47 Best Things To Do in Havana, Cuba: A Local’s Guide
Havana is a bucket list destination for so many travelers, and for a good reason: there’s simply nowhere else like it. With its unique architecture, friendly people, delicious food, and what seems like a constant antique car show on parade through its street, there is nothing like Havana, Cuba.
Don’t fall into the well-worn tourist path in Havana. Riding in a vintage car, drinking rum, and smoking cigars can all be great things to do in Havana, but there is so much more that you shouldn’t miss when visiting this one-of-a-kind city.
In our ultimate (and LOCAL) guide to some of the best things to do in Havana Cuba, we’re sharing the best destinations, top attractions, and hidden gems that Havana has to offer. Let’s get started planning your unforgettable visit to Havana!
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Things To Do in Havana Cuba
The tourist path in Havana can be quite well-worn, perhaps more so than in most places I’ve visited. There is a reason for this: for years after the Cuban Revolution, Cubans and non-Cubans were, in many ways and for many reasons, quite separate.
There were areas, services, and places travelers just couldn’t access and probably wouldn’t want to. However, in the past decade or so, this has begun to change. It’s easier to experience authentic Cuba than ever before. This makes it a better time than ever better to travel to Havana.
This list of the best things to do in Havana is a good combination of those classic Havana moments and hidden gems for your Havana itinerary. We’re sharing how to have those moments emblematic of Havana – like touring Old Havana and walking on the Malecón – and how to experience the best of this city’s hidden gems. Let’s get started!
1. Visit La Fábrica de Arte Cubano
You can’t come to Havana without visiting Fábrica de Arte Cubano. In just a decade since its founding, this mixed-use arts space has become world-famous, hosting everyone from Questlove and CimaFunk to Michelle Obama and Anthony Bourdain.
This former cooking oil factory turned hotspot has several bars, multiple event spaces, rotating art exhibition spaces, and even a small restaurant inside. Open Thursdays through Sundays, each night features a rotation of live music performances, DJs, fashion shows, film screenings, dance shows, and much more. Neighboring El Cocinero is also a popular restaurant, with a great rooftop.
Whether you’re interested in partying the night away among Havana’s elite or just checking out the newest photography exhibit on display, there is something at Fábrica de Arte Cubano for everyone. Its a space where travelers and Cubans mix – one of the first of its kind in a country that had done its darndest to keep locals and foreigners separate, making it an important representation of a big cultural shift in Cuba.
Entry is just a few dollars and gives you access to the entire space for the whole evening. It’s a must for any Havana itinerary, no matter how short, and one of my personal favorite things to do in Havana.
2. Eat Street Food
Havana has great street food if you know where to look. You’ll find everything from coconut and guava pastries to roasted peanuts, churros, guarapo (sugar cane juice with lime), and savory treats like roast pork and pizza. Look for tiny hole-in-the-wall cafes with tiny menus hung outside; many locals use the front rooms of their houses as makeshift cafes or grab-and-go spots.
Taste as you explore, or join a street food tour through Old Havana – food tours are some of my favorite experiences for travel, as they’ll help you decipher menus and order the best local food for the rest of your trip. This is one of my favorite things to do in Havana when visitors come to town.
Best Places To Stay in Havana
- Casa Giraldilla ($)
- Casa Flamboyan ($ – $$)
- Residencia Santa Clara ($$)
- El Candil Boutique Hotel ($$ – $$$)
- La Reserva Vedado ($$$)
3. Take a Free Walking Tour
What could be better than a free walking tour around the city with a local guide? You’ll find several opportunities for free walking tours in Havana, and should consider adding at least one of these excellent tours to your Havana itinerary:
Civitatis – a Spanish travel experience company – offers countless well-done experiences and tours for travelers in Cuba. They’re one of the only travel companies currently allowing for online bookings for experiences in Cuba. Make sure to book a free Havana tour, and check out the rest of their excellent Cuba experiences.
This is 100% one of the best things to do in Havana Cuba, and an opportunity I recommend every traveler take advantage of!
4. Ride in a Vintage American Car
What is a trip to Cuba without a ride through Havana in a vintage American convertible? This iconic experience is one of the best things to do in Havana – a must!
While you’ll find tons of drivers willing to take you on a spin in Havana, I recommend booking these vintage car rides ahead of time online, before you even arrive in Cuba (or from Cuba using a VPN). It’s less cash you need to carry to Cuba, and you’ll avoid the hassle of bargaining with drivers.
If you haven’t planned ahead, you can find cars willing to take you on tours of the city from a few key places: in front of Parque Central (near Hotel Inglaterra or Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski), or Parque La Maestranza at the entrance to the Havana harbor. Of course, your hotel or guesthouse host can arrange these tours for you as well.
