Old Havana Cuba Self-Guided Walking Tour

Havana Walking Tour Itinerary: What to do in Havana

In City Guides, Cuba by Erik Van Gilson11 Comments

A Havana Walking Tour is the best way to discover Cuba’s fascinating capital city – find out what to do in Havana as we go plaza hopping on our 1 day self-guided itinerary on foot. Food & ice-cream stops included! 

Havana Walking Tour: What to do in Havana

This Havana Walking Tour covers Old Havana only and is designed with budget travellers in mind, as we are here at DIY Travel HQ.

We take you plaza hopping with breakfast, lunch & street food snack stops along the way.

For more information each section of Old Havana can be found in the corresponding post, by clicking on the link at the end of each segment.

Let’s start our Havana walking tour at Plaza del Cristo, since it is on the way from the city’s cheapest accommodation in Centro Havana.

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* And don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before any trip to Cuba. We’ve been using World Nomads for over 10 years – it’s the best-value provider we’ve found but there are important things to consider. Check out our post & find out which of our claims were successful or denied.

Old Havana Gimnasio de Boxeo Rafael Trejo

The Cubans outperform in the Olympics, and boxing is one of those sports.

  • #1. Plaza del Cristo and Around

Plaza del Cristo is Old Havana’s least visited plaza, thereby making it an appealing start to our Havana walking tour.

You won’t find large tour groups congregating around their guide, or tourists photo-bombing your picture. Instead, you will be able to take a few shots of the picturesque Parroquial del Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje in peace.

Heading down Calle Brasil, you will come across the Museo de la Farmacia Habanera (free) if you’re looking for what to do in Havana.

Check out our post Plaza del Cristo and Around in Old Havana for more information.

Old Havana Parroquial del Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje

    Parroquial del Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje is a true ‘hidden’ gem.
  • Breakfast Pitstop

Just before arriving at Plaza Vieja is a trendy peso shop.

You can grab a ham sandwich for 10 pesos ($0.40), and a juice for 5 pesos ($0.20).

What to do in Havana

Toasted sandwich for 10 pesos ($0.40).

  • #2. Plaza Vieja and Around

Continuing down Calle Brasil on our Havana walking tour will lead you to the northwest corner of Plaza Vieja.

In terms of what to do in Havana and raw beauty, Plaza Vieja is the best in Old Havana.

A major renovation project has been completed for the majority of the buildings, with a few more still underway.

Each building currently showcases a before and after shot on their exterior façade.

Havana walking tour La Casona Centro de Arte

The recently completed renovation of Plaza Vieja was excellently done.

The center of Plaza Vieja is filled with a fountain, oddly surrounded by a fence.

At the time of our visit, an army of inanimate dogs also guarded the fountain.

The other art installations in the square were a flower, and a naked girl riding an oversized chicken while holding a giant fork.

Havana walking tour Plaza Vieja Street Art

You can feel safe in Old Havana with these dogs standing watch!

Scattered around Plaza Vieja are a number of small attractions along with restaurants, a microbrewery, and accommodation.

What to do in Havana? The attractions include:

  • La Casona Centro de Art (Free)
  • Museo de Naipes (Free)
  • Palacio Cueto, Camara Oscura (2 CUC, $2)
  • Planetario (10 CUC, $10)
  • La Factoris Plaza Vieja (Drinks 2 CUC, $2)
  • Centro Cultural Pablo de la Torriente Baur (Free)

Check out our post Plaza Vieja: The Best Plaza in Old Havana for more information.

Havana walking tour Camara Oscura

What to do in Havana? You weren’t wrong if you felt like you were being watched in Plaza Vieja.

  • #3. Plaza de San Francisco de Asis and Around

Plaza de San Francisco de Asis is our second favorite square in Old Havana.

The appealing aspect is that everything seems so open compared to the other plazas on our Havana walking tour.

Instead of being boxed in by buildings, the street running alongside the east side of Plaza de San Francisco de Asis actually makes the square feel larger, and adds some much needed vegetation.

Havana walking tour Plaza San Francisco de Asis

The openness of Plaza San Francisco de Asis is refreshing, especially when no cruise is docked.

There are a lot of attractions in and around Plaza de San Francisco de Asis.

What to do in Havana? Check out:

  • Fuente de los Leones, Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asis
  • Museo de Arte Religiouso (3 CUC, $3)
  • El Caballero de Paris, Terminal Sierra Maestra
  • Lonja del Comercio in Plaza de San Francisco de Asis.
Havana walking tour Plaza San Francisco de Asis Fuente de los Leones

All the attractions around the plaza are south of San Francisco de Asis.

