Havana is an intoxicating city of crumbling Spanish colonial architecture, vintage American cars and pulsating nightspots and bars. Steeped in history and legend it is hard not to be captivated by its energy and faded beauty.
The city is one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial design and architecture in the America’s and its old city or ‘Habana Vieja’ is a designated UNESCO world heritage site, but the true beauty of Havana lies more in its intangibles. It is there in the peeling facades of its pastel buildings, the energy in its neighbourhood cafes, the musicians beating out drum rhythms on the street corner and at the sultry late-night cabaret show. It manages to both vibrant and chilled-out at the same time.
At first glance, the city still looks like it is stuck in a time warp from the 1950’s. The streets are lined with vintage Cadillacs and it has an air of dilapidated glory. But Havana is slowly and gradually changing. Boutique hotels and stylish bars are springing up across the city and a change in the law that now permits individual ownership of business is seeing a number of new shops and economic enterprises opening. This is particularly noticeable along El Malecón, the old sea wall avenue that runs the length of the city’s waterfront and a wonderful place for a stroll at any time of the day.Havana is also home to a burgeoning arts scene, in part due to its socialist regime and relative isolation from the rest of the world. It boasts a world-class ballet, and is teeming with galleries, theatres and live music and dance venues. Any visitor must visit at least one salsa or mambo nightclub to get a real feel for this intriguing city.