5. Learn to Make a Mojito
Even if you’re not a fan of tours or group experiences when traveling, this might be an experience you can get behind! Cuba is known for being the birthplace of some of the world’s most famous cocktails, including the daiquiri, mojito, and some of the world’s best rum.
Taking a mixology class in Havana can be a great way to learn how to make these drinks and more, a great lesson to take home with you as you toast your trip to Havana. It’s been one of the things to do in Havana that friends and family have raved about most.
A favorite place for mixology classes in Havana is Cuban Spirits. These classes are also a great way to meet other travelers – and your local teacher! – which can help enhance your trip even more.
Or, join a “cocktail tour” of Havana if you’d prefer to sip as you visit some of the city’s most popular bars in Old Havana.
What to Pack for Cuba
Check out our Ultimate Cuba Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Cuba and what we never travel without.
6. Follow in Hemingway’s Footsteps
At the beginning of the 20th century, Havana was the second home to countless world-famous writers, artists, and creatives, among them Ernest Hemingway. Today, visitors to Havana can take a guided Hemingway tour or follow in Ernest Hemingway’s footsteps by visiting some of his favorite spots in Havana:
This world-famous bar and restaurant at the entrance to Calle Obispo is known as the “cradle of the daiquiri.” Hemingway was known to down several at a time in the corner of the bar, which memorializes him with a large bronze statue.
Today El Floridita is packed with tourists – come to see the statue and walk through this historic space but head elsewhere for drinks and food. Your wallet (and local small business owners) will thank you.
Hotel Ambos Mundos
Hotel Ambos Mundos was Hemingway’s home away from home before he purchases his estate outside of Havana, Finca Vigía.
Today visitors can check out the small museum in this Old Havana hotel dedicated to the author located in room 511 – where Hemingway stayed – or enjoy one of Hemingway’s favorite drinks at the bar. Many people don’t know about this, but I think its one of the best things to do in Havana Cuba.
Hemingway’s home on the outskirts of Havana is a must for any visitor interested in the famous writer. The estate is lovely, kept in its original condition, with its original furnishings and many of his personal belongings. Whether you’re a Hemingway fan or not, a visit to Finca Vigía is one of the best things to do in Havana, Cuba.
La Bodeguita del Medio
Yet another bar in Havana that Hemingway helped make famous (he loved his drinks – clearly!), La Bodeguita del Medio is a Havana institution. Like El Floridita, I don’t recommend hanging around – unfortunately, it’s a bit of a tourist trap these days, though still worth visiting and taking a peek. You’ll often find street performers outside.
7. Explore Old Havana
A visit to Old Havana is a must for any traveler visiting Havana; it’s easily one of the best things to do in Havana. This historic area of the city is an incredible mix of architectural styles, museums, plazas, cafes, bars, and restaurants. It’s a beautiful and complex neighborhood, without so much to see and do.
While this neighborhood isn’t very large – you can walk from one end to another in about 25 minutes – there is a lot to see here, so plan to spend at least three to four hours exploring to see the best of the area. Narrow streets make it best to explore on foot, and tall buildings block the heat of the sun for most of the day.
An easy way to explore is with a free walking tour of Old Havana, or a private guided tour for a more personalized experience. You can also take a self-guided walking tour by tracing a route around Old Havana’s four main plazas and exploring from there.
These are the four most beautiful plazas in Havana, the foundation for a good self-guided walking tour of the neighborhood:
- Plaza Vieja
- Plaza de Armas
- Plaza de la Catedral
- Plaza de San Francisco de Asis
Other highlights of the neighborhood include cool galleries, cafes, and restaurants, as well as other historic monuments, churches, and theaters. Part of enjoying the charm of the neighborhood comes in just wandering the streets, so try not to stick to too much of an itinerary.
Plus, remember, people actually live here! Be respectful when taking photos, and be aware of your surroundings.
Read More: Ultimate Guide to Exploring Old Havana
8. Visit the Cemetary
Believe it or not, Havana’s historic Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón is a fantastic spot to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a while, while taking in the incredible architecture of the mausoleums and tombs of Havana’s elite. It’s secretly one of the best things to do in Havana.
Located in the upscale neighborhood of El Vedado, even a quick walk through the cemetery is like a visit to an open-air museum filled with sculptures and ornate details, much like Recoleta Cemetary in Buenos Aires.
