What to do in Havana in one day

Havana, Cuba is a city that often goes unnoticed by tourists, but in recent years it has become a very trendy place to visit. With its rich history and quirky vintage feel, Havana is a city of color and excitement. A Havana day trip is a trip you will never forget. Stay at one of the most beautifully nostalgic hotels in the city, Hotel Saratoga Havana. Then take a cue from the locals and go out for a morning stroll by the seaside at El Malecon. Stop at the quaint Café Arcangel for a delicious cup of coffee and then go spend the rest of your morning exploring the rich artistic history of Cuba at the National Museum of Fine Arts. Continue in this artistic trend by having lunch at the very artsy and unique Esto No Es Un Café where you will be treated to very creative and delicious dishes

After lunch, go spend some time exploring the old castle, El Morro and take in the history and the views. El Escorial is a great place to enjoy a rich cup of Cuban coffee while you sit and people watch. The continue your wandering into the streets of Old Havana where colorful buildings and vintage cars make you feel like you stepped back in time. Stroll through the Plaza de la Catedral and the Old Square where you will find old stone streets and beautiful architecture. Have dinner at the uniquely beautiful Cuban restaurant La Guarida, enjoy an evening dedicated to salsa at Casa de la Musica de Miramar and then head out to the traditional Monserrate Bar for drinks. End your night dancing to live Cuban music at the fantastic nightclub Café Cantante Mi Habana. You will have a truly unique and colorful experience during your Havana day trip

09:00 – Stay at the Nostalgic and Quirky boutique Hotel Saratoga Havana

There are so many beautiful old buildings in Havana, which are a tribute to Havana’s glory days and are quickly being restored. Hotel Saratoga is situated in one of these lovely old building renovating it while still maintaining the beautiful heritage of downtown Havana. The building has floor to ceiling windows gorgeous old mahogany shutters and wonderful open balconies. You will be ushered into the bright and homey space of the lobby and welcomed by a friendly staff eager to help you settle in. Hotel Saratoga is the perfect introduction to Havana

There are lots of open spaces for guests to enjoy. A beautiful atrium opens up from the lobby where a bar is framed by palm trees. The floor is black and white checkered and the white walls hold several lovely paintings and murals. This is a great place to sit and relax for a minute as you get ready for your Havana day trip. The hotel also has a rooftop pool and lounging area. It looks out over the city of Havana and from here you can see iconic buildings like the Partagas cigar factory, Capitolio, the Prado and the early 19th-century bar, Floridita. The hotel is filled with gorgeous spaces that are the perfect mix of modernity and nostalgia

You will be welcomed into your room and fall in love with the space immediately. The old mahogany wardrobes and tables give the room a rustic feel. Sunlight streams in from the gorgeous floor to ceiling windows, which open out onto balconies looking out over the city. The floor is uniquely tiled with various floral patterns. It is a beautiful and cozy home away from home. Hotel Saratoga is the perfect Havana hotel for your stay in the city. It is a wonderful tribute to the history of the city as well as to the reinvigorated tourism and development happening all around Havana  // Hotel Saratoga – Paseo de Martí, La Habana

09:30 – Wander Along the Seaside with Havana’s Locals on El Malecon Promenade

Cuba is an island, which means a visit to the seaside is a necessary part of your Havana day trip. El Malecon is the 7 km long street and boardwalk that runs along the Caribbean Sea. A walk along the Malecon is a magical experience where you will see all sorts of people, buildings, and activities going on by the sea and around the old buildings surrounding the area. It is truly a beautiful place to spend a morning wandering and experiences Havana at its finest. You will love taking a stroll on El Malecon

Lots of classic old buildings line El Malecon adding to the charm of the boardwalk. Enjoy the colors of the antique Havana architecture. It is not uncommon to see buildings that are blue, pink or green. From El Malecon, you can also see the dome of the capital building rising above the cityscape. Waves crash up against the sea wall and add to the ambience of the walk. There are old cars driving by in all their colorful glory. The El Morro castle is on one far side of El Malecon jutting out into the water. There are so many nice sites to see while walking down El Malecon

A great thing to do while walking along El Malecon is to people watch. Lots of locals come to the boardwalk to hang out, walk around, or run errands in local shops. Many children run around playing soccer or blowing bubbles. There are street musician playing traditional Cuban music on trumpets and guitars. Fishermen are often found perched on the sea wall with their fishing poles and lines cast out into the water. El Malecon is an authentic display and it is filled with lots of local charm that will leave you enchanted  // El Malecón – Avenida de Maceo, La Habana

