Our First Visit To Colourful Havana

First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Arriving In Havana

After a day visit to Key West, our Oceania Cruises cruise ship headed to Cuba for the Christmas holidays. The sun came up as we approached the port in Havana. Everything was cast in a glow. The port was right in the downtown. Onboard policies and processes seemed a bit confusing to us Canadians, since we are free to visit Cuba whenever we want to. But with our paperwork and passport, it was a quick process to get out of the port. It was our first visit to colourful Havana. And we did not want to miss a minute.

Havana Port - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Port - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

As soon as we exited the port, we saw the bright classic cars that Cuba is known for. They streamed by looking for passengers. We saw horse and carriages for hire. And tour buses too. There was no problem finding a way to explore Havana.

Havana Old Cars - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Tours - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Old Cars - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

The Port Square In Havana

Our visit to Havana started in the square across from the pier. The large San Francisco de Paula Church dominated one side of the square. Cafes and hotels ringed the other side.  Great architecture is certainly one of the reasons to visit Cuba.

Plaza San Francisco de Paula Church - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Plaza San Francisco de Paula Church - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Plaza San Francisco - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Interesting statues were situated around the square. Of course we needed to pose with them. On our return visit to the square, I was sure that a new statue had been put in front of the church. When the statue moved, I knew it was really a man as a living statue.

Plaza San Francisco - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Plaza San Francisco Statue - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Plaza San Francisco de Paula Church - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Before we left this spot, I made sure to touch the foot, outstretched hand and goatee beard of the statue of the Gentleman of Paris. This was sure to bring my wish. This reminded me very much of the statue of Schone Naci in Bratislava. Both men were remembered for their chivalry and missed when they passed away.

Plaza San Francisco Gentleman of Paris Statue- First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Our first glimpse of the city drew us on to explore more on our first visit to colourful Havana.

Three More Squares To Explore In Havana

The second square we found was by the Havana Cathedral. The courtyard in front of the church was covered with large cobblestones. There were no statues on the outside of what was once a Jesuit church. But inside the church we found much more elaborate decorations.

Plaza Catedral de la Habana - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Plaza Catedral de la Habana - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

The third square we visited was by the Plaza de Armas. We stopped to look at the Castillo de las Real Fuerza. And the memorial erected for the Cuban sailors who died during WWII. The pineapples on the top of the fence symbolized hospitality.

Plaza De Armas Castillo de la Real Fuerza - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Plaza De Armas Soldier Memorial - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

On one street we noticed that the cobblestones had been replaced with wooden pieces. The local story is that this was done so the lady of the house was not disturbed by road noises during her naps. Happy wife, happy life!

Plaza De Armas Wooden Street and Bells - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

The last square we visited was called Plaza Vieja (Old Square). But it was really the newest square. It was expanded to create a place for the weekly market to be held. Pastel coloured buildings, a fountain and some modern art decorated this square.

Plaza Vieja - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Plaza Vieja - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

We grabbed a quick affogato (espresso with gelato) and paused for a few minutes. The Cuban version came blended!

Plaza Vieja Iced Coffee - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

On our first visit to colourful Havana, we saw such variety as we moved from square to square.

A View Of Historical Havana

We drove along the long promenade. Across the river we saw the large San Carlos de La Cabana Fort up on the hill. On the point was the Morro Castle. We were sorry we did not get to visit.

San Carlos de La Cabana Fort - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Morros Castle - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

As we drove around the city, in several spots we saw remnants of the old city walls and gates. We were told that the city was trying to restore these. Fortresses stood still as memories of the strongholds that once protected this port city.

Havana History Walls - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana History Walls - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana History Fortress - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

A stop at Revolution Square reminded us very much of our visit to Beijing and Tiananmen Square. The large open square had government buildings around the sides. Murals of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos adorned the front of two of the buildings. Across the busy thoroughfare was the José Marti Memorial. This area commemorated the national heroes of Cuba.

Revolution Square Che Guevara - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Revolution Square Camilo Cienfuegos - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Jose Marti Memorial Revolution Square - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

We got a quick view of the history on our first visit to colourful Havana.  History is certainly another of the reasons you might want to visit Havana.

Walking Around Old Town Havana

As we strolled around the old town, we stopped in front of the oldest house in Havana. We saw many of the older buildings of Havana. And each had a story to tell. Many were today being used as museums. Certainly there would be much to see on a return visit to Havana.

Havana Oldest House - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Old Buildings - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Old Buildings - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

We stopped and went inside the Hotel Raquel. The inside eclectic design was well maintained or restored. It was beautiful to see. Very hard to imagine that this building was first built as a factory!

Havana Hotel Raquel - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Hotel Raquel - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Hotel Raquel - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Hotel Raquel - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

On our first visit to colourful Havana, we got a small glimpse of how much more there was to see.

The Colourful Neighbourhood Of Fusterlandia

We drove around the streets of Havana. We saw many of the neighbourhood areas. A drive along the river showed us the Almendares Park. We turned a corner and saw the first sign that something colourful and fun was coming. Tile art adorned the corner buildings.

Fusterlandia Tile Art Neighborhood - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Fusterlandia Tile Art Neighborhood - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Fusterlandia Tile Art Neighborhood - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

We stopped and entered the gate of Fusterlandia. What had started as one man’s attempt to brighten the neighbourhood had exploded to a riot of colour. Every surface in the main property was covered with tiles. Statues were tiled. Pictures were made of tiles.

