic area, and moving into the Vedado and Playa districts, you can discover another side to the city's gastronomic repertoire. For delicious tropical fruit-flavored ice cream visit Coppelia . This modern establishment with its distinctive design was opened in 1960. It was featured in the hit film Strawberry and Chocolate by Gutierrez Alea. At the National Theater , still in the Vedado, you can visit the Cafe Cantante Mi Habana , for snacks and entertainment. The theater itself also has a restaurant, the Delirio Habanero , with an international menu.
Moving on from the Vedado, there are many options. La Cecilia , on 5th Avenue between 110 and 112 Streets specializes in Cuban cuisine, particularly dishes from the last century adapted in their own special way. The bar has a range of cold meats served in sandwiches or grilled, and there is a cabaret with dinner service. Further along 5th Avenue, La Ferminia also specializes in Cuban food. Tocororo is an attractive restaurant with an international menu. Its main feature is that it dispenses with an a la carte menu and instead cooks each dish according to the customer's desires.