Around the plaza can be found:

  • Museo del Ron (7 CUC, $7)
  • Catedral Ortodoxa Nuestra
  • ferry to Casablanca and Regla
  • Camara de Representantes (Free)
  • Coche Mambi (Free)
  • Museo de Leonardo da Vinci (2 CUC, $2)

Check out our post San Francisco de Asis and Around in Old Havana for more information.

What to do in Havana Club

If you skip the tour, your 7 CUC can buy you a bottle and still have change.

  • #4. Calle Mercaderes

Merchant’s Street is a great place to wander on a Havana walking tour as you head from Plaza de San Francisco de Asis to Plaza de Armas.

Although none of the small museums are top-notch, together they provide a bit of variety. Most, if not all, are free so take a look inside and linger if any catch your attention.

What to do in Havana? The museums that we visited along Calle Mercaderes include:

  • Museo del Chocolate
  • Museo de Bomberos
  • Armeria 9 de Abril
  • Casa de Asia
  • Casa de Mexico Benito Juarez
Old Havana Calle Mercaderes Armeria 9 de Abril

When you can’t sell guns anymore…turn the antiques into a museum!

There are a handful of other museums that we chose not to visit, such as:

  • Museo del Tabaco
  • Museo de Simon Bolivar
  • Casa de Africa
  • Museo de Pintura Mural

Calle Mercaderes also has two small shaded parks to relax in, or wait for friends while they finish exploring.

Check out our post Calle Mercaderes: Museum Incubator in Old Havana for more information.

Old Havana Calle Mercaderes Simon Bolivar Statue

Take a rest on your Havana walking tour while creepy Simon Bolivar watches.

  • Lunch Break

There aren’t many peso restaurants scattered around the plazas on our Havana walking tour.

That is why we were excited to find Mundo Aborigen Cafeteria on the south side of Plaza de Armas.

Spaghetti with cheese is 12 pesos ($0.48), and juice is 3 pesos ($0.12).

There are additional options on the menu as well. If you do not want to tip, then you have to remain at the bar for your meal.

Old Havana Plaza de Armas Mundo Aborigen Cafeteria Spaghetti

Take advantage of the peso restaurants that still exist in Old Havana.

  • #5. Plaza de Armas and Around

Plaza de Armas is one of the greenest plazas in Old Havana so don’t miss it on any Havana walking tour.

The problem is that the green areas are all fenced off.

The central square is comprised of four restricted quadrants divided by intersecting pathways.

At the heart of Plaza de Armas is a statue of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes.

Despite being restricting, people still frequent the square’s perimeter to take advantage of the shade.

What to do in Havana

Stop at Plaza de Armas Carlos & the Manuel de Cespedes Statue on our Havana walking tour

Like the other plazas in Old Havana, the highlights are around the square itself.

What to do in Havana? These include:

  • Museo de la Ciudad (3 CUC, $3) inside Palacio de los Capitanes Generales
  • Palacio del Segundo Cabo
  • Castillo de la Real Fuerza
  • Museo de Navegacion (3 CUC, $3)
  • Museo el Templete

Check out our post Plaza de Armas and Around in Old Havana for more information.

Old Havana Plaza de Armas Castillo de la Real Fuerza

Take a look at the tower on the left for Havana’s Club symbol.

  • Ice Cream Time

If you head one block past the University building on Calle Obispo where everyone is glued to their electronic devices, then you will come across a small piece of heaven.

What to do in Havana?

On a hot day you can’t beat a rich ice cream cone for 3 pesos ($0.12) on a Havana walking tour.

It is a small stall so make sure you are paying attention.

You also have to eat it fast as it literally will disappear before your eyes.

Havana walking tour

What to do in Havana? Ice cream is so cheap, why not have two?!

  • #6. Plaza de la Catedral and Around

Believe it or not, Plaza de la Catedral is the newest main plaza on our Havana walking tour.

The crown jewel of course is…you guessed it, the Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana.

The buildings all have a baroque style, and are pleasant for a quick snap.

However, besides one quiet restaurant the square doesn’t have any personality.

Havana Walking Tour Plaza de la Catedral

The restaurant on the left adds the only ambiance to a somber plaza.

What to do in Havana?

The surrounding buildings include:

  • Casa de Lombillo and Palacio del Marques de Arcos on the east side
  • Palacio de los Condes de Casa Bayona with the skippable Museo de Arte Colonial (2 CUC, $2) on the south side
  • restaurant in Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras on the west side

Our personal favorite attraction nearby was Taller Experimental de Grafica.

Check out our post Plaza de la Catedral and Around in Old Havana for more information.

Old Havana Plaza de la Catedral Taller Experimental de Grafica Alleyway

Sneak past the tables into a hidden world of art in Plaza de la Catedral.

  • #7. Old Havana Perimeter Loop

If you aren’t exhausted after tackling Old Havana’s five or six plazas, then there are still a few more attractions to visit.

