Havana Bucket List: 51 Things to Do In Cuba’s Capital

Heading to Havana and looking for the best bucket list things to do while you’re there? Keep reading because I’m sharing my top picks for this city that is a blend of the old and new, where vintage cars and crumbling Spanish colonial architecture mix with kitschy galleries and a booming nightlife. 

TIP: Though there are still some light restrictions for Americans traveling to Cuba, when you make it there you will find it filled with character, culture and friendly people with incredible things to see, do and eat!

51 Top Things to Do in Havana

Things to See & Do

1. Spend an Evening at Fabrica de Arte Cubano

Fabrica de Arte Cubano (the Cuban Art Factory) is a cutting edge hotspot where sophisticated gallery rooms cohabitate with multimedia performance spaces. The large warehouse space that used to be a former cooking oil plant, now has been transformed into the hippest place in town where live events happen (like tango classes and symphony performances) while interesting art expos line the white walls.

Fabrica de Arte Cubano Annette

Make sure to order the oversized house mojito (a jumbo 40 ouncer for $10!). It was the best mojito I had in Havana, yep I’m gonna say it – even better than the most famous place to drink this classic beverage, Hotel Nacional.

Tip: Right next door is El Cocinero, a great place for dinner before or after your Fabrica de Arte Cubano visit!

inside fabrica de arte cubano

2. Attend the Ballet at the Gran Teatro de La Habana

The Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso is a prestigious theater in Paseo del Prado Street in Havana, built in the neo-baroque style between 1907 and 1914. Named after the legendary ballerina Alicia Alonso, the theater serves as the home of the Cuban National Ballet Company, which she founded in 1948.

They are best known for their “Cuban ballet” style, which mixes classic ballet with elements from Cuban folklore and culture. This gives their performances a unique twist, especially to classic ballet like ‘Giselle’ and ‘Swan Lake.’

Gran Teatro de La Habana

3. Ride in a Vintage Convertible

It would almost be a sin to leave Havana without taking a ride in a snazzy classic convertible-it’s the top thing to do. Havana is essentially a living museum for classic cars after American cars were imported into Cuba for about 50 years in the early 20th century. 

Vintage Car in Havana Cuba

We took a fun Vintage Classic Car Tour and it included a 3-hour ride in one of these babies. Otherwise, there are a dozen drivers with their beautiful cars in front of Hotel Inglaterra at Parque Central ready to take you wherever you want to go. The cost typically ranges around $50 CUC per hour depending on the tourist season and your destination. But, always try to negotiate!

Vintage Convertible

4. Have a Peek Inside Catedral de San Cristóbal

Catedral de San Cristóbal (or Havana Cathedral) in Old Havana is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. This 18th-century Baroque-style cathedral was once owned by the Jesuits, but it was later turned over to the Diocese of Havana.

One thing I’ve noticed about it is its two unequal towers, one of which is taller than the other. No one really knows the reason why that is, but it certainly adds to its charm.

The interior is nothing to write off about either, boasting a blend of Baroque and Neoclassical styles. Complementing it is a collection of religious art, sculptures, and decorative elements, such as paintings of three scenes from the Bible: The Delivery of the Keys, The Last Supper, and The Ascension, which you can see above the main altar.

Fun fact: Christopher Columbus’ remains were once housed inside the cathedral before it was relocated to Seville Cathedral in Spain.

Catedral de San Cristóbal

5. Take a Cocotaxi

Cuba’s capital offers more than just classic automobiles; you can also take a brilliant yellow Cocotaxi for a ride around the city! In Havana, these bright yellow, coconut-shaped tricycles with backseats for two, are a dime a dozen (well, maybe not a dime, but definitely affordable!) 

P.S. There are black Cocotaxis too, but those are mainly for locals. Stick to the yellow ones for a tourist-friendly ride! Oh, and before you ride one, make sure you agree to a price. The usual fare for a ten-minute ride should be somewhere around $5 and $10.

Cocotaxi

6. Smoke a Cuban Cigar in Cuba

Cuban cigars are known to be one of the finest in the world, so you don’t want to miss trying one in Havana. You can get cigars throughout the city, but there’s a decent selection at Partagas Cigar Factory right behind the Capitol building. Though the “factory” part has moved to a different location, you can still buy your Cuban and then head to their VIP room to smoke it. Or grab a cigar and a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio, just like Hemingway did.

