Cuba is one of those countries where you can easily spend a lot of money but if you’re in the know, however, you can enjoy your time on this island paradise relatively inexpensively. One of the major ways to cut costs is by making the most of the many free activities and places to visit in Havana! So here are the top 5 free things to do in Havana.
1. The Old City Centre – La Habana Vieja
Founded in 1519, Habana Vieja or Old Havana is the very place where Havana was settled and where the city grew from. It is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Interestingly, much of Old Havana was destroyed by pirate attacks. Later the city’s formidable stone walls were constructed and sections of these can still be seen today. To see the walls take a walk along the 8km long El Malecon which stretches along the ocean taking you through all of Old Havana. An Old Havana walking tour with a local guide is the perfect way to explore the old town on a budget.
2. Havana Cathedral
Part of Old Havana, La Catedral de La Habana (Havana Cathedral) is a worthy attraction in its own right.
Admission is free, and you can spend a few quiet, contemplative moments in the cathedral’s cool interior, completed in 1777. The cathedral also houses an impressive art collection, including paintings by Rubens and sensational religious frescoes that are beautifully moving.
3. Taller Experimental de Grafica
Just off Cathedral Square, which fronts Havana Cathedral, you’ll find Taller Experimental de Grafica, a vibrant artists’ workshop. Here you can see artists working and buy most of the artwork you see.
On any given day, around 50 artists work at Taller Experimental de Grafica. You’re free to wander, explore, and observe. Many artists appreciate the distraction and might want to talk about their work. Even if you don’t understand Spanish, you can get by with English.
If you buy a piece of art, the artists will help you pack it well. They can often roll up the canvas so you can fly home, or advise you on how to ship larger works.
4. Béisbol/Baseball Fans Gather Here
Though Fidel Castro canceled professional baseball leagues in Cuba shortly after the revolution, baseball remains a national passion. Dozens of Cuban players have defected to the United States to make a living, but those who stayed behind are also sensational.
Head to the Esquina Caliente in Havana’s Central Park. Large groups of men practice their baseball skills and, more importantly and interestingly, discuss, debate, and argue about the game they love so much.
Animated debates take place as men shout aggressively at each other over a player or particular game. It may seem like they’re about to come to blows, but they always laugh it off, shake hands, and change the subject a few moments later.
5. Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro
The Castillo del Morro, was constructed in 1589. The fortress was was built as the city’s first line of defence against marauding pirates and attacks from foreign navies. Although the British successfully captured the fortress in 1762 and occupied Havana for a year. Nestled in a prime position overlooking the Bay of Havana, the Castillo del Morro is visible from Old Havana.
It’s a wonderful walk around the the Castillo checking out its amazingly well preserved fortifications. You will need to pay an entry fee of to enter the actual fortress proper, which now contains a museum. The display inside is arguably a sanitized version of Cuban history. In actual fact the Castillo del Morro used to be home to a large prison, which housed a number of political prisoners – often under harsh conditions.
It is best visited early in the day or in the evening if you want to beat the crowds. For a relaxing day out you can take a scenic ferry ride across the harbour and walk up to the fort.
So there you have it! The top 5 free things to do in Havana. Now, get packing and we’ll see you soon!