Malecon at night Credit Hege Jacobsen

How To Spend Three Amazing Days In Havana

If you love exploring interesting and unique far-away destinations, and you also like nightlife or Caribbean beaches, architecture, history, great restaurants, and maybe even dancing, three days in Havana, the capital of Cuba, will give you a travel experience you will never forget!

In 2022, few places in the world have the ambiance you will find in Havana, with stunning colonial architecture everywhere, and Latin music seeding out from anywhere. You will walk around in the middle of history in a city very much alive, in place of mesmerizing atmosphere, and also a complicated current life.

Here is a three (and a half) days itinerary in Havana, with suggestions to help you with your travel planning. Mix and match if you like, but don’t miss anything of all the amazing things Havana can offer!

Arrival Day – Your First Magic Meeting With Havana

Depending on where you travel from, you might be a little jet-lagged on your arrival day to Havana. However, don’t fall for the temptation to postpone starting your city experience! After living in Havana for two years, I can tell you that three days is not a lot to discover everything!

Check in to your hotel or casa particular, and rest a bit if you need to, then head for the streets. When you decide where to stay in Havana for three days only, I would suggest you choose a casa particular in Old Havana. This puts you in the middle of the historic center, where you can walk to a lot of famous places (or take a bicycle taxi).

A casa particular is a privately owned home that Cubans are now allowed to rent out to visiting tourists. You can book a private room with a Cuban family, or a place to yourself, ranging from super simple standard to great luxury, and the revenue goes to the Cuban owner. 

Ask your host for tips on where to go in your immediate neighborhood if you arrive late, and where to have dinner on this first Cuban evening! There are plenty of great places to eat in Havana, offering a variety of food traditions and price levels.

Afternoon Stroll In Old Havana

If you arrive in time for some daylight, stroll over to Plaza Vieja (the old square) and take in the ambiance of the old city and the oldest square in Havana. Here, you’ll see lots of people, musicians playing in the afternoon, and several museums to visit.

Sit down on one of the waterholes surrounding Plaza Vieja, like Casa Bohemia, charming but touristy La Vitrola. Or, walk up to Mojito Mojito bar in Calle Muralla if you are in the mood for it!

Plaza Vieja

Plaza Vieja is in the heart of the tourist district, so you’ll find that many people will try to get you to eat at their place, or sell you something. It is especially busy here in the afternoons and early evenings.

In Plaza Vieja, you are very close to the inner Havana harbor, so if you find your way through the narrow streets down to the waterfront, you can take a left and follow the shoreline out towards the open sea.

Walk to the Havana Harbor

On your way, and will have the narrow bay on your right, and you will pass the Castillo de la Real Fuerza de La Habana, Parque Luz Caballero, and Parque Cespedes La Maestranza on your left. On the other side of the bay, you will spot the tall famous statue of Jesus Christ looming over the water, as well as the fortresses La Cabana and El Morro guarding the entrance to the Havana harbor.

The fortresses are also museums, and you can visit them by taking a taxi through the sub-sea tunnel out to the fortress entrance. Every evening between eight and nine pm there is a ceremony on La Cabana that many find interesting to experience, finishing with a cannon salute at nine o’clock, audible all over the old city!


For dinner, you’ll find a variety of restaurants, paladares, and bars if you need a breather.

In Cuba, restaurants are places to eat owned by the government, while paladares are privately owned restaurants.

When you are ready, hail a bicycle taxi and try dinner at the top terrace of Paladar La Fajoma in Calle Compostela between Calle Obispo and Obrapia. This is an airy and quiet place with a nice ambiance, a perfect end to your arrival day in Havana!

Then head home for a good night’s sleep, drink a lot of water, and make sure you are ready for more exploring in the morning!

Parque Central by night Credit Hege Jacobsen
Parque Central by night Credit Hege Jacobsen

Day 1: An Early Start To Explore Havana On Foot

Start your day with a pre-ordered Cuban breakfast in your casa particular, most often fruits, bread, eggs, ham and cheese, juices, and coffee or tea. Most casa hosts offer this for a small extra fee, and it is a great way to get fueled up for your day!

For your first day, put on comfy walking shoes, bring a bottle of water (it will be hot), and start exploring. Head for Plaza de la Catedral to visit the oldest cathedral in Cuba! You can enter for free and admire the artwork and religious pieces of this majestic building. You will also learn about the fascinating merger between the catholic faith and the afro-Cuban religion Santeria brought to Cuba with the slave trade centuries ago.

