Quick Havana Neighborhood Guide & Where to Stay

Updated on April 10, 2016

Malecon at Night, Havana Cuba / Havana Neighborhood

Trip Report Index
Who Can Fly To Cuba & When?
How to Book Award Flights To Havana, Cuba (fr United States NYC/EWR – HAV)
Our First Casa Particular Stay in Havana - Meh
Cuba: How To Get a Cuban Tourist Visa, Entry Requirements, Medical Insurance
How To Book a Casa Particular in Cuba Without the Hassle!
Cuba's Two Currencies (CUC vs CUP), Exchanging Money, Credit Cards, ATMs
Havana, Cuba Transportation, Taxis, Airport Transfers + Getting Around
Quick Havana Neighborhood Guide & Where to Stay
Havana, Cuba – Digital Detox Retreat From Internet & Phone (+ Where To Get It If You Really Need It)
I Loved Cuban Food...Until I Went To Cuba

Where should I stay?

We stayed in Vedado and would recommend staying there. I think the best bet for tourists is either Vedado, select parts of Old Havana, or Playa. I would avoid Centro Habana. We walked through Centro Habana on our way from Vedado to Old Havana (on the north side one street in from the Malecon) and got a glimpse of the many buildings that look ready to fall. I've included a few pictures below to give you a feel for the areas.

What are the neighborhoods like?

  • El Vedado – a safe, walkable, residential area with plenty of restaurants and a couple hotels including Hotel Nacional and Habana Libre. Not many tourist sites in the immediate area but a quick taxi ride or nice ~1 hour stroll along the Malecon to visit Old Havana.
  • Old Havana (Habana Vieja) – The main tourist area is very busy and many buildings have been/are being renovated. Many shops, restaurants, museums, street vendors + performers, etc to keep you busy for a day or two. Be very careful if you stay here as many areas are run down and don't look so safe. We wandered down one street near the main tourist area and had to turn back.
  • Playa / Miramar – west of Vedado, residential, wealthier area, farther from tourist sites, closer to beaches
  • Centro Habana – a gritty area with many crumbling buildings. Not a place for tourists but still interesting to walk through during the day. Some reviews on tripadvisor say this is the “real” heart of Cuba. Check it out.

See Frommers for more info on these areas.

Havana and Vedado Map (Cuba) / Havana Neighborhoods

Havana and Vedado Map – Source: bestcubaguide.com


Havana Neighborhood Photos

Check out the photos from Vedado, Old Havana, and Centro Habana. We didn't spend much time in Playa, only our failed attempt to go see a show at Tropicana Cabaret.


Walk around Vedado and you'll see many beautiful large homes/mansions like this one… some needing more repairs than others.

Vedado Neighborhood - Mansion / Havana Cuba / Havana Neighborhood

This apartment building design must have been popular as we saw many buildings like this (though not all looking as good).

Vedado Neighborhood - Apartment Building / Havana Cuba / Havana Neighborhood

A free concert in Vedado along the Malecon!

Vedado Neighborhood - Malecon Concert / Havana Cuba / Havana Neighborhood

Vedado is indeed a nice neighborhood…unfortunately, garbage gets thrown all over the place.

Vedado Garbage on the streets

Old Havana (Habana Vieja)

Wandering the main tourist areas of Old Havana. This is Banco de Credito y Comercio (map).

Old Havana Plaza / Havana Cuba / Havana Neighborhood

Plaza Vieja (map)

Old Havana Plaza / Havana Cuba / Havana Neighborhood

A free art museum near Plaza Vieja (map) where we took refuge from the beaming sun.

Old Havana Plaza / Havana Cuba / Havana Neighborhoods

Centro Habana

Here are some photos from our walk from Vedado to Old Havana on San Lazaro (the north side close to the Malecon – see map)

Centro Habana / Havana Cuba / Havana Neighborhoods

Centro Habana / Havana Cuba / Havana Neighborhood

Centro Habana / Havana Cuba / Havana Neighborhood

How long should I stay?

