One of the real joys of Havana is its streets. Not only do they treat they eye with shops and architectural wonders in various states of repair, they are also the theatre of Cuban life. The streets are packed with people virtually around the clock.
Here are the VisitCuba.com picks for Havana’s ten most noteworthy streets. You’re welcome to add to my list as you tour the city and pick your own favorites!
- Malecón No-one will argue that the Malecón is one of the world’s iconic streets. Stretching 7km from the mouth of the harbour to the tunnel under the Rio Almendares this route hugs the sea and provides a strolling paradise, a driving speedway and a collection of diverse architecture on its north side ranging from classical to art deco to the landmark Hotel Nacional de Cuba to concrete towers. (Read about staying on Malecón here or dining here.) On to the ominous US Interest Section building and the cluster of Cuban flags that camouflage it. Perhaps soon, the Embassy of the USA will be right there on the Malecón.
Malecón is also the gathering place of the people of Havana to see and be seen. Various pockets of gays, jineteras, lovers, families tourists, musicians and just about anyone else sit on or against the seawall that looks north to the Straits and Florida, 100 miles away.
- Paseo del Prado is best known for its gracious tree lined terrazzo boulevard that unites Old Havana with Centro running south from the Malecón to to Parque Centrale, the city’s traditional grand square. It’s a place for family walks, solicitations, art shows, real estate bargaining and lots, lots more all day every day. Continuing south on the same broad street is an eruption of taxis, coco taxis and Havana landmarks including historic hotels and Telégrafo and Inglaterra, past the luscious Gran Teatro de La Habana right past the stately El Capitolio.
- Obispo runs right through Old Havana from the harbour to Parque Centrale and is traditional main shopping and bar street. The street is vehicle traffic free, colourful, noisy and an endlessly entertaining people watching venue. Tour Obispo’s bars by clicking here. On the west side of the park, Obispo transforms into San Rafael, the main shopping street of Centro that is still lined with the facades of once busting department and fashion stores.
- Rampa/23 is the booming main street of Vedado. Right in the
middle of the action, Rampa is surrounded by the Hotel Nacional, Havana Libre, Hotel Capri and several others. As the Rampa section crests into the long Avenida 23 the block between Calle L and Calle M includes several music clubs, the famous Cine Yara and Coppelia ice cream stand and park and the fabulous Perro Calienete hot dog emporium. From there Avenida 23 heads west, a gracious main avenue through Vedado and beyond.
- Paseo is a glorious boulevard in the European style with park in the centre and still glorious mansions up both sides including the British Ambassadorial residence and several other diplomatic buildings. Once the most celebrated street, Paso ascends from the water south to Plaza de la Revolución underlining the still lush beauty of the Caribbean’s most glamorous city.
- Quinta Avenida Miramar’s Fifth Avenue is a tree-lined avenue and major thoroughfare carrying large amounts of high-speed traffic past majestic mansions, churches and other landmarks. Planned in the early 20th Century and built in the 1920s it is today the address of many of the capital’s embassies. It is the traffic artery joining the Malecón to the western, luxurious suburbs of Havana.
- Avenida de los Presidentes, also known as Calle G is unique to Havana for two reasons. Formally, it is an impressive boulevard, part of the original French inspired design of the Vedado District. It has a number of important statues and topiary that gives it a stately presence stretching from the sea. Its second “Calle G” personality begins at the corner of 23 y G where youth gather most evenings as an alternate venue they can call their own. It’s free, largely free from police presence and acts as a vibrant venue for romance, music and the exchange of ideas that might be confined to the Internet in other countries.