The Hershey Train To Matanzas

To catch a colorful and vivid glimpse of bucolic Cuba just outside the city limits, there's no better method of transportation than the Hershey Train, an antiquated electric locomotive that plies its lazy route from Casablanca station to Matanzas five times a day, stopping at just about every house, hut, horse stable and hillock in between. Built in 1921 by US chocolate czar Milton S Hershey (1857-1945), the line was originally designed to link the giant sugar mill in the town of Hershey with...

Las Terrazas

The lush, ecofriendly community of Las Terrazas, 60km to the west of the capital, is one of Cuba's most innovative and inspiring environmental projects. During the early 20th century, the mountains in the area had been denuded by a combination of fire and shortsighted agricultural techniques, and their inhabitants lived in poor and difficult conditions. To counter the problem, a reservoir was created in 1971, and a model settlement was built beside it, taking its name from the hillside terraces...

Habana Vieja Top Five

Iglesia de San Francisco de As s El Nuevo (p72) 1558 and 1577 on the site of an earlier fort destroyed by French privateers in 1555. The west tower is crowned by a copy of a famous bronze weather vane called La Giraldilla the original was cast in Habana in 1632 by Jer nimo Mart nez Pinz n and is popularly believed to be of Do a In s de Bobadilla, the wife of gold-explorer Hernando de Soto. It is now kept in the Museo de la Gudad (p74), and the figure also appears on the Havana Club rum label....

Playas Del Este

In Cuba you're never far from an idyllic diamond-dust beach, and Habana is no exception. Indeed, the city's very own pine-fringed Riviera, Playas del Este, begins just 18km to the east of the capital at the small resort of Bacuranao, before continuing east through Tarar , El M gano, Santa Maria del Mar and Boca Ciega to the town of Guanabo, 27km from Habana. Although none of these places has so far witnessed the kind of megadevelopment reminiscent of Canc n or Varadero, Playas del Este is still...

Habana Vieja

What it lacks in quality paladares, Habana Vieja makes up for in wonderfully atmospheric and meticulously restored gov-ernment-run restaurants. Housed in old colonial buildings and offering such (relatively) adventurous culinary alternatives as pasta, pizza and Moroccan tagine, these places have an ambience that is is invariably excellent, even if the food isn't quite cordon bleu standard. AL MEDINA Map p220 Middle Eastern US 867-1041 Oficios No 12, btwn Obrapia & Obispo S noon-midnight...

Folk Salsa Traditional

Cuba's traditional son and salsa music can be heard for free almost anywhere but if you just can't get enough of the real deal, check out any of the places below. 3 830-3114 Paseo No 406, Vedado admission free STue-Sun Housed in a lovely rose-colored mansion on leafy Paseo, the Casa de la Amistad hosts son and salsa music every night except Monday in an Italian Renaissance-style garden. Buena Vista Social Club luminary Compay Segundo was a regular before his death in 2003, and a number of Cuban...

The Recent Past

Not much happens in Habana these days that isn't prefaced by the health and fitness of Cuba's ailing octogenarian leader, Fidel Castro. Emerging from a recent bout of acute diverticular disease, Castro is either making a miraculous recovery or suffering from a debilitating terminal illness it all depends on which TV network you happen to be watching. But with or without the faltering Fidel at the helm, the Cuban economy is in far better shape these days than it was 15 years ago. Fuelled by...

Mari An Ao Cubanacn Flores

CENTRO DE INGENER A GEN TICA Y BIOTECNOLOG A Map pp228 9 271 -8008 www.cigb.edu.cu cnr Av 31 & Calle 190 The ultramodern Centro de Ingener a Gen tica y Biotecnolog a, 1km south of the Palacio de las Convenciones, is the focus of Cuba's genetic engineering and biotechnology research. Cuba first became involved in biotechnology in 1981, and this center opened in 1986 after an initial investment of US 140 million. Since then, the 400 Cuban scientists employed in this enormous complex have...

Playa Marianao

Playa is paladar heaven and boasts the best selection of quality private restaurants in Cuba. Not to be outdone, the Cuban government has also set up some excellent state-run eating establishments here. CAFETER A 3 Y 62 Map pp228-9 Cuban 204-0369 cnr Av 3 & Calle 62 S 8am-11 pm If you're staying in one of the pricey hotels and want a cheaper place to eat, then try this place on the eastern side of the Russian embassy. It's a varied mix of five or six cheap permanent booths selling beer,...

Bus

Bus travel in Habana is not for the fainthearted. Queues, crowds, belching fumes and the kind of claustrophobia that even Houdini would have struggled with are all part of the unrelenting package. Regular city buses are called guaguas (wah-wahs), while the much larger metro buses are termed camellos (camels) for their two elevated metallic humps that allow room for more passengers. Within the city the fare is a flat 25 centavos in an extended bus with an accordion connection in the middle or 50...

Vedado Top Five

Universidad de la Habana (p89) Necr polis Crist bal Col n (p87) Memorial a Jos Mart (p86) Museo de Artes Decorativas (p86) The Castillo del Principe (1767-79) is an irregularly shaped fortress constructed to protect nearby valleys. It is said to contain moats, underground passageways, vaulted galleries, cisterns and all sorts of other intriguing stuff, but today it serves as a police headquarters and is off-limits to tourists. COMIT CENTRAL DEL PARTIDO COMUNISTA DE CUBA Map pp224 5 A long,...

