8 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do In Havana
Even if you’ve never set foot in the Cuban capital before, you probably already have an idea of what to expect from Havana. Yes, there will be salsa music and dancing, and you might end up drinking more rum than is wise. But this sensational city has a few surprises up her beautifully-tailored sleeve. So what are some of the things you probably didn’t know you could do in Havana?
- Have a Cigar Rolled Just for You
The fact that you can find magnificent cigars in Havana is hardly news, but in addition to buying a stash of these babies to take home with you, you should check out one of the city’s numerous cigar stores that has an in-house Torcedore. A Torcedore is a master cigar roller, and they mainly work at the actual cigar factories. Some cigar stores will have one on staff who can roll a cigar just for you, while you wait. You can smoke it right then and there if you like, but since cigars need to dry out a little bit after they’ve been rolled, it’s better to view the hand-rolled cigar as a special souvenir. You can take it home and save it for a special occasion, like when you want to remember your time in Cuba… or when you want to show off to your friends.
- Spy on People
Havana’s Camera Obscura is a bit of an oddity. This attraction (located on the Plaza Vieja in Havana’s Old Town) doesn’t really have much to do with Havana or Cuba, and is merely a random, cool attraction. The “Camera” is a large room where the guide is able to control the direction of its gaze, using it to zero in on buildings and the Havana skyline in general. They might even randomly follow people walking on the street below. The image is then projected in great detail onto the wall of the chamber. It’s a strange and yet really fun way to see Havana from a different angle.
- Drink Some Pure Sweetness
Havana (and Cuba in general) is known for its rum and cocktails. There’s another drink you need to try while in the city. Order a glass of guarapo (which can be found all over the city). It’s pure sugarcane juice, and so is (rather unsurprisingly) extremely sweet. It might be a little bit too sweet the first time, but this sugar shot can be strangely addictive.
- Go on Safari
Havana’s best known wildlife is probably the people you meet in the bars and clubs in the early hours of the morning. But there is also more traditional wildlife to be found in the city at Havana’s zoo (located next to the Plaza de la Revolucion). The zoo features an “African Plain” which you drive through on an old bus, kind of like being on safari. There are ostriches, zebras, and even rhinos. It’s not for everyone, but any children you might be traveling with will certainly enjoy it. And it can be a soothing way to spend a morning after drinking too much rum the night before!
- Old-Fashioned Military History
Visitors to London will probably have sat through the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. The Queen probably gets annoyed with all that noise. There’s something similar in Havana, but the costumes (and surroundings) are so much better than the London version. Any Havana tour company worth their salt will be able to take you to the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña (Fortress of Saint Charles). The fortress was completed all the way back in 1774 and is located on the harbor in Havana. There’s a ceremony each night at 9pm, where the working cannons are fired, sort of as a sign to close the city gates for the night. But don’t worry about that. The city has expanded far beyond its original gates, and do you really think Havana shuts down at 9pm?
- Get a Haircut
Havana is a major city, so the fact that you can get your haircut there is hardly a shock. But one of the city’s most beautiful alleyways is kind a tribute to all things hair. The area in question is located on Aguiar Street (between Peña Pobre and Avenida de las Misiones). There are a number of hairdressers and old fashioned barbers, and even a museum to the art of cutting hair (which is more interesting than it sounds). It’s just a chilled out space in the middle of Old Havana, and there are also some sensational places to eat. Be sure to check out Cafe de los Artistas.
- See a Truly Gigantic “Ship in a Bottle”
It’s time to visit Grandma, or Granma at least. The Granma is the yacht that transported Fidel Castro and other fighters to Cuba before the revolution began. The yacht made its famous voyage in November 1956, and has since become a symbol of the revolution. It’s now housed in a gigantic glass box (OK, so not a bottle) next to the Museum of the Revolution. It’s fascinating to see such a large boat sealed in glass, perfectly preserved for all time.
- Fish Like Hemingway
The waters off Havana are teeming with fish, and so it’s not such a shock that an annual fishing competition takes place each summer. Named for one of Havana’s most famous former residents, the Hemingway Fishing Competition takes place each June. You can take part, or you can just make use of one of the many fishing charters on offer in the city. There are a lot of big game fish in the area (namely marlin), so be warned… it’s not the best fishing spot for amateurs since those fish can put up quite a fight.