Havana is the capital city of Cuba. Cuba is an island nation, located in the Caribbean. Due to its location, Cuba has beautiful beaches and amazing weather for a resort vacation. Basically all the ingredients for a perfect beach getaway. But Cuba is so much more than that. In our 3 days in Havana itinerary, we will discover some interesting nuances of this capital city.
The world knows about the Communist rule, the economic struggles of Cuba and their history, classic cars and the list “sometimes” just stops here. Our itinerary will showcase why Havana is a unique destination to explore, keep reading to find more.
Did we also explore the well-known side of Havana, including vintage cars? You will soon find out!
3 Days in Havana Itinerary: A Perfect Havana Cuba Itinerary
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Preparing for Havana Itinerary 3 days – Havana Things to do in 3 days
3 days in Havana Vacations and Tour Ideas
Our time in Havana was packed with a lot of sight-seeing adventures and experiences. This post is a shortened version, which is written with the “must-visit” items in mind.
If you are planning to visit Havana on a weekend trip (2-3 days) or exploring 3 days in Havana as part of a week-long beach vacation (3 days- Havana – 3 days Varadero/Trinidad combo), then you are in the right spot.
You will find that in three days you will be able to explore most of the tourist areas in Havana.
Another way to explore Cuba is to take a cruise and choose Havana excursions. Havana has a long coastline and is also an ideal cruise location.
Getting to Havana Cuba
Havana is served by the Jose Marti International Airport, which connects Havana with the rest of the Americas, Caribbean, Europe and one African destination. This airport is also the main hub of Cuba’s national carrier – Cubana de Aviacion.
Havana Airport is small but does serve the purpose of an aviation/transport center.
Read the Havana Travel Guide
Visiting Havana Cuba & Arriving in Havana City
- When you are flying in to Havana, you will have to go through the immigration and customs department. On your Havana flight, you will fill out a tourist card, which gets stamped at the airport. They do a thorough checking of the passport document and pictures as well.
- Travel Medical Insurance is mandatory. However, on our trip no one requested for medical insurance document BUT it is a travel requirement. Please carry your travel insurance though. Get travel insurance quotes here
- The line -up at the immigration counter was huge on our arrival. They did have 4-5 counters open, with support staff around. But it took longer as they were not screening in couples or families together. Normally in my experience, couples and families or travelers living in the same address are screened at the same time and had to fill out 1 form only. Well, we did fill 1 form, but we were screened one after the other. They didn’t ask any questions though.
- There are currency exchange centers in the airport terminal. They are located outside the airport, by exit doors (which was a little weird), but Cuba is safe 🙂 so I guess it’s okay to have a currency exchange place where the taxis were parked for hire!
- There are taxis and colectivos available for transport to your hotel/resort. If you have not pre-booked a taxi or airport transfer, book the state-owned taxis. Their fares are written on their counter and in the arrival terminals, so you know that you are paying the “required” fare.
The airport has decent amenities inside including coffee shops and souvenir stores.
Leaving/Departing from Havana Airport
- Checking is was actually a breeze. We got our boarding passes (remember to get paper copies of boarding passes, cell-phone scans are not accepted. Also no wifi to get the copy from your email!)
- After security check-in, you will find some more restaurants and souvenir shops before your departure from Havana.
We planned our round trip to Havana Cuba via Air Canada vacations. It included the return flight from Canada, airport transfers and a hotel stay with free breakfast. You can customize your trip – in terms of hotel preference and days.
For travelers flying from Canada, Westjet didn’t have any options for Havana. We saw options via Air Canada only for Havana or other resort stays. If you are planning to book some day tours, here is a recommendation.
Where to stay in Havana – Best Places to stay in Havana Itinerary
Havana has amazing options for accommodation. There are luxury hotels, vintage hotels and Airbnb options available. All hotels are owned by the government or co-owned in partnership with another entity. You can find hotels ranging from $79 USD to $300+ hotels in Havana.
Here are some of our favorite hotels
- Hotel Plaza – We stayed at Hotel Plaza in Old Havana. This hotel is 110 years old – so you are a part of history!
- It looks great on the outside, interiors are okay. Rooms were decent size, had TV and a small fridge
- Located close to Old and Central Havana. Most of the attractions mentioned in this post were located very close to Hotel Plaza.
- It was 3.5 stars by Cuban standard, we found it to be 2 star (or a tad less) by global standards.