Fusterlandia Tile Art - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Fusterlandia Tile Art - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Fusterlandia Tile Art - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

We steadily climbed higher and high. This gave us a view out over the main site. So many colourful pieces. It reminded us so much of the great colourful art of Gaudi in Barcelona. On the main level there was an art gallery. And on the second level a small studio.

Fusterlandia Tile Art From Above - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Fusterlandia Tile Art From Above - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Fusterlandia Tile Art From Above - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

We walked the streets to see how the tile art had spread. On our first visit to colourful Havana, we were delighted that we found the colourful tile art in Fusterlandia.   The colour and art was definitely one of the things that drew us to Cuba.

Fusterlandia Tile Art - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Everywhere We Looked In Havana There Was Colour And Art

As we travelled around Havana, we saw so much colour and art. And then we turned another corner and found more. Interesting statues and pieces of art blended into the parks and buildings we passed.

Havana Street Art - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Street Statues - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Street Statues - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Street Statues - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Street Statues - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Buildings were colourful and intricate. Walls of buildings were decorated with traditional scenes. Or with modern street art.

Havana Old Town Streets - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Old Town Streets

Havana Old Town Streets

Havana Old Town Streets - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Old Town Street Art - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Old Town Street Art - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Old Town Street Art - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Havana Old Town Street Art - First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

The overriding memory we took away from our first visit to colourful Havana was of the artistry we found everywhere. We did not get a chance to hear the music. But we have been told that people equate Havana with music too.

We Enjoyed Our First Visit To Colourful Havana

We missed Havana on our earlier visits to Cuba. So we were so happy to stop on this holiday cruise for our first visit to colourful Havana. It was a disappointment that we did not stay overnight and get to enjoy the lively nightlife. But our tour around Havana gave us a good taste test of this vibrant and historic town. Our other two stops in Cuba gave us more reasons to visit Cuba.

Did you enjoy our first visit to colourful Havana? Is Havana on your travel wish list?

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Our First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

Our First Visit To Colourful Havana.jpg

About TravelAtWill 488 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

26 Comments

  1. Did you do an Oceania Excursion in Havana or a tour by antique auto?
    How do you convert from US Dollars to Cuban currency?

    • Greg, As Canadians, we had no restrictions on what we could do in Cuba. We did a tour by antique car and then a walking tour. As Americans, you either have to do an Oceania excursion or you have to book with a US company in Cuba. You have reporting requirements we don’t have. At every port, there is a currency conversion place right on the dock. We found we could not use U.S. dollars anywhere. Let me know if you want more on Cuba. Linda

  2. We have an AM Oceania excursion but have 4 hours in the PM when we wanted to wander around on our own and perhaps take a ride in an old car. Will we not be allowed to wander around Old Havana on our own?

  3. This is an incredible place. I have never been on a cruise but you are lucky to enjoy a cruise that also took you to a cool place like Havana. Cuban cars are totally lit. Plus the old town of Havana is so stylish. The city is so artsy. The neighborhood of Fusterlandia reminds me of Park Guell in Barcelona. Overall Havana is a must-visit place!

    • Shreya, We were so happy we visited Havana on this trip. Fusterlandia did remind me of Park Guell too. So many people missed this on their stop in Havana. Hope you get to visit. Linda

  4. I love all the artwork all around the city and the mosaics and that amazing neighborhood is just up my alley for art inspiration, such a wonderful visit. I would love to do this soon!

  5. Oh, those colors, the art, and architecture! They can’t leave anyone indifferent, can’t they?!

    So true, Fusterlandia reminds of Park Guell in Barcelona a lot!

  6. Colorful indeed! Cuba (especially Havana) has long been on my bucket list. I’m surprised you didn’t take more photos of the 50s automobile. I was under the impression the streets are crawling with them? It sure looks like a city full of art. The Fusterlandia looks like it came out of Barcelona, Spain 🙂

  7. The one thing I expected were those colorful cars. However, the street art and those stained glass windows and ceilings took me by surprise. You did unveil a vibrant and different side of Cuba

  8. Wow! Wow! Beautiful photos of architecture and the Old town of Havana has changed so much (we were there probably 15 years ago (also Canadians) – Back then there was alot of sandblasting and renovations going on. These neighborhoods like Fusterlandia and all the tiled designs – how colorful. We have to get back there, sadly our trip to Havana was a short day trip from a resort — we need more time there.

    • Dorene, I hope you get back to Havana. Luckily we had a long day in port. But we were disappointed we did not pick a cruise with an overnight stay. That would have given us even more. Linda

  9. I am so jealous of your visit to Colorful Havana as it is the city where my mother was born and lived for the first 8 years of her life. It is definitely on my bucket list to explore the city for several days. I would love to see the San Francisco de Paula Church & the Havana Cathedral! I love all of the statues and murals that you came across. I think taking a cruise there is great though I would need to spend a few more days there for sure to search my history!

  10. Oooh, which mode of transport did you choose to get around? I would definitely go with the classic car. And I hope that your wish came true after touching the Gentleman of Paris statue 😊 What incredible builidings you saw, Havana is really filled with colour!! 😍😍

  11. I always associate Cuba with bright colors and classic cars! seeing all of the beautiful artwork all around the city must have been amazing! Fusterlandia looks very unique and filled with one of a kind pieces of art!

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