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The passion of the Caribbean

In the past, Havana's protected port attracted settlers and pirates. Now reopened after more than 50 years of economic embargo, this inexhaustible capital is fast becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

A town called La Habana was founded in 1514 by Spanish conquistador Diego Velazquez de Cuéllar, on the south coast of the island of Cuba. A few years later it migrated to its current location at the strategic entrance to the Gulf of Mexico. A leading port and a favourite target of pirates, the colonial city built, over the following centuries, the fortifications that give it the allure of a majestic empire overlooking the turquoise Caribbean. French, English, and Spanish have fought over this island, whose remarkable buildings today delight visitors strolling through the streets of ‘Habana Vieja'.

Coffee, rum, sugar, tobacco: Cuba is a land of plenty that continues to arouse envy. In the 20th century, Havana shone with brazen success, forging a sulphurous image. Its strong character, a taste for alcohol, parties, dance, and music made the Cuban capital a haven for travellers from North America and Europe, who came to drink, bet, dance, and slum it among the locals. The romantic city became the adopted home of Ernest Hemingway, who loved it for its tropical cocktails and feverish passions. This was, and remains, the quintessence of Havana, which bewitches all with its colours and fragrances. In its artist's paintings, in the heat of its spirit, the winding streets of its historic centre, or the modern buildings of its waterfront, Havana remains as indomitable, cheerful, laid back, and bright as ever

Combative too: it is still marked by the victory of Fidel Castro and his July 26 Movement. The Cuban Revolution remains an iconic presence, as the many posters of Che make clear. But the island is changing: Communist Cuba opened its doors in late 2015 to US citizens, initiating, de facto, a new era in which tourism will be its most crucial activity. A myriad of new facilities will open shortly, but Havana already has much to offer, and not just its superb scenery. Come vibrate to the sensual rhythm of salsa cubana, and take the pulse of this flamboyant city, always ready to face change without losing its soul.

Insight video - Discover Havana and surroundings
Insight video

Discover Havana and surroundings

Discovery map - Our selection of must-see places in and around Havana
Discovery map

Our selection of must-see places in and around Havana

Diaporama

Our Havana photo album

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getaway

Soroa, in the heart of Cuban nature

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inn

The Villa Flora, for a stay among friends

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bistro surprising

Siá Kará Café, a bit of gourmet exoticism

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luxury

Gran Hotel Manzana, in the heart of Old Town Havana

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hot tip charm

Casa Chez Nous, a Cuban bed and breakfast

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traditional

Casa Abel, cuisine and cigars

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family outing

A family outing to the Acuario Nacional de Cuba

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exploration

A detour by the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception

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going out - fashion

Top 5 trendy places in Havana

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getaway

Travel notebook: Cuba, island of treasures

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