- Hotel Plaza had free breakfast served at their rooftop restaurant. And we were so amazed at the views from up there.
- Our stay at Hotel Plaza was $100 a night with breakfast. Book your stay at Hotel Plaza here
- Hotel Deuville – Located opposite to the Malecon or the waterfront, Hotel Deuville is a budget option.
- Rooms are standard. They have a restaurant in the lobby. This hotel gives you amazing views of the harbourfront.
- El Morro and La Cabana castles are located nearby. Book your stay at Deuville
- Suite Plaza Vieja Luxury Stay – This beautiful hotel is located at the Old Havana Square. You will see more pictures below. So take note!
- Pros are that it is located in old Havana, surrounded by beautiful buildings and restaurants.
- Free breakfast is included. Room rates start at $190 USD Book your stay here
- Iberostar Hotel Parque Central – Another hotel, located in the same area as Hotel Plaza is Iberostar Parque Central
- Iberostar Hotel Parque Central room rates are higher than Hotel Plaza. The interiors were lovely. They had a pool, rooftop restaurant, and a bar.
- You will get amazing views of Old Havana’s iconic landmarks like El Capitolio and Gran Theatre of Havana from their rooftop
- A comfortable, luxurious and memorable stay! Stay at Iberostar Parque Central
- Nacional Hotel – Historic Nacional Hotel is located in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.
- It is a well-maintained hotel, which also offers various amenities like currency exchanges, pools, museums (inside the hotel) and patio restaurants.
- The views from their patio are amazing. and beautiful both inside and outside.
- Their room rates start at $120 USD, up to $300+ a night. Book your stay at the Nacional Hotel here
Casa Particulars are your AirBnBs. They are some listed on the Airbnb website as well, so you can book them in advance. They are cheaper than most hotels and you do get an opportunity to spend time with a Cuban family and learn about their culture. Book your Cuba Havana Hotels right here
Havana Itinerary Day 01 – Old Havana – Plazas and Catedral de San Cristobal Square – Hemingway and El Floridita Restaurant – Hamel Alley – Central Havana
We arrived late night in Havana and utilized the next morning to explore the beautiful UNESCO Heritage site of Old Town Havana.
Old Havana – We stayed at a sweet spot in the city, where we could access Old Havana and Central Havana with ease. Old Havana is accessible on foot or by taking a pissi-taxi. We do recommend walking through Old Havana, admiring the buildings, colors, and people. The lanes are small and not smooth, so wear comfortable shoes on your exploration.
To experience the best of old Havana, we highly recommend doing a guided walking tour. We did our private tour with a local guide and thoroughly enjoyed our time. Book your walking tour of old Havana here.
Also, don’t forget your camera and sunglasses. One can spend almost an entire day, photographing and wandering through Old Havana. Certain sections of Old Havana are commercialized, where one will find hip restaurants, stores, banks, etc. But as you wander through smaller lanes and go deeper, you will only find blocks and blocks of old dilapidated, but beautiful buildings.
UNESCO declared Old Havana as a World Heritage Site in 1982. Old Havana consists of 5 large plazas each with its own unique architectural character. The 5 Plazas are – Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja, Plaza San Francisco de Asis, Plaza del Cristo and Plaza de la Catedral.
Habana Vieja or Old Havana is the originating point of the city of Havana.
Did you know Havana was founded in the 16th century by the Spanish rulers?
There are 4 squares in Havana. On your 1st day, you can definitely walk and cover Old Havana Square and the Catedral de San Cristobal.
Get Inspired from these amazing photos from Old Havana Cuba
Plaza Vieja or Old Havana Square is lined with beautiful, colorful buildings that now house cafes and restaurants. This square was the site of bull-flights, processions, and excursions in the past. Plaza Vieja was built in the 16th century and was popular with the wealthy citizens who witnessed these events.
The Catedral de San Cristobal square gets its name from the beautiful cathedral that stands tall on one side of the square. This beautiful and massive baroque cathedral was built in the 18th century. It is also called the Havana Cathedral. The remains of Christopher Columbus were housed here but later taken away to the Seville Cathedral in Spain in the 19th century.
The cathedral can be categorized as an early Cuban Baroque facade because of its many curves and double curves and structures that are ornamental rather than structural. The interior of the cathedral is ornate with white and black marble floors, with massive stone pillars and side chapels. It is built in neoclassical style.
The towers at the entrance are uneven. The one on the right is a bell tower and is wider than the tower on the left. You can actually climb to the wider tower and get amazing views of the city of Havana. The ticket costs 1 CUC.
