Download a free mini-guide to your first 24 hours in Havana.

Of all the capital cities in the Caribbean, Havana has the reputation for being the most splendid and sumptuous. Before the Revolution, its casinos and nightlife attracted the megastars of the day in much the same way as Beirut and Shanghai, and remarkably little has changed since then. There may be no casinos now, but Havana's bars and clubs with their thriving music scene are still a major draw for foreigners and Cubans alike. There have been no tacky modernizations, partly because of lack of finance and materials. Low-level street lighting, relatively few cars (and many of those antiques), no (real) estate agents or Wendyburgers, no neon and very little advertizing (except for political slogans), all give the city plenty of scope for nostalgia.

Havana is not a modern city in the materialist sense and is no good for people for whom shopping and eating well are the central leisure activities, although the privately run
offer a varied and eccentric dining experience. It is, however, probably the finest example of a Spanish colonial city in the Americas. Many of its palaces were converted into museums after the Revolution and more work has been done since La Habana Vieja (the old city) was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. There is also some stunning architecture from the first half of the 20th century, although much of the city is fighting a losing battle against the sea air - many of the finest buildings along the sea front are crumbling and emergency work is under way to save some of them.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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