La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) is the oldest neighborhood and the city center of Havana, Cuba. Old Havana and its fortifications are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
La Habana Vieja was first established in 1519 by the Spanish on the Bay of Havana. Cuba has seen some drastic political changes over the centuries. In contrast, Havana and especially the neighborhood of Old Havana have remained frozen in time. Most notably are the baroque and neo-classical buildings and the 1950s cars. What a visual feast for a photographer, a video maker and any visitor!
There was no way I could make a comprehensive video about La Habana Vieja in just one minute. I tried to create a mixture of some of the famous sights and some images that spoke to me personally. Depending on which video my Patreon supporters vote for, there may be a longer video about La Habana Vieja this month. If you want to participate in the vote, please support me on Patreon.com/LuciWest. You’ll get other rewards as well…
Major sights in this video (in order of appearance):
Castillo del Morro Castle and Lighthouse (seen from our balcony)
La Cabaña Fortress (seen from La Habana Vieja)
Castillo de la Real Fuerza
Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis on Plaza de San Francisco
Catedral de San Cristobal
Plaza Vieja (seen from inside Factoria Plaza Vieja, Cervezas y Maltas)
Hotel Ambos Mundos (Hemingway Hotel) on Calle Obispo
Plaza de Armas (where I got the Obama poster for my birthday)
La Floridita (where Hemingway and us had delicious daiquiris)
La Bodeguita del Medio (where Hemingway hung out, but we didn’t)
Payret Cinema and Capitolio
Most of the images in this video about La Habana Vieja, I shot on my birthday while Scott and I roamed Old Havana. It was the best way to spend a birthday: filming and photographing the perfect location of my dreams. The subjects that get me most excited are abandoned-looking buildings, places with strong history, classic cars, street art, city life and its people and colors contrasting with grey. All this was in abundance in La Habana Vieja. The only other subject that I feel strongly about is nature, which I got to film a few days later on the Caribbean coast.
Walking around capturing a yet unexplored place with Scott and every once in a while dip in somewhere to have a bite or get another cold beer (bring your own koozies) was the best way to spend my birthday. Wonder where we will go next year…
For anyone traveling to Havana, Cuba, in the future, I cannot recommend enough Mary and Juan Carlos’ apartment Vistalmorro. The 2-bedroom apartment with a balcony overlooking the Havana Bay, Malecón and the Morro Lighthouse, is a bit pricier than your average Casa Particular (private room or hostel). But I believe it is well worth it. The apartment is in walking distance of everything you might need or want in Old Havana. And the luxury and functionality of the apartment provides an excellent break from the heat, noise and visual over-stimulation of the old city. I wrote a more detailed review on Airbnb. By the way, they’re not paying me to write this. 😉
I also didn’t get paid by the Hotel Ambos Mundos (aka The Hemingway Hotel), where we stayed our last night in Havana. Still, I’ll probably publish a video about that hotel in the near future.
Other Cuba videos already online:
Other videos I plan to publish in the coming weeks and months:
Havana Street Art
Classic Cars of Cuba
Havana at Night (the post will include a few tips for restaurants and bars)
A few Havana travel tips:
While you don’t get the sense you have to worry about pick-pockets, the “danger” of the hustlers is a real nuisance and can cost you quite a bit of money. They may convince you to buy discounted cigars or pressure you into purchasing baby formula for an unseen baby. Yes, we too fell for hustlers during our first hours there. Cubans are super friendly, welcoming and open – but some of them hustle with such an insight into human psychology and elaborate schemes. It’s hard to be unfriendly or suspicious when people are so helpful and nice and pull all the stops to convince you that you are not being hustled. My advice is to remain friendly but be firm that you don’t need cigars, rum or directions to anywhere. Sometimes you just have to walk away and ignore the “Lady, lady, lady!” being yelled after you. And I recommend taking it in stride when you do realize you’ve been hustled. After all, you did just help a person who has bigger financial troubles than you.
The other tip is specifically for travelers with only US bank accounts and credit cards. Your American credit cards and ATM cards do not work in Cuba as of this writing. Bring more US dollars than you had budgeted. Just tuck them away somewhere safe and convert them to CUC in case you run out of money for whatever reason. There is no other way for you to acquire additional money while in Cuba. Fortunately, we brought just about enough, but it did get a little tight.
Ah, there is so much more I could tell you. But this post is long enough. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to write in the comment section here or on any of my social media pages.
The photo above (and second to last shot in the video) is of the buildings that were the backdrop for a “Fast and Furious” shoot. This annoyed me a bit because I couldn’t get to film them myself (road blocked). But I did get some dramatic footage of the “Fast and Furious” camera helicopter flying by them – and then we returned another day for the shot used in this video.
The song in the video is “El Pescador” by Bruno Bassi of Los Hermanos, which I discovered via the royalty-free music website GoSoundtrack.com. Their collection is available via a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.