10:30 – Enjoy the Neighborhood Atmosphere and Delicious Coffee at Café Arcangel

Nestled in a quaint old neighborhood of central Havana is the delightful little café known as Café Arcangel. This café is a unique Havana find because of its interesting and curious atmosphere and the fact that it offers French press and drip coffee, deviating drastically from the normal espresso-centric coffee shops found in Cuba. The café is definitely embracing the rejuvenation of Havana, but it also is not lacking in nostalgia. The main customers at Café Arcangel are the folks from around the neighborhood, and even with the café’s western attributes, the atmosphere is distinctly Cuban. You will love the cozy classic atmosphere at this wonderful café

Café Arcangel is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee while hanging out with the locals. The café has excellent coffee options such as the afore mentioned French press as well another uncommon option, Turkish coffee. Of course they also have classic espresso choices like cortados and cappuccinos. They have more adult options too like the Café Arcangel which is triple sec and cacao and the Café Napolean which is brandy and cinnamon. Other drinks include fresh juice, milk shakes and frappes. There is something for everyone here at this lovely Havana café

While up at the knick-knack covered counter chat with the friendly staff about their pastry options too. There is nothing better to accompany your coffee than a delicious traditional pastry. Café Arcangel offers lots of croissant options with cheese, marmalade, or ham. They also have baguettes with a variety of sweet or salty spreads to put on it. Check out what daily made cakes and other sweets are featured today. Enjoy your orders on a quaint mosaic tiled table while admiring the red walls and interesting pictures hanging on them. Café Arcangel is the perfect place to stop mid-morning on your Havana day trip  // Café Arcangel – Concordia, La Habana

11:00 – Stroll Through the Rich Artistic History of Cuba at the National Museum of Fine Arts

Cuba has a rich art scene that is well worth exploring. The National Museum of Fine Arts, or its Spanish name, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is the perfect place to discover this incredible culture of art. The art starts with the museum buildings themselves that were built in the 1950s in that classic lovely Havana style. one building is dedicated to the Universal Arts and the other is dedicated to Cuban Arts. Both are incredible and display amazing collections of art. The building to Cuban Arts or Palacio de Bellas Artes is a great place to start to experience Cuba’s rich culture

The Palacio de Bellas Artes at the National Museum of Fine Arts features amazing exhibits of Cuban art and also shows the difficult history of the Cuban people over the last several hundred years. Much of the early paintings detail the difficult experience of colonialism that Cuba had. As the art moves into later centuries, there are depictions of the beautiful towns and landscapes from the island. As the art enters the 20th century, it gets progressively more political especially once Cuba moves into the 1950s with the Cuban Revolution culminating in 1959 and continuing into the 1960s. It amazing to witness the art by these Cuban artists living through a tumultuous political scene

Not all the art is political though. There are also beautiful examples of surrealism, religious pieces, still life and sculptures that are all incredibly interesting and beautiful. There are also temporary exhibits that cycle through the museum and feature some of the most talented contemporary Cuban artists. If you have time, you can head over to the Universal Art museum as well to see European paintings and sculptures and ancient art pieces from around the world. You will have a once in a lifetime experience at the National Museum of Fine Arts exploring the incredible artistic side of Cuban culture  // Palacio de Bellas Artes – Calle Trocadero e/ Zulueta y Monserrate, La Habana

12:30 – Enjoy a Uniquely Artistic Lunch Experience at Esto No Es Un Café

After a wonderful morning experience the richness of Cuban culture, head over to a delightful local restaurant for lunch. Esto No Es Un Café is a delightful place to enjoy a delicious meal. The cheeky name means “this is not a café” and with the large pipe displayed on the wall, it is a nod to the infamous Magritte painting, “This is Not a Pipe”. They want their restaurant space and their food to inspire every visitor to be more creative in his or her life. It is a clever little restaurant and a favorite spot among locals and visitors to the old town part of Havana

As their name suggests, Esto No Es Un Café seeks to explore the relationship between the visual and culinary arts. You are guaranteed to have a meal that tastes as good as it looks. The artistic and creative inspiration trickles down into every detail of the restaurant making sure your lunch experience is unique. Order the eggplant bruschetta and then choose from a variety of artfully named dishes such as Pollock Chicken, which is deliciously designed in the style of a Jackson Pollock painting. Another favorite is Duchamp’s Fountain, which is roast pork perfectly marinated and served in a dish shaped like the Marcel Duchamp urinal. You will have a truly artistic and unique dining experience