TIPS: If you want to learn more about cigars, take the Cigar Trail tour, that will teach you everything you need to know about Cuban Cigars. Also, ff you’re not into smoking cigars, you can at least take a photo of the Cuban women around the old town who will pretend to smoke a cigar for about $1 CUC.

Cuban Cigar

7. Hit the Beach

Okay, so Havana is amazing – the architecture, the music, the mojitos – but after a couple of days, I felt the water calling my name. Luckily, Playa del Este is a quick car ride away (just 18 kilometers east of Havana). And let me tell you, it’s a beach lover’s dream come true! While this string of beaches is not as developed as other Cuban beach destinations (like Varadero), Playas del Este more than makes up for it with its beauty and relaxed vibes.

Playa Santa Maria del Mar, maybe the most well-known of the lot, is among my top choices because of its calm waters, energetic vibe, and accessibility to restaurants, water sport rentals, and beach chairs. Playa Guanabo (which is the farthest one of the group), is also a great choice because of its soft sand, clear waters, and plenty of resorts and restaurants.


8. Explore the Old Mansions in Vedado

Back in the mid-1900s, the grand mansions in Vedado were once the homes of the city’s wealthy elite. But with Fidel Castro’s rise to power in January 1959, the mansions were given as homes to families (sometimes even multiple families) based on their size as part of his reform to promote equality.

Today, while most of these mansions are in a state of disrepair (although families still live in them), the good news is some of them are being restored and repurposed for new uses, like being turned into Casa Particulares (which is kind of like a B&B) and Paladares (family-run restaurants). Take a walk around and see how many of these mansions you can find!


9. Explore Old Havana

La Habana Vieja or Old Havana, an UNESCO World Heritage site, is the historic center of Cuba’s capital city. It is in the heart of Havana and the #1 place to visit. 

Old Havana Street

You can easily spend hours aimlessly strolling through the narrow streets taking in the colors and history attached to them. There are countless historic colonial buildings, cutting-edge galleries, restaurants, shops and lovely plazas to explore. This is also where you will find many of Hemingway’s famous stops.

Old Havana Annette

When I first arrived, I took the Old Havana Walking Tour in order to catch my bearings, but then just happily roamed on my own.

Old Havana Cuba

10. Stroll Paseo del Prado

Havana’s Paseo del Prado is an iconic promenade that dates back to 1772. Nicknamed “El Prado” by locals, it stretches for approximately 2.1 km north-south, separating Centro Habana from Old Havana. Breathe in the ocean air as you stroll along the Malecón (Havana’s seaside walkway) and end your walk at Parque de la Fuente de la India, where a stunning white marble statue honors Habana, the city’s indigenous namesake.


11. Marvel at Fusterlandia

About a half hour west from central Havana, Cuban artist José Fuster created a masterpiece of mosaic tilework in his home and the surrounding neighborhood – Fusterlandia. It is street art unlike any I have ever seen! His home is decked out in a rainbow of bright colored tiles that has spilled over to the surrounding houses as well.

It’s an Instagrammers dream!

Fusterlandia Annette

TIP: It’s a couple dollar donation to get into Casa de Fuster located in the district of Jaimanitas, but you will need to choose a way to visit there. The easiest and quickest way is to take a yellow taxi or vintage car, this is what I did and it cost around 20 CUC ($20 USD). Or if you are more adventurous (and want to save lots of money!) attempt to navigate the local bus system. The MetroBus map can get confusing, but a ride will cost only about 1 CUP. You can take the P1 or P4 to get to the Playa stop. From here it’s about a 30 minute walk along Avenida Quinta or it’s possible to catch a local bus at Playa to take you to Jaimanitas (ask the bus drivers).

Fusterlandia
Fusterlandia Havana

12. Take a Day Trip to Viñales

Havana may have its charm, but the breathtaking beauty of Cuba really shows at Viñales Valley. Just a scenic 2.5-hour drive away, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has picture-perfect mogote mountains, lush green valleys where world-famous cigars are grown, and crystal-clear rivers perfect for a cool-down. You’ll visit traditional tobacco farms, peek into prehistoric caves, and maybe even learn to roll a mean Cuban cigar – all in a day’s adventure! 


