Havana – in pictures

Here are some of my favourite photos from Havana. First up, the courtyard at the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales.

A statue in the courtyard of the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales in Havana

Basílica Menor de San Francisco de Asís.

Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis in Havana

A statue (and a pigeon) in the Plaza de San Francisco.

A statue and a pigeon in the Plaza de San Francisco in Havana

View across the rooftops of Old Havana.

A view over the rooftops of Old Havana

Catedral de San Cristóbal.

Catedral de San Cristobal in Havana

Bells in front of the Basílica Menor de San Francisco de Asís.

Church bells outside the Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis in Havana

Portrait of Ernesto “Che” Guevara in the Plaza de la Revolución.

Portrait of Ernesto "Che" Guevara on the wall of a building in the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana

Another statue in the Plaza de San Francisco.

A statue in the Plaza de San Francisco in Havana

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Havana

Plaza Vieja in Havana

“If you only do one thing when you’re in Havana, make sure you go to the Hotel Nacional and sit on the terrace with a cocktail,” I was told by a friend-of-a-friend at a wedding a few days before I went to Cuba. And it’s how I came to spend my final morning on the island, sipping a pina colada with the girls in the garden of this elegant hotel while looking out at the stunning views over the Bahia de la Habana. It was the perfect end to my trip following my previous day’s sightseeing around the Cuban capital.

Plaza de la Caterdral in Havana

Havana is one cool capital city and the district of Old Havana exudes a faded glamour, part beautifully-preserved colonial buildings, part run-down and frayed. Head off the beaten track and you can soon find yourself in a street with enormous pot holes, the like of which I’ve never seen before, and semi-ruined buildings. But it has its own charm and is a fun place to explore on foot.

The outdoor book market at the Plaza de Armas in Havana

One of the most interesting parts of the city is the old book market in the Plaza de Armas (above), where you can buy second-hand books (some of which are in English) and posters, including those of Cuban films and propaganda for the communist government. There are also lots of fascinating shops round about selling unique paintings, as well as some of the usual tourist goods such as clothing, toys and musical instruments.

The famous La Bodeguita del Medio, which was frequented by Ernest Hemingway, is filled with photographs of its notable patrons and the walls are covered in graffiti where the bar and restaurant’s visitors have scrawled their signatures. It’s small, cramped and very busy, but I stop off for lunch in the restaurant at the back of the establishment and enjoy a good, hearty meal, along with an obligatory mojito.

Memorial to Jose Marti in the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana

In the afternoon, I head to the Memorial José Martí (above), an enormously tall star-shaped tower in the centre of Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución dedicated to the Cuban writer and political activist. The surrounding square also features massive portraits of Che Guevara and fellow guerilla Camilo Cienfuegos on the sides of two buildings. It’s anything but subtle – but a fascinating sight to come across in the middle of a capital city.

An impromptu flamenco show at a restaurant in Old Havana livens up my evening as I enjoy a spectacular dancing show right in front of my table during dinner. It’s a fun way to spend the first half of my night before heading down the street to see the iconic Buena Vista Social Club at the Café Taberna.

Despite the fact that most of the performers seemed to be in their 70s or there abouts, they put on an incredible show singing, playing their instruments and dancing, and the audience was soon up on their feet dancing along. It was an incredible evening and I left the café unable to get Cuba’s unofficial national anthem, Guantanamera, out of my head.