Exploring Havana is like taking a journey back in time! While the historic neighborhoods of La Habana Vieja and Centro Habana transport visitors to the past, Vedado is a more modern district.
With its towering skyscrapers and expansive avenues, it’s reminiscent of a Cuban version of New York.
Looking for things to do in Vedado? Wondering how to get there? Captain Ulysses has all the answers!
💡 Planning Your Trip to Cuba 💡
✈️ Flights: To find the best deals on flights, Captain Ulysses highly recommends using Skyscanner or Omio.
🇨🇺 Visa: Before you depart, be sure to apply for your tourist card (which is your visa for Cuba). You can easily order your tourist card online through CubaVisa.
🛏️ Accommodations: To book your accommodations in Cuba, the Captain recommends Expedia. In Havana, he especially recommends 3 casas particulares/B&Bs (Casa Colonial Pedro y Mary, Casa Miriam Hostal Colonial, and Hostal Habana Tu & Yo) and 3 hotels (El Candil Boutique Hotel, Vapor 156 Boutique Hotel and Paseo 206 Boutique Hotel).
📸 Free Guided Tour: Why not explore Havana with a local guide? The Captain highly recommends this free tour of the city. You can choose how much to tip your guide at the end of the tour.
Vedado in a few words
Vedado is an emblematic residential and commercial area of Havana, built primarily between the 1920s and 1950s. Its name means “reserved forest” in Spanish, as it was once a protected forested area.
With its skyscrapers and perpendicular streets, Vedado bears a striking resemblance to North American cities. This is not surprising since, before becoming enemies in the latter half of the 20th century, the United States and Cuba had a close relationship. Vedado had even become a haven for many American gangsters who turned the neighborhood into a Cuban version of Las Vegas!
However, after Fidel Castro took power, he expelled the mobsters from Cuba.
Nowadays, Vedado is a bustling, green neighborhood where both locals and tourists enjoy dining, dancing, and grabbing a drink.
Getting to Vedado
To reach Vedado, head west from the districts of Centro Habana and La Habana Vieja. You can walk to Vedado, but it’ll take you around thirty minutes to reach Avenida de los Presidentes from Parque Central.
Alternatively, the T1 line of the HabanaBusTour tourist bus goes to Vedado from various points in Havana, including Parque Central. A day pass costs 10 CUC per person.
Another option is taking a taxi for approximately 10 CUC.
You can also take a tour of Vedado in a vintage Cuban car, but the Captain only recommends it for car enthusiasts as it can be quite expensive (around fifty CUC).For an authentic experience, book a 2-hour tour of Vedado aboard a genuine 1950s American convertible accompanied by a guide.
The tour takes you to the iconic landmarks of the capital, ending with a cocktail at the Hotel Nacional. Up to four people can ride in the car , and you can cancel your tour up to two days in advance for a full refund.
👉 More info: Havana Private Classic Car Tour
Things to see and do in Vedado
👉 To make the most of your time, the Captain recommends opting for a free guided tour of the Vedado (you decide how much to tip). More info here.
The Malecón is a famous avenue in the Cuban capital that runs along the coast for about 8 kilometers. It is a promenade that is popular with both tourists and locals, especially during the Havana festival. During the festivities, the Malecón is filled with people and vibrates to the rhythm of the conga.
To be completely honest, the Malecón did not really live up to the Captain’s expectations: although it is charming in places, he found it rather dull overall.
Built in the 1930s, the Hotel Nacional is one of the main attractions in Vedado. Its eclectic architectural style, which combines art deco, neoclassical, and neo-colonial influences, has made it one of the most iconic landmarks in the capital!
Over the years, the hotel has hosted many famous personalities, including Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, and Fred Astaire. But it is mainly known for being the scene of a massacre during Batista’s coup in 1933. Later, in 1946, the Hotel Nacional hosted a major meeting of the North American mafia under the guise of a Frank Sinatra concert.
Today, fortunately, the hotel is much more pleasant and still operational. If your budget allows it, you can even treat yourself to a stay there, with rates ranging from 100 CUC to 300 CUC per night depending on the season.
Hotel Habana Libre
Opened in 1958 under the Hilton brand, the Hotel Habana Libre is an immense modernist building. However, it only belonged to the brand for a short period of a few months.
In 1959, Fidel Castro and his troops took power and Castro moved into a suite on the 23rd floor of the hotel, which he renamed the Hotel Habana Libre.
Two gigantic works of art adorn the hotel: an immense fresco by Amelia Peláez, and a work by Alfredo Sosa Bravo called the Carro de la Revolución, made up of 555 pieces of ceramics.
The Hotel Habana Libre also continues to host guests. It has less charm than the Hotel Nacional but is much more modern. The lobby in particular is magnificent.
Let’s be honest, the U.S. Embassy is not very memorable! But you can take a look just to say you’ve seen it: it’s still quite a symbol!
Plaza de la Revolución
Located in the heart of Vedado, Plaza de la Revolución is a huge square of 72,000 square meters. Designed by French urban planner Jean Claude Forestier in the 1920s, it is modeled after the Place de l’Étoile in Paris. Called “Plaza Civica” until 1959, it was later renamed “Plaza de la Revolución”.
The Plaza de la Revolución is a gathering place: up to 1 million Cubans have gathered there at once. It is also home to several institutions, including the Ministry of the Interior, the National Library, and the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
José Martí Memorial
Standing at almost 140 meters, the José Martí Memorial is located in the center of the Plaza de la Revolución. An immense statue of José Martí stands at the entrance of the monument.
The memorial houses a museum dedicated to the famous Cuban independence leader (3 CUC per person). A viewpoint at the top of the building (3 CUC per person) allows you to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Plaza de la Revolución below and the Cuban capital.
Avenue of the Presidents
Calle G, nicknamed Avenida de los Presidentes, is a very nice tree-lined avenue in the heart of Vedado. It is dotted with several statues and monuments paying tribute to various iconic political figures. Among them are former Cuban presidents Tomás Estrada Palma and José Miguel Gómez, Chilean Salvador Allende, Mexican Benito Juárez, and Venezuelan Simón Bolívar.
At the end of the avenue, an immense equestrian statue of the Cuban general Calixto García stands guard.
University of Havana
Originally founded in 1728, the University of Havana is the oldest in Cuba and one of the first in America.
Initially located in Habana Vieja, the university moved to a large neoclassical building in Vedado in 1902. It currently hosts around 60,000 students.
You will find two museums (Felipe Poey Museum of Natural History and Montané Anthropological Museum, each costing 1 CUC per person to visit), as well as a tank captured by Castro’s forces in 1958.
Located in a house inspired by the Florentine palaces of the sixteenth century, near the University, the museum is actually the largest non-French museum dedicated to the Emperor.
The museum’s collections bring together many objects related to the emperor amassed by the Cuban sugar magnate Julio Lobo and the politician Orestes Ferrere.
Expect to pay 3 CUC per person for a self-guided visit and 5 CUC for a guided tour.
Cristóbal Colón Cemetery
To the southwest of Vedado, the Cristóbal Colón Cemetery is a vast cemetery spanning 56 hectares. It is one of the largest cemeteries in the Americas. It is mainly famous for its opulent religious iconography as well as its numerous marble statues. A large number of iconic Cuban personalities are buried in the Cristóbal Colón Cemetery, including the independence fighter Máximo Gómez.
You can get a guide and a detailed map of the cemetery on site for 5 CUC.
👉 For more tips and recommendations, be sure to check out the Captain’s full Guide to Havana, Cuba.
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