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10 free things to do in Havana

10 free things to do in Havana

by cubapura

All travelers who have visited Cuba agree upon one thing: the country is not a cheap tourist destination. Especially in its capital, Havana, the prices tend to be high, especially for all the services that are commonly used by tourists.

Read about why Cuba can be surprisingly expensive for tourists

The good news is that it is actually possible to enjoy your stay in Cuba without spending that much money. The secret is to avoid the typical famous tourist spots and activities, and focus on things that are freely available for anybody. These things may seem too simple at first, but they are a perfect way to feel the atmosphere of the city and get to know the authentic Cuba.

Walk around Old Havana.

Old Havana is one of the main sightseeing destinations within Cuba’s capital. It is a must for every tourist to explore its streets and marvel at the old colonial buildings. And the most important thing is that it is absolutely free! Sure, some museums in Old Havana do charge entrance fees, but others can be entered by anyone without any payment; and even if you skip on the numerous museums of Old Havana, just walking through this part of the city will provide you with a pretty good idea of the history and culture of Havana.

Stroll along the Obispo street.

Parque Central, Havana

Calle Obispo (Bishop Street) is a narrow alley that links two important spots of Old Havana: Plaza de Armas and Parque Central, which makes it one of the busiest streets of the city. On this street, where you can always feel the hustle and bustle of city life, there are numerous places of tourist interest, such as museums (some of which charge fees, but others are totally free), art galleries, historical sites, stores, and cafés.

Calle Obispo (Bishop Street) is a narrow alley that links two important spots of Old Havana: Plaza de Armas and Parque Central, which makes it one of the busiest streets of the city. On this street, where you can always feel the hustle and bustle of city life, there are numerous places of tourist interest, such as museums (some of which charge fees, but others are totally free), art galleries, historical sites, stores, and cafés.

Take a look from one of the viewpoints of Havana.

The Bacardi Building in Havana

There is no better way to fully admire the beauty of Havana than from above or from afar. There are many viewpoints that allow you to have a panoramic view of the city. They are mainly located on high buildings or on the other side of Havana Bay, where the fortresses of El Morro and La Cabaña are situated. From these places you can enjoy a view of the whole city and observe how all the diversity of sceneries existing in the city form a wonderful and unique singe picture.

Spend an evening on the Malecón.

Photo: Ettevi Wanderlust

The Malecón of Havana is an 8 kilometers long wall that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the city. It is said to be the most visited place in Havana, popular not only among tourists, but locals as well. Hundreds of people come here every day in order to drink, sing, dance, and just have fun with their friends, so the atmosphere on the Malecón after sunset is always merry and lively. On the Malecón you can always make new acquaintances and feel like you are an ordinary Cuban, spending your free time like the locals do.

Ask locals to teach you Salsa.

Cubans are known around the world for liking to dance. In fact, Cuba is the country of origin of several dancing styles, and almost all the Cuban people know at least the basic moves of these dances. As music can be heard anywhere in Cuba, you can join the people dancing Salsa right on the streets! Do not be shy to try following the movements of the Cuban dancers or ask for help in learning Salsa. Any Cuban would be happy to teach you, so that you can enjoy the music together with the locals.

Take some wonderful pictures.

Vintage cars on the streets of Havana

Even while most of the popular tourist activities require spending some money, there are some exceptions for this rule, and one of the most obvious ones is photography. Havana is a very picturesque city, and you will not regret it if you spend a little time trying to take some good shots. Aside from pictures of the beautiful colonial architecture, there is one kind of photos that can only be taken in Cuba: photos of countless old classic cars. Almost all vehicles in Cuba have been made before 1960, and now they look very beautiful and exotic, which makes them popular among tourists.

Listen to the stories of the locals.

Another activity that you can pursue absolutely free, is to talk to the Cuban people and ask them to share their experiences with you. Knowing at least some Spanish will be of great help if you want to do this, but even if you do not, Cubans will do their best trying to speak English in order to make you understand them. Most Cubans will not only be glad to tell you about their everyday lives in the country, but also guide you around the city and give you some useful advice you may need while traveling in Cuba.

Admire the Cuban art at Callejón de Hamel.

Callejón de Hamel is a two-block long alley in Centro Habana neighborhood, filled with mosaics, bright paintings, sculptures, and other forms of abstract and surrealistic art. Many of the artworks are made from improvised materials such as bathtubs, pinwheels, et cetera. It is often called the shrine of Afro-Cuban culture, because most of the sculptures represent deities from African religions. Another reason to visit this art center is the rumba dancers and musicians who perform there on weekends. The place is also a spot where Cuban artists, musicians and intellectuals often meet up.

See more art at Fusterlandia.

Another important spot where the Cuban art can be seen for free is Fusterlandia. It is located in the district of Jaimanitas, which was transformed by the artists José Fuster into a huge colorful piece of art. Over the course of several years he decorated several blocks of the neighborhood with colored tiles, covering streets, buildings, bus stops, fountains, et cetera with mosaics. If you are lucky enough, you may have the chance of meeting the artist in person and observe him while he creates his masterpieces. If you want to support the project, you may buy original artwork in Fusterlandia, but it is not compulsory to pay anything in order to enjoy the art.

Visit the beaches near Havana.

Things to do in Havana
Playas del Este

Although Cuba is mainly known for the beaches that are located outside its capital, such as Varadero and the many keys composing the archipelago, there are some beaches inside Havana. They are known as Playas del Este (Eastern Beaches) and include seven different villages: Santa Maria del Mar, Guanabo, Boca Ciega, Bacuranao, Megano, Mi Cayito, and Tarara. The beaches here are not as good as the ones in Varadero, as the place is a recreational spot for the locals, rather than tourists, but it still is a great place to enjoy the white sands and ocean waters.

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