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Mesmerizing Havana Vieja

It was summer in Havana. Last summer. A memorable trip to a city where Ernest Hemingway lived for almost twenty years while writing his famous book, The Old Man and the Sea. I remember how we strolled along its alleys, surrounded by old buildings from the Spanish occupation. Some of the buildings were in the poor state that you feel like they might collapse anytime soon. Sadly, there were still quite numbers of Havanans and their families who had to stay in these dilapidated buildings.

There is no doubt that the Old Havana, known also as Havana Vieja, is the most photogenic area in Havana. Our first visit was Plaza de Armas, a square where Cuban booksellers spend their day and Baroque edifices would be made your mind stray.  The restaurant of Santa Isabel Hotel in the square offered comfort seats to relax your leg muscle and fresh drinks to quench your thirst after walking in the tropical heat.  Every corner of the square is busy. Busy with tourists who listened to Cuban street-musicians, taxi drivers who wondered around looking for the customer, booksellers who tried to convinced tourists how precious their secondhand books were and the Havanans who fancied to nap on the park bench, in the midst of the crowd. It was a typical scene in Havana. A scene that could also be seen in the other famous squares,  except for the second-hand booksellers part.

Plaza Vieja, Plaza de San Francisco, and Plaza de la Catedral. Each of them has its own characteristic and historical buildings. My favorite square was Plaza Vieja. Perhaps because of the colorful buildings surrounding the square along with their picturesque corridors with a high ceiling where people can take shelter from the heat. Some of the corridors in Plaza Vieja were used as restaurants with live musicians who played Buena Vista Social Club’s “Chan-Chan” or  Farrés’ popular song “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás”.  Please visit Taberna de la Muralla in this Plaza if you fancied a glass or two of cold beer, they have a micro brewery. Fresh beer and it’s cold. Take a seat, relax and enjoy the scene of Plaza Vieja from the Taberna.

We stayed in Hotel Los Frailes, nearby Convento de San Francisco de Asís and walking distance to Plaza Vieja and Plaza de Armas. The hotel used to be a monastery and it was decorated in Franciscan theme with their staff dressed up like monks. That made it unique compared to other state-owned hotels in Havana.

Havana Vieja is certainly the heart of Havana. It is the place where aging buildings, happy faces and music meet. Havana vibes are in the air. From every corner, you would hear Cuban songs sung by the street musicians, its rhythms would make you feel to dance, but if you were too shy, let it made you smile. It’s hard not to enjoy this part of Havana. It was a mix of Spanish-European and Cuban-Caribbean atmosphere, an atmosphere that you would not find anywhere else but in Havana Vieja.

Also participating in:
Monday Escape #17


  1. What a classic and impressive post… Hemingway was a hero of mine, mainly through the book “Old Man and the Sea” which is one of my all-time favorites. I used to read it at least once every year (usually on a trip…put me in the right frame of mind). Such a great set of photos and dialogue about the place. I keep saying “I need to go there…” but have yet to make it. Worried that it will soon change. Beautiful.

    • Thank you Randall – apology for my late reply. I like the book too, read it long time ago. It is a masterpiece, I should read it again to refresh. I hope you will visit Havana someday (and please do the Hemingway’s trail if you visit Havana ;))

  2. What a unique and lovely place to stay! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to revel in Havana’s atmosphere. 🙂 Love that modern sculpture in Plaza de San Francisco!

  3. You’ve descibed Havana so well, from the cuban music to the vibe of the old town Havana Vieja. I feel like you’ve taken me there 🙂 We walked past a bar Ernest Hemingway fequented a lot while he lived in Madrid! He obviously liked the spanish ambience! Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

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