13. Pay Your Respect at Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón Cemetery

Cementario de Cristóbal Colón (Colon Cemetery) is not your typical cemetery, it has over 800,000 graves in its 57 hectares (about 141 acres). It is known for elaborately sculptured tombs where bishops, politicians, artists, scientists and sports figures lay. You will want to plan a little more time than you think because it is so big and known as one of the most remarkable cemeteries in the world.

TIPS: It is well worth the $5 CUC cost to get in, and a map is always available for purchase at the entrance. But, be sure to go early or on a cloudy day, there are not a lot of places to rest and it can get uncomfortably hot. PS: The Hop On – Hop Off bus makes a stop there or any taxi driver should know where it is.

Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón Cemetery

14. Go to a Baseball Game at Estadio Latinoamericano

Baseball is the national sport in Cuba, and attending a game at Estadio Latinoamericano is just the perfect way to immerse yourself in their culture. All I can say is that the locals are incredibly passionate and vocal, especially when cheering on Havana’s sole baseball team, Industriales. There’s often singing, dancing, and drumming throughout the game. 

TIPS: Games at Estadio Latinoamericano are often cheap — roughly $3 for tourists. You can buy them at the stadium on game day. If you’re planning to catch a baseball game in Havana, you can time it with their baseball season (which runs from late November to early May.)


15. See the Tropicana Show

Let me tell you, Havana nights are something special, and the Tropicana Show takes the cake! Stepping into that open-air venue, surrounded by lush gardens (seriously, it’s 36,000 square meters of tropical paradise!), feels like being transported to another era.

The cabaret’s energy is electric – where the music is pulsating, the dancers move like nobody’s watching (but everyone is!), and the costumes are straight out of a dream.


16. Go to the Sunday Rumba Party at Callejón de Hamel

Callejón de Hamel is a great place to go any time for its unconventional street art and funky art shops, but on Sunday afternoons the place takes it to another level with a party that immerses you deep in the culture of Havana – let’s rumba!

Callejón de Hamel Annette

Around noon, Callejón comes to life with a live rumba party. Locals and tourists alike cram into the small space to watch as musicians and dancers perform.

Callejón de Hamel
Callejón de Hamel Havana

17. Visit Ernest Hemingway’s House, Finca Vigía

The famous writer Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba for quite some time (around the 1940s), at a house on a hilltop in the San Antonio de los Baños neighborhood called Finca Vigía. Following his death in 1961, the house was turned into a museum, dedicated to his life as a writer. You can see some of his personal belongings, furniture, hunting trophies, and writing materials. They even have a nice view of the Havana coastline.

And for an even more authentic Hemingway experience, you MUST check out a couple of his favorite haunts as well, such as El Floridita (said to be the birthplace of his favorite cocktail, the Papa Doble), La Bodeguita (they have delicious mojitos!), and Hotel Ambos Mundos (specifically room 511, which has been preserved as a museum in his honor).


18. See the Parisienne Dinner Show at Hotel Nacional

Craving for a night of glitz and glamor with a taste of Cuban culture? Look no further than the Parisienne Dinner Show at Havana’s iconic Hotel Nacional. 

Held in the historic Cabaret Parisien (which has wowed and continues to wow audiences since the 1930s), the show celebrates Cuba’s rich heritage through a vibrant fusion of dance, music, and costumes reflecting Indo-American, Hispanic, and African influences.


19. Learn to Salsa

If you love to dance to Latin grooves then Salsa is a perfect thing to learn while in Cuba – salsa is in their blood. You can learn to light up the dance floor, burn some of those extra mojito calories and spice up the mood too.

At La Casa del Son, you can get a one on one private lesson that is perfect for the novice or someone who wants to perfect their skills. After class, take your talents to the streets and hit up one of Havana’s best Cuban dance clubs. Try your fancy footwork at Diablo Tun Tun or El Turquino.


20. Walk the Malecón Esplanade

The Malecón esplanade is an 8 km stretch aside the Havana picturesque seaside. Many will hire a vintage car taxi to drive them the length, but you will get so much more out of walking the distance, making stops along the way. You can make an afternoon of interacting with the strolling locals, watching the fisherman, eating at one of the Paladares, marveling at the colonial architecture and so much more.

