Climbing on Castillo de Los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos del Morro and Stepping into Old Havana, Cuba.
Our travel took us into one of Cuban’s most famous fortresses that was designed to keep enemies out. We would also get our first impressions into Old Havana. We would discover European styled public squares that are in the process of being restored to a world class squares and gathering spaces.
This post is one chapter on our trip to the isolated country of Cuba. This trip was planned through Westjet Vacations. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.
Read More from This Trip
- Trip Introduction: Havana and Varadero, Cuba via Westjet Airlines
- Westjet Airlines: Abbotsford – Calgary
- Westjet Airlines: Calgary – Varadero
- Ocean Varadero El Patriarca, Varadero, Cuba
- Commercial Shopping in Communist Cuba
- Overland Travel: Varadero to Havana, Cuba
- Landing into New Havana, Cuba
- Climbing on Havana’s Most Famous Fort and Stepping into Old Havana, Cuba
- Tackling the Four Squares of Old Havana, Cuba
- Westjet Airlines: Varadero – Calgary
- Westjet Airlines: Calgary – Abbotsford
Activity: Climbing on Castillo de Los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos del Morro and Stepping into Old Havana, Cuba.
Our driver picked us up and we headed over to Castillo de Los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos del Morro. It was situated on the other side of the bay overlooking Havana as a fort that was designed to protect the harbour from foreign invaders. It was built between 1589 and 1630.
There were stunning views over the water towards the Malecon that runs the length of the waterfront in Havana, and the Hotel Nacionale.
After we took in the fort, we attempted to go for lunch in area. Unfortunately, the whole area was under a power cut so our guide had us return to the city.
A Quick Meal at Tablao de Pancho:
We ended up having a lunch near the Havana train station at Tablao de Pancho. I’d provide an internet web link to the restaurant, but most of the locations appear to be so off the grid that no web address exists outside of a basic trip advisor entry. The area was slightly run down but the food was edible. There were a few pro-Castro graffiti markings on the walls as we walked to the restaurant entrance.
The restaurant itself was gaucho western themed. The restaurant was packed with tourists so it must have been on the circuit. The lunch was quite expensive which was consistent with other reports that I had read. I don’t think there are many Cuban’s eating chicken for $15 CUC ($15 USD) for lunch.
I had pollo fritas (fried chicken) and rice with black beans along with a local cerveza, served in a goblet wine glass.
All in pretty tasty and I didn’t have to order any international pizza or pasta but got to try something reasonably “Cuban”.
Our First Steps into Old Havana:
After lunch, our guide took us through Old Havana. The area intimately packed with history and is known for its four plazas or squares. The zone has received a UNESCO heritage designation and contains about 900 buildings of historical significance. It was easily one of the highlights of the whole trip and easily the highlight of our day trip to Havana. If you’re planning a visit, and can find suitable accommodation, I’d highly recommend staying in this area.
We started our walk at Coche Mambi, a train car in the middle of Old Havana.
We wandered down thin streets to Plaza Veija. We passed an urban school where many parents were picking up their children for the day.
Plaza Veija: Spacious Cuban Squares
We came to the first square; Plaza Veija. Similar to many European cities, the squares in Cuba were wonderful impressive spaces meant for gathering.
Our guide was excited to announce that we would see a naked woman on a cock in the square as we rounded the corner. He didn’t mislead us as it was a piece of sculpture that was in the corner of the square.
There was lots of building refurbishment in the area. The squares were full of life and a stark design difference for a city with the United States only 90 miles away from Cuba’s shores. Old Havana had an intimately European feel.
We found some street vendors selling coconut ice cream, in a coconut.
My First Impressions of Walking in New Havana:
The first sights of Old Havana were easily the most interesting parts of Havana worth seeing. The stark contrast between architecture between Miami and Havana couldn’t be more prevalent between two major cities that are so close together. Old Havana is highly recommended for a walking tour if you happen to find yourself travelling through Havana.