Havana is enchanting and incredible: ancient and modern streets; autos from the 1950s; buildings 500 years old; welcoming beaches, museums, art galleries, theatres, hotels, and adventures….
As the capital of the Republic of Cuba, since its founding Havana has been a port of welcome and departure from and into the world. It is an unprecedented place, preserving the attractive, enduring legend that made it into the most important urban center of the Spanish empire in this part of the planet.
The walls of the old part of the city, the cradle and heart of modern-day Havana, encircle a wealth of World Heritage, the title that was conferred on its historic district by UNESCO in 1982 for being one of the best-preserved architectural complexes in the Americas.
Founded officially on Nov. 16, 1519, Havana was located in three different sites before its final destination, centered around the El Templete shrine and the Plaza de Armas. Pánfilo de Narváez established the villa in April of 1514, probably on a point along the southern coast, near Batabanó. Subsequently, when residents discovered the port of Havana on the northern coast, with its magnificent natural conditions, they moved their homes to the banks of the River Almendares, and then they moved again, this time forever, to the west side of the port of Carenas, today´s port of Havana.
The original name of the villa was San Cristóbal de La Habana, and its fortresses are among the oldest in the Americas, including the castles (castillos) of Real Fuerza (1577), San Salvador de La Punta (1600) and Los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro (1630). Attacks by pirates and corsairs led to the reation of this system of fortifications, and a wall was raised.
Today, only bits and fragments of it remain scattered around the city. After six decades of construction, the wall’s useful life lasted 123 years; the city it encircled grew and spread and developed at such a dizzying speed that it went beyond its central buildings, leading to the beginning of the wall’s demolition in 1863.
Military and residential buildings that were milestones in the far-off 16th, 17th and 18th centuries continue to reflect those eras, with their ancient moss, balustrades, and semi-circular arches protecting their colonial interiors and filtering in the warm colours of the tropics.
Numerous plazas are located within Havana’s geography, including the Plaza de Armas.