Robaina's plantation

Thursday 13 August 2015

Plaza de Armas (Habana Vieja) Havana

                     It's hard to believe that I haven't written a post for this Square but I have posted about buildings or points of interest surrounding this lovely location. The reason that I haven't on a whole is because until now I didn't think I had enough material to make it worthy. There's so much going on here that it took me countless visits and explorations through the years with photos to go along with them before I had a good understanding of all there is to see here. If you're not in a hurry you could spend hours visiting the various buildings; Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, Castillo de la Real Fuerza, Palacio de los Condes de Santovenia (Hotel Santa Isabel), El Templete (church) & the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural. You can also take a stroll through the little park with it's monument of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in the center, visit the Artist's studios above the restaurants (entrance on Oficios) or something I like to do...take a seat on one of the patios of those restaurants facing the Plaza and watch the world go by while sipping on a Mojito. Whatever it is that you may like to see or do, there's something here for everyone, one of my favourite restaurants is behind the Square facing the Havana Bay, El Templete Restaurant.
                    This is considered the oldest Square in Havana having been laid out in the 1520's soon after the city was established. But it wasn't until the late 1500's that it would be known as the Plaza de Armas. Due to the then colonial governor's (residing in the Castillo de la Real Fuerza) frequency of military exercises through the Square the people began calling it as it's known today. By the 18th century the Plaza was an important part of the workings of the city and something to behold but over time it fell into decline. In 1935 projects were created to restore the Plaza and returned it to it's mid 1800's look. In 1955 some Cubans requested that the statue of Fernando VII in the center of the Square be replace with the one of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes that's there now.
                   The history of this Square is rich but it's also a beautiful place to visit with all there is to see and do, starting with the book fair surrounding the little park (open tues-sun) where they not only sell old books but trinkets of every sort....old Russian stuff like watches and cameras and all kinds of old Cuban stuff like stamps, posters, records, coins and of course books. The Museo Nacional de Historia Natural wasn't my cup of tea, I prefer seeing Cuba's flora and fauna up close and personal. I loved the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (give yourself an hour in this place) and enjoyed the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. I would have loved to be able to see more of the Hotel Santa Isabel but couldn't get farther than the far. The Church was not what I expected. I could and I have walked around the park in the center and taken all kinds of pictures and had conversations with many people through the years. One day I discovered the Art Galleries above the restaurants and have visited the place several times since then. The artists are quite approachable, naturally they want to sell some's allowed, legally, with papers. Angel Ramirez, one of my favourites, has his studio there, so does the famous female artist Zaida del Río. Sometimes the artists are there and sometimes they're not but their art always is and it costs nothing to look. Finally, if you don't care for any of this stuff, at the very least you're going to enjoy sitting on one of the patios to have cocktail or cafe con leche and watch locals and other tourists walk by. The Fortress, Palacio, Church and Museum will all cost you a few dollars to enter and the Palacio a couple more in order to be allowed to take pictures. It's a great spot to start or end your trip into Old Havana, taxis can stop along side the plaza (via the Malecon) and are usually waiting to pick-up a ride when you exit.

Plaza de Armas
Oficios e/ Obispo y O'Reilly

Carlos Manuel de Céspedes

El Templete

Hotel Santa Isabel

Hotel Santa Isabel

Museo Nacional de Historia Natural

Palacio de los Capitanes Generales

Palacio de los Capitanes Generales

Castillo de la Real Fuerza

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