Then walk up narrow Calle Emperado, passing the Bodequita del Medio (one of Hemingway’s favorite waterholes), up to Parque Central. This is a beautiful square with trees and small gardens surrounded by several hotels and the Cuban National Theater (a stunning sight at night). Here, you are very close to the Capitolio, the former Cuban house of the national assembly until the revolution. You can enter the Capitolio for a fee and get a guided tour if you like!

Get A Frisky Classic Car Tour From Parque Central

A great way to get an overview of the larger city of Havana is to take a Classic American Car tour of the city. In Parque Central you find all the elegant, old, bright-colored classic cars lined up. Find one that you like (some drivers here speak good English), and book your trip right there and then. You’ll pay around €30-40 for one hour, worth the price. Remember to use sunscreen.

This tour will take you flying down Prado avenue, along the famous Malecon boardwalk, via the Bosque de La Havana (Havana forest), to the venerable Quinta Avenida in Miramar. You will drive the main street Calle 23 (known as La Rampa) in El Vedado (a more upscale district of Havana, also called the entertainment district), passing the Cine Yara cinema, the famous Coppelia Ice Cream Parlor, and foreign embassies in stunning colonial mansions.

You can also ask the driver for an extended tour (some have that as an option already), and visit the peculiar Fusterlandia, an entire neighborhood in Jaimanitas turned into a piece of mosaic art by artist José Fuster. This is a small, but incredible place, and it has taken the artist over 30 years to create this area as you can experience it today!

Fusterlandia Havana Roof Credit Hege Jacobsen
Fusterlandia Havana Roof Credit Hege Jacobsen

Lunch Options

When you return to Havana, asked to be dropped off in Parque Cristo, where you can have lunch at El Dandy on the corner of Teniente Rey and Villegas. El Dandy is a small paladar and bar, with a charming interior, great food, service, and fresh tasty cocktails. I recommend the tacos con pollo; chicken tacos, they are amazing!

Other options for lunch in this area are Kilometro Zero on the top of Teniente Rey, or the famous Floridita, another of Hemingway’s favorite places in Havana where they even have a bronze statue of him at the bar!

For a more elegant experience, head for the rooftop terrace restaurant of Hotel Manzana Kempinski right on the edge of Parque Central. From here you have stunning views of the city and excellent service. This is a popular place, so you might need to call and book a table in advance (only credit card payment).

Walk Through El Prado

After lunch, you can walk up El Prado, the historic avenue separating Old Havana from the central part of the city where all the richest and most powerful inhabitants of Havana used to live in their grand city mansions in the city’s glory days. Take the time to study the details of El Prado, and the traces of ancient beauty on all the surrounding facades, although today most of them are subject to neglect and decay like lots of other buildings in Havana.

At the end of the Prado starts the main part of the Malecon boardwalk, where fishermen stand in the mornings catching the cena (dinner) for the family or to sell. In the evening Habaneros gather in the dark hours for romantic dates here, or just for hanging out with friends on the wide wall separating the boardwalk from the sea listening to reggeaton music on their subwoofers.

Malecon at night Credit Hege Jacobsen
Malecon at night Credit Hege Jacobsen


Walk along the Prado towards the Vedado, until you reach Malecon 663, which is a boutique hotel with a rooftop terrace sitting right on the edge of the city with uninterrupted views of the sea. This is a great place to enjoy a drink and dinner while watching the sun setting over the Vedado in the west. Some people say you can see over to Key West from here, while others argue it is just below the horizon. Regardless, it is a stunning place to spend the evening!

If you are not ready to end your sizzling Havana night after dinner, get a taxi and go to La Fabrika de Arte Cubano in the Vedado. This place is open from 6 pm to 6 am seven days a week and is a unique cultural venue with different zones including expositions, music scenes, bars, movie nights, and a lot more!

Day 2: Head Out Of The City

One option for your second full day in Havana is to take a small day trip out of the city.

Option 1: Join An Oganized Tour To Vinales Valley

You can opt for getting up early and joining an organized day trip to Vinales Valley, the heartland of cigar and rum production in Cuba.