Try to time it just right so you will see the sunset while you stroll, or even better, when you reach Hotel Nacional and are sipping a mojito on their terrace that overlooks the malecón.

Malecon Havana

21. Ride in a Taxi Particular

Let’s face it, sometimes getting from point A to point B in Havana deserves to be an adventure in itself. That’s where Taxi Particulares (private taxis) come in! What makes it better than your usual taxi (at least appearance-wise) is that these bad boys are vintage American cars. 

Your ride might be a cherry-red Chevy Bel Air from the 50s or a sleek turquoise Buick from the 60s on the next one. Sure, there might be a little back-and-forth about the fare, but that’s all part of the fun.


22. See the El Cañonazo de las Nueve

Fortaleza de San Carlos de La Cabaña is an impressive 18th century fortress complex along the Havana sea where the el cañonazo de las nueve (a live cannon fire) happens every evening at 9:00pm sharp. Initially this shot was to announce the opening/closing of the fort’s gates, but today it is just a reminder of Cuban traditions.

Make sure to plan your visit much earlier because the event starts well before the cannon fire at nine. Beforehand, traditionally uniformed soldiers march through the complex performing in an entertaining parade.


23. GO TO A JAZZ CLUB

Cuba has rich rhythm and soul in their bloods, and it can be experienced from one of the many jazz clubs in Havana. Even while walking through the Old Town late at night the music and dance will be spilling into the streets. Or make a point to go to La Zorra y el Cuervo, the most famous jazz club in Havana, where every evening at 10:00pm brings a different musician.


24. Visit Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta

At the entrance to Havana Bay stands a fortress which protected Havana’s waters for centuries from pirate attacks and privateers, the Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta (or La Punta Fort). This 16th century fort was part of four other fortresses (one of which is El Morro, which is found directly across it) to safeguard the harbor entrance back in the day.

Today, the fort is now a museum housing Spanish colonial artifacts. You can see things like binoculars and spyglasses (a type of telescope used by pirates and explorers), small ship models (look for the big Galleon model!), and old coins found in the fort’s waters. 

Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta

25. Step Inside Convento e Iglesia de la Merced

One of the oldest churches in Havana, the Convento e Iglesia de la Merced is an 18th-19th century complex consisting of a church (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Merced) and a former monastery (Convento de la Merced).

While it looks simple from the outside, the real magic waits for you inside, with beautiful Baroque architecture featuring ornate altars, sculptures, and religious paintings (especially the ceiling, a la Sistine Chapel.)


26. Visit Castillo de la Real Fuerza

Want to see the oldest stone fort in Havana (and possibly in the Americas)? Then head over to the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Old Havana. It was built in 1577 to help defend against pirate attacks and foreign invasion.

The outside of the fort is really cool, even by itself, with lots of cannons and statues on display. You can also go inside after paying a small fee and crossing a small drawbridge.

Inside, there’s the Navigation Museum. It tells the story of Cuba’s maritime past and has things like old navigation tools, weapons, small models of ships, and displays about the Spanish treasure ships.

When you reach the top, don’t forget to check out the replica of the “La Giraldilla” weathervane on the west tower, an iconic symbol of Havana.

Castillo de la Real Fuerza

27. Hike to a Waterfall

Confession: I wasn’t exactly expecting waterfall hikes on my Havana Bucket List. But let me tell you, it’s just the kind of nature escapade that sounds pretty darn perfect. Here are my top 3 picks for a day trip escape, all within driving distance of Havana:

  • Parque Escaleras de Jaruco (22.56 miles / 36.3 km): This protected area boasts gentle walking trails that weave through lush vegetation. Take a dip in the cool waters of the park’s waterfall (Salto de Soroa) and keep an eye out for a white flower that resembles a butterfly – Cuba’s national flower, the White Ginger.
  • El Nicho Waterfalls (175.5 miles / 283 km): A paradise for nature lovers, El Nicho features multiple waterfalls, swimming holes, and lush rainforests. Be prepared for a more challenging hike rewarded by breathtaking scenery.
El Nicho Waterfalls
  • Salto de Soroa (53.69 miles / 86.4 km): Nicknamed “The Rainbow of Cuba,” this waterfall is known for its dramatic cascades and vibrant rainbows after rainfall. The hike is relatively easy, making it perfect for families with children.

