Havana, Cuba is one of the most beautiful cities in the Caribbean. It is full of history and definitely a different experience from the rest. When you visit Havana you feel like time has frozen with its colonial buildings and vintage cars. In this guide we share the best things to do in Havana in 3 days.
Cuba in general is undergoing massive changes since Raúl Castro came to power. Now Cubans are allowed to have their own private business, sell their belongings and even visit tourist areas. More recently there is more open access to the internet across the island, which before was just a dream.
Cuba’s political life is interesting as it is the only communist country in the Americas and now regular Cubans finally feel free enough to share their political views and experiences with others. In this guide we have selected the best things to do and see in Havana in 3 days to fully enjoy the city, its people and cocktails, as well as better understand Cuba’s political history.
Capture your memories of the charming Cuban capital with this Havana Photo Tour. You’ll wander past the city’s beautiful monuments and representative scenes.
No matter what you do in Havana make sure to enjoy its festive atmosphere and tasty cocktails, dance salsa, take a tour around the historic city in a vintage car. Do not be afraid to ask locals all the questions you have to better understand one of the few communist regimes still standing in the world.
Check out our post with all the tips you must know before planning your trip to Havana and if you are thinking about visiting other cities in Cuba, you must read our complete guide with the best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba as well.
The best things to do in Havana in 3 days:
Havana is the capital of Cuba with a tropical climate and 400 years of rich history. The city is generally divided into three areas, the historic Old Havana, the commercial Vedado district and the newer suburbs. Take note when a hotel in Havana to ensure it is located near Old Havana.
Our favorite Instagram spots in Cuba have an asterisk (*) as Havana is a really picturesque city with so many colorful spots to fill your Instagram feed.
Travel video: 10 Days in Cuba
Day 1: Walk down the Malecón, visit the Plaza de la Revolución and enjoy a Mojito at the Fabrica de Arte Cubano
Walking along the Malecón is one of the best things to do in Havana, especially during sunset. The Malecón is a 8 km long boardwalk along the Havana Harbor that connects the old town of Havana with the prestigious neighborhood of Vedado. You will run into beautiful and historical buildings such as Hotel Nacional.
The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is a neoclassical building with an Art Deco influence. What caught our attention besides its importance in Cuban history is the view of the ocean from its terrace and gardens. This hotel is where the Cuban Army sought refuge in 1933 after the coup of Batista.
In the right corner of the Hotel Nacional you will find the tunnels where anti-aircraft missiles were set up and aimed towards the US during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was also the base of operation of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
Callejón Hamel (*)
The Callejón Hamel is one of the most interesting things to see in Havana and is not far from the Malecón. This colorful ally is full with street art and is the best places to learn more about the Afro-Cuban Culture and the religion, Santería.
See a new side of the Cuban capital discovering its vibrant urban art and important Afro-Cuban heritage on this classic car tour of Havana culture or Delve into the deepest secrets of this religion with this tour of Havana.
Plaza de la Revolución (*)
The Plaza de la Revolución is one the main landmarks in the heart of the city. Here is where Fidel Castro used to give his speeches and all political gathering take place. La plaza is divided by a main highway and on one side you will find a square with the memorial to Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, both considered heroes of the Cuban Revolution. On the other side sits a memorial to Jose Marti.
The plaza is quite far from the rest of attractions but it is worth visiting to see these memorials. It is the perfect quick stop between the old town and Vedado as it is right in the middle of the two.
➳ Fun Fact: The Plaza de la Revolución is the 31st biggest plaza in the world.
Learn about the Cuban Revolution with this tour of Havana and find out about the movement that led Fidel Castro to power in this free walking tour!
It is the most luxurious neighborhood in Havana with the best examples of colonial styles mansions. Keep in mind that parts of this neighborhood have fallen into disrepair.
It is not as elegant and rich as it used to be but it is still nice to walk around and spot beautiful architecture. You could also explore the contemporary side of the Cuban capital with this Modern Havana Free Tour. You will visit the must-see locations around the city including the famous neighbourhood of Vedado.
Explore one of the world’s most important cemeteries with this free tour of the Colón Cemetery in Havana. You will admire its magnificent mausoleums and discover the stories behind them.
Fábrica de Arte Cubano
Fábrica de Arte Cubano is a big venue with several bars, art installations and multiple live performances. It is without a doubt the best place to finish your first night in Havana. It is only open from Thursday to Sunday.
Day 2: Explore Old Town Havana
The best thing to do in Havana is to wander through the old town and just go for a stroll. The Havana Vieja is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the majority of the landmarks and things to see in Havana are located right in this area.
Delve into the history of the Cuban capital on this free walking tour of Havana. Do not miss out on taking a free tour of Colonial Havana with an expert guide. You can also sing up for the free tour to visit iconic local bars and discover the vibrant nightlife of the Cuban capital on this free walking tour of Havana at night!
