With a wealth of culture on offer, Havana is a great destination for an artistic escape. This full day itinerary mixes an intellectually challenging dip into the world of Cuban art with a relaxing visit to a chilled-out Caribbean beach. (Our featured image of Plaza Vieja is by exfordy)
Start the day at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Calle Trocadero, Corner Agramonte & Avenue de las Misiones, Habana Vieja). The Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) section exclusively exhibits Cuban art.
Here you’ll find famous work from Cuban painters like Guillermo Collazo, Wilfredo Lam and René Portocarrero. The museum’s air-conditioned, so there’s the added bonus of respite from the heat too.
Take a quick five-minute walk down the road and recharge with a cup of coffee at the Saratoga Hotel’s rooftop restaurant/bar (Paseo de Marti 603, Corner Dragones).
Here, eight floors up, you get great views of Havana and the Caribbean. It’s also a great place for a sundowner.
The view from the Saratoga is limited on one side. So, for a full panoramic look at the city, take the 10-minute walk over to the Cámara Oscura (Plaza Vieja, Corner Mercaderes & Brasil).
This photographic attraction offers 360-degree views of Old Havana through a telescopic lens. The knowledgeable local guide tells you about little districts of the city as you zoom in on them.
While you’re in the Plaza, be sure to check out the Cuban and international photography exhibits at Fototeca de Cuba (Merchants No. 307, Plaza Vieja).
Next, drop by La Casona (Calle Muralla 107, Corner San Ignacio), which is also in the Plaza Vieja.
This gallery, housed in an old mansion that once belonged to the Count and Countess of Jaruco, exhibits and sells art by up-and-coming Cuban artists.
After all that art appreciation it’s time to relax. With its turquoise waters and pearly-white beaches, Playa Santa Maria del Mar is just the place.
It’s 12 miles east of Havana so you’ll need to hop in a taxi – ask the driver to drop you off next to the Hotel Tropicoco; it should be around 30 CUC for the round trip.
Here you can eat lobster and fish from beach shacks, drink mojitos, listen to beach bands and most importantly of all, catch some rays and have a splash.
Hop in a taxi (5 CUC) and go for dinner at Piccolo Restaurant (Calle 5ª between 502 y 50, Guanabo, Playas del Este). This pizzeria, in the sleepy town of Guanabo on the eastern beaches (Las Playas del Este), has some of the best Italian food in the area.
They wood fire the dough for the pizzas and grow many of the ingredients in their own vegetable gardens. The décor is rustic and homely, with an informal vibe, so it’s a great place to wind down at the end of the day.
Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…