28. Sit on the Park Bench with John Lennon

Looking for a unique photo op in Havana? Head to John Lennon Park in the Vedado district, where a bronze John Lennon chills on a park bench – forever frozen in a contemplative pose. The inscription at his feet is in Spanish (Dirás que soy un soñador pero no soy el único), but translated it means “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,” which is a line from his iconic song “Imagine.”


29. Explore the Museo del Ron Havana Club

The Museo del Ron Havana Club, located in a gorgeous 18th-century mansion, is all about Cuba’s most famous export: rum! Take a guided tour and discover the story of sugarcane cultivation on the island, the intricate rum-making process, and the unique varieties of Havana Club.

And the best part? The tour ends with a complimentary tasting of Havana Club 7 rum – consider it your reward for surviving history class (with a smile). 

Museo del Ron Havana Club

30. Hang Out at Parque Central

After a whirlwind tour of fortresses and cathedrals, Parque Central was a breath of fresh air (literally, those palm trees provide some serious shade!). Finding a spot under one felt like claiming my own little patch of Havana.

The highlight? Spotting the statue of José Martí, Cuba’s national hero, surrounded by exactly 28 palm trees (I counted!). While you’re chilling, take a peek at the architectural gems surrounding the park. The Gran Teatro de La Habana is a real showstopper, and the Hotel Inglaterra is steeped in history.


31. Visit the Plazas

The heart and soul of Havana are its plazas, each with a distinct charm of its own. Top your Havana bucket list with a visit to these vibrant squares:

Plaza de la Catedral: Take in the breathtaking example of baroque architecture that is the Havana Cathedral. Browse local crafts at the surrounding stalls, or simply enjoy the ambience.

Plaza de la Catedral
Plaza de la Catedral

Plaza de San Francisco: History buffs will love this plaza, dominated by the imposing San Francisco de Asis Basilica. Climb the belfry for panoramic city views, or wander through the neighboring streets and imagine Havana’s colonial past.

Plaza Vieja: Meaning “Old Square,” this lively plaza is a popular gathering spot known for its colonial architecture and vibrant atmosphere. Get to the top of Hotel de Los Frailes and see the Camera Obscura for a quirky 360-degree view of the cityscape.

Plaza Vieja

32. See the Christ of Havana

Perched on a hilltop overlooking the bay, the Christ of Havana is a sight that stops you in your tracks. Think Christ the Redeemer’s Cuban cousin, minus the crowds. Built from Carrara marble (fancy Italian stuff!), this majestic statue is a symbol of hope and a great escape from the bustling city.


33. See the Havana El Capitolio (National Capitol Building)

The first time I laid eyes on El Capitolio at the heart of Havana, my jaw hit the floor. Towering columns, intricate carvings, and a dome that seems to stretch forever – El Capitolio has got serious grandeur.

While the building no longer houses the Cuban Congress, it’s still a powerful symbol of the nation’s history and a popular spot for tours. 

Fun fact: El Capitolio is actually bigger than its counterpart in Washington D.C.

Havana El Capitolio

34. Take a Free Walking Tour

Here’s a Havana hack you won’t find in a guidebook: free walking tours! These tours are led by passionate locals who’ll spill the tea on hidden alleyways, revolutionary secrets, and the best spots to grab a steaming cup of Cuban coffee. I mean, who knows Havana better than the Habaneros/Habaneras themselves, right? The tours range from walking through Old Havana, going on a pub crawl, or even a street food tour.

Free walking tour operates on a “tip what you think it’s worth” basis, meaning you don’t need to pay anything beforehand (but you still need to book a slot.) Tips usually range from $10 to $15, but could go lower or higher depending on your experience. So, if the guide wows you with fascinating history and hidden alleyway detours (which is usually the case), show your appreciation!


35. Visit The Lungs of Havana / El Bosque de la Habana

The El Bosque de la Habana is a large urban park located along the banks of Almendares River. It is said to be the greenest area in the city, which is why it earned the nickname “The Lungs of Havana.” Breathe in fresh air under the shade of towering trees (some all the way from Africa!), have a picnic by the Almendares River, or maybe even spot birds happily flitting from the trees’ branches.


