Vintage cars and amazing live music
I heard mixed and rather polarised opinions about Cuban capital. They were ranging from “you’re going to love it” to “don’t spend too much time there – it’s awful”! Slightly confusing to say the least, it made me want to see Havana even more. Especially that it was the last stop of the Cuban trip with my friend Zofia.
Havana Vieja – Havana’s Old Town
It’s easy and affordable to get around Havana using taxis colectivos. Most of them are very old and vintage-looking so it adds to the experience. We opted for walking though. It was certainly the best way to explore the city for us. From day one I got really excited about photographing all small corners and narrow streets. After more than a week in small towns I was thrilled to take as much of the big city vibe in as possible.
Walking all the way from our place in Vedado to Havana Vieja, the Old Town, was a chance to get a feeling for how local people live outside of the tourist bubble. It reminded me of some lesser-known neighborhoods of Barcelona. However at times we could see crumbling buildings and poverty.
When we reached the Capitol and other grand and beautifully restored buildings and squares within that more prestigious area we could get a glimpse into Cuba’s colonial past that blends into country’s impressive heritage and remarkable history.
Havana, similarly to Varadero, was an exception to our usual way of finding accommodation. It was normally about knocking on a door of casas particulares that took our fancy and checking if we can rent a room for a day or few. Zofia found us a great room with lovely hosts ahead of our trip, guided by different recommendations from friends. I think the location and the ambience of the flat as well as the building were amazing. Looking out from our little balcony onto a small square near the University of Havana and the San Lazaro street was one of the highlights.
Vedado is a large and residential neighbourhood, a few kilometers west of Old Havana. It’s known for its nightlife and famous hotels attracting locals and tourists alike. The streets are numbered and lettered instead of having names. That makes it easy to navigate. The 23rd Street, La Rampa is one of those places that is always full of people and buzzing.
La Fábrica de Arte
Vedado is the epicenter of the arts in Havana. It’s home to many unique music venues and jazz clubs. We decided to follow up on a recommendation we got from some other travellers and visited La Fábrica de Arte. It’s an interesting arts space that also turns into a club few times a week.
Originally built as a cooking oil factory back in 1910, it was acquired and transformed by a group of Cuban artists and musicians and opened in 2014 as a new place promoting local Cuban artists, writers, photographers, filmmakers and performers.
On the night that we went there we were lucky to catch amazing Chila Lynn performing and also enjoyed checking out few photography exhibitions and partying with some cool, young Cubans. It’s located at the corner of 11th and 26th streets in Vedado and the best way to get there is by local taxi.
I highly recommend visiting La Fábrica de Arte. It was one of my main highlights and my fond memories of Havana are all about Vedado’s bustling vibe and incredible live music pouring into my ears from every corner.