Your driver will pick you up early in the morning, but you can relax on the drive to Vinales Valley, which takes just under three hours. Viñales Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its particular scenery with mogotes, special small steep hills spread around the valley floor.

The farmers of Vinales work the old-fashioned way. You will see a lot of horses and horse-drawn carriages in the streets, and you will visit a cigar farm where you get to see how they hand roll cigars. Try one (dipped in local honey) or even buy some to bring home.

Other experiences on this tour include tasting Cuban rum, see the Mural de la Prehistoria, and visit the spectacular Cueva del Indio cave (including a boat trip in the cave). For a traditional Cuban lunch, you’ll have different meats, rice, and beans, platano frito (fried banana), and vegetable salad.

They will drop you off in the afternoon back at your casa in Havana, just in time for a little siesta, before you head out for dinner.

Option 2: Visit Hemingway’s Home In San Francisco de Paula

A second option for this day is to book a tour or a private taxi to visit the Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s home in Cuba for over two decades! Hemingway bought this 19th Century house just outside Havana in San Francisco de Paula in 1939 and owned it until his death when the Cuban state took it. This is where he wrote his famous book “The old man and the sea”. Today, the Finca Vigia is a museum where you can get a sneak peek into Hemingway’s colorful life in Cuba.

Combine this trip with a visit to Las Terrazas, a stunning area in the hills in Pinar del Rio Province with freshwater pools and waterfalls. Here you can enjoy a tranquil atmosphere while swimming in crystal clear waters and showering in the terraced waterfalls. The area also has a bar, restaurant, and even small huts on stilts if you should wish to stay the night!

Las Terrazas natural pool and waterfalls Credit Hege Jacobsen
Las Terrazas natural pool and waterfalls Credit Hege Jacobsen

Or, head back to Havana in the late afternoon, maybe for a siesta, before dinner time.

Dinner Options For Your Second Night

In Central Havana, the city district between Old Havana and the Vedado, you will find several excellent options for a great evening meal. If you want to head into the streets, get a bicycle taxi (so you don’t get lost), and plot the address on your offline map on your phone to help the bixi taxi driver (addresses in Havana can be complicated).

Havana Paladar San Cristobal Credit Hege Jacobsen
Havana Paladar San Cristobal Credit Hege Jacobsen

Paladar San Cristobal in Avenida San Rafael (which President Obama visited on his famous Cuba trip) is a fantastic place for dinner with amazing food and a unique interior. If you are a small group, book a table in advance and ask for a separate room. I can safely say you will not be disappointed by the amazing service or surroundings you will enjoy for the evening.

Or a few streets away in Calle Concordia, also in Central Havana, is the paladar Mischifu. Here you find a bit more relaxed atmosphere, a colorful interior, great service, and really good food.

For the Havana night experience, you might want to try stopping by Salsa Havana in Calle Villegas on the corner of Calle Muralla where you can test your salsa rhythms. If you have no particular skills, don’t worry, someone will probably help you get at least a bit of the basic steps right!

Day 3: Head Out For Breakfast With Your Beach Bag Packed

You can’t leave Havana without spending time on a beach! On your last day, start your morning with a Havana breakfast, including delicious fresh juices and brewed coffee at El Café at the top of Calle Amargura.

Then pack your beach bag and head out to Playas del Este on the eastern side of Havana. For the best experience, pack a lunch basket, since beach bars and restaurants are scarce in Cuba.

Take the bus from Parque Central, or book a private taxi for convenience. The bus departs every 30 minutes and takes up to an hour to get there. At your destination, you’ll find several amazing beaches, lying like beads on a chain.

Enjoy the sand and surf for a few hours on Playa Boca Ciega or Playa Santa Maria del Mar. Since it might be crowded, especially on the weekends, try to get there early to find sun beds available for rent!

If you booked a taxi, you might also arrange to have the same one pick you up later, since it might be difficult to hail a new taxi by the beach when you are ready to go.

Soak Up Some Culture And History

For the last afternoon in Havana, find your cultural soul and visit the Museo de Bellas Arte by Parque Central, or the Museum of the Revolution in Avenida Belgica, close to Plaza 13 de Marzo. If you like history, it is always interesting to learn about something from a different point of view!