36. Watch the Sunrise at Morro Castle

Sunsets get all the glory (I mean, they ARE beautiful), but Havana’s sunrise at El Morro Castle deserves a spot on your bucket list. Also known by its full name Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro (Castle of the Three Kings of the Morro), this historic fortress is located at the harbor’s entrance, adjacent to La Punta Fort. 

Aside from the views, the fort features massive walls, cannons, tunnels, and a lighthouse (which was added in 1844.) And for an extra fee, you can climb the lighthouse for stunning views of the sea and Havana. The fort also houses the Maritime Museum, which delves into Cuba’s fascinating maritime history.

P.S. Much like Fortaleza de San Carlos de La Cabaña, they also do the 9PM “el Cañonazo de las nueve” cannon fire here as well.

Morro Castle

37. Visit Havana’s Jardin Botánico

Need a moment of pure Zen? The Jardín Botánico Nacional is your answer! This 600-hectare garden is home to a collection of over 4,000 plant species, from towering palms (over 250 varieties!) to fascinating displays showcasing Cuba’s rich history of using plants for food and medicine.


38. Go to the Museo de Bellas Artes

If you’re looking to add a touch of cultural sophistication to your Havana adventure, then the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is a must-visit. But get this – it’s not just one museum, but two! They are the Palacio de Bellas Artes and Palacio del Centro Asturiano.

The Palacio de Bellas Artes (near Memorial Granma/Museo de la Revolución) is dedicated entirely to Cuban art, with works from the 17th century right up to the present day.

Palacio del Centro Asturiano, located next to Parque Central, is home to an amazing collection of international art, from European masterpieces to thought-provoking pieces by Latin American and North American artists.

Where (& What) to Eat and Drink

39. Have a Cuba Libre by the Pool at El Presidente Hotel

Let me tell you, after tumbling up those charming but uneven Havana sidewalks, a Cuba Libre by the El Presidente pool (Hotel Roc Presidente) in Vedado is pure bliss. This refreshing rum and cola cocktail is the island’s signature drink, and is just the perfect poolside companion. 


40. Have an Authentic Cuban Meal

What better way to fuel your Havana adventures than with Cuba’s most authentic eats? Head over to a paladar/paladares, family-run restaurant, or street food vendor and help yourself with a serving of Cuban dishes such as:

  • Ropa Vieja – Cuba’s national dish. Tender shredded beef cooked in a rich tomato-based sauce with aromatics and spices. It’s usually served with white rice, black beans, and tostones (fried plantains).
Ropa Vieja
  • Fricasé de pollo (Cuban chicken fricassee) – features marinated chicken thighs and legs which are stewed in a savory tomato-based sauce.
  • Chicharrones de cerdo – a crispy Cuban snack/appetizer made of deep-fried pork rind (or sometimes belly).
  • Congrí / arroz con moros y cristianos – this Cuban meal combines rice and black beans, which are then served with other Cuban mainstays like Ropa Vieja and Fricasé de pollo.

41. Eat at a Paladar

A paladar is a privately owned restaurant, typically located in a converted home and run by a family. It is one of the best ways to enjoy Cuban culture and cuisine. Many times you won’t even realize you are dining in paladar because they look just like a regular restaurant!

Paladar Annette Cuban Food

There are so many delicious ones to choose from, but I do have a few favorites where both the food and ambiance were on point. The very trendy O’Reilly 304 in Old Havana was a treat of Latin influenced foods and cocktails. For something more traditional, try Paladar Los Mercaderes that serves up mouthwatering Cuban dishes. Cafe Laurent is located on the top floor of a Vedado apartment complex (we even saw tenants taking out their trash on our way up!), but don’t let that discourage you. This paladar served up one of the best shredded pork dishes in Cuba with a chic ambiance.

The crème de la crème of paladares is the famous La Guarida. It is so bucket list worthy that it deserves to be it’s own bullet point (see below).

Paladar Havana Cuba

42. Dine at the Famous La Guarida

La Guarida is arguably the most famous paladar (and one of the priciest) in all of Havana. Located on the third floor in an apartment, the memorable experience starts on the ground floor where a wall with the Cuban flag leads you up a dilapidated staircase. The second level is fit for the scene of a movie with its naturally faux finished walls and rustic stone columns. When you finally arrive at the restaurant the food does not disappoint, neither does the ambiance.