Enjoy your meal at one of the many tables outside and enjoy the bustle of this old quarter of Havana. Finish off your meal with some dessert and coffee. They specialize in delicious sweet crepes packed full of fruit and chocolate. Order a cappuccino or a latte and you can definitely expect a beautiful design drawn in the foam in your cup. Everything about Esto No Es Un Café is unique and artistic. They hope you will leave feeling full and inspired, and it seem like there is a pretty good chance that you will  // Esto No Es Un Café – Callejon Del Chorro No. 58A  Plaza de la Catedral, La Habana

14:00 – Wander Through Havana’s Beautiful Castle and See Amazing Views of the City at El Morro

Havana has many beautiful old sites but one of the most majestic is El Morro Castle. This castle is on a rocky little peninsula that juts out into the bay. The castle was built between 1590 and 1630 by an Italian military engineer. It was built as a part of Havana’s defense system to keep enemy ships from entering the bay. Other structures have been added to the castle such as a battery equipped with twelve large cannons and lighthouse on the northwestern end. You will love wandering through this old historical landmark

As recently as the 20th century, El Morro Castle was used as a prison and there are even rumors that Che Guevara held meetings in the fort. Now, the castle is home to a museum and is a popular tourist attraction for visitors to Havana. The lighthouse is a charming point of interest at the castle and it is still used to signal to ships entering the bay. The castle has many winding and twisting alleyways to wander through so enjoy your own exploration of the site as you step back in time

While wandering through the alleyways of El Morro Castle you will also happen upon many wide-open platforms, which served as lookouts and batteries for cannons. In addition to offering you an up close and personal experience with some large cannons, the watch points of El Morro Castle also provide glorious views of the city and the sea. Look out over Havana and the curving bay. It is incredible to see old city buildings rising from the cityscape as waves lap against the seawall. El Morro Castle is an enchanting place for you to explore and take in the sights  // El Morro – La Habana del Este, La Habana

16:00 – Have a Traditional Cuban Coffee Experience at the Old and Quaint Café El Escorial

While in Havana it is essential to go to the type of café that Havana is known for, one where old men sit around smoking cigars and drinking coffee and rum. El Escorial Café is a classic Cuban coffee shop where you will get the chance to feel like a true local. The café is located in the beautiful Plaza Vieja in Old Havana inside an incredible restored colonial mansion. It is an enchanting place with a warm and friendly atmosphere, perfect for enjoying an afternoon cup of coffee during your Havana day trip

There are fantastic classic Cuban coffee options. The café cubana is a wonderfully strong and sweet black coffee or you can get a traditional café con leche which is richly flavored coffee with hot milk. If you want a direct shot of caffeine you can always order a Cuban espresso. There are also various chilled coffee options including a delicious coffee with ice cream. They have teas and fresh juices as well if you are not in the mood for coffee and whatever you get will be wonderful and perfect to enjoy at El Escorial Café

El Escorial Cafe has many tempting pastries in their glass cases at the counter. They have plenty sweet pastries and cakes that pair nicely with your cup of coffee. As you find a seat, notice the cozy details throughout the café. The walls are exposed brick and around the coffee shop, you will find plenty of coffee related decorations and equipment. It is probably ideal to sit outside and gaze out over the square as people come and go. This café is a great place to sit back and enjoy all Havana has to offer  // El Escorial – San Ignacio, La Habana

17:00 – Wander Through the Streets of Old Havana and Explore the Stunning Plaza de la Catedral

Havana is a beautiful city filled with charm and character and history. Many different countries claimed hold of the island over the centuries and left behind lots of architectural and cultural influences. Wandering through Havana’s streets and plazas is the best way to get the full experience of the city’s vibrant atmosphere. Have a stroll through Old Havana to see lots of gorgeous old buildings and landmarks and then head to Plaza de la Catedral to see the beautiful square and cathedral

Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and for good reason. The buildings and streets are quaint and delightful. This part of the city was founded in 1519 by the Spanish and many buildings are built in neoclassic and baroque styles. Throughout the centuries that European style continued in the construction of various buildings. Many of the structures have recently been renovated restoring them to their former glory. The buildings are painted many beautiful pastel colors making them very photogenic. Old Havana is an amazing place for an afternoon walk

Within Old Havana is the incredible Plaza de la Catedral. Historically, the location that is now this elegant plaza was actually marshy swamp until the 1700s when it was made into a dockyard and then the cathedral was built. The Havana Cathedral was built in Baroque style and is a beautiful symbol of the Cuban people’s devout Catholicism. Inside the church is a number of beautiful artworks and painting that are available for you to see. Around the church are several beautiful old mansions wonderfully preserved  // Plaza de la Catedral – Old Havana, La Habana

