5 Interesting things to learn before you head to Havana Cuba

Old town street of Havana, Cuba

Havana Cuba

5 Interesting things to learn before you head to Havana Cuba

With its old colonial period buildings and people cruising around in their vintage cars, Havana Cuba is definitely one of the most colourful places that I have visited over the years. You really do feel like you have stepped back in time when you are exploring the city

Overlooking the port to Havana

Overlooking Havana Cuba

Havana Cuba is full of interesting history which has gone hand in hand with the Cuban people and the development of the city. Meaning that there are plenty of stories to tell, some good and some bad.

tourists wandering along the streets past aged buildings of Havana old town.

Wondering around the back streets of Old Havana Cuba

Here are 5 Fun interesting facts to learn before going to Havana Cuba, which you might not know.

1  El Capitolio (National Capitol Building ) is based on Pantheon in Paris

The El Capitolio or also known as National Capitol Building was the seat of government until after the revolution but is now the home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences. Even though at first sight, it looks like Capitol Building in Washington DC it is actually designed on the Pantheon in Paris. The dome stands at 92mtrs (300ft) which is considered higher than the one in DC and up until 1950’s, this was the highest structure in Cuba.

Old cars driving in front of El Capitolio, or National Capitol Building in Havana

The El Capitolio; Photo By Andy Leung HK Havana Cuba

We never made it inside but apparently in the centre of the building, stands an enormous bronze woman, which symbolises the mythic Guardian of Virtue and Work.  At 11m tall, it is considered to be the third tallest indoor statue in the world.

Grand hallway of the El Capitolio

Inside The El Capitolio Photo By Skeeze Havana Cuba

2 Mural of Che Guevara

The giant bronze sculpture of Che Guevara on the Ministerio del Interior building was completed in 1995 and was based on the famous photograph taken by Alberto Kirda. The wording which appears underneath the picture reads “Hasta la Victoria Siempre” which translates (into many versions depending on what you read but the version I am going with is) into “keep striving for Victory”

Portrait of Che Guevara on the outside of building

The bronze sculpture of Che Guevara Havana Cuba

The building is situated on the Plaza de la Revolución and is one of the world’s largest city squares at 72,000 square metres. It is really cool to stand in the middle of the square, taking in the atmosphere while looking at all the memorials. Rumour has it that Che Guevara, once kept an office in the Ministerio del Interior.

Mel in  Plaza de la Revolución with Che Guevara monument in the background

Standing on the Plaza de la Revolución Havana Cuba

3 Castillo de la Real Fuerza

You do not think of 16th-century Forts when Havana Cuba comes to mind but it is one of the first things you will see when you arrive in old Havana and played a huge part in Cuban history. Situated on the western side of the harbour and set back from the harbour entrance Castillo de la Real Fuerza (or known as the English Castle of the Royal Force). It is the oldest military construction in Havana & was originally built to defend against the attack of pirates.

Forts at the entrance to Havana harbour

Havana Cuba

Considered to be the oldest stone fort in the Americas and is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Havana. Even though it looks imposing with its impressive moat and its thick sloping walls the Castillo de la Real Fuerza suffered from a poor strategic position, being too far inside the bay.

The fort is now Cuba’s premier maritime museum and houses an impressive collection from Cuba’s maritime past. One main feature is a huge four-metre model of the boat, Santisima Trinidad, which uses the interactive touch screen to show life on board. This was an important ship in the Cuban history because she was one of four Cuban-built ships at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805

The entrance to the Castillo de la Real Fuerza

The entrance to the Castillo de la Real Fuerza  Havana Cuba

4 El Floridita

If you are a fan of cocktails, especially daiquiri’s or rum based drinks, then you can’t go to Havana without visiting the world famous El Floridita. It is the home of where the original daiquiri cocktail was invented. El Floridita is a restaurant and cocktail bar in the older part of Havana Cuba. Situated at the end of Calle Obispo (Bishop Street) on the corner, near The National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana. The building is hard not to miss with the outside painted pink and its big blue sign, coming out of the side.

Sign to Floridita bar

Bi blue sign, coming out of the side of the entrance, Havana Cuba

Constante (Real name Constantino Ribalaigua Vert ) who was credited with inventing the frozen daiquiri and making the bar famous, was originally the bartender before becoming the owner. I had the new style daiquiri which is a blend of white rum, lemon, sugar, maraschino and ice. I don’t need an excuse to have a great cocktail, especially with family & friends.

 Three frozen daiquiris

Our frozen daiquiris Havana Cuba

Apart from being famous for its daiquiris, it used to be one of the favourite hangouts of Ernest Hemingway in Havana Cuba. Hence, why there is a bronze statue of him in the bar, which you can take a picture with.

statue of Ernest Hemingway

The bronze statue of Ernest Hemingway Havana Cuba

5 Vintage Cars

There are several things that come to my mind when I think of Havana Cuba; cigars, rum and El Capitolio and of course colourful vintage cars. Do you know that there are an estimated 60,000 vintage cars in Cuba and up until October a couple of years ago, residents needed permission from the government to purchase cars legally older than 1959.

Front of green vintage american car

Havana Cuba Photo By: Valerie J. Wilson @trustedtravelgirl

Surprisingly most of these cars were from the states. Everywhere you look is an old-school American brand vehicle, ranging from Oldsmobile to Chevrolet and Ford. These are all vehicles that the majority of American car lovers would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on to do up.

