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Havana Travel Guide - Travel S Helper

Havana

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Havana is Cuba’s capital, biggest city, province, main port, and most important commercial center.

The city proper has a population of 2.1 million people and covers an area of 728.26 km2 (281.18 sq mi), making it the biggest city by area, the most populated city, and the Caribbean region’s third largest metropolitan area.

The city serves as the heart of the Cuban government, housing several ministries, corporate headquarters, and more than 90 diplomatic missions.

The Spanish established Havana in the 16th century, and because of its strategic position, it served as a springboard for the Spanish conquest of the continent, becoming a resting station for treasure-laden Spanish galleons on their way between the New and Old Worlds.

Every year, about a million visitors visit the city. In 1982, the historic center was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, the city is known for its history, culture, architecture, and monuments.

Havana, along with Vigan, Doha, La Paz, Durban, Beirut, and Kuala Lumpur, was named one of the New7Wonders Cities in May 2015.

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Havana | Introduction

Havana – Info Card

POPULATION :  City: 2,106,146
FOUNDED :   1515 , City status 1592
TIME ZONE :  UTC−05:00 (UTC-5) Summer: UTC−04:00 (UTC-4)
LANGUAGE :  Spanish
RELIGION :  85% Roman Catholic, Others 15% (Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, and Santeria)
AREA :  728.26 km2 (281.18 sq mi)
ELEVATION :  59 m (194 ft)
COORDINATES :  23°08′N 82°23′W
SEX RATIO :  Male: 50.27%
 Female: 49.73%
ETHNIC :  White:63.4%, (Galician, Asturian and Canarian were the most common Spanish immigrants), mulatto: 20.4% (White/black mixed race), Black:16.4%, (brought by Spanish colonists from Sub-Saharan Africa), Asian:0.2% (reflecting immigration from China in the late 19th and early 20th centuries)
AREA CODE :  7
POSTAL CODE :  10xxx–19xxx
DIALING CODE :  (+53) 07

Tourism in Havana

Havana welcomes over a million visitors each year, according to the Official Census for Havana, the city was visited by 1,176,627 foreign tourists in 2010, a +20.0 percent increase from 2005.

The city has always been a renowned tourist destination. Between 1915 and 1930, Havana received more visitors than any other Caribbean destination. The migration was mostly owing to Cuba’s closeness to the United States, where stringent prohibitions on alcohol and other pleasures contrasted sharply with the island’s historically casual attitude toward leisure sports. A leaflet advertising tourism in Havana, Cuba, produced between 1921 and 1939 by E.C. Kropp Co., Milwaukee, WI, may be found in the University of Houston Digital Library, Havana, Cuba, The Summer Land of the World, Digital Collection.

With the worsening of Cuba-US ties and the introduction of a trade embargo on the island in 1961, tourism fell precipitously and would not recover to pre-revolution levels until 1989. The revolutionary government in general, and Fidel Castro in particular, were originally hostile to any significant expansion of the tourist sector, associating it with decadence and criminal activity in the past. However, in the late 1970s, Castro modified his approach, and in 1982, the Cuban government established a foreign investment law that opened up a variety of industries, including tourism, to foreign finance.

Cuba started to attract finance for hotel development via the establishment of corporations accessible to such international investment (such as Cubanacan), managing to raise the number of visitors from 130,000 (in 1980) to 326,000 (in 2000). (by the end of that decade).

For more than two decades, Havana has been a popular health tourism destination. Foreign patients visit Cuba, particularly Havana, for a variety of therapies such as eye surgery, neurological problems such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, and orthopaedics. Many patients are from Latin America, despite the fact that medical therapy for retinitis pigmentosa, often known as night blindness, has drawn many patients from Europe and North America.

THINGS TO SEE

La Habana Vieja, Havana’s Old Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and meandering through its streets and admiring the exquisite architecture is a must for each tourist. Some portions of the Old Town remain in disrepair, with crumbling structures, while many have been restored to their former beauty.

A stroll along the Prado in the evening is a terrific opportunity to soak up the street bustle while listening to the hums of countless cafés and eateries. However, the roadway is not lit at night. Another popular promenade for both visitors and residents is along El Malecón, Havana’s seafront, which offers spectacular views of the city.

  • Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolución) – Refugio No. 1 houses the Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolución). This landmark museum, housed in the old presidential palace, provides a historical journey from pre-Columbian times through the 1959 revolution and on to present-day socialist Cuba. Even though the installations have more than a tinge of propaganda, they are a must-see on every trip to Havana. Admission is CUC$6, and the use of a camera is an additional CUC$2.
  • National Capitol Building (El Capitolio) – El Capitolio (National Capitol Building), Paseo de Mart, 422, Prior to the revolution, this neoclassical structure, which resembled the United States Capitol, held the Cuban Congress. The structure is now being renovated and will host the National Assembly again in a few years.
  • Partagás Cigar factory (Fábrica de Tabaco Partagas) – Calle Industria 520, Partagás Cigar Factory (Fábrica de Tabaco Partagas) (Behind the Capitol Building), A guided tour of the original Partagás facility provides a lot of knowledge on tobacco production and growing. It is also the location to get real Cuban cigars, which are more costly than on the street but of excellent quality. A guided tour costs CUC$10, and photography is not permitted.
  • Havana Club Rum Museum (Museo del Ron Havana Club) – Avenida del Puerto 262, Havana Club Rum Museum (Museo del Ron Havana Club). Visit Havana Club, one of Cuba’s most renowned rums, on a guided tour. The majority of the displays are subtitled in English and are self-explanatory.
  • Plaza de la Revolución. Huge plaza dominated by Jose Marti’s statue and monument, as well as the famous portrait of Che Guevara gracing the Ministry of the Interior. Arrive early or late, since it is often overrun with visitors and gets quite hot throughout the day.
  • Lennon Park (Parque Lennon), Calle 8 (In Vedado). It has Havana’s lone statue of a western musician. Notable for the frequent theft (and replacement) of eyeglasses.
  • US Special Interests building – Calle Calzada (in Vedado, immediately off El Malecón), US Special Interests Building. In the absence of a US embassy in Cuba, Cuban individuals must apply for US visas at this strongly protected and guarded structure. It was known for presenting unfiltered and uncensored news by the Cuban government on electronic billboards located behind one of the floors’ windows, however they were turned off in 2009. It is also the site of frequent demonstrations.
  • Hotel Habana Libre in Vedado. For many days after taking Havana, Castro’s forces stayed at the hotel. It features an amazing picture collection in the lobby, as well as one of the city’s few 24 hour fast food eateries.
  • Using the enormous Cámara Oscura in the old town, you may enjoy spectacular 360-degree views of the city.
  • Havana Cathedral (Catedral de La Habana) (In Old Havana). This church, which was originally erected in the 18th century but was remodeled in the 1940s, is a notable example of Cuban Baroque architecture. The seat of the Cuban Roman Catholic Archdiocese.
  • Plaza de Armas. The area is spacious and attractive, surrounded by baroque structures that give it a true colonial atmosphere. It was built in the 1600s to replace an older plaza that served as the focus of religious, governmental, and military activities. It was utilized for military drills and parades until the mid-eighteenth century. It became a popular gathering place for the city’s rich when it was renovated between 1771 and 1838. It is currently also known as Céspedes Park, in honor of the country’s Founding Father, whose statue is in the park’s center. This area is one of the most beautiful in the city, with merchants selling antiques and classic books on Latin American and international literature. The area was surrounded by historical landmarks such as the capok tree (Ceiba), beneath which the first mass for the city’s establishment was held in 1519.
  • The Royal Force Castle (Castillo de la Real Fuerza), Plaza des Armas. Completed in 1577, it is the New World’s oldest bastioned fortification. It currently contains Cuba’s top nautical museum, which has superb displays of Cuba’s maritime history, from pre-Columbian times to the 18th century, with the Royal Shipyard of Havana, one of the world’s biggest, which constructed approximately 200 ships for the Spanish Crown. The museum has a massive replica of the Santisima Trinidad, one of the world’s biggest ships during the 18th century. The fort is also an excellent vantage point for viewing the harbor and city skyline.
  • Museo Nacional the Bellas Artes – Trocadero, between Agraminte and Av de las Misiones, houses the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. This museum is divided into two sections: world art and Cuban art. Art aficionados may spend hours appreciating the masterpieces of the previous centuries displayed on three levels in the Arte Cubano section. 8 CUC

Geography of Havana

Havana is located on Cuba’s northern shore, south of the Florida Keys, where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Atlantic Ocean. The city grows primarily westward and southward from the bay, which is accessible by a short entrance and separates into three major harbours: Marimelena, Guanabacoa, and Atarés. The Almendares River flows from south to north through the city, eventually joining the Straits of Florida a few kilometers west of the bay.

The city’s modest hills rise softly from the deep blue seas of the straits. The 200-foot-high (60-metre) limestone ridge that slopes up from the east and culminates in the heights of La Cabaa and El Morro, the locations of colonial fortifications commanding the eastern bay, is a notable elevation. The hill to the west, inhabited by the University of Havana and the Prince’s Castle, is another significant peak. Higher hills rise to the west and east of the city.

Economy of Havana

Havana’s economy is diverse, with old sectors including as manufacturing, construction, transportation, and communications coexisting with new or revitalized ones such as biotechnology and tourism.

The city’s economy grew initially because of its position, which made it one of the first major commerce centers in the New World. Sugar and a thriving slave trade provided wealth to the city at first, and after freedom, it became a well-known tourist destination. Despite Fidel Castro’s government’s attempts to expand industrial activity around the island, Havana remains the center of most of the country’s industry.

The historic sugar industry, which has been the foundation of the island’s economy for three centuries, is centered elsewhere on the island and controls around three-fourths of the export sector. However, Havana has a concentration of light industrial facilities, meat-packing factories, and chemical and pharmaceutical businesses. Other food-processing sectors are significant, as are shipbuilding, automobile manufacture, alcoholic beverage production (especially rum), textiles, and tobacco goods, including the world-famous Habanos cigars.

Although the revolutionary government improved the harbors of Cienfuegos and Matanzas in particular, Havana remains Cuba’s premier port facility; 50 percent of Cuban imports and exports travel via Havana. The port also serves a sizable fishing sector.

Nearly 89 percent of the city’s officially registered labor force worked for government-run organizations, institutions, or businesses in 2000. On average, Havana has the highest incomes and human development indexes in the nation. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba re-emphasized tourism as a significant business, which helped the country recover. Tourism is currently Havana’s and Cuba’s main source of income.

Despite Raul Castro’s embrace of free enterprise in 2011, Havana’s economy is still in upheaval. Though there was an increase in small enterprises in 2011, many have subsequently gone out of business owing to a lack of business and money from local inhabitants, whose monthly earnings average $20.

Vedado, situated along the Atlantic shoreline, became the primary business neighborhood in the late 1990s. It was substantially constructed between 1930 and 1960, when Havana became a popular vacation destination for Americans; high-rise hotels, casinos, restaurants, and upmarket business facilities, many of which reflected the art deco design.

Vedado is now Havana’s financial center, with the largest banks, airline companies’ offices, stores, most corporate headquarters, and a slew of high-rise homes and hotels. Vedado is home to the University of Havana.

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