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La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) has so much charm that only visiting it, it is possible to capture fully the contrasts, sounds and colors that coexist there. It has the typical appearance of a colonial city, once a Spanish villa, highly appreciated for being the perfect route of communication and trade with the New World. A wide presence of the defensive system created in those years in order to protect the city from corsairs and pirates’ attacks remains in the city. That is why it is impossible to walk along the area without stumbling with impressive fortresses, such as, el Castillo de la Real Fuerza, el Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta, La Cabaña, and the most unique of all of them, El Morro (The Morro Castle), located at the entrance of the bay. From this place, each night, the lights of the lighthouse guide the navigators. During the day, thousands of visitors climb there to admire the most beautiful view that the capital offers.
Not less relevant are its plazas (squares), spacious and extremely beautiful, from where two-wheeled calashes still ride, ready to guide you throughout the whole historic center at the slow pace of the horses. Mulatas dressed as in old times also walk with fruits and flowers, retracing the stone-paved squares, la Plaza de San Francisco de Asís, la Plaza de Armas, la Plaza Vieja and la Plaza de La Catedral, the fixed symbol of photos and postcards of Cuba. Inserted in this typical environment of that time, you may taste the flavor of the Cuban cocktails while sitting peacefully in open places that offer greater contact with the buildings and the people. The sound of guitars, keys and the voices of the troubadours will accompany you in your visit.
The museums enrich the old villa for their quality and historical value. Several Hotels and museums such as el Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (Palace of the Spanish Governors), de Ciencias Naturales (Science), el Gabinete Arqueológico (the Archaeological Bureau), the automobile museum, and the recently inaugurated Complejo Museológico de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) are some of the most recommended ones. Nevertheless, the whole of Habana Vieja (Old Havana) constitutes in itself a vast historical stage, due to the presence of restored mansions which have become inns, for the restaurants located in colonial patios, and for the enormous quantity of pictures that delight with some nostalgia Cuban scenes. A little far away, crossing the bay, in La Cabaña, there is one of the largest arms collection of Cuba, and in El Morro (the Morro Castle) there is a permanent exhibition of the whole process of the construction of the fortress. Also located on that side of the bay you can see the statue of El Cristo (the Christ), where the nights are special and La Habana can be seen full of lights.
Something you should not miss is El Templete, located on La Plaza de Armas. In this place, there is a ceiba (a huge Cuban tree), that after being substituted several times, points out the place where the first public mass of the municipal council was celebrated. Another place worth visiting is la Necrópolis de Colón (Colón Necropolis), the only cemetery in America named after the Admiral. There are sculptural monuments of huge proportions, with avenues and inner front doors made with great mastery.
Another point of interest is el Barrio Chino (China Town) with hundreds of restaurants that recall the eastern trade. Very near this area, there is one of the largest fragments of the old defensive wall of La Habana, which construction started in 1674 and finished in 1740, and was pulled down twenty-three years after.
Lastly, the visit to the model of the city, the libraries and art galleries; the walks along Obispo boulevard, the sunsets at the Malecón and a Daiquirí at the Floridita Restaurant, complete our proposals of the tour along Old Havana.