Enjoy a unique Spanish experience in Cuba’s capital city: Havana. Travel back in time and visit the best preserved Spanish colonial complex in the Americas.
Christopher Columbus discovered Cuba on his first trip to the Americas in 1492. The Spanish soon recognised the strategic value of the island, and founded Havana with a strong military, naval and administrative base. With so many riches transiting through the island, Havana rapidly became a wealthy city, and remained so for centuries. In 1848, Havana was so prosperous that it was the third city to install gas street lights in the world.
Today La Habana Vieja (or Old Havana) is the best preserved Spanish colonial complex in the Americas and as such, a UNESCO world heritage site. When you walk through the streets of Old Havana, you can admire the architecture and the former glory of this amazing city. You can see the contrast between the colonial buildings, restored and freshly painted to attract tourists, and the run-down apartment blocks that also reflect real life in Cuba today.
Havana is a vibrant cultural hub with a safe atmosphere
Havana hosts several international festivals: Latin American cinema, ballet, jazz. In fact, live Music is played on the streets day and night, and La Habana Vieja comes alive at night with the sound of jazz, rock, reggae, rap, afro-jazz and much more… If you are learning Spanish during the day, you can learn to dance salsa, mambo or rumba at night. Or you can simply watch performances in the clubs or in the city’s beautiful theatres.
If you prefer architecture, there is also plenty to see in Havana. Along with the Baroque and colonial buildings, there are beautiful examples of neoclassical and art deco architecture, as well modernist buildings that brought more radical changes the city scape from the 1950s onwards. These architectural landmarks are hotels and residential buildings as well as museums.
Did you know that Ernest Hemingway lived in la Havana for 20 years? He made friends with a local fisherman whom he used as a model for Santiago, the main character in the Old Man and The Sea. His residence is now a world famous art museum.
Tropical climate, beautiful sand and warm water… Cuban beaches are popular with visitors.
You cannot fully experience Havana without taking a stroll on El Malecón. On this long pedestrian path along the ocean, you will see locals fishing, children going for a swim. When you walk past Centro Habana, the crumbling facades, faded paint are possibly the most picturesque. The Habaneros tend to go to the beach on Playas del Este which is close to the city but not so heavily frequented by tourists.
Things you must see while studying Spanish in la Havana:
- The Morro Castle a fortress completed in the 17th century to guard the bay of Havana. Today it is one of the main symbols of Havana.
- The Jose Marti memorial was finished in 1959 on Plaza de la Revolucion. It is a 109 meters five-star-shaped grey marble tower. An elevator takes you the top, where you can enjoy beautiful views.
- The Museum of the Revolution is an opulent building, originally the Presidential Palace, near the site where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara originally landed in 1956 when they successfully overthrew the government.
- Visit Partagas, the oldest cigar factory in Havana. While workers smoke away, an employee reeds out the newspaper or literature, which explains why cigars are given names after novel characters such as Monte Cristo or Romeo and Juliet.
- The market is also good place to practice your Spanish. Many guide books will direct you to the indoor artisan market, but in the outdoor market, only a few blocks away, you find a mix of everything, from fake Cuban cigars to handcrafts and paintings. Of course, don't forget to negotiate the price!