We spent 6 nights in Vedado which was way too long. Looking back, I would have enjoyed 2 nights in Old Havana or Vedado and the rest elsewhere like Pinar del Rio (west) or Trinidad (east). Based on some advice, we didn't stay in Old Havana because we were unfamiliar with the area and most casas don't post the exact location. Though I'm in no hurry to return, for a second visit, I would spend all of my time in the countryside. For first time visitors, certainly spending a few days in Vedado/Old Havana are worthwhile…then head for the beaches or countryside.


My Cameras: These photos were taken using either my Canon S110 (newer model is S120) or my Sony a6000 (with this wide angle lens).  The Canon is fits in my pocket and takes amazing pictures. The Sony packs the power of a full size DSLR while being small enough that I'm still willing to bring it!

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  1. I think Vedado is nice residential neighborhood with mansions here and there. My friends stayed there and it’s quite nice. We stayed in Centro and felt it was great and a more authentic Cuban experience. Yes some of the buildings are crumbling but once inside the casa, it almost feels like a going back in time. To each his own. Another set of friends stayed in Miramar and we all thought it was way too far.

    • Which part of centro did you stay and was there anything to do? We had trouble finding availability — everything was booked or no answer. I’m sure there are some great casas in Centro but then do you have to take taxis everywhere? Miramar is for sure too far if you are looking to do the tourist thing. Something more for repeat visitors perhaps? I think the back in time feel was everywhere. Though we stayed in Vedado, our casa was by no means amazing — photos are coming.

  2. How much cash per day (not including hotel costs) do you think is needed assuming we want to go out and enjoy ourselves and take taxi’s to get around.

    • Just a guess, prices in CUC per person

      ~50 CUC per person was probably good for us for a whole day, not including any tours. Some days we spent less than half. Check out the links for more details.

      3-5 breakfast (check out my food post for pics)
      7-10 lunch
      5-15 dinner
      0.10 ice cream (2 scoops)
      1-2 snack Chocolate covered churros
      5 each Daiquiri at touristy Floridita
      2 (four shared taxis – see my post on transportation)
      2-4 each drink at a typical bar
      5 internet that doesn’t really work
      0 Free museums

      75 full day tour to another
      30-40 one hour private tour for 3-4 people in a beautiful classic convertible car + 5 for all the hidden entry fees the driver won’t tell you about

  3. …have been to Cuba on three different occasions: 1989, 2015, and 2017. Each time was very different. …stayed at Hotel Libre, the headquarters of the late Fidel Castro [my first visit with small group of Americans–there was not much to do during those times]. In 2015 I took a superb and outstanding People-to-People “Educational Introduction Tour” with http://www.Cubaexplorer.com, a company that’s based in Canada. The price was not horrendous, and the services rendered were stellar. …one of the best tours that I’ve taken during my lifetime as a world traveler. This year I had a 25 day People-to-People arranged but had to abort during my third day as an independent traveler. …had medical issues and did not wish to brave traveling for miles and miles throughout this tour. …hope to return in 2018 with CE as well as traveling solo with guide during the days prior to my joining the group.

    Your photos that accompany this post are outstanding. I liked and connected with the majority of them. Muchas gracias!

  4. We are planning on staying out there in April at Melia Cohiba and possibly at Hotel Bella Habana with his travel baseball team. We know there are a difference in hotel standards between the two, but was wondering with Melia cohiba right on the malecon, is it close to restaurants and places that we can walk around to, any night life?

    For the Hotel Bella, it is located near Plaza De revolucion and was wondering the same thing, close to restaurants, nightlife and place to see?

    Thanks for the info.

    • There is going to be a lot more stuff going on around the Malecon and the Melia looks like a much nicer hotel overall. Don’t expect restaurants and bars open everywhere like in New York City. When we went looking for some nightlife in the downtown area near Hotel National de Cuba, the club was almost empty. Maybe it wasn’t late enough. There were some bars on the main drag Avenida 23 and Calle F that had a good energy (club inside/lounge bar outside). A lot of the better places are not obvious so you need to do your research before you go. Once you get there, no google maps, no yelp, you’re on your own.

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