18:30 – Stroll Through the Colorful and Quaint Old Square in Central Havana

At the heart of Old Havana is another plaza that is filled with beauty and history. The Old Square, or Plaza Vieja in Spanish, is a wonderful place for wandering, people watching, and taking photos of the old colored colonial buildings that encompass the square. When the plaza was first constructed in 1559, it was ironically called Plaza Nueva or New Square. As time passed the name changed for the obvious reasons. The square gained most of its buildings and character in the 18th and 19th centuries. As you walk into the square enjoy the quaint history of the space

In the eighteenth century, the Old Square was the central point for a large market where locals came to do their shopping. It was a buzzing area filled with bustling people. The Old Square has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the 1980s and all of the old charms have been nicely preserved. There is an iconic old fountain in the center square where children sit and throw coins. It feels as if you have stepped back in time in this delightful and charming atmosphere

One of the most wonderful things about the Old Square are all the colorful old buildings that surround the space. They painted in bright greens, blues, yellows and pinks. Get your camera out and capture the beauty so you can remember it later. Many Havana Locals sit beneath the archways of the buildings, sipping their coffee and chatting with their friends. The Old Square is a great place for you to walk around and admire the old style and authenticity of the area. Enjoy the atmosphere as you stroll through the Old Square  // Plaza Vieja – San Ignacio, La Habana

19:30 – Enjoy an Eccentric Antique Atmosphere and a Wonderful Traditional Dinner at La Guarida

Dinner in Havana should be a nostalgic and magical experience and La Guarida is exactly this. It is a cozy atmosphere softly lit and housed in an old Cuban building that is filled romance and charm. The building where La Guarida is located is La Mansion Camaguey, a beautiful run down mansion. As you walk up you will be met by a grand wooden door and stunning old marble staircase. Walk up the stairs and then you will be welcomed into the warm and enchanting La Guarida restaurant

La Guarida restaurant has three rooms with seating. The restaurant feels spacious with its high ceilings and large doors that open out onto balconies and let in the cool night air. The food is delicious and offers a variety of traditional Cuban dishes. Start your meal off with watermelon gazpacho or malanga gnocchi with pumpkin sauce. When you order the main course you will find a variety of fantastic options like ceviche, paella, and various meat dishes. There is also fresh fish and deliciously marinated chicken. Pair your wonderful dinner with a wine from their international wine list. You will be so satisfied with everything you order from this delightful restaurant

Enjoy the sound of friends and family chatting throughout the restaurant as Cuban music plays in the background. The ambience at La Guarida is unrivaled. As you eat your meal admire the décor throughout La Guarida. There are many old artifacts displayed throughout as well as interesting paintings, photographs, and bohemian trinkets. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling and bathe the room in twinkling light. Don’t forget to order dessert. They have amazing chocolate fondue, various sweet tarts, and traditional tres leches cake. Indulge in some amazing food while you absorb everything you can from this enchanting atmosphere here La Guarida  // La Guarida – 418 Concordia, La Habana

21:00 – Experience an Evening of Salsa Music and Dancing at the Iconic Casa de la Música de Miramar

Cuban has a rich history of amazing music that is a fixture in the culture of the island. For an evening out in Havana, there is no better way to spend your time than listening to traditional salsa music and watching professional dancers twirling through the room along to the music. Casa de la Musica de Miramar is an iconic salsa club in Havana, well known by locals and visitors. This famous venue is an amazing spot for you to enjoy some traditional Cuban entertainment

Whether or not you have an interest in salsa, Casa de la Musica de Miramar will inspire in you a love of the music and dance. The very best salsa bands in the world come and play at this popular venue. You will witness performance from some of the greatest traditional musicians there are. Casa de la Musica de Miramar is housed in a lovely old Havana mansion, which provides a wonderfully authentic atmosphere in which to watch the performance. Enjoy the ambience and the rhythms here at the Casa de la Musica

Casa de la Musica de Miramar offers drinks as well if you are in the mood for a cocktail as you enjoy the salsa performance. Bright red and orange lights illuminate the stage. Watch the performers in their colorful outfits as the sing and dance up on stage. This is Havana, so most patrons to the music venue don’t stay sitting. Most people flock to the center of the room where the dance floor is located. You will have a spectacular time at this fantastic salsa show  // Casa de la Musica de Miramar – Avenida 35 esq. a 20, Miramar, Playa, La Habana

22:30 – Hang Out With Some Live Music and a Laid Back Neighborhood Crowd at Monserrate Bar

Bars in Cuba are slow and casual and filled with the chatter of local neighbors and families. It is a very informal and hospitable culture and perfect for a relaxed night out with a few drinks in hand. Monserrate Bar is a local favorite and a cozy spot to enjoy your night. It is on one of Ernest Hemmingway’s old favorite streets and the atmosphere and beauty of this Havana evening will show you why. Check any stress you have at the door. Monserrate Bar is a place to relax and enjoy the night