It may not make it to the top of most Havana itineraries, but it’s a great way to spend an hour or two in Havana, enjoying some of the city’s impressive monuments, and visiting its long-gone historic residents. You can also plan for a free walking tour of the Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón – a great way to learn more about the history of this destination.
9. Walk on the Malecón
Havana’s Malecón sea wall is a vital part of the city, and strolling along the sidewalk by the ocean (ideally at sunset) is a great way to take in the city. While it’s totally free, this is one of the very best things to do in Havana.
No matter what time of year you’re visiting Cuba, taking your obligatory Malecón stroll is usually best saved for the late afternoon when the sun is starting to fall, or at sunset. With no shade on the Malecón, it can get wickedly hot during the day.
The Malecón also transforms into a gathering place for locals in the evening, with vendors selling wine and rum, candies, and other treats as groups of friends gather and sit on the wall to enjoy the breeze. Spots feel like a party atmosphere, while others are just for relaxing and chatting with friends – no matter what you’re looking for, it’s a blast.
10. Explore Havana By Bike
Exploring the city by bike is increasingly one of the most popular things to do in Havana. You’ll find plenty of bike tours that travel through every corner of Havana and help travelers see the city in a unique way with an experienced local guide.
While parts of Havana can get congested, it’s generally a great city for biking, especially if you stick to the flatter neighborhoods like Old Havana and Vedado – venture further inland and you’ll start to hit some wicked hills.
You can book a free Havana bike tour (though you’ll likely have to rent your own bike!), or a more comprehensive bike tour with Ruta Bikes, which has a variety of tour routes and lengths to choose from.
11. Listen For El Cañonazo
A long-standing Havana tradition, listen up at exactly 9:00 PM each night for the sound of the “cañonazo” – a canon shot firing from Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña – a fortress directly across the harbor from Old Havana.
While you’ll be able to hear the booming sound of the cañonazo even in the neighborhoods of the city further from the fort, you’ll be able to experience it best – of course – by visiting the fort itself, which is one of the most popular things to do in Havana for visitors.
The cannon shot is fired as part of an elaborate changing of the guard ceremony, including guards with traditional uniforms and torches announcing the traditional closing of Havana’s harbor for the night. You can visit the fort any time of day, but saving a visit for the evening makes for both a great way to get a sunset view of the city, and to participate in this unique experience you’ll only have in Havana.
12. Enjoy a Sunset Drink in a Swanky Hotel
Havana sunsets are something else; maybe it’s something about the light, the ocean, or just the way Cubans slow down and enjoy it, but Havana sunsets are truly extraordinary. Join the locals on the Malecón for a front-seat view, or grab a drink at the rooftop bar of one of the city’s luxury hotels for an unforgettable happy hour – this is easily one of the best things to do in Havana, Cuba.
You can’t go wrong with settling in for sunset at the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski rooftop bar – facing west and overlooking the Parque Central, El Capitolio, and the Museo de Bellas Artes, the views are some of the best in Havana. Plus, make sure to hang around until the Gran Teatro de la Habana – Havana’s ornate theater – is lit up at dusk. It’s one of the city’s prettiest buildings.
Another option is the rooftop bar at the Royalton Habana (formerly the Paseo del Prado Hotel), facing the ocean, and with an incredible view over El Vedado, a drink at sunset makes for an incredible view.
Another popular rooftop spot in Havana is the Iberostar Grand Packard, at the start of the Prado and with a stunning view of El Morro across the harbor, though the positioning of the building doesn’t allow for the greatest sunset views. Visiting this gorgeous hotel with its stunning Morro views is one of the best things to do in Havana Cuba.
13. Take a Spanish Lesson
Spanish classes in Havana are inexpensive and FUN. We know several language instructors in Havana, and they love to incorporate “field trips” around the city into their classes, which is the best way to learn! If you’re in Cuba for a while, this is one of the best things to do in Havana.
Estudio Sampere in the neighborhood of La Víbora is a great choice for a more local experience, or Corazón Cuba is a great option in Old Havana if you’re traveling on a shorter itinerary.
Keep in mind that the Cuban accent is considered one of the most challenging to understand, as are the accents of Spanish speakers in the rest of the Caribbean. Combined with a ton of unique Cuban slang words and even advanced Spanish speakers can find communicating with Cubans sometimes challenging!
Don’t think about traveling to Cuba without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers. We’ve used NordVPN for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, especially in Cuba.
14. Hit the Beach
Cuba is well-known for having some of the best beaches in the world, so a trip to the country without visiting at least one pristine beach is almost sacrilegious. However, the beaches closest to Havana aren’t necessarily among the best in the country – you’ll need to travel a bit further to find that white sand and clear water you’re looking for.
