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The history of Cuba, through its incredible cities, that make you know the roots of this place, roots embedded in the cobbled streets, in the colonial buildings, in the small balconies, in the narrow blinds, in the faces of the people . Roots that will come back with you as a nostalgic memory when you leave this earth.
The City is the benchmark par excellence of the culture of a region or nation. There are labyrinthine or open streets, noisy or silent; ultramarine, mountainous, large cities or small towns that weave mysteries, legends and secrets. Each and every one hides or shows its magic to the visitor. It all depends on the eyes that look, search or simply observe.
In the Cuba destination, styles as diverse as the cultural branches that form it, are mixed in the architecture of squares, parks and buildings that speak of history and heritage.Primate cities, monument cities, hero cities are discovered, and one approaches during the trip to historical centers recognized by UNESCO, fortifications, former defense against attacks by corsairs and pirates, groves, and walks.
Emblematic theaters, cathedrals, museums, cinemas, bookstores and galleries; nightlife, recreational, gastronomic centers are inserted between houses and inhabitants who are represented in the smallest details painted by time.
Cuba is her city and the people who shape it, breathe, transit and live in it and from Cabo de San Antonio to Punta de Maisí invite you to discover it.
1. Havana: the contrasts of my Havana
Declared one of the seven wonder cities of the world, Havana is a mixture of music, tradition, culture, history. Havana is a city of contrasts, it is that Havana of white sheets hung on the balconies and lots, but at the same time it is that Havana of overwhelming colors.
Its foundation came to life under the name of San Cristóbal de La Habana, in the year 1514. Today it is one of the most populated cities in Cuba. Visiting the capital of the island is something that you can do in any season, since its warm climate remains almost during the 12 months.
The typical walk along the Havana Malecón, or simply sitting on the wall to look at the sea, is something that you cannot stop doing when you visit it. You can even participate in a myth that we Havanans still preserve: throw a coin into the waters of the boardwalk and make a wish, for surely the Virgin of Regla will grant it.
The best way to get to know this city is to walk its streets, feed the pigeons in one of the squares in Havana, take a picture with the sculpture of the Knight of Paris while you hold his beard, because for Havanans it is a symbol of good luck. . Visit the Cathedral of Havana, the Capitol, walk along the Paseo del Prado.
You cannot miss visiting the Floridita and having a daiquiri or going to the Bodeguita del Medio to order a mojito. A little before nine o’clock at night, stop by La Cabaña and experience the Cannon Shot Ceremony, which some time ago closed the city.
As the night is young, you can go dancing or listen to good music in the many bars and clubs that brighten up the Havana night. Havana is one of the most touristic cities in Cuba. You live morning or night! Enjoy the city to the fullest, feel the experience as one more Cuban!
2. Matanzas: between beach and city
Among the cities of Cuba, Matanzas is one of the most touristic. Known as the Athens of Cuba, it is the second largest province on the island. It was founded at the end of the 17th century, near the Yurumí, San Juan and Canímar rivers.
Do you wonder which are the Cuban cities with beaches? Well, Matanzas is one of them. It has a pleasant tropical climate almost all year round, which is why it attracts many travelers eager for the sun and the Caribbean sea. One of its main attractions? Without a doubt, Varadero beach, a Caribbean paradise waiting for you and one of the main beaches in Cuba.
Matanzas has an active nightlife and due to its proximity to Varadero it is said that the parties at night become one. There is a great variety of cabarets and discos where you can listen and dance to music, and cool off with the seductive Cuban cocktails.
But, in addition, Matanzas shelters two of the main caves in Cuba: Saturno and Bellamar. So if these depths are your thing, do not hesitate to make Matanzas a mandatory point on your trip to Cuba.
Instead, if you prefer something authentic and feel the original Cuban flavor, the city of Matanzas is a good option. Its ruined and charming neoclassical colonial buildings, Catholic churches, various museums and the theater will be some of the buildings that may attract your attention.
The Pharmaceutical Museum is one of the places that you cannot miss. It is unique in its style in all of America. There you will find various old tools that were used at the time to make medicines and you will also be able to see old recipe books with more than a million original recipes.
3.Cienfuegos: the city of music
“Cienfuegos is the city that I like the most…” That’s what El Benny, one of the most popular Cuban singers, said, and maybe you’ll say the same about her.Cienfuegos is one of the most important cities in Cuba, as it is considered the second most significant city. The Pearl of the South, as it is also known, is considered a World Heritage Site.
What to do and see in Cienfuegos? A walk through the José Martí Central Plaza will make you discover exactly what the city looks like. You can enter the Gran Teatro Tomás Terry, very colorful for its gold leaf mosaics.