This is a living cathedral and weddings are conducted here as well. There are other buildings in this square as well and the beauty of these buildings is that they are painted in lovely bight colors – blue and yellow.
There are cute cafes around the square. We stopped for cappuccinos and a quick bite at the Bianchini restaurant. This tiny cafe is squeezed into a ‘culinary alley’ near the cathedral. Their cappuccino was delicious!
You can spend a few more hours here and wander through beautiful lanes with Spanish remnants of the city of Havana.
If you happen to like Plaza de la Catedral and spend more time there, you will find your way to Hotel Ambos Mundos. Located at the intersection of Bishops and Merchants Streets in Old Havana, this hotel houses the legacy of writer Ernst Hemingway. It was home to the popular writer for seven years in the 1930s.
On your first day, you can also check out the famous restaurant that Ernst Hemingway frequented when he lived in Cuba for 20 years. The restaurant called – El Floridita – was located right across the street from our hotel. And we went there for a couple of drinks. Hemmingway loved his daiquiris. There is a big statue of Hemmingway inside as well.
Keep in mind this place is super crowded and they serve Daiquiris (made in batch at the bar) and also mojitos and pina coladas. There is a restaurant as well along with the bar, but make sure you reserve your place. The drinks were a little expensive than other restaurants. A mojito/Daiquiri will cost 6 CUC.
There is a restaurant in the same block as El Floridita, actually next to it – which serves amazing Cuban food. That’s where we went for dinner on one of the nights! We had Roopa Vieja (shredded beef) with a beer and a dessert or ice cream – all for 6.50 CUC. The restaurant is called La Pina Del Plata.
You can cover all of these areas by walking.
After lunch, head to the Plaza de San Francisco de Asís. This plaza was built in the 17th century and it faces the Havana Harbour, so you can enjoy some warm sunshine (in the winters). If the sun is too bright, skip the plaza and head to Hamel Alley instead.
Hamel Alley is located in central Havana and it is filled with lively colorful murals and sculptures. The alley is dedicated to the Afro-Cuban cultural heritage and was the brainchild of Cuban artist Salvador Gonzáles Escalona. This colorful lane with bright messages (including the popular story of Happy Prince) makes this site very unique and special. This alley offers visitors to Cuba’s capital a taste of the city’s local art.
Rumba is very popular as the art is dedicated to the Afro-Cuban relationship. And every Sunday, there are rumba sessions held here for tourists to enjoy. Book a tour to explore the Afro Cuban Religious walking tour
From Old Havana, you can make your way to Central Havana (before evening), to see the hustle-bustle of the capital city. There is nothing much to see in terms of sight-seeing spots.
Central Havana is mainly a residential area and has some commercial buildings too (located on the northern edge by the Malecón/waterfront). But just like the lanes of Old Havana, you can wander into Centro Havana – capture some amazing pictures of these buildings, lanes and everyday life.
In the evening, head back to the old Habana neighborhood for dinner. You have tons of options to enjoy dinner with mojitos, food and live music. Most of the restaurants are located in the outer old Havana area, including the La Pina Del Plata and Ruinas del Parque. Ruinas del Parque (Roast Chicken and Rice, plain but decent portion, food was okay. Ambiance was great).
It is common to see Cubans singing and dancing the night away, and they will invite you to do that same. So get your salsa shoes on!
Havana Itinerary Day 2 – Jose Marti Memorial, Gran Teatro de La Habana, Museo Nacional de las Bellas Artes, Capitolio, Museum of the Revolution – Granma Memorial – Plaza de la Revolution – National Hotel
On Day 2 of Havana Travel Itinerary, the theme of the day was the revolution period. But before that, make your way to the Jose Marti Plaza, located just outside of Old Havana.
This square with the statue of Jose Marti is a popular spot in Havana for Insta-worthy pictures (and is also a taxi and tour hub). Jose Marti was a Cuban National Hero and he was very politically active and is considered an important symbol of Cuba’s bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century.
This square is an open area where locals sit and have a healthy banter and debate. The square is lined with vintage cars that you can rent. (This memorial is different from the Jose Marti monument at the Plaza de Revolution).
Steps away from the Jose Marti monument is the Gran Teatro de La Habana. The Great Theatre of Havana Alicia Alonso is named after Cuban’s first ballerina – Alicia Alonso.