Mel in the drivers seat of vintage car

Pretending to drive a vintage car Havana Cuba

These days, if you want to take a step back into automotive time, then there are plenty of tour companies that will off services using vintage cars. Cuba is literally a rolling car museum.

line of pink classic American cars

Vintage cars lining the street, Havana Cuba

Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below or if you know any other facts about the Havana Cuba. I would love to hear them 🙂




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  1. I am completely googly eyed over those pink vintage cars! I have quite a few friends that will be visiting Cuba within these next two months but I have Puerto Rico obligations. That daiquiri bar sounds rights up my alley and I would love to indulge in those cocktails. I hope I can find my way to Cuba sooner than later. And I also totally see the resemblance to the US Capitol building in DC.

  2. I love those pink vintage cars! Cuba sounds like such a fascinating place, and I hope to visit one of these days. My son was there last year and has so many great stories to tell about it.

    1. Thank you very much, you can literally just take pictures of Havana all day 🙂 The history behind Cuba is definitely really interesting to hear and read about.

  3. I have seen so many blog posts about Cuba, but your posts are always different, Melissa. I love it how you tell some less-known facts and share a deeper story of the place. Nice read!

  4. Havana never fails to fascinate me. Your post has indeed fed my fascination more. The fact that the El Capitolio is similar to the Pantheon is so intriguing. The mural of Che Guevara looks so imposing. So too does the statue of one of my favourite writers, Ernst Hemingway.

  5. El Capitolio is such a beautiful building! That’s so interesting that it was based on the Parentheon in France! I also love how many vintage cars there are in Cuba. From my understanding, it’s because of the embargo that the U.S. placed upon them after the Cuban Missile Crisis. So they’ve been stuck in a bit of a time warp, as they didn’t have access to newer American vehicle models. Although the cars definitely add to the appeal of Cuba! It’s truly such a beautiful country!

    1. I love that little extra fact about the vintage cars. The place definitely does look like it is in a time warp but I went a couple of years ago before the boards became more relaxed. Thanks for sharing the additional fact.

  6. Cuba is absolutely fascinating! I had no idea the Capital building was based on the one in Paris. And I would love to visit El Floradito! I’m a big frozen daiquiri fan (especially the strawberry kind) and would love to sample the original that started the trend!

    1. I am a huge frozen daiquiri’s too and I even passed some in the supermarket today and thought should I buy one 🙂 It is a great place to go and try the cocktails, you can eat there as well but we didn’t have time.

  7. We took a private guided tour in Cuba back in April and went to all the places you mentioned. Cuba is so beautiful and full of rich history. Wish we could have gone inside the National Capitol Building.

    1. I hope that you had a lovely time in Cuba. I wished I had gone inside as well and I am not sure why we didn’t. It is a good excuse to go back and visit 🙂

      1. We couldn’t go in since it was going through renovations. We definitely want to go back and explore the inside. We also want to go back and visit the Revolution Museum.

        1. When you do go back one day to Cuba. You will have to let me know when you write a post on it. I would love to see the inside of both and hearing about them.

  8. Vintage cars are definitely among the first things to come to mind when I think of Cuba! And that has nothing to do with the latest Fast & Furious movie, I swear! The Che Guevara mural looks amazing – sort of oddly out of place but at the same time totally fitting with the surroundings. I’d love to visit Cuba some day, it’s definitely a dream destination of mine.

    1. I love the old vintage cars, some of them looked really nice and I loved all the different colours. I have not seen the latest Fast & Furious movie, I will have to check it out. I hope that you get there one day to 🙂

  9. I didn’t realise there was a part if Havana based on Paris! That is amazing!!! Havana looks like such a colourful place and those cars are awesome! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. I’ve wanted to go to Havana since I read my first Hemingway book and fell in love with his writing. So, I knew all about El Floridita. However, I did learn something really interesting on this post – the capital was based off of the Pantheon in Paris?! So interesting!

    1. I only learnt about the capital building when I was there. You will definitely have to go have your picture taken with the Hemingway statue when you go 🙂

  11. Oh your post made me want to buy a ticket to Cuba now! The architectures are spectacular! El Floridita sounds like a gem – I will need to try their cocktails!

  12. Love reading a post and learning something new! I had no idea of the vibrant history and buildings. Past the usual Che and colourful cars. Havana certainly looks like an amazing city to visit and you’ve really made me want to pack my bags and go now before it’s spoilt!

  13. I actually didn’t know that about the Capitol building – I just assumed it was based on an American design!! I would have loved to go in, it wasn’t open when i was there either!

  14. I haven’t been to Havana before but I have read many great things about it so really want to go. When I do, I will head over to El Floridita to try a daiquiri. Another blogger I follow went out in a vintage car for the day whilst in Cuba which looks like so much fun. I love how colourful they are in your photos.

    1. It seems to be the place to go at the moment, I went a couple of years before the borders were opened up in 2015. I felt like I was back in time but it was a really colourful place to visit. I do recommend it though 🙂

  15. I’m planning a trip to Cuba in March and I am sooo psyched to be seeing all of this in person soon! I didn’t know about the Che Guavera mural and thanks for translating the sentiment. Those vintage cars are what I’m most excited about! I’m obsessed with color theory!

  16. The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the picture is how similar it looks to the Capital building in Washington. I am so fascinated by the vintage cars in Cuba and would definitely love to drive one. I love how colorful Havana is.

  17. These are all interesting points! My friend is heading to Cuba soon and I sent her this post. I know she’ll read it before she heads over. At first glance, I thought the sculpture of Che looked like impressive spray painting street art, not a sculpture. So cool! And I had no idea they modeled their capitol building like the Pantheon!

    1. I flew there from Mexico as I was on holiday there as well. I didn’t need a visa because I am Australian. Check on their site to see if you need a visa. Yes there was ATM there.

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