Havana is a vibrant, beautiful city filled with a soul that will capture your heart and imagination.
To truly experience Havana in 48 hours you need to be ready for a whirlwind trip. There is so much to see and do that it is hard to know where to start. Below is a jam-packed itinerary that will maximise your short visit.
Once you arrive, get settled into your accommodation and get your bearings. I recommend staying in a home with a host family. VamosCuba can offer a number of casa particular options – comfort, independent, or luxury. You can see the details here.
Most days you’ll eat breakfast with your host family. However, if you find yourself looking for a breakfast outside your home, my recommendation is 5 Eqquinas Trattoria. It is a fabulous cafe near the Museo de la Revolucion located on the corner of Habana and Cuarteles. They offer a breakfast buffet every day for only 5CUC per person. The table is overflowing with fresh fruit, meat, cheese, pancakes, bread, juices, veggies, etc. The price also includes coffee and eggs made to order. The guys there are super friendly and it is good food for a cheap price. If you go, keep an eye out for Cuban Vin Disel…. you’ll know exactly who I’m talking about if he is working that day.
Put on your walking shoes and work off your breakfast with a tour of Old Havana. Your tour guide from VamosCuba will take you to many of the city’s most iconic sites. You’ll be sure to see the Museo de Revolucion, Central Parque, Capitolio, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de Armas, San Franisco square, and Plaza Vieja. As you stroll the narrow cobbled streets, you will be surrounded by the slightly faded beauty and elegance of the crumbling colonial facades that have hardly changed since the 1950s.
With all the restaurant options, it is hard to choose. Restaurat NaO is a great place to try a wide selection of traditional dishes. With its unique ambience and attractive prices, you’ll be graced with an unforgettable experience.
Want to improve your ability to get around Havana? Take a Spanish lesson! VamosCuba offers Spanish lessons on a 1:1 basis. The teachers are friendly and highly qualified. Regardless of your current level and end goal, they will tailor your lesson to you. Read more about the lessons here.
When most people think of a holiday in Cuba, they immediately imagine the iconic classic American cars that appear in nearly every photograph of the country. These cars are an unsurpassed way of seeing the rest of the city’s highlights. Make sure your driver takes you to the Colon Cemetery, Plaza de la Revolucion, Hotel Nacional de Cuba, and down the El Malecon. You can catch one of these tours in the Central Parque near El Capitolio. There are numerous cars lined up along the road.
If you want to continue your time travelling experience, head to La Vitrola on Plaza Vieja for dinner. There are jukeboxes, 1950s memorabilia, and wait staff in barbershop-style uniforms. The visual sensations merge with the delicious dishes to create an experience worth savouring.
Be sure to watch the sunset along the Malecon if you get a chance. People bring beer, listen to music, and hang out along the Malecon in the evening. It is a really fun way to soak up some culture. If you stick around for a few hours, you’ll be able to see and the cannon. Every night they shoot off a cannon at the Fort at 8pm.
If you are looking for a nice bar with great live music that overlooks Plaza Viaje, this is it. Plus they have ridiculously fancy drinks. The daiquiris seem like there is fruit salad. Not somewhere I’d recommend eating, just a good place to people watch. You can see the whole old square from the balcony.
Start the day off with breakfast at your casa. Chat with your host family and practise the Spanish skills you learned yesterday. You will be sure to discover some wonderful insights into what life is like in Cuba.
Music and dance are essential parts of Cuban culture so it is only fitting that you learn to dance while in the heart of Havana. VamosCuba can arrange 1:1 dance instruction for all levels of experience. All of the teachers are professional dancers with years of teaching experience. In addition to learning the basic steps and figures, you’ll have a chance to work on your Cuban styling. Read more about salsa holidays here.
After flexing your muscles on the dance floor, you’ll certainly have worked up an appetite. A fun option is Pizza on Obispo street. You’ll see a lot of people eating Pizza folded up like a taco while walking along Obispo street. This is an incredibly cheap meal if you are looking to stretch your money. It is 2CUC or 25CUP for a pizza.
You’ll likely come across seemingly random performances as you walk around the touristy areas. I saw Capoeira, watched a puppet show, and listened to a poetry reading all for free and all just because I stumbled upon them while walking around. You can find some awesome stuff by chance. Two things I recommend are:
Callejón de Hamel: The Callejón de Hamel is a treasure trove filled with murals, sculptures, and bathtub benches. Be sure to head there mid-day on Sundays to capture the lively Afro-Cuban music and dance. This little gem is squeezed between Aramburu and Espada streets.
Capoeira in the Plaza Viaje: If you time your visit just right, you’ll be able to catch a Capoeira performance. The group normally gathers on Sunday afternoon in the northern part of the square. Capoeira is a Brazilian art form that is a mix of dance, martial arts, and acrobatic-like movements. The dancers stand in a circle around the two performers. They sway side to side, then one ducks as the other sweeps their leg over their opponents head. They proceed to circle one another with a series of non-choreographed kicks, slaps, and dodges that make up an entrancing dance. Make sure you have your phone set to take rapid-fire photos or a video.
This is one of the best places to enjoy typical Cuban cuisine. There are hundreds of dishes and beverages to choose from. The house speciality – Ajiaco Criollo – comes highly recommended. Not only does the excellent food make for a memorable experience, but they offer cooking lessons for those looking for a more hands on adventure.
It is time to put your newly learned dance steps to use and have a night out on the town. Music and dance are an essential part of Cuban life so it won’t be hard to find a place to start dancing. Let yourself get caught up in the lifestyle and dance rhythms at any one of the following spots:
Hotel Florida: This magnificently designed building is located on the corner of Obispo and Cuba Streets. It features salsa music every night from about 9:30 to midnight.
Club Jardines 1830: This lovely spot along the Malecon that has an outdoor garden facing the sea. Its casual atmosphere is perfect spot to enjoy live Salsa music and there are plenty of locals who are willing to help foreigners practise their dance moves.
A whirlwind trip is never enough to see any city and Havana is no exception. It has so much to offer that 48 hours barely scratches the surface. That said, it is nice to know how to make the most of the time you’ve allotted.
So have a great time and safe travels. It’ll be well worth the trip.
This post is part of Follow Me Friday at Feet Do Travel