The closest excellent beach to Havana is Varadero, and at just two hours from Havana, it’s a doable day trip from Havana! You can find buses that depart several times a day from Havana’s central bus terminal near the Plaza de la Revolución or schedule a day trip to Varadero with private transportation.
If you’d rather stay closer to Havana, visiting the Playas del Este, just east of Havana, is an easy trip, and you’ll still have a great beach experience. Transport by taxi is inexpensive, or take the T3 bus that departs from Parque Central in Old Havana. It’s a great day trip from Havana.
Read More: Top 12 Best Beaches in Cuba
15. Take in the View at Cristo de La Habana
Located directly across the harbor from Old Havana, you’ll notice a prominent statue of Christ with his arms outstretched towards the city – this is the famous Cristo de la Habana statue. While you’ll get a good view of the statue from Old Havana, the real reason to cross the harbor and visit the statue itself is for the view of the city from the platform before the statue.
With a stunning panorama of the ocean and the skyline of Havana, it’s one of the best things to do in Havana, particularly if you can time a visit with Havana’s epic sunsets.
You can get here by taking the Lanchita de Regla from Old Havana – a small ferry that continuously crosses the harbor and costs just a few pesos. Or, combine a visit with a trip to El Morro and take the bus or a taxi through the tunnel underneath the harbor.
16. Eat Ice Cream at Coppelia
You can’t visit Havana without getting ice cream at Coppelia! This world-famous ice cream parlor was built after the Revolution and had dozens of daily flavors in its heyday. Still just as popular as it has been for decades (with lines snaking around the park to prove it), you’ll find just a few flavors on the menu these days.
At the entrance to the park, as a tourist, you’ll likely be ushered over to smaller ice cream stands around the sides of the park, rather than directed to the main Coppelia building at the center of the park. You’ll avoid waiting in long lines this way, and the ice cream is the same, though sometimes tourists get more flavor options.
After eating, feel free to wander through the rest of the park and visit the main building. The greeters seating guests might redirect you to the ice cream stands, but you can just say you’re interested in looking around or taking pictures. The building is a beautiful retro style – make sure to see the ceiling on the inside!
17. Visit Museo de la Revolución
Cuba’s former presidential palace is now the Museo de la Revolución – the Museum of the Revolution, one of the most important museums in the country, a monument to the Cuban Revolution and filled with memorabilia from Fidel and other revolutionary leaders.
The bullet holes on the outside of the building remain from when the palace was taken during the revolution as dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the country with suitcases filled with cash. In addition to museum exhibits, you’ll see the lavish spaces like ballrooms and meeting rooms used to entertain dignitaries before the revolution.
Some of the most interesting details of the building are the paintings mocking U.S. political leaders (to the right of the staircase on the first floor) and the plaza in the back of the building, where you’ll find all manner of boats, cars, and tanks of historical importance. An American plane from the Bay of Pigs invasion and a replica of the boat Fidel Castro used to land in Cuba at the start of the Cuban Revolution are fascinating highlights.
Most exhibits are only in Spanish, so make sure you come prepared with Google Translate downloaded to make the most of them if you’re not fluent or come as part of a Havana city tour with a guide who can translate the most important details for you.
18. Try Cuban Coffee at the Best Cafes in Havana
Cuba is known for its delicious, one-of-a-kind coffee, and plenty of new cafes have popped up across Havana in recent years to showcase the best coffee you’ll find in the country. Stop by favorites like El Café in Old Havana – always my first stop in Havana! – or the cool HAV Coffee & Art for the city’s best cup of coffee and some delicious treats to go along with it.
At the city’s best cafes, you’ll find different options for coffee, like café con leche, lattes, and everything in between. However, most Cubans get their coffee from the tiny “cafes” mostly industrious neighbors selling sweet espresso shots from thermoses from their front room windows. If you’re looking for the true Cuban coffee experience, keep your eyes peeled for a spot like this.
Read More: 10 Best Cafes in Havana, Cuba
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19. Visit the Museo de Bellas Artes
Havana is home to two different Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts) institutions, both fantastic and engaging to visit. The museum of international art is located across the street from the Gran Hotel Manzana Gomez, while the museum of Cuban art is located across the plaza from the Museo de la Revolución, both in Old Havana.
For most visitors looking to choose just one museum to visit in Havana, I recommend choosing the museum of Cuban art over the museum of international art – you’ll find the masterpieces of Cuba’s most famous artists here. Admission is inexpensive, and the building is impressive – you could easily spend hours exploring if you’re a fan of museums!
