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