Inside Monserrate bar, you will find a group of Cuban musician play traditional music in the corner with their guitars, maracas and cahons. A few locals salsa in the middle of the room, twirling and swaying rhythmically. Slow whirling fans offer a slight breeze in the room. Head up to the bar for a cool drink. Talk to the bartender and see what is on tap or have him make you refreshing daiquiri. Enjoy the ease with which everything happens here in Havana. The atmosphere is lively by chill and everyone is friendly and welcoming

Find a table to enjoy the music from. Take a minute to admire the décor of this traditional Havana bar. Monserrate Bar has classic dark wood paneling and high ceilings. There are old pictures hanging on the walls and the whole space feels nostalgic and relaxed. As you sip your Cuban beer or mixed drink you will find yourself tapping your feet to the rhythm and if you get brave you might even find yourself in the middle of the room salsa-ing right along with the locals  // Bar Monserrate – Obrapía No 410, La Habana

23:59 – Party in Traditional Havana Style at the Rhythmic and Buzzing Café Cantante Mi Habana

After a full day and evening here in the vibrant city of Havana, there is no better way to top off your night than a traditional evening of dancing at Café Cantante Mi Habana. The club is a bit of a hidden gem and you will find mostly local here at the café turned nightclub. It is a laid-back atmosphere in true Cuban style and there is only one dress code rule, which is no shorts. Get ready to party in Havana style

The Café Cantante Mi Habana is like a hidden party. The club itself is in the basement of the National Theater, given it a very exclusive and grungy feel. It has fantastic live music for much of the evening featuring various Cuban rhythms and music for salsa dancing. As it gets later in the evening, the live performances switch over to a DJ who keeps up the vibrant Cuban music style. This nightclub is a bit of a secret kept by Havana’s lively artist and musician crowd. You will feel like you have stumbled upon something truly unique and wonderful here at the Café Cantante Mi Habana

Be sure to order cocktails and drinks to keep up your energy as you salsa the night away at Café Cantante Mi Habana. It is a charming nightclub in that it is filled with life and local color. There are simple decorations and lighting and plenty of seating if you need a break from the fast-paced Cuban rhythms. It has been an amazing day here in Havana. It is a city that feels frozen in time but the people are more lively than ever. Enjoy this vibrant energy as you end your Havana day trip with a bang here at the Café Cantante Mi Habana  // Café Cantante Mi Habana – Avenida Paseo, La Habana

We mapped out your day trip in Havana

Each highlight of your day trip is numbered, simply follow the guide

What you should absolutely know about Havana

City highlights, food & drinks, expressions, weather, how to get there and how to get around

On a day trip to Havana, Cuba’s colorful capital city, immerse yourself in Havana’s fascinating history and hidden gems. Challenges await you at every twist and turn of Havana’s cobblestone streets. Walk around town and check out the Spanish colonial architecture, Baroque-style buildings, and historic forts. Spend your days lounging in a lively public square or listening and dancing to salsa music on a street corner. Breathe in the oceanic air along the Malecón or enjoy artwork at a museum. Regardless of how you spend your Havana day trips, it is a delight for the senses

See artifacts from colonial Havana at the Museum of the City of Havana. Have a fine and unique meal at Bodeguita del Medio, once a hangout of famous writer Ernest Hemingway and tour the famous old colonial fort, el Morro to capture beautiful sights

From croquetas stuffed with local cheese and ham to sticky sweet plantains, Cuba’s cuisine offers tasty and rich flavors. Known as the Cuban hamburger, the frita is a patty of seasoned ground beef. It is sometimes mixed with chorizo and topped with fries

Cubans speaks Spanish, but put their own twist on the language sometimes. “Hola” means “Hello” and “Aidos” or “Chao” is “Goodbye”. To ask how someone is doing, ask “Qué bolá?”, meaning “What’s up?” and to hurry someone up, say “Dale!”

In the rainy season, from May to October, you can expect a few hurricanes, temperatures around 80 degrees, high humidity, and lots of rain. The dry season runs from November to April and brings clear skies and temperatures in the 50s to 70s

After you land, taxis will be waiting to take tourists into the city for around 20 to 25 Cuban pesos. While there is no public bus from the international terminal, the bus is a short walk away, will drop you off at different stops and costs about 5 pesos

Taxis are the most convenient way to travel around the city. Tour Havana on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, explore the city in an old-fashioned way with horse drawn carriages, or rent a scooter or bike to explore the city at your own pace

Feeling adventurous? Have a look at these city guides