Cuba’s colourful capital city of Havana is a city full of surprises and a place like no other. Everywhere you look or go, you can still see and feel the Latin Caribbean vibe and embrace yourself with the charm of this amazing city.
As soon as you touch down in Havana you will be traveling back in time with the historical buildings, colourful classic American cars, and not a single familiar chain or branch dominating the streets. If you are looking for places to shop until you drop, big fast food chains like the big yellow M and KFC, luxury urban design restaurants on every corner of the street, you are definitely in the wrong place, as you simply wont find them(yet)
If you walk or drive in some parts of the city, the only thing you see is grey old buildings with faded paint which are un restored and un renovated, while in other parts you will find the total opposite with elegant and chic houses, beautiful churches and of course the famous Coco taxi`s which are in the shape of a helmet, how funny is that!
Classic American Cars in Cuba
Another thing Cuba is famous for, other than cigars, and its rich history, are definitely the classic American vintage cars. Especially Havana is basically one big ( driving ) museum. These stunning looking cars are vehicles that the majority of car lovers and collectors would spend thousands of dollars on, but for the Cubans it`s just their everyday car as we have our Toyota or Volkswagen.
But are those flashy looking cars really worth the price a keen collector would normally pay for it? And why are collectors and car lovers holding off on importing one? And how come there are so many of them in Cuba and nowhere else? Well there is a bit of a story behind this we found out.
Before the U.S. embargo in 1962, lots of classic vintage cars got transported to Cuba from the United states. But during the embargo, American companies were no longer permitted to do any business with Cuba. So that meant as well, no more classic cars and no parts.
Because of this, lots of those cars are actually in bad shape if you have a closer look ( duck tape works for everything 😉 ) or a classic vintage American Cadillac is actually a Renault, apart from the outside, because they modified it with any part they could get elsewhere.
We wouldn’t mind driving such an awesome cars with a Renault engine ( well maybe not particular a Renault 😉 ) but for the real car lovers and collectors this would be a massive deal. Also, the fact that some of them are not 100 % original means also a massive drop in what a car is worth. But at the end of the day, whether they are real, fake, a mess on the inside or anything a real car lover would not like, those Cuban classic cars are a really pleasant adjustment in the streets of Havana and are one of the many reasons to put Cuba on your bucket list.
You can easily spend a day just sitting on a corner of the street in Havana with your camera and watch al the beautiful cars in stunning colours passing by. Here is a little sneak peek of the classic cuban cars we discovered in Havana, but for the real deal you have to visit Cuba yourself, and we promise, you won’t be disappointed.
Catch your school bus in Havana
And if you are lucky enough, you might even see your old school bus driving past! I was really surprised to see Connexxion and Arriva busses ( both Dutch transport company`s ) driving by, complete with Dutch Rego plate and even final destinations and line numbers.
What to see in Havana ?
The historic neighbourhood of Vieja Habana (Old Havana) is a fascinating UNESCO World Heritage site, with over 900 landmarks, including the Presidential Palace and Cathedral Square. This is photographers heaven, that’s for sure. Unfortunately when I ( Jo ) visited Cuba, I wasn’t a photographer yet ( apart from the general holiday snaps ) and didn’t have the proper camera and gear I have today, but I managed to make some nice holiday shots along the trip.
Just walk through the streets of Havana and discover the contrast from picture perfect buildings like the el Capitolio and the museum of Revolution, to some un restored streets with destructed houses and buildings with crumbled paint.
El Capitolio Havana
El Capitolio is a massive building with a colossal dome which dominates the city`s skyline. Everywhere you look, you probably see a part of the El Capitolio. Personally I found this the most beautiful building in Havana. El Capitolio was the government building till the Cuban revolution, and today it`s the home of the Cuban Academy of Science. Inside you will find the National Museum with the largest natural history collection in the country.
Where to stay in Havana ?
There is no doubt about the fact that whatever your budget is, you can stay in an old historical building in Havana.
Hotel Plaza Havana is a four star hotel situated at the Parque Central. Hotel Plaza Havana is open since 1909, which is clearly visible at the out and inside of the building ( which is beautifully renovated over time, and still have lots of the old charm ) Keep in mind, that despite the renovations and refurbishment, this is an old hotel. The neoclassical façade is impressive, and the interiors are comfortable, but for a four star hotel quite simple. Standard rooms are basic, but clean, with wooden furniture. Rooms vary in size, but decent enough.
Hotel Plaza Havana has three restaurants and three bars. One of them is Fausto, the buffet restaurant and bar on the fifth floor. This is also where the rooftop terrace is situated. From here you have a great view over the city and you can enjoy your breakfast here in the morning.
In the past, Hotel Plaza Havana was popular by the rich and famous. Albert Einstein even stayed here! Today Hotel Plaza Havana is an affordable option at a prime location. For more info, pictures and bookings click here