History & Heritage
Castillo del Morro: A Testament to Cuban History
Castillo del Morro, Havana
Walk along the walls of a historical fortress in Havana.
Among the oldest Cuban Castles, the Castillo del Morro remains an imposing defensive fortification at the entrance of the Port of Havana. Although it currently serves as a museum, its structural design has allowed it to withstand the passage of time and erosion from the elements - making it one of the most well-preserved historical sites in Cuba.
Entrance to El Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro
The Castle of El Morro
As part of a series of fortified structures to defend Havana from enemies of the Spanish crown and frequent sacs from ruthless pirates, the Castillo de Los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro, (Castle of the Three Kings of El Morro) was constructed between 1589 and 1640.
Inside the Fortress
To gain entrance to the castle, you’ll first have to pass through a dark tunnel with small perforated holes that function as skylights on your left-hand side. Kind of like a wormhole through the fabric of space into another time, the history of Cuba is alive and well preserved within the museum - with its grim brick-laden ceilings and quarry stone walls. Small passageways interconnect each castle’s naves with the height of an average person.
Each nave showcases unique historical and archaeological treasures that highlight Cuban history. Many artifacts include Taíno instruments used in the aboriginal communities, weaponry from the taking of Havana, aside from relics pertaining to the arrival and colonization of Spanish rule.
Also, the history of the city’s fortresses and earlier works of Italian architect Giovanni Battista Antonelli - commissioned to build El Morro - are another themed section of the museum.
The castle’s inner chapel, dedicated to the Three King Mages of the nativity story, is located near the first naves, where a church chaplain conducts holy mass, baptisms, and funerals.
Castillo del Morro, Havana
Spectacular City Sites
One of the main attractions of Castillo del Morro are the spectacular views from around the fortress as you ascend a ramp to the structure’s superior level. At its northern point, you can bask in the beauty of an infinite ocean surrounded by cannons and garrettes that once defended Havana.
From northeast to southeast, we find the buildings that make up East Havana - part of the Fortaleza de la Cabaña and Villa Panamericana. South of the castle, Old Havana or “el Casco Histórico” is a collage of modern and old-world edifications for the perfect cityscape shot.
And finally, towards the southeast, Havana’s promenade or ‘Malecon Habanero’ extends across the municipalities of Central Havana and Vedado, where distinct hotels line the coast.
Lighthouse at Castillo del Morro, Havana
Lighting up the Bay of Havana
The lighthouse of El Morro was later added in 1845 and, for its hundredth anniversary, was updated to electric power for the first time. Although the lighthouse isn’t as old as the fortress, it has always been integral to the city’s conscience, guiding ships to port. These days, you can visit and go right up to the lighthouse for 35 CUP and feel the ocean breeze from the Bay of Havana like a watchtower keeper 100 years back.
The Castillo del Morro’s entrance fee is 200 Cuban pesos, or around US $8 to US $9. The best way to get to El Morro is renting a car, or you can take a public bus or taxi across the Havana Tunnel that runs under the harbor - only leaving about a hundred meters to walk up.
Another great route is crossing from Old Havana to the county of Casablanca by ferry. Not too far off is the Cristo de la Habana statue. The castle’s doors are open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Written by Javier Montenegro.
Published October 2022.
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