As budget-conscious travelers, we love finding fun free things to do in each city we visit. With plenty of museums, outdoor street art, and exceptional places for people-watching, when it comes to free entertainment, Havana has it all!
Check out our List of budget-friendly things to do in Havana, Cuba.
1. Visit the Museum of Colonial Art.
We happened to stumble onto this adorable little museum while wandering around Old Havana. With free admission, it's worth looking around at their displays of art, furniture, and other artifacts from the Colonial Period of Cuba's history. Being a lover of vintage clothing and sewing, I particularly enjoyed their rather impressive display of antique and vintage sewing machines. Marvin's favorite was the classic Volkswagen Beetle.
Location: Habana Vieja; San Ignacio, between Obispo and O'Reilly
2. Peruse the small outdoor mercado in Vedado.
This was another little place we happened to notice while walking around. It's not large, but it is packed with vendors selling painted artwork, wooden artwork, leather products, jewelry, clothing, souvenirs, and more. If you find something you like, don't be afraid to haggle!
Location: Vedado; Avenida 23, between Calle M and Calle N.
3. Watch the sun rise over the Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta.
The Malecón is the perfect place to watch the sunrise. On our last morning in Havana, we got up early to catch the sunrise, and it was one of the best things we did while we were there. There were relatively few people were out and about, and the morning was peaceful. We observed two fishermen getting an early start on their day, along with a couple pelicans doing some fishing of their own. The Castillo de la Real Fuerza (Havana Castle of the Royal Force) and Farro Castillo del Morro (lighthouse) make a beautiful silhouette for amazing travel photos.
Location: El Malecón, around Parque Maceo
4. Get your picture taken with John Lennon.
We found it so very quaint and perfectly wonderful to find such a lovely tribute to John Lennon of the Beatles in a Latin American country whose first language is not English. Fidel Castro was a Lennon fan, though, and had this bronze statue erected in 2000.
Location: Vedado; Calle 8, at Calle 17
5. Walk along the Malecón and watch the classic cars.
We took a number of great photos of vintage cars as we walked along the Malecón between Habana Centro and Habana Vieja. A long-time lover of old cars, Marvin was in paradise!
Location: Malecón, from Avenida 23 to Prado.
6. Check out the Don Quixote statue on 23rd.
This wild-looking Don Quixote sitting on a rearing, even-wilder-looking Rocinante caught our eye as we were walking down 23rd one day. This emaciated metal pair strengthened my resolve to read Cervantes' Don Quixote without delay.
Location: Vedado; Avenida 23 at Calle J
7. Visit the Memorial to the Victims of the Maine.
In 1898, 260 crew members on the USS Maine were blown up in the Havana harbor. In 1925, the monument to the victims of the Maine was built to honor the Americans who died. But following the Revolution, the eagle that sat on top of the monument was pulled down, leaving only the pillars and the base, with the inscription: "'The people of the island of Cuba are, and of right must be free and independent.' -resolution with Congress of the United States of America - April 19, 1898."
Location: Vedado; Malecón at Línea
8. People-watch along La Rampa.
Wherever we go, we seek out opportunities to witness people engaging in their normal daily activities, so we walked along La Rampa (23rd Avenue) several times throughout our stay to see what the people of Havana do with their time. We observed many people waiting for buses, crawling into and out of taxis, surfing the web at WiFi parks, eating street food, or sitting at restaurants and cafes enjoying a drink or a meal. We noticed men washing or repairing their classic cars, women carrying bags of vegetables home, and various street vendors selling their wares.
Location: Vedado; Avenida 23, from the Malecón stretching at least 17 blocks
9. Photograph José, Che, and Fidel in the Plaza of the Revolution (Plaza de la Revolución).
The plaza is dedicated to the Cuban Revolution, and the national monument of José Martí is the centerpiece of the Plaza and is an impressive memorial to the famous author. Completed in 1958, the tower stands 358 feet tall, making it the tallest structure in Havana. A colossal statue of José Martí sits at the foot of the tower.
The faces of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro are mounted to two buildings surrounding the Plaza, and are among the most photographed sites in Havana.
Location: Plaza de la Revolucion; Paseo at Avenida de la Independencia
10. Take a stroll down Hamel Alley (Callejón de Hamel).
Eclectic artwork and colorful murals line the sides of this funky little alley in Central Havana. Spanning just two blocks, this quaint street has roots in Afro-Cuban culture, which evidences itself in its tribal prints and African-style art.
Location: Habana Centro; Callejon de Hamel, between Aramburu and Espada
12. Pop into the Fireman's Museum.
Near the Museum of the Revolution is the Museo de los Bomberos, or the Fireman's Museum, which houses a fun collection of antique and vintage helmets, fire-retardant clothing, badges, and equipment. The museum is small and won't take more than a few minutes to browse through, but it is worth a look.
Location: Habana Veija, Mercaderes
13. Stop by El Biky's Panadería y Dulcería for a pastry and coffee.
Though not completely free, for less than 2 CUCs, you can enjoy a Cuban "express" coffee and a pastry from this cute little cafe. Located in Vedado, El Biky also features a full restaurant and bar around the corner. We had breakfast at El Biky's Panadería y Dulcería, as well as desserts, and we were never disappointed.
Location: Vedado; Infanta at San Lazaro
14. Havana Cathedral (Catedral de la Habana or Catedral de San Cristóbal)
This beautiful Baroque church located in the Plaza de la Catedral was built in the 1700s. It's free to enter and the best place to enjoy some quiet reflection.
Location: Habana Vieja; San Ignacio at Empedrado
With several small museums that offer free entrance, as well as numerous sculptures, monuments, and historical buildings, plus occasional live music by street performers, Havana is a great place for the budget-conscious traveler to explore. Taxi drivers often act as tour guides, answering questions, offering suggestions for their favorite things to do in their city, and providing a truly unique experience in their 1950s cars. Fly to Cuba's capital city, indulge in a Cuban cigar or two, and revel in the beauty and energy of Havana!
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