It is also a living theatre. Much of the architecture and chandeliers/ interiors are from Galicia in Spain. You can book for guided tours of the theatre for 5 CUC. The inside tour of the theatre is totally worth it – as you can capture some unforgettable memories from the theater’s balconies!
If interested you can visit the Museo Nacional de las Bellas Artes located nearby. There are two exhibitions or museum displays in the buildings belonging to the Museum. The Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) is dedicated to Cuban Fine Arts. And the second called Palacio del Centro Asturiano (Palace of the Asturian Center) is home to Universal Art.
While exploring this area, you will be mesmerized by a building that resembles the Capitol in Washington DC.
El Capitolio, also known as the National Capitol Building of Havana, was the organization of government in Cuba until 1959 (after the Cuban Revolution). The Capitolio was one of the tallest buildings at one point of time and also housed the world’s third-largest indoor statue. Today, it is home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences.
Right after the Capitolio, we went to the Museum of the Revolution, also called Museo de la Revolucion. This museum was located just 5 minutes from our hotel.
As the name suggests, Museo de la Revolucion is a museum dedicated to the history of pre and post-Cuban revolution. To give a sense of history, the Cuban revolution started under Fidel Castro’s leadership to overthrow the tyrant Batista regime. This period was marked by immense nationalism within the country and had international repercussions especially with the United States.
The revolution saw the overthrow of Batista rule and under Fidel Castro – a new government was formed. The museum speaks volumes on the activities of the CIA and US and how it led to the nationalization of banks, school and education, health systems, etc.
My personal opinion – from what I saw in that museum actually showed me a different side of Communism. As a student of history, I like Marxism as a concept. It is hard to implement though and get results in terms of economic prosperity, which is also a fact.
But in Cuba, post revolution, the work that the leaders did – in terms of opening medical schools, arts institutes, hospitals, etc is commendable. Education and health care is still free, including prescription drugs.
Cubans own their property and houses, this is in contrast to the erstwhile Communist Czechoslovakia where houses were state owned at that time (prior to 1990). Women’s emancipation is huge and is incredibly amazing. And not to forget safety of tourists and everybody else in the country. Cuba is struggling economically due to trade embargoes, and tourism does help them and is a great source of income. Jobs in tourism are better paid then others.
The entry fee to the museum is 8 CUC per person. You are allowed to photograph inside and outside of the museum. You can easily spend 2 hours here (we did :))
A few steps away from the museum is the Granma Memorial – the Granma memorial has the yacht (real, not a replica) that was used to transport 82 fighters of the Cuban Revolution from Mexico to Cuba to overthrow the regime of Batista. In the memorial site, there are other vehicles and aircraft that remain from previous struggles and movements.
Situated close to the Granma Memorial is the National Fine Arts Museum of Cuba. This museum is not very crowded. And if you like fine arts and would like to learn about the arts during the revolutionary period – this is the place to visit.
Keeping the Revolution period theme in mind, we head to the Plaza de la Revolution next.
Plaza de la Revolution is an important square in Havana. The square was built in the 20th century and has been used for all political rallies since Fidel came to power. The square can house more than 1 million attendees. Pope John Paul II, during his 1998 first visit by a Pope, and Pope Francis in 2015, held large Masses there during papal visits to Cuba.
The famous image of Che Guevara from one of the government buildings is located right across the square. There is nothing much to see here, other than the statue and the images of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro from across the square. The square is not crowded so you can take great pictures, minus the tourists.
The square has a big statue of Jose Marti – he is idolized in Cuba and in most historic places you will see references to Jose Marti.
Nacional Hotel is another historical site, which is worth covering in your Havana trip. This hotel is located very close to the city center and has been frequented by political leaders and celebrities for years. The hotel has a historical tour that runs from 10:00- 06:00 every day except for Sundays.
The hotel has its links to the infamous Havana conference of 1940s, was a historic meeting of United States Mafia and Cosa Nostra leaders occurred in Havana, Cuba. The hotel also has bullet marks from the pre-revolution period.
If not for the history, visit the Hotel Nacional to get some amazing views of the waterfront in the evening. The garden area is open to all visitors and you can sit, relax and sip some refreshing mojitos whilst enjoying the views of the Malecon. (Drinks cost 6 CUC). You can opt for dinner here as well.