The more casual observer should head to the post-Revolutionary art area of the museum. You’ll find fascinating portraits of revolutionary leaders in interesting styles and tons of famous paintings by Cuban masters. A must-see? Wifredo Lam’s The Jungle – it looks very much like Picasso’s Guernica.
20. Watch a Movie at the Yara
Located in the Vedado neighborhood just across from the Coppelia ice cream parlor, the Yara is one of Cuba’s most iconic theaters. Movie tickets are cheap – just a few pesos – and can be a great way to escape the late afternoon heat. Of course, you’ll likely need to speak Spanish to get the full experience – unless the theater is hosting a dubbed movie with subtitles or an international film festival.
Be on the lookout for international film festivals here! They draw quite a crowd and offer new international and Cuban favorites! Even if you don’t attend a screening, make sure to check out the lovely collection of vintage movie posters at the entrance.
21. Stay in a Casa Particular
There is no lack of great places to stay in Havana – from luxurious modern hotels to historic boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts, the city is filled with great options, and at all price ranges. However, choosing to stay at a casa particular, or “private home” is an experience all its own.
A casa particular is a private property rented to travelers by a Cuban – these have been the preferred places to stay for visitors to Cuba long before Airbnb popularized the concept around the world! You can find all types and styles of casas particulares, ranging from rooms for rent to basic private apartments and even elegant, restored mansions.
Staying in a casa particular means supporting a local small business – it’s the best way to stay. Plus, you’ll get to meet and interact with locals and get the inside scoop on things to see and do in the neighborhood.
Read more in our accommodation guides for Havana:
- Where to Stay in Havana + Best Havana Neighborhoods
- Best Casas Particulares in Old Havana
- Best Casas Particulares in El Vedado, Havana
22. Visit Havana’s Countryside
If you’re looking to see another side of Cuba, get out of the city! Havana is just one part of Cuba, and the Cuban countryside has so much to offer travelers as well. You’ll find plenty of options for excursions into the Havana countryside to visit local farms, eat delicious, homecooked meals, and more – most casa particular owners can arrange these!
A day trip to Viñales or a few days’ stay in Viñales is a convenient way to see this part of Cuba as well, while taking in some of the country’s most spectacular scenery. Consider staying at Finca Media Luna – this farm-turned-ecohotel has great food, comfortable rooms, and excellent excursions throughout the stunning Viñales Valley.
Read More: Where To Stay in Viñales, Cuba
23. Go to the Ballet
Cuba’s National Ballet is one of the world’s best, and taking in a performance at the ornate Gran Teatro de La Habana is an excellent way to visit one of the city’s most beautiful buildings – and appreciate this art form all at once. Tickets are inexpensive compared to similar quality performances in other places, and it’s a great way to take in this vital part of Havana’s cultural scene.
Even if you don’t want to attend a performance here, make sure to visit the building! It was recently renovated and is exceedingly impressive. Make sure to take in the illuminated exterior after sunset from the rooftop of the Kempinski hotel!
24. Try The World’s Best Cigars
Cuba is well known for having the world’s best cigars, so would you even consider visiting Havana without trying one? Personally, this isn’t exactly our thing, but here’s how to enjoy it if you’d love to add this to your things to do in Havana Cuba.
Take a Day Trip to Viñales
With day trip to Viñales, the region of Cuba that produces the best tobacco in Cuba, you’ll learn all about the production of tobacco and how cigars are made. Plus, you’ll get to purchase super-fresh cigars rolled right in front of you. It’s a must if you love cigars!
Read More: Viñales, Cuba: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide
Visit the Cigar Bar in the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski
Part of one of the lower floors of this grand Old Havana hotel is reserved for a large walk-in humidor and cigar bar. You can sample the country’s best cigars in style or check out the offerings in the walk-in humidor.
25. Visit Art Galleries on Calle Obispo
Calle Obispo is an important pedestrian thoroughfare cutting through Old Havana – walking this street lined with restaurants, museums, shops, and galleries is a must when visiting Old Havana. While it is one of the most “touristy” streets in Old Havana, there is much to see and do here, including an artisan market, cafes, museums, and restaurants with live music.
While there is no lack of things to see and do along the way, make sure to stop in all the independent art galleries along the street. José’s friends own and work from Galeria 360 (at Calle Obispo #360) – their hyperrealistic work is truly unbelievable.
Make sure to stop by and tell them we sent you – maybe you’ll see us hanging around!
