There are some city names that just mean so much. You only have to think of Havana, and you’ll find your brain exploring the depths of revolutionary culture, communist imagery, cigars and rum. You’ll picture beaches and salsa, slogans and parties, and a country that – let’s face it – every one of us wants to visit. Even the residents are deeply enamored with their city, and you probably won’t even have to come here to know why.
Come here you should, though. You’ll find a city that, for all its reputation, is far from conventionally beautiful: the older buildings are largely in a state of ill repair, and the more modern, communist influenced edifices are more impressive for their meaning than they are to look at. In fact, the city on the whole is shambolic and traffic clogged, but that only adds to the charm of the place, where the latino party spirit lives on amongst the toxic scent of the sort-after local cigars blending with the smoggy output of the imported Russian machinery.
Explore the sizable tower of the Revolutionary Plaza, or the twin peaks of the San Cristobel Cathedral; discover the aging, picturesque buildings around Old Square (amusingly renamed from ‘New Square’), and stroll along the fashionable seaside hang out that is Malecon in the evening, where you can chat to the locals and indulge in the city’s best Mojitos.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Cuba without beaches, and you’ll enjoy them all the more for the total lack of tourist-centered tat surrounding them. In Cuba, there’s no such thing as a resort. Instead you can hire an elaborate old Cadillac and do the whole thing yourself. Some see Havana as flawed (and unsurprisingly link this back to the political system), but it’s difficult not to notice the romance in it all. Poor, awkward and uncomfortable as Cuba’s capital may be at times, it is a place of symbolism and survival that stirs the visitor’s soul.
So whether you’re a Che Guevara sympathizer, a revolutionary scholar, a lover of latino dance or simply enjoy a good hit of rum on a nice sandy beach, Havana is extremely difficult to match. Welcome to a city that represents an entirely different world. Prepare to be inspired!