Havana Itinerary Day 3 – Port of Havana, El Morro, Fort Cabana, Malecon – Harbour-front, Classic Car ride – Goodbye drinks
Day 3 of Havana Itinerary is dedicated to Cuba’s harbour-front, starting with the Port of Havana. Although now defunct, the old port terminal of Havana still stands since “time memorial”. Havana’s port led to its colonization under the Spanish rule. Natives were deported or used as slaves.
Fast forward a few centuries when most of the Americas revolted against the Spanish rule, Cuba stayed loyal for a very long time. But the Cubans were exploited in turn. You can take a walk along the water-front. I recommend doing this either in the morning or evening when the temperatures are mild.
Located on the port of Havana is the Almacenes San José Artisans indoor market. This famous crafts market was located near the Plaza de la Catedral in Old Havana and was later relocated near the port. The harbourside warehouse was set up in 1885.
As you enter the building, you will be welcomed with beautiful works of art, paintings, and local crafts. You will find some souvenirs to take back home as we did.
Along the coastal area, there are many forts that were created by the Spaniards to protect their land. One of them is the El Morro or the Morro Castle. Morro means “rock” and the rock structures in El Morro, including their 10 m high (now 30 m) lighthouse is visible from the sea. It was meant to be a defensive fort. In the fort, you can see canons being placed all around it for security.
A visit to the interiors of the fort cost 8 CUC and I think it’s worth it as it includes entry to the museum and exhibitions inside the fort. It also allows you to wander through the fort towers to get amazing views. You can spend 1-2 hours in this area. There are no restaurants located here, just souvenir stalls.
The fortress of La Cabana is visible from El Morro. The fortress was built in the 18th century and it served the colonial powers (Spanish and then the British) and later it played an important role in the revolution period when Che Guevara used it as a military base and prison headquarters. This fort is just a short walk from El Morro.
The complex is part of a historical park, along with the El Morro fortress. Every night a cannon is fired at 9 pm from here, the “El Cañonazo de las 9”, a custom kept from colonial times signaling the closure of the gates in the city wall.
The Malecón refers to the water-front – broadly covering roadway and seawall along the coast of Havana. It includes Havana Harbor, along the north side of the Centro Habana neighborhood and ends in the Vedado neighborhood.
You will find Cubans enjoying a walk along the 8 km coastline on a hot day, to enjoy the breeze from the waves. Most of the cruise ships to Cuba dock here for a day tour of the Havana city.
Vedado is home to La Fabrica del Arte Cubano, which is an art gallery and a night club in Havana, Cuba. The Fábrica’s gallery and stage are huge and they were established inside of a former cooking oil plant near the Almendares River. Today it is frequented by youngsters for affordable drinks!
Take a classic car ride along the Malecon, by riding in one the vintage American cars. You can rent a vintage car from your hotel (near Old Havana) to Malecon. The return trip will cost 10 CUC or 15 CUC, if it is an open car. Book a classic car ride in Havana Cuba.
After a fun-filled ride, bid adieu to the beautiful city of Havana from a roof top bar. There are many options to choose from. Almost all hotels have a rooftop bar in Havana. My recommendation would be a hotel located close to Old Havana to get amazing views of the old city and its charming lanes. Top your evening with some Mojitos and watch the sun go down, enjoying the golden skies.
This image is from Hotel Iberostar Parque Central – their rooftop bar and views from up there are stunning. Another great option is Hotel Inglaterra Havana, which located in the same square and it will give you amazing views like the one below.
Tours and Day Trip Ideas – Havana Itinerary 3 days – Havana Things to do in 3 days
Havana is all about the experience. Take time to wander through the colorful lanes of Old Havana and enjoy a classic vintage car ride through the city. Here are some of the tours that you MUST take in Havana
- Old Havana Walking Tour – Perfect way to explore lanes of Old Havana and learn its history with a local guide. It also includes lunch. Book a walking tour here.
- Classic Car Ride – You can book a classic car ride online or hop near the Jose Marti Memorial Square near Old Havana. Book a classic car ride in Havana Cuba.
- Cigar Factory Tour – Modern Partagas Cigar Factory is a traditional factory, where the iconic hand-rolled Cohiba cigars are made. It is a working factory and is open for tours if you are interested.
- Vinales day trip – To explore the Cuban countryside, head to Vinales in a day trip from Havana. You can also book a day tour here
Book your Havana Tours here
Additional Reading for Cuba Travel
- Read All you need to know before your trip to Cuba
- Get Inspired by Beautiful Havana Pictures
- Packing Tips for Cuba here
- Your Guide to Havana City
Last Updated: December 30 2019
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.