26. Sip Drinks at a Rooftop Bar
There is nothing like a good Havana sunset, though having a drink in hand to watch it might make it even better. Here are some of the best spots for a rooftop drink in Havana – whether its sunset or the wee hours of the morning:
- Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski in Old Havana
- El Del Frente restaurant in Old Havana
- La Guarida in Centro Habana
- Malecon 663 in Old Havana
Havana sunsets are legendary, so whether you have a drink in hand or not, this is one of the best things to do in Havana. Head to the Malecón if you’re looking for a free thing to do in Havana along these lines!
27. Snorkel Among A Shipwreck
Is there any decent snorkeling near Havana? Yes! Just outside of the city, you’ll find some great dive spots, including two shipwrecks in relatively shallow water off of the Playas del Este on the east side of the city.
Snorkeling guides can take you from the beach to the shallow wrecks of the SS Olivette, which sunk in 1918, or the City of Alexandria, which sunk in 1893.
While the snorkeling spots aren’t off-limits to swimmers without guides, it’s best to schedule a guide so you’ll have access to gear and clear direction about how to reach the wrecks – even many locals aren’t aware they’re just off the coast here!
28. Eat the World-Famous La Guarida
La Guarida is Havana’s best restaurant and a fine dining staple in the city. Located in the Centro Habana neighborhood of the city, it has welcomed everyone from the Kardashians and Madonna to President Obama on his history-making trip to Cuba.
Serving up delicious and inventive takes on Cuban classics in its stunning dining room and on its gorgeous rooftop, it’s an absolute must while in Havana! If you want a table at this famous spot, make sure to make a reservation ahead of time, especially during the high season of travel.
29. Visit the Plaza de la Revolución
Plaza de La Revolución is one of the most emblematic spots in Havana – this is where Fidel Castro gave his famous, long speeches to the public. We’ve likely all seen photos of the square packed with Cubans waving flags and banners on the nation’s most important holidays.
Here you’ll see the famous statue of Martí, and the buildings with images of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, two of Cuba’s most well-known revolutionary heroes.
If you’re planning on taking a drive through Havana in a vintage American car, you’ll undoubtedly visit the Plaza de la Revolución as part of your trip around the city; book your tour for early on in your time to Havana.
30. Stay in a Mansion in El Vedado
While many travelers choose to stay in Old Havana, I’m a big believer in finding accommodations in Havana’s more modern waterfront neighborhood: El Vedado. Packed with restaurants, bars, and cafes, this upscale neighborhood is a great choice for where to stay in Havana, especially if you’re looking for a historic spot.
Many of the area’s historic mansions have been converted to boutique hotels – check out La Reserva Vedado or Calis Habana for two excellent options, some of my favorite places to stay in all of Havana. The neighborhoods walkable, wide streets and stunning architecture make it a real treat.
Even if you don’t even up staying in El Vedado, visiting this charming neighborhood is absolutely one of the best things to do in Havana Cuba.
Read More: Best Places to Stay in El Vedado, Havana
31. Learn About Santería
Santería is Cuba’s homegrown religion, a fascinating mix of African religious traditions with the Catholicism imposed by Spanish colonizers. You’ll see signs of it wherever you travel in Cuba: beaded necklaces and bracelets (often green and yellow, red and black, or blue and white), dried palm leaves or straw hanging over doorways, and new adherents dressed from head to toe in white.
You’ll also (sometimes!) see people making sacrifices on the Malecón (sometimes roosters, more often just coins or other personal items) or in front of the Catholic Church in the neighborhood of Regla. The best way to learn more about these fascinating traditions is with a Yoruba Religion Tour around Havana – you’ll see famous destinations in Havana and learn so much with a local guide.
32. Take In A Show at La Tropicana
La Tropicana is a long-standing concert venue and club on the outskirts of Havana, known around the world for being one of the most important destinations in launching Cuban rhythms like salsa onto the world scene. All the most important musical acts from Cuba have performed here, and the history of this spot is palpable.
Make sure to add La Tropicana to your itinerary to witness incredible local dances performed in extravagant costumes, plus unforgettable performances of salsa, bachata, rumba, and the other musical rhythms Cuba is known for. The shows are extraordinary!
33. Learn to Salsa
If you’re looking for a great activity while in Havana, consider taking a salsa class! Salsa classes in Havana are a fantastic way to learn about and master this important part of Cuban culture. With everything from beginners classes to workshops for advanced masters, dance schools in Havana make it easy to improve your skills.
Civitatis has excellent salsa classes I recommend for travelers on a quick Havana itinerary. If you’ll end up spending a bit more time in Havana and want to get a little better at salsa (or bachata, rumba, or countless other dance styles!), look into options for a series of classes at the much-loved Salsabor dance school.