Dinner for two (two entrees, one app, three glasses of wine) cost us $68. Even though it was the most expensive meal we had in Cuba, the same one would have cost us at least double in California.

TIP: Reservations are highly recommended, which you can make online, but be aware that due to limited internet access it may take a while to get a response.

La Guarida

43. Eat Street Food

Havana’s classic cars and vintage vibes are amazing, but trust me, your travel photos won’t be complete without a snap of you conquering a giant churro or downing a piping hot pastelito de guayaba.

Street food here is a traveler’s dream – it’s cheap, it’s delicious, and it’s the perfect way to experience local life.


44. Eat a Cubano Sandwich

Havana’s famous Cubano Sandwich is going to blow your taste buds off. Layers of flavorful roast pork, ham, cheese, and mustard, all expertly pressed between Cuban bread, create a masterpiece of a sandwich that is not to be missed. Some of my best picks to have this are Art Pub, Azúcar Lounge, and Lo de Monik.


45. Drink Mojitos on the Hotel Nacional Terrace

While walking along the Malecón, it’ll be hard to miss the iconic Hotel Nacional. The large historic hotel is perched on a hill giving it a view of the sea, harbor and old cars driving by. This is one of the reasons that their stunning garden terrace is so popular. ANOTHER IS THEIR MOJITOS.

Hotel Nacional Mojito Annette Peter

The mojito is their specialty drink and almost every outdoor table will have one on it. Even though I said that the mojitos at Fabrica de Arte Cubano were better, the terrace at Hotel Nacional more than makes up for it.

Hotel Nacional Sunset

46. Eat Mariquitas

Cubans are plantain pros, and Mariquitas de platanos are their crispy, salty answer to potato chips. Think thin, addictive slices of fried green plantain – the perfect pick-me-up for exploring those cobbled streets. It even pairs well with some garlic dipping sauce. You’ll find them everywhere, from street vendors to cafes. Just follow your nose (and the happy munching sounds) to score a piping-hot batch.


47. Toast Hemingway with a Daiquiri at El Floridita

El Floridita may be the most touristy bar in all of Havana (it is the quintessential thing to do in the city), but who wouldn’t want to go to the place Hemingway claimed makes the best daiquiri in the world? It’s located in the popular Old Havana, which only adds to the crowds (there’s almost always a line out the door).

Floridita Havana Annette

When you walk in musicians play, the crowd is energetic and the bartenders have the blenders on full speed with daiquiri glasses ready to roll. Plus, you can pose with the life-sized brass Hemingway.

TIPS: Don’t eat there, but it’s worth a quick cocktail stop. Make your daiquiri a double, that’s how Hemingway did it.

Floridita Havana

48. Learn to Make a Mojito

Learning to craft a mojito in Havana is an authentic Cuban experience that goes beyond simply enjoying a delicious drink. 

Mojito-making classes (like this one from Locally Sourced Havana Tours) will teach you the secrets behind muddling mint, the magic of freshly squeezed lime juice, and the art of finding the perfect rum-to-refrigeration ratio (yes, that’s a thing!).


49. Drink (& Eat) at La Bodeguita del Medio

Another favorite watering hole of Hemingway is La Bodeguita at the heart of Old Havana, near Cathedral Square. The bar is said to be the birthplace of mojito, a drink which Hemingway also loved (aside from daiquiris). You can see a plaque here with a quote from Hemingway: “My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita.

La Bodequita del Medio

Like El Floridita, the place is almost always packed (especially with tourists.) If you’re lucky to get a spot, be sure to try out their ropa vieja (along with the mojito, of course).

La Bodequita del Medio Mojito

50. Try Cuban Coffee at the Best Cafes

Craving a coffee fix with a cultural kick? Havana’s cafes serve up some of the world’s strongest brews – think espresso on steroids! Cuban coffee packs a punch (or maybe an uppercut) – stronger and sweeter than your usual cup of joe. To get your caffeine fix in style, hit up these legendary cafes:

  • El Café: a hidden spot in Old Havana, along Amargura Street (#358 to be exact). And when I say hidden, I mean the cafe literally has no signages, save for a line of customers waiting outside. This one is a local favorite, especially for its coffee and breakfast/brunch options.
  • Cafe Arcangel: Another local favorite, in Central Havana. Be sure to check out their collection of Starbucks mugs from customers around the world!
  • Cuba Libro: This bookstore cafe in Old Havana is a literary haven, perfect for getting lost in a good book and a cup of their bold Cuban brew.
  • Cafetalex: while this one is more of a restaurant than a cafe, they do serve a Cuban coffee called Café Mambi, which is a must-try.

