Centro Havana: Housing much of Havana’s native population, Centro Havana also contains the Cuban capitol building, the Paseo de Marti promenade, and many of the city’s opulent, historical hotels. The Capitolio is modeled after the Capitol in Washington D.C., but other architects rejected American influences and worked solely in the Hispanic tradition.
El Barrio Chino: The Chinatown of Havana. After restrictive racial laws were passed in the United States, Chinese immigrants fled California and flooded Cuba, establishing their own district in order to keep their culture alive. A unique mix of cultures is immediately apparent at the restaurants and homes here.
Miramar: Once the neighborhood where Havana’s upper class built mansions, summer homes and country clubs, Miramar underwent a dramatic conversion after the Revolution. The expensive homes were put to use as offices and embassies, and the golf course became an art museum. Don’t miss the towering concrete Russian Embassy, built in the 1980s.
Malecon: Literally the “sea wall,” the Malecon closely approximates an American boardwalk in that hundreds of Havana residents flock here to socialize, day and night. The coastal boulevard is over 4 miles long and attracts a variety of interesting characters, old and young – it is the place to people-watch and to enjoy an ocean view.
Vedado: The University/business district of Havana. The University of Havana, or Universidad de la Habana, was established in 1728 and has a rich history as well as a role in shaping modern Cuba. Also in Vedado is the Plaza de la Revolucion, the eleven-acre square where the people of Havana gather to listen to Castro speak at annual Communist rallies. The plaza is practically empty the rest of the year – this may be because the government keeps it under surveillance!
Habana Vieja: Or ‘Old Havana’. This is the area to the east of Centro, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the historic heart of Havana, containing many magnificent, but crumbling, old buildings. The area is still home to a large number of Cubans, although parts are now being restored to their former glory, especially on and around Plaza Vieja. There are a number of bars and restaurants to be found here, including Hemingway’s favourite haunts, El Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio. Calle Obispo is the main shopping street, and is busy all day and well into the night.
Being a Canadian I have been able to visit Cuba and I had a wonderful and musical time cruising the different neighborhoods – Roal Smeet