Make Your Last Dinner In Havana Special

Manzana Terraza Credit Hege Jacobsen
Manzana Terraza Credit Hege Jacobsen

To end your three days in Havana, I want to suggest you find your way again into the conglomerate of streets in Central Havana, to Paladar La Guarida. This is an incredible jewel in Calle Concordia, where you walk all the stairs up to the roof. There you have an amazing open terrace restaurant (you can sit inside if it rains), with lights, sometimes with live music, and an unsurpassed view of Havana by night.

The food is delicious, the service impeccable, and after dinner, you can just stroll across the roof to the La Guarida rooftop bar to finish with a nightcap in elegant surroundings while watching the night sky in three cardinal directions!

Wrap-Up Of Your Three-Day Havana Trip

I hope the rollercoaster visit of these three eventful days in Havana didn’t leave you completely exhausted! My intention is to provide you with a full picture of what the weird, contradictory and vibrant Cuban capital offers.

Now it is up to you to make the most of it. I am sure you will have a wonderful, and unforgettable, time!

A Few Helpful Things To Know About Havana:

1. A Handy Introduction To Havana City Districts

The most important city districts you should know about in Havana are Old Havana, Central Havana, The Vedado, Miramar & Playa, and Havana del Este.

  • Old Havana is the original city district, that was built in the 16th century, and there are still remnants of the original structures here and there. As the city needed to expand, the area known as Central Havana a little to the west of the old city grew up.
  • Central Havana has a similar colonial ambiance to Old Havana, but the streets are narrower, and the buildings are less grandiose. A lot of Habaneros live here, and walking these streets you will get a feel of a more authentic Havana (without the touristy buzz like in the old city).
  • The Vedado entertainment district is the next. The name means forbidden in Spanish. As the city expanded further, the ones that first moved were the wealthy people, so here you find wider avenues, parks, shopping centers, and larger mansions.
  • Miramar and Playa is the westernmost district in Havana, today a financial district with well-kept mansions with gardens and luxury amenities, several high-end hotels, businesses, and the wide Quinta Avenida passing through the entire area.
  • And last, Havana del Este, east Havana, where you also find Playas del Este. This is mainly a Cuban residential area comprising several villages. You will not find a lot of tourists here, but some visit Guanabo, where they can stay in casa particulares, and you are close to the beach, restaurants, and some hotels.

2. Can US Citizens Travel To Havana in 2022?

If you are a US citizen, you can travel to Cuba in 2022, just know that there are a set of requirements set by the US government you need to adhere to.

  • You need to choose one of 11 pre-approved reasons for visiting Cuba, the most common one being helping the Cuban people. This requires nothing more than stating your reason for the visit if anyone asks, there are no papers or permits required to adhere to this requirement.
  • Keep in mind that the US authorities have a restricted list for Cuba, regulating where you may not spend money while in the country. The list includes hotels, businesses and shops in Cuba where you are not allowed to spend money, all associated with the Cuban government. Basically, Americans may not support any business owned by the Cuban state. But don’t worry, you’ll find plenty of hotels, casas, shops, and paladares in Cuba not on this list, so you will in no way suffer!

3. Helpful Tips For Visiting Havana – And Cuba In General

  • Download an offline map like MapsMe to avoid getting lost (and to find all the right places), as you will mostly be offline when exploring Cuba!
  • Invest in a VPN before your Cuba holiday. Not only will it help keep your gadgets secure, but it will also ensure you can access online sites and services that are otherwise blocked from Cuban servers due to the active international sanctions.
  • Electricity is 110W in Cuba, just like in the US, but if you are traveling from Europe or places where your gadgets use 220W, bring an adapter.
  • Although it is relatively easy to learn enough Spanish to get by, it always helps to download a translation app that you can use offline for simple conversations and requests. Cubans generally don’t speak English (or really poor English), so a little Spanish goes a long way!
  • Water is sometimes hard to come by. If you bring a water bottle with a filter, you can drink water from anywhere!
  • Bring cash! In Cuba, cash is still king, but it needs to be Euro or Canadian dollars ($US is still a tense subject).
  • Change your currency with your host for the best exchange rate! Any and every Cuban needs foreign currency in 2022, asmoney in Cuba is in a changing and challenging situation.
  • Bring a small “18th Century” collapsable fan! It is HOT, and you won’t find air conditioning everywhere!
You can learn much more about Cuba from the author of this guest post from her book, Cuba for Travelers, Explained, available on Amazon. 
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