Where to Stay

51. Stay in a Casa Particular

There are only a handful of hotels in Havana and they are mostly owned by the government, so are very expensive (typically $300+ per night). It is more common for visitors to stay in a Cuban’s private home (casa particular) or B&B, which is way more economical and a local experience. 

Casa Particular in Havana Cuba

Check out my recommended Airbnb rentals in Havana or head over to Airbnb yourself to do a search. This is where you can easily find a room in a cute house for under $50 per night.

I stayed at the lovely Mi Case Tu Casa, which was a little pricier. But, it had excellent reviews, breakfast was included and there was internet access. Plus, its location was right across the street from the larger Hotel Presidente, where the hop on hop off bus stopped, there were always taxis available, we could exchange money and listen to music on the patio. It was a lovely stay and I would highly recommend it!

Casa-Particular-Home-Havana
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More Things to Do in The Cuba 

22 thoughts on “Havana Bucket List: 51 Things to Do In Cuba’s Capital”

    • From what I experienced, prime time for lunch was around 12:00 and dinner at about 7:30 or 8:00. Many restaurants will open at 7:00pm for dinner so if you are trying to beat the crowd I’d go right at opening (or earlier than 7:00 if the restaurant has earlier hours).

      Reply
  1. Wow, i can’t help but fall in love with this bucket list in particular. Look at those beautiful shots. Such a wonder. Emphasizing all these engineered architectural designs like no other. Thank you for sharing this list, BLJ! :)

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  2. I will be traveling to Cuba soon and stumbled on to your site. I love it! I love your long bucket list and all the things you have experienced. Thanks for sharing everything here!

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  3. Thank you for writing the most helpful posts about traveling to havana (what you need to know) and where to go. ❤

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  4. Hi, Annete.

    Congratulations on your article, it is impossible to summarize in one text the best of Havana, I live many months there and there are infinite places that exist, is a city of 2 million inhabitants.

    I would like to be able to complete your excellent article with some places that usually we only know those who live there, I hope they are interesting for your readers.

    Restaurant Focsa, the highest and least known restaurant in Havana.

    https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g147271-d1972535-r483233755-Edificio_Focsa-Havana_Ciudad_de_la_Habana_Province_Cuba.html

    Visit the Barrio de Regla by taking a small boat in front of the Hotel Armadores de Santander.

    https://www.tripadvisor.es/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g147271-d311981-i205658331-Regla-Havana_Ciudad_de_la_Habana_Province_Cuba.html

    I would also like to contribute a selection of my photographic projects on Cuba to know a little more the idiosyncrasy of this country.

    http://photographingcuba.com/photo-cuban-essays-by-louis-alarcon

    Again, congratulations on your excellent article.

    Reply
  5. Do you suggest visiting Vinales for a day or staying overnight? Is it really worth only visiting for the day for a 4 hour round trip ride?

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  6. Hi Annette,

    Thanks for the info about Havana.
    My family and I will be visiting the capital in the New Year. My boys are 12 & 15 years old, any suggestions of absolute must sees? We will be spending an entire day and evening but will not be spending the night. I’ve asked them to research the capital and pick one thing that they would like to do. My 76 yr old father in law, who’s in amazing shape, will be with us as well. Any tips you could provide will be appreciated.

    Thank you and I enjoyed reading your blog.

    Reply
    • With two boys of that age I would say the one thing you would have to do is ride around in an old convertible. There are so many to choose from and they can even take you to some of the highlights.

      And definitely explore the Old Havana. It has tons of shops and cool restaurants that they should enjoy.

      Have a great time!

      Reply
  7. I found Havana is way cheaper than you described Taxi from airport to central Havana 20 cuc . Airbnb 30 cuc, huge meals 6 or 7 cuc, Heineken 1 cuc

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    • Hey!
      I have seen that woman (side profile) street art piece myself when I visited Havana but does anyone know here which street she can be found?
      Thank you!

      Reply

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Annette White the Owner of Bucket List Journey
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