Plaza de la Catedral (*)
It is a beautiful square with not only the cathedral but all the buildings surrounding it are built in Baroque architecture.
Plaza Vieja is the brightest square in Havana surrounded by colorful colonial and Art Nouveau buildings.
Plaza San Francisco de Asis
The Plaza de San Francisco de Asis is a 16th century cobblestone square near the docks in Havana Port. Here you can visit the Museum of Sacred Art inside the Cathedral and pass by the Chopin on the bench and the Caballero de Paris Statue who was a Homeless Philosopher. Locals say to hold his beard as it may bring you good luck.
Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas the oldest square in the city with plenty of green space, the perfect place to sit back and watch other people go about their day.
Castillo de la Real Fuerza (*)
The Castillo de la Real Fuerza is a fort on the western side of Havana near the Plaza de Armas. It was built in the 1500s to defend against by pirates but due its poor location, too far inside the bay it did not function as expected. The fort is considered to be the oldest stone fort in the Americas, and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982.
La Bodeguita del Medio
You must make a quick stop La Bodeguita del Medio bar and enjoy a delicious mojito. It might be the most expensive mojito in the city but according to novelist Ernest Hemingway it is the best mojito in Cuba and it has become a main landmark of Havana.
Calle Obispo is the main street in Havana Vieja, where you will find art galleries, shops, and many bars with live music. It is the busiest pedestrian street in all of Havana.
Calle Mercaderes is one of our favorite streets in old Havana due to the countless 18th century facades. Calle Mercaderes is home of several museums including Museo de los Bomberos and Museo del Tabaco.
Museum of Pharmacy Habanera (*)
It is quite an elegant space with a working pharmacy & small museum showing vintage cabinets, pots & other pharmaceutical items. It is free to enter and the perfect place to get fantastic Instagram photos.
El Capitolio (*)
El Capitolio is the former congress prior to the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and now it serves as the Cuban Academy of Science. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed in but you can appreciate its beautiful facade.
Across from the Capitolio are the famous Instagram colorful houses of Havana.
The Floridita Bar Restaurant and bar is known for having the best daiquiris in Havana according the famous writer Hemingway. The drink was invented in Havana in the early 1930’s.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Havana without visiting the Cuban capital’s most iconic bars and sipping their traditional cocktails: make the most of your time on the Island of Rum with this tour!
Museo de La Revolución
The museum is located in the former presidential palace and today is the best place to learn more about the revolution in Cuba and everything that has been impacted by it.
El Museo de La Habana Club
The Havana Club Rum Museum is the perfect place to learn in depth about the process of making rum, as well as a glimpse of the origins of Cuba’s most popular distillery. Visiting the Havana Club Rum Museum is something every tourist must do in Havana.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana
The museum has collections dating back to 500 BCE. It is a quite a large museum that is spread across two buildings. The section focused on Cuban Art is the best part of the museum. The top floor is all about pre-revolution art while the downstairs covers post-revolution art.
Real Fábrica de Tabacos Partagás
The Real Partagas Cigar Factory is the best place to learn all about how Cuban cigars are made and more about the communist economy. The guided tour takes between 45 to 60 minutes where you get to see workers strip the leaves of veins and carefully roll the cigars, all the way to boxing the cigars and presenting them for inspection. It is shocking see the working conditions but in reality it is a highly desired job that pays twice as much as a doctor and three times more than a teacher.
The tickets to visit the factory are actually sold at the Hotel Inglaterra, which is a 30 minute walk from the factory. The hotel is beautiful as it has an impressive Neo-classic facade. If you are into cigars, you can get a cigar workshop tour!
Morro Castle (*)
Finish your day attending one of the most touristy things to do in Havana at the Morro Castle, the Cañonazo de las nueve, the firing of a 1700s cannon. Make sure to go an hour in advance to walk around the 16th century fort and get the best spot to see the show.
El Cañonazo de las nueve is a ceremony where soldiers dressed in traditional 18th century costumes shoot a cannon into the ocean. In the 18th century this was done to indicate that it was time to close the doors surrounding the city.
The 16th century San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress is across the bay on the opposite side of the port with the most magnificent panoramic views of the city.
Day 3: Relax in Havana
Ride a vintage Car (*)
One of the most popular things to do in Havana is ride in a vintage car. It is not only the classic “landmark” but it is one in a lifetime experience. You can find the vintage cars pretty much everywhere as trade isolation has required existing cars to be well kept since the 1950s.
You can take a sightseeing tour with or without stops and it honestly depends on your preference. You can find tours anywhere but they are mostly parked at the Central Park in front of the Capitolio and at La Plaza de la Revolución.
The cost for an hour drive is 30-35 CUC, you can always negotiate on prices, but we suggest to pay full price as it makes such a difference for the drivers, due to high government fees. You cannot leave Havana without riding on a vintage car, it is definitely a must thing to do in Havana.
