With an abundance of historic sites going back well over 500 years, making a list of the country’s top historic landmarks is a challenge. Many cities are historic themselves, with no single building, monument, or museum standing out above the rest.
Nevertheless, here are several landmarks worth your time in Cuba.
Dominating the south side of Havana’s enormous Plaza de la Revolución is the memorial to José Martí – poet, journalist, and martyr of Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain.
The memorial incorporates a 17-metre marble statue of Martí, and a tower with a museum and an observation level with panoramic city views.
Across the square, a mural of Cuba’s revolutionary icon, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, adorns the Ministry of the Interior.
Two imposing fortresses guard the entrance to Havana’s Harbor: El Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro and La Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña.
Built in the late 16th century to protect the city against pirates, El Morro is a picturesque castle with a working lighthouse and wonderful views of Old Havana and beyond.
Next door, sprawling La Cabaña dates from the 18th century.
Housed in the opulent former Presidential Palace, the Museo de la Revolución is a fascinating museum about various aspects of Cuban history, particularly events leading up to, during, and following Castro’s revolution.
The ground floor contains interesting exhibits on the life of Che Guevara.
Ernest Hemingway adored Cuba, and spent long periods of his life at Finca Vigía, the hilltop house he purchased in 1940, east of Havana.
Here he wrote some of his most famous novels, including For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.
The house is now a museum, with Hemingway’s original furniture and possessions, including 9,000 books.
Although visitors are not allowed to enter, open doors and windows provide a good look inside.
Che Guevara’s final resting place is in Santa Clara, where a mausoleum houses the remains of the Argentine-born revolutionary and 29 others killed alongside him during a 1967 attempt to spark a Marxist uprising in Bolivia.
The memorial complex also includes an interesting small museum.
Like its Havana counterpart, Santiago de Cuba’s El Morro fortress – formally El Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca – was built to guard against pirate attacks.
Dating from 1638, it occupies a promontory at the entrance to the Bay of Santiago, 16 kilometres south of the city centre. Inside is a small museum with exhibits on piracy and the Spanish-American War.
The oldest house still standing in Cuba was built in the early 16th century as the official residence of Cuba’s first governor, Diego Velázquez.
Beautifully preserved, it’s now home to the Museo de Ambiente Histórico Cubano, which displays furnishings and decorations from the 16th through the 19th centuries.
Annika Hipple writes about several iconic and lesser-known cultural highlights to add to your trip.
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