If you are interested in the colonial history of the city, then the Provincial Museum is the best option. Feel the sensation as you board a ferry, which crosses the bay to the famous 18th century fortress, Castillo de Jagua. You cannot exclude a visit to its dolphinarium from your trip to Cienfuegos. You will be able to swim with dolphins, as you have always dreamed of. Quite an experience to tell.
The city’s artistic movement is a fiery reverberation. Galleries such as the Marilyn Monroe Workshop, located in Prado, stand out. The Sauto Theater also stands out, one of the architectural jewels of the city.
A little compás in the legs and a good drink make the night wonderful. Visit the Costa Azul bar, at the foot of the bay, or what other place better than Benny Moré’s own Club with excellent gastronomic options, good music and good prices.
It is said that good memories are taken in photographs, so to remember these wonderful moments, take a photo next to the statue of El Benny that is on Paseo del Parado. Come to the city of El Benny, feel its sound.
4. Camagüey: the city of the jars
It is one of the colonial cities of Cuba and one of the oldest in the entire country. This city pleasantly surprises everyone who decides to visit it. Its plains and abundant species of palm trees characterize the landscape. Its foundation happened at the dawn of the 16th century, in the year 1514, under the name of Santa María del Puerto Príncipe.
When you enter the city you will have the opportunity to discover the history of Cuba through the narrow and labyrinthine streets. They always lead to hidden corners, where you will find Catholic buildings that have majestic monuments.
Do not hesitate to go through the San Juan de Dios Museum, an icon within the city of Camagüey and that formerly served as a hospital. During your walk, keep in mind the spacious squares and parks, such as the Carmen square or the Ignacio Agramonte park, where you will find several monuments that speak about the city and the island.
In the city of Camagüey you will find different types of accommodation and hotels, with an excellent location in the city center. Here are some suggestions: El Colonial, La Avellaneda and Santa María, all located on the main street of the city.
5. Trinidad: a colonial journey
When it comes to colonial cities in Cuba, Trinidad is the main one. It is one of the most visited tourist cities in Cuba, therefore, you cannot miss it when you come. It is small, perfect for a short stop. A tip: just follow your instinct and discover it.
Considered a World Heritage Site, it is distinguished for its handicrafts. History records that it was the third town founded in the country, but even today you can feel the colonial spirit of centuries ago.
It is an excellent destination for your trip, beautiful landscapes and a simply charming city will be waiting for you. The Don Justo Germán Cantero History Museum is going to open its doors to you with old pieces from the town.
You can also visit the Romantic Museum, its real estate reflects the architecture of yesteryear. A very popular place for the young generations is the Casa de la Trova, conceived for popular enjoyment, and of course, for your enjoyment.
Trinidad is currently considered a city-museum for its great colonial architectural heritage from the 18th and 19th centuries, among which are beautiful restored buildings, colorful churches and fantastic patios that add the typical atmosphere of the colony.
If you walk through its streets you will feel the authentic Cuban spirit and you will go back in time when the roads were not crowded with cars and life was a little more peaceful.Trinidad has an exquisite nightlife, with bars and discos that attract hundreds of locals and tourists every night, such as the prestigious La Canchánchara, a mandatory stop if you want to try the authentic Cuban cocktail: canchánchara.
6. Sancti Spíritus: between past and modernity
What are the best cities to visit in Cuba? Sancti Spiritus is one of them. It constitutes one of the first seven villas that were founded on the island by Diego Velázquez. Its fluvial origin may seduce you.
The name that currently distinguishes it was not granted until after the middle of the 19th century by Queen Elizabeth II. Before she was known as Magón, an aboriginal voice with which the first inhabitants of the island identified the region.
When you walk through the historic center, the interplay between the past and modernity will be evident. A large number of buildings preserve the air and colonial majesty, such as the Iglesia Parroquial Mayor, around which some urban legends have been woven. It is believed that a güije still lives in the remote spaces of the parish and that the pirates stole a rooster made of solid gold that was on the altar.
Do not resist during your walk to the beautiful arches that form the Yayabo Bridge over the river. Fun fact: this is the only surviving colonial bridge on the entire island, so take advantage of the experience of looking at the city from a place that has been there for a long time.
7. Santa Clara: Heritage Splendor
Villa Clara is one of those cities in Cuba to visit. It stands out for its patrimonial splendor and for the panache of its landscapes. Its foundation, unlike most of the cities visited so far, was not in the 16th century, but in the 17th.
It is said that in 1689 some families founded the city and in a short time it gained momentum and splendor due to a great fire that ravaged the alleys of Remedios and caused its population to move to the recently built Santa Clara.