Universidad de La Habana (*)
Your visit to Havana is not complete without visiting La Universidad de La Habana. The University was founded on January 5, 1728. It is the oldest university in Cuba and one of the first to be founded in the Americas. The architecture will leave you speechless. Also, Fidel Castro went to school here!
Get a drink at the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski rooftop Bar (*)
For the best views of the city and the Capitolio make sure to get some drinks at the rooftop bar of the Gran Hotel Manzana. The prices are higher than in the rest of the city, were a drink can cost between 7 to 8 USD, but is worth the price of a drink to enjoy the view. Without a doubt visiting the Gran Hotel Manzana is one of the best things to do in Havana.
Another great option is to visit the rooftop of the Hotel Inglaterra.
Dinner at La Guarida Restaurant (*)
La Guarida is the city’s most legendary private restaurant or Paladar. The food is delicious, but what makes this place even more unique is that it has two staircases that makes you feel like a scene out of a 1940s film noir.
You will need to make reservations in advance otherwise you take the risk of the restaurant being fully booked.
How can I get to Havana, Cuba?
To travel to Cuba you will need a visa which can be bought online, at a travel agency or through your airline. The easiest way to get your visa is through your airline, especially if you are traveling from the United States. A ticket from Fort Lauderdale to Havana ranges in the $200s while from other destinations in South America it can cost anywhere between $400 to $600.
From the José Martí International Airport, which is 15 km south of the city, to Havana a taxi costs 25 CUC (approx. 28 USD). You can also get a transfer from your hotel to the airport or from the airport to your hotel.
How do I to exchange currency in Havana?
Euros are worth more in Cuba than USD as there is a 10% penalty for exchanging USD. The best way to exchange money is by going to a CADECA (Money Exchange Desk) or a bank.
Cuba is a cash economy since not many places accept credit cards, so make sure to always carry cash with you. Some taxis from the airport do accept credit cards but make sure to double check.
If you are American you will not be able to withdraw money from any ATM nor pay with US based credit cards due to the current US embargo.
How to get around in Havana?
The best way to explore Havana is either by taxi, motorbike or walking. Taxis are really expensive in Havana as it can cost you 5 to 10 CUC for just a short ride.
When is the best time to visit Havana?
During the summer months Havana is packed with tourists and it gets really hot so try to avoid those months. It is best to visit Havana during the winter months between December to March when the weather is cooler and there are fewer visitors.
How much does it cost us to visit Havana in 3 days?
We stayed in three different hotels to recommend the best accommodations in Havana, along with enjoying several cocktails in different bars. Having that in mind we spent €543 including accommodation, transportation, tours and food for two people excluding international flights. The exchange rate was 1.07 CUC to €1.
Our expenses in Havana:
- Hotel for 3 nights: €213
- Food and drinks: €120
- Tours: €60
- Transportation around the city and to and from the airport: €150
Cuba has two currencies; the CUP and the CUC. The CUP is the national currency which is the currency used by locals. The CUC is the currency used for the majority of tourists goods, restaurants and tours.
The CUC is pegged 1 to 1 to the USD. The CUP is worth 26.5 CUC to $1, in July 2020, just remember that there is a penalty to exchange USD, so Euros are more valuable.
Where is the best place to stay in Havana?
We decided to split our nights in Havana in three different accommodations to provide the best recommendation. We stayed at a hotel in the Malecón, at a casa particular in Vedado and a casa particular in the heart of downtown Havana.
For us the best place to sleep in Havana is in a casa particular, effectively a privately owned homestay. Even though Vedado might be further from the main attractions, the rooms are bigger and more luxurious than the casa particulares in old Havana.
Iberostar Habana Riviera
To be honest we did not like staying at a hotel in general in Havana. It was almost twice the price per night and we did not get to interact with locals in the same way. It might be more luxurious but less personal.
Iberostar Habana Riviera is located on the Malecón so you will get beautiful views of the ocean. It includes breakfast and you can enjoy the pool. The building itself has not been kept up, but is good enough while the staff and services were outstanding.
Enjoy a friendly service at Villa Florez, where you will be treated like a long-lost family member and feel like a local in no time at all. You can ask them any questions you might have from local recommendations to their views about the situation in Cuba.
Villa Florez is our favorite place to stay in Havana. The only thing to keep in mind is that it is located in Vedado which means a taxi ride to visit downtown Havana, which costs around $10 USD. The rooms are super comfortable and the house is in excellent shape. There is a beautiful garden and a jacuzzi. It is definitely a high end option in Havana that includes breakfast.
It is not the cheapest option, but if you are looking for a quality and friendly stay, away from the bustle of central Havana, Villa Florez is a great choice.
Chez Nous Plaza Vieja
If you are thinking about staying in downtown Havana near the main attractions, while staying in a personal accommodation we recommend Chez Nous Casa Particular. It is cheaper than staying in Vedado and it still has a great service. The rooms are still comfortable but breakfast is not included but is offered at $5 CUC extra.
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