34. See Havana Harbor by Boat
Most cruise ships have paused visiting Cuba due to changing U.S. legislation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the Havana harbor by boat! Take the Lanchita de Regla – a ferry from one side of the harbor to the other – for just a few pesos and get a view of Havana on the water.
Ferries take you across the bay to just below the Cristo de la Habana statue (called the Casa Blanca dock) or to Regla, another neighborhood across Havana’s bay. Taking in the view from below the statue is one of my favorite things to do in Havana, and taking the Lanchita de Regla is my favorite way to get there.
You can catch the ferry from the dock in Old Havana – the ferry dock is facing the Russian Orthodox church along the Avenida del Puerto – or from the docks at Casa Blanca and in the Regla neighborhood on the other side of the harbor.
35. Spend an Afternoon by the Pool
Havana is hot year-round, so spending an afternoon by the pool is welcome. Many of the major hotels in Old Havana and Vedado have pools, including the Hotel Nacional, Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski, and the Iberostar Grand Packard.
If you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten-path place to stay with a pool, check out the lovely Rosa de Ortega bed and breakfast in the neighborhood of La Víbora. Just a 10-minute taxi ride from the center of town, its private pool and grounds feel like an oasis away from the city.
Remember, American travelers currently can not stay overnight in the Hotel Nacional, Kempinski, or Packard due to U.S. restrictions on U.S. travelers visiting Cuba. Read more about legal American travel to Cuba in our guide, Can Americans Travel to Cuba?
36. Visit Havana’s Jardin Botánico
Another fantastic way to escape the heat in Havana is with a visit to the Jardin Botánico. These sprawling botanical gardens are home to a Japanese Garden, lakes, bridges, countless species of plants, and three glass houses with a wide variety of plants.
They are located somewhat outside of the city center, so plan for a 15-minute taxi ride to reach the area if you plan to visit. You won’t find this on many Havana itineraries, but it’s one of the best off-the-beaten-path things to do in Havana.
37. Eat at Jibaro’s
Jibaro’s is a fantastic if tiny restaurant a bit off the beaten path in Old Havana, one of my favorites in Havana! With an inventive menu of classic Cuban and Cuban fusion dishes, you can’t go wrong here. Open for lunch and dinner, the spot turns into a fun but subdued bar after hours and stays open until the wee hours of the morning.
What to Pack for Cuba
Check out our Ultimate Cuba Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Cuba and what we never travel without.
38. Learn About ( + Sample!) Cuba’s Best Rum
You won’t be hard-pressed to find a good place to try Cuba’s excellent, world-famous rum while you’re in Havana. However, if you want to learn more about rum and rum production, head to the Museo del Ron, located along Havana’s harbor. Factory tours of the facility are extensive and include, of course, delicious taste tests.
Not in the mood for a museum? No worries – you’ll have endless opportunities to sample Cuban rum, just make sure to try the famous Havana Club brand at least once. It one of the best things to do in Havana (or, one of the best things to do in Cuba).
39. Shop At Clandestina
Clandestina is a must-visit design store in Old Havana. As Cuba’s first independent clothing brand, launched in 2015, Clandestina has broken records, set trends, and overcome the challenges of simply existing as a small business in Cuba.
At their Old Havana storefront, you’ll find clothing, accessories, home goods, art, and much more, all with unique, tongue-in-cheek designs that are so very Cuba. Anything from Clandestina will be a unique Cuban souvenir.
Looking for the very local, off-the-beaten-path events, activities, and things to do in Cuba? Get talking with the staff at Clandestina. They’ll have the best recommendations for local concerts, parties, and the like (some of the best things to do in Havana if you’re lucky enough to be in town when they’re happening).
40. Relive Cuba’s History at Memorias
Memorias is another excellent little shop in Old Havana that is well worth a visit. This tiny shop is stuffed with antique trinkets, old posters, postcards, and so much more – it is easily one of my favorite shops in Havana.
Visiting Memorias feels like making a stop at a museum of Havana’s history – but where you’re able to take some history home with you. You’ll find trinkets like antique cigar boxes, beautiful posters and postcards, banners, pins, and more.
If you’re in Havana on a hot day, escape to the ultra-chilly airconditioning of this memorable shop; browsing for a few minutes is one of the best things to do in Havana to beat the heat.
41. Visit Cuba Libro
Havana’s only English-language bookstore, Cuba Libro is much more than just books. This chill spot in El Vedado has delicious treats and pastries, excellent coffee, iced tea, and a shaded patio for escaping from the Havana sun. Leaf through books, grab one of their delicious hibiscus iced teas, and get chatting with locals and expats, or other savvy travelers who love this special spot.