Among the most important spaces that you must visit are the Teatro de la Caridad, the Mausoleo al Decarrilamiento, take and action against the armored train, and the Church of Carmen, all declared National Monuments.
If you travel with children, they will love visiting the El Bosque Zoo where an amusement park, mural painting and the charm of animals will make their day simply magical. After the hot and tiring trip to the zoo, don’t worry, an ideal place will be waiting for you: the Elegguá Spa, here you can swim and relax to the beat of the water.
The night life is very intense in this city, you can go to the theater, to various concerts and even to dance, if you feel like it. In addition, a large part of Cuba’s tourist keys are found in Villa Clara. If after touring the city you want to vacation in paradises of relaxation, here you will be close to them. Surely you are looking forward to visiting Santa Clara, right?
8. Holguín: the city of parks
Of the cities of Cuba, Holguín is one of those where you can enjoy the city walk and the peculiarities that the east of the country offers. The name of the city is in honor of Don García Holguín, a Spanish conqueror who decided to settle permanently in this place.
When you begin your walk, the architecture will appear above the other attractions, on the houses the roofs form channels with cisterns to collect the rainwater that falls, the layout of the streets is regular and precise, and in each park the colonial spirit. If you sit on her bench, you will almost feel the presence of some shy young lady fanning herself on the hot 19th century afternoons.
The construction of the parks is associated in its beginnings with a system of squares planned for the design of the city, which causes each of them to keep a particular charm. To enjoy the shade, go to Calixto García Park and Parque de las Flores, two of the most famous. Keep in mind that you will have to climb some steps.
If you want to buy some souvenir, you can visit the shops in the Plaza de la Marqueta, where, in addition, there are various gastronomic options so that you can recover from the walk. And don’t forget to go up the Loma de la Cruz if you want to have a panoramic view of the city.
9. Bayamo: the Cuban phoenix
After the ashes of a highly renowned fire more than a hundred years ago, one of the most visited cities in Cuba and capital of the province of Granma resurfaced: Bayamo. It was one of the first villas founded on the island, exactly in the year 1513, and managed to become a metaphor for colonial elegance during the 16th century.
The history of the city’s name is a mystery. Some believe that it was the name of the powerful Taino cacique who ruled the area before the colonizers arrived on the island, others believe that the name comes from the homonymous river that runs through the region, and a few attribute it to the Bayamo tree, very common in the region, which is associated in popular tradition with wisdom.
The historic center of Bayamo has been considered a National Monument since 1978. To get to know the interiors of this city, you cannot stop walking along Paseo-Boulevard Bayamés, the center of city commerce.
If you are interested in finding out about the past that the city protects, you can visit one of the 130 historical places it has, such as the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Birthplace Museum, the Plaza del Himno, a space where the notes of the national anthem, or the Church of San Salvador de Bayamo.
10. Santiago de Cuba: the hot land
Among the main tourist cities of the country is Santiago de Cuba. Like Havana, it is one of the most important cities in Cuba. When you visit Santiago you will feel the warmth of its land and the special way of its people. Its foundation as a town dates back to the year 1515, by the conquistador Diego Velázquez.
The city of Santiago is nourished by the bay, born from the sea and returns to it in every gesture of the air. Its foundations saw the rise of the first capital, felt the bare feet of the first men brought from Africa and forced to work.
During your walk you can rest in many of its parks, one of the most famous is Parque Céspedes. Then, we invite you to enter some of the most significant buildings in Santiago, such as the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, the Moncada Barracks, a place that reveals vestiges of a still recent history on its walls, and the Church of the Copper Charity.
If you’ve been in Santiago for a few days and the saltpeter in the bay makes you splash, don’t despair. Cuba is an island, the sea is everywhere. At Cazonal Beach or Baconao Beach you can bask in the Caribbean sun and relax next to the waves.
But if what you want is to dive in Cuba and you are dying to discover the mysteries of the seabed on this coast, you can go to the Carisol-Los Corales International Diving Center.
History of Cuba, through its cities
Undoubtedly, Cuba is one of the most interesting countries in the world, not only for the beauty of the beaches and natural landscapes that the island has, but also for its attractive historical sites. The Cathedral of Havana, Loma de la Cruz (Holguín), Trinidad, Varadero, Cienfuegos, among many others: mythical places that are worth knowing. The history of Cuba is unique in the world and through its different sites you can enjoy it.
Cities tell the story of a country, reflect the deepest dreams and make the trip a multiple experience. Do not limit yourself, discover an island that exquisitely mixes old construction, the sound of the sea and the mountain wind.