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  • Discovering Havana off the beaten path

    Havana, the capital of Cuba

    Havana, the capital of Cuba

    Cuba has been a very unlikely tourist destination in the past few decades (although before the Revolution it was quite popular with tourists), but things are picking up now for the Cuban tourist sector. European, Asian and even American tourists are flocking to Cuba in hundreds and thousands, which is no surprise, considering that Cuba is a paradise for beach-goers, scuba-divers and explorers of all kinds.

    Cuba is an incredibly rich and fascinating country when it comes to its culture. Havana is the place where all the essence of the Cuban way of life is concentrated, so if you want more than the classic beaches and resorts out of your trip, here’s a list of what you can do and see in this amazing city.

    Plaza de Armas, Catedral de San Cristobal, Hotel Cuba Libre and Plaza de la Revolucion are emblematic for the history of Havana, and they are simply must see for ant tourist who is visiting the capital for the first time. However, in this entry I’d like to list some places where the locals usually hang out, and where you can get a feeling of more than the touristy, sweetened up version of Cuba that is usually marketed to visitors. Being fluent in Spanish, is a tremendous help.

    El Malecon

    If you want to get to know the locals, you can start by taking an evening stroll on the Malecon, an esplanade running for 8 kilometers on the coast. When visiting El Malecon by day, you can visit several monuments and historical buildings, but by night the esplanade becomes a meeting place for the city’s boisterous youth.

    On weekends, they can be seen on the esplanade hanging out and relaxing, so you can grab a bottle and join them.

    La Zorra y el Cuervo

    La Zorra y el Cuervo is a little underground club near Hotel Cuba Libre, where the locals gather for some drinks and listen to funky live jazz music. It’s easy to find (there’s an unmistakable Engligh telephone booth in front), and it is definitely the best and most atmospheric clubs in Havana – you’ll enjoy the latino/jazz fusion even if you’re not a fan of jazz!

    Explore Old Havana on foot

    Old Havana has been repeatedly described as dirty, chaotic and lively. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, and efforts have been made to reinstate the former glory of the old streets, but you’ll see a great deal of decrepit buildings.

    If you ask me, that’s part of the charm, and it shows that Havana is real and very much alive. Don’t stick only to the well-known attractions; wander around the streets and explore the parts which aren’t mentioned in the brochures.

    Coppelia

    Coppelia is probably the most famous ice-cream parlor in the entire country, and locals wait in line literally for hours for a bowl of delicious, smooth, creamy treat in a 60’s style parlor. You have to really love ice-cream in order to wait for two hours, but there’s another side to queuing at Coppelia: you’ll definitely meet a lot of interesting people! Besides, the ice-cream really is amazing.

    Barbershop/Beauty salon

    I am not joking about this, you really should consider visiting a barbershop or a beauty salon while in Cuba. Not because the service is better or cheaper than in other countries, but because in Havana there are still several traditional barbershops and salons, where people don’t go for elaborate hairdos and treatments, but simply to have their hair or mustaches trimmed or styled quickly. Again, this is a great opportunity to meet and talk with the locals.

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