Make sure to check out the poster board in Cuba Libro while you’re there. It’s always covered with fliers advertising local events, concerts, and small businesses advertising their services around the city.
42. Take a Day Trip to Viñales
While the jaw-dropping Viñales Valley deserves as much time as you can make for it in your Cuba itinerary, even a day trip to Viñales will do – you don’t want to miss it! Known for its incredible limestone karsts, jutting up out of the valley to create a stunning landscape,
Viñales is also home to incredible caves to explore, the country’s best tobacco farms, and incredible sunsets. Plus, it’s just a short trip to Cayo Jutias, a natural island off the coast of Cuba – one of the most underrated Caribbean islands, and home to some of Cuba’s best beaches.
Or, take a dedicated day trip from Havana straight to Cayo Jutias!
43. Take In The Views From Havana’s Hills
While most travelers in Havana stick to waterfront neighborhoods like El Vedado and Old Havana, more residential areas of the city hide so many impressive hidden gems, and offer some of the best off-the-beaten-path things to do in Havana, Cuba.
One of my personal favorite things to do in Havana is to head towards the rolling hills of the neighborhood of Diez de Octubre, which offer second-to-none views over all of Havana that reach all the way to the ocean. You can even spot major monuments like the Plaza de la Revolución and El Capitolio.
The best spots for views are in La Víbora, on Calle Patrocinio and Calle O’Farrell between Heredia and Jose de la Luz y Caballero. Come for sunset over the city and enjoy a totally off-the-beaten-path experience – I can guarantee you the only other foreigner you’ll find here is me.
44. Debate Baseball With Cuba’s Baseball Superfans
On the southwest corner of Old Havana’s Plaza Central, you’ll find one of the city’s most unique and talked-about icons. It’s a group of baseball mega fans who have earned this corner of the plaza the nickname “Esquina Caliente,” or, “hot corner” because arguments can, at times, get heated!
This group of usually older men seems to always be here, rain or shine, and always informed about the latest game or more recent stats on baseball – or, “pelota.” Trust me, even if you don’t speak Spanish, people-watching at La Esquina Caliente is a riot – one of the best free things to do in Havana!
Sometimes you’ll even see baseball stars head to the Esquina Caliente themselves, which is always a treat for the regulars and passersby alike. Once, we even spotted some MLB stars from the US visiting the corner, with a crowd of paparazzi close behind!
45. Stroll Through Parque G
Extending from the Malecón seawall through the heart of the Vedado neighborhood, Parque G is a long, skinny park – more like a wide, grassy walkway – but is among one of Havana’s most interesting parks. Lined with statues of former presidents and leaders, it’s one of this regal neighborhood’s most impressive spots for a stroll.
You’ll find an excellent selection of restaurants and cafes nearby, as well as some of the best places to stay in Vedado. It’s one of the best things to do in Havana outside of Old Havana and has a lot of gems that visitors end up missing.
46. Hike to a Waterfall
Just a short drive (60 km) west of Havana is Soroa, one of the most impressive destinations for hiking in Cuba and home to incredible waterfall hikes and mountain views. Take a half-day trip via bus or shared taxi, or plan on private transport with a guided excursion for a hassle-free trip! It’s one of our favorite things to do in Havana when we’re looking to escape the city.
While there are several great hiking trails in Soroa, the hike to the Salto de Arco Iris (Rainbow Falls, also known as the Salto de Soroa) is an easy one – less than a mile round trip from the main road – and ends with extremely impressive jungle waterfall views!
Hike to the waterfall and swimming hole, then visit the nearby historic coffee plantation – you’ll still have time to make it back for a night on the town in Havana.
Read More: 8 Best Day Trips From Havana
47. Visit Finca Vigía
Whether you’re an Ernest Hemingway fan or not, you can’t skip a visit to this historic Havana landmark while you’re in town!
Located in a more residential area of Havana, Finca Vigía is an impressive and peaceful spot, largely maintained exactly as the author left it, which makes a visit one of the best things to do in Havana.
While you can’t walk around the house freely, just step up to the doorways – in an effort to keep it as pristine as possible – you’ll see so much of the home and grounds. Favorite visitors to the property include the cats, who are descendants of Hemingway’s own cats from when he lived here.
Best Things To Do in Havana
Whether you have just two or three days in Havana and only have time to hit the highlights of Havana or you have a longer itinerary and can see more of the city’s hidden gems, there are SO many incredible things to do in Havana Cuba.
From exploring beautiful neighborhoods to trying new foods and seeing culturally and historically significant destinations, you’ll be overwhelmed with all the things to do in Havana that you have to choose from.