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Old Havana picture in Havana
Jose Manuel Azcona / Getty Images

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  • Cafes, Churches/Religious Sites, Entertainment and Nightlife, Historic Homes/Mansions, Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Neighborhood/Area Type
  • 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.8
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    5.0
  • Food Scene
    4.0
  • Atmosphere
    4.5

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Skipping Old Havana is tantamount to missing Parliament if you're in London or the Eiffel Tower if you're in Paris. This picturesque neighborhood is not just iconic to Havana and Cuba, but also to the world. In the early 1980s, Old Havana was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to the impressive preservation of some of the area's centuries-old architecture. Walking through Old Havana, you'll see a plethora of architectural styles, including baroque and neoclassical design elements, decorated in the brightest of colors. The neighborhood is also brimming with equally picturesque cobblestone-lined plazas, automobiles that look like they belong in museums and throngs of equally interesting people, whether they be Cuban street entertainers or awestruck world travelers.

The perimeters of Old Havana are actually the old borders of the city present in the 16th century. In the beginning of its heyday, Old Havana was a thriving port town owned by the Spanish. Often called the "Key to the New World," Havana was attractive for offering access to the Atlantic, which made shipping new riches from the Americas back to Spain an easy feat. Although the Spaniards' occupation eventually came to an end, they left behind a significant architectural style.

When visiting, stop by one or all of the five plazas left behind by the Spanish, including Plaza de Armas, and marvel at the walls of the city's fortifications, including the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the first stone fortification built in the Americas. The neighborhood is also filled with restaurants, shopping, entertainment options and top attractions, including the Museo de la Revolución and the Museum of Fine Arts, which are a block away from each other. Even though the neighborhood is notoriously referred to as the tourist part of town, recent visitors enjoyed taking a stroll and recommended everyone do the same at least once. Others also suggested springing for a guided tour, as it's easy to miss the rich history that once lived among these vibrant streets. Havana Tour Company and Intrepid Urban Adventures offer tours of the neighborhood with English-speaking guides that last 3 to 3½ hours, for a fee. Old Havana is open year-round and there's no admission charge.

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Buena Vista Images / Getty Images

#2 Old Havana (Habana Vieja) Skipping Old Havana is tantamount to missing Parliament if you're in London or the Eiffel Tower if you're in Paris. This picturesque neighborhood is not just iconic to ... Read more » Jose Manuel Azcona / Getty Images

#3 Plaza Vieja Of all the picturesque plazas that dot Old Havana, Plaza Vieja is considered to be the neighborhood's main square. The cobblestone-lined plaza is flanked by brightly colored baroque and ... Read more » Jacques van Dinteren / Getty Images

#4 Plaza de la Catedral If you're one of those travelers who believes that if you've seen one plaza you've seen them all, then you clearly haven't been to Plaza de ... Read more » Rosita So Image / Getty Images

#5 Museum of Fine Arts (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana) This museum houses the largest collection of art in the country and is separated into two buildings; one for Cuban art housed in the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and (two ... Read more » El Toñio / Wikicommons

#6 Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolucion) There is no better place for a crash course on the country's history than the Museo de la Revolución. The museum chronicles the life and times before the revolution ... Read more » Lorne Resnick / Getty Images

#7 Finca Vigia Havana is known for a lot of things – vintage automobiles, lively locals, beautiful buildings – but one individual who has remained just as synonymous with Cuba's capital for so long ... Read more » Bruce Tuten / Flickr

#8 Playas del Este After a couple of days touring the capital, you may find yourself in need of a break from the hustle and bustle. If so, seek a side trip to Playas ... Read more » tupungato / Getty Images

#9 Plaza de la Revolucion Of all the plazas that populate Havana, politicos can't miss this one. Plaza de la Revolución is proof that, despite recent lifted restrictions, Castro's Cuba is still very ... Read more » M G Therin Weise / Getty Images

El Malecón picture in Havana
Old Havana picture in Havana
Plaza Vieja picture in Havana
Plaza de la Catedral picture in Havana
Museum of Fine Arts picture in Havana
Museum of the Revolution picture in Havana
Finca Vigia picture in Havana
Playas del Este picture in Havana
Plaza de la Revolucion picture in Havana
El Malecón picture in Havana
Old Havana picture in Havana
Plaza Vieja picture in Havana
Plaza de la Catedral picture in Havana
Museum of Fine Arts picture in Havana
Museum of the Revolution picture in Havana
Finca Vigia picture in Havana
Playas del Este picture in Havana
Plaza de la Revolucion picture in Havana

This 5-mile-long seaside boulevard is popular among locals and tourists. To experience El Malecón like the locals, visit at night when the Habaneros come out to play.  Buena Vista Images / Getty Images

Old Havana is not only considered to be the heart of the capital, but it's also a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Jose Manuel Azcona / Getty Images

Considered the city's main square, Plaza Vieja is lined with restaurants, art galleries and some quirky art, in addition to its colorful architecture. Jacques van Dinteren / Getty Images

This plaza is a favorite among visitors for its stunning 18th-century cathedral. To avoid crowds, plan your trip when cruise ships aren't docked. Rosita So Image / Getty Images

El Toñio / Wikicommons

Artifacts on display at this museum include blood-stained uniforms from the revolution, a tank used in the Bay of Pigs and bullet holes in the walls from an attempted assassination. Lorne Resnick / Getty Images

Ernest Hemingway called Havana home for a whopping 22 years. Although visitors cannot enter his former home, travelers say views from the open doors and windows offer excellent vantage points. Bruce Tuten / Flickr

Five miles of Caribbean beaches lie just 11 miles east of Havana. The shoreline consists of six separate beaches, each with a different personality and set of amenities.   tupungato / Getty Images

An estimated 1 million Cuban citizens gather at this plaza on International Workers' Day on May 1. Annual festivities include speeches from top officials, including the Castros. M G Therin Weise / Getty Images

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