Tp Five Sleeps

Hostal Conde de Villanueva below vines, huge doorways and rooms and a renowned paella restaurant pi 15 one half expects Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to come wandering down the staircase. Slap bang in the middle of the historical core and with a price that makes it one of the cheaper offerings in the current Habaguanex stable, the Valencia is an excellent choice, with good service and plenty of atmosphere. Next door is the similarly historic Hotel El Comendador Habaguanex 867-1037 Obrapia No 55...

Dance Clubs

Habana's dance clubs range from the suave Caf Cantante Mi Habana in the Teatro Nacional de Cuba to wall-vibratingly loud hotel discos such as Pico Blanco, which continue playing pop music, techno and salsa well into the small hours of the morning, washed down with plenty of Cuban rum. Alternatively you can visit an infinitely more caliente venue such as the Karachi Club in Vedado or the Palmero in Centro Habana, where you can mingle congenially with local Cubans as they dance energetically to...

Painting

Painting and art is alive and well in Habana, despite more than four decades of asphyxiating on-off censorship. From the classical realism of Guillermo Collazo 1850-96 to the futuristic murals of Amelia Pel ez 1896-1968 , a colorful and broad-ranging artistic pastiche has been painstakingly conserved through arts schools, government sponsorship and an eclectic mix of cross-cultural influences. Cuba's art legacy goes back nearly 200 years to 1818, when the San Alejandro National Academy of Arts...

Theater

With a well-entrenched and influential arts movement, Habana boasts a theater scene that is unmatched elsewhere in the Caribbean and possibly Latin America , even if the auditoriums themselves may sometimes look a little run-down. Offerings run the whole gamut, ranging from plays by Lorca to rumba with the Conjunto Folkl rico Nacional to close-to-the-bone comedy sketches to performances by internationally renowned ballet troupes. While the skill and professionalism of these performances easily...

Neoclassicism

Neoclassicism first evolved in the mid-18th century in Europe as a reaction to the lavish ornamentation and ostentation of baroque. Conceived in the progressive academies of London and Paris, the movement's early adherents advocated sharp primary colors and bold symmetrical lines, coupled with a return to the architectural 'purity' of ancient Greece and Rome. The style eventually reached Habana at the beginning of the 19th century via groups of French migr s who had fled from Haiti following a...

Habana S Statues

Statues can tell an important historical story in any major city and the Cuban capital is no exception. This monumental cycling tour starts at El Orbe 1 pi45 , Habana's friendly bike-hire store in the Manzana de G mez shopping arcade, and proceeds north along Paseo de Marti. Just before you merge with the busy Malec n in front of the Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta you'll see a large equestrian statue of General M ximo G mez 2 on the right-hand side. G mez p52 was a war hero from the...

Cuban Baroque

Baroque architecture arrived in Cuba via Spain in the early 1700s, a good 50 years after its high-water mark in Europe. Fuelled by the rapid growth of the island's nascent sugar industry, Habana's nouveau riche slave owners and sugar merchants used their juicy profits to construct larger and more grandiose urban buildings. The finest examples of baroque in Cuba adorn the homes and public buildings of Habana Vieja, including the Catedral de San Crist bal de la Habana p70 and the surrounding...

Centro Habana Casas Particulares

Juan Carlos Map p222 863-6301, 861-8003 Crespo No 107 btwn Col n amp Trocadero r CUCS15-20 A big, spotless house with natural light throughout. The cheapest room has a shared bathroom. Good value. Julio amp Eisa Roque Map p222 861-8027 julioroq yahoo.com Apt 2, Consulado No 162 btwn Col n amp Troca-dero r CUCS15-25 Julio and Eisa rent two rooms with different amenities the cheaper room has shared bathroom, fan only and cold water. Both Julio and Eisa aresuperhelpful and mines of information....

Habana Vieja Casas Particulares

Noemi Moreno Map p220 862-3809 Apt 2, Cuba No 611 btwn Luz amp Santa Clara rCUC 25 Asimple, clean room in great location behind convent there are also rooms in Apartment 1. Ram n amp Maritza Map p220 862-3303 Luz No 115 btwn San Ignacio amp Inquisidor rCUC 25 Two big interconnecting rooms in colonial house friendly owners. Migdalia Carra baile Map p220 fax 861-7352 Santa Clara No 164 btwn Cuba amp San Ignacio r CUCS25-35 Two rooms with balconies overlooking the Iglesia y Convento de Santa...

Voices Of Habana Any Garcia Viera Sales and promotions Vedado

Crowded, colorful and full of life. What definesa habanero A habanero inhabitant of Habana is a person who is proud to be from Habana they will go out of their way to boast about it. How has Habana changed in the last 10 years There's more renovation in the historical center. What are the hottest sounds in Habana right now Wherecan you hear them Trova traditional poetic singing is ever popular, with artists such as Silvio Rodriguez and pop-fusion duo Buena Fe....

Vedado Casas Particulares

Angela Mu iz Rubio Map pp224-5 879-6851 San Miguel No 1116 btwn Maz n amp Basarrate rCUC 25 Rents rooms near Museo Napole nico two have private bathrooms. Basilia P rez Castro Map pp224-5 832-3953 bpcdt hotmail.com Apt 7, lower fl, Calle 25 No 361 btwn Calles K amp L rCUC 25 Two rooms with independent entrances, fridge, phone and TV. A mellow, good-value place. Guillermina amp Roberto Abreu Map pp224-5 833-6401 Apt 13A, Paseo No 126 btwn 5 amp Calzada r CUCS25 Two spacious rooms with views....