From Plaza de la Catedral, head down Calle Obispo to start the second leg of your self-guided walking tour.

Havana Walking Tour Edificio Bacardi

The Bacardi Building stands out for being one of the few large structures in Havana still in good shape.

What to do in Havana?

The perimeter loop takes you to:

  • Edificio Bacardi
  • Museo Casa Natal de Jose Marti
  • Old Havana City Wall
  • Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Deposito San Jose
  • Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula
  • Gimnasio de Boxeo Rafael Trejo.

Make sure to grab several 6 peso ($0.24) beers just south of the church before catching a sparring match.

Check out our post Old Havana Perimeter Loop Attractions for more information.

Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula

This Old Havana Church is even more appealing at night.

This concludes your Havana walking tour!

You can also check out our other self-guided walking tours at:

As you plan the rest of your Cuban trip, don’t forget to check out these tips on how to prepare for Cuba in our post Cuba Budget Travel Guide & Information.

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 *** The Final Word – Old Havana is unlike anywhere else in the world. However, don’t put too much pressure on visiting every attraction. Just enjoy the architecture and local culture on a Havana walking tour! ***

What attractions did you find were worth the entrance fee in Old Havana?

5 Shovels

Super easy DIY travel around city centres

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Visited in May 2016

 

Comments

  1. Hi, Were you able to do the self-guided tour of Havana in one day?
    Would it be possible to see the Plazas and at least one of the Forts in a day?

    1. If you stick to the core area of Old Havana, that also runs into Centro Havana, you can see it all in one long day. Start early though as the fort would take up at least two hours to get there, see it, and return. We like to stop and take pictures, which slowed us down. Our one day was just Old Havana, and around the Capitolio. However, we knew we had 30 days in the country. Hopefully this helps.

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for your blog about cuba, very interesting indeed 😉 when did you travel, in which month?

    1. We visited Cuba last year in June & we had no issues with weather. We’re a bit curious if anything has changed now that Fidel is no longer around.

      We’re glad you are enjoying the blog posts. So many people say Cuba isn’t cheap, but it can be if you want it to be. Our goal is always to present the cheapest options & people can always make their lives easier by paying for more comfort. Let us know if you have any questions.

  3. Wow thanks Erik. Actually we are planning our 3 weeks in cuba as well and due to work we could only do it in June and July, first I worried about weather but as you said you had no issues with it, then it was a good sign 🙂 our plan is to go there in June-July 2018, i’m glad I’ve found your posts on 30 days in Cuba, really help me have more ideas about the country with cost of living details. Could you tell how much you spent for a whole month there excluding plane ticket? Thanks a lot 🙂

    1. Sheena & I spent 400 Euros each for a total of 800 during our 30 days in Cuba. That is on the extreme budget side. You can almost always find a casa particular for $15, but budget $20 if you don’t want to walk around a lot. There are plenty of options at every destination & all have the same features so no need to book ahead.

      You can eat for as little as $1-3 a day on peso food (pizza, egg sandwiches, pasta & government restaurants), but touristy places will by $7 & up for a meal in most places.

      Transportation is the biggest question mark & where most people don’t budget enough money. We took local camiones (trucks) that cost $1 for approximately 85 km, but they are time consuming & inconvenient. The better but more costly way is by Viazul. There website is handy with times & prices. It is best to book at least a day in advance.

      The rest of your budget is discretionary among souvenirs, attractions, & what not. Most things to see & do are cheap or free outside Havana & Santiago de Cuba. The exception to that are national parks since they are remote & require private transportation to reach. We cover this in more depth in our Cuba category with the first page being of particular interest. Let us know if you have any other questions.

  4. Thanks a million!!! your posts and tips are very helpful. ​I’m reading every single post 🙂 I always thought that Cuba was more expensive before having read your experience as there are two currencies, one for locals and one for tourists, so now I know it’s something more affordable!!! 🙂

    1. We’re glad you are enjoying the posts & finding them helpful! It’s nice to know that it can be really affordable, but each person can customize their trip & expenses to match their comfort level. The only thing we paid for in CUC were casa particulares & attractions. Otherwise we lived on the CUP currency.

      1. How does one acquire CUP? Will cambios give tourists CUP in exchange for USD instead of CUC? Planning a solo tip to Cuba this August. Hoping for great weather and a superb experience.

        1. Mandi, check out our post covering all your questions and more for Cuba’s dual currency! Keep in mind it might be better for you to exchange USD for Canadian dollars or Euros as the US$ is penalized 10%.

          Enjoy your trip and let us know how it goes. Recent changes now allow you to take back unlimited cigars if you know anyone that likes them. You can find some local versions for 1 CUP ($0.04). The blue brand in western Cuba is better than the brown version found on the east half.

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