A one day tour of Havana, Cuba is a fun way to see the highlights of this beautiful city, by classic car and walking tour.
If you are only going to have one day in Havana, we highly recommend taking a Classic Car and Walking Tour. There is so much history, and so many fantastic places we would have missed on our own, if we tried to tour Havana in one day, without a car or a guide.
We went with Strawberry Tours, and took their Havana in a Day – 5 hour private classic car and Old Havana walking tour. We were so happy we booked a tour with them. Our one day itinerary highlights included:
Havana Classic Car Tour (2 hours)
- El Bosque de la Habana (Havana Forest)
- Plaza de Revolucion ( Revolution Square)
- Christ of Havana & City View Across the Bay
- El Morro Castle
- Drive through Miramar neighbourhood, old Havana & the Malecon
Walking Tour of Habana Vieja (Old Havana) (3 Hours)
- Lunch in Old Havana at Mekedé
- Catedral de San Cristobal
- Obispo Street & Streets of Old Havana
- Snack Time: Churros and Sugar Cane Juice
- Cafe Literario – “Cat Cafe”
- Plaza de San Fransisco
- San Jose Artisan Market
This itinerary is a good, one day glimpse into the history and well known sites of Havana.
Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. We just loved our experience so much, we wanted to share it with you.
Havana Tour: One Day Havana Itinerary
Derek was the one to suggest we book a private tour / guide ahead of time. He wanted the grand Havana overview, so we could then come back over the next few days and hit other highlights we missed the first day.
I have to admit, I am not usually one for tours. I was also a bit skeptical of dragging my 6 year old along for the day, not sure how she would do (surprisingly well as it turns out).
Strawberry Tours – Havana had good reviews online so we decided to take a chance. I am so glad we did.
Havana Classic Car Tour – Strawberry Tours
A Vintage Car Tour was our families chance to sit back, relax, and let our hair blow in the wind , as we were temporarily transported back in time in our 1950’s convertible.
Classic Car photos in El Bosque de la Habana
We started off our tour with iconic classic car photos in El Bosque de la Habana (Havana Forest). This shady urban forest extends for over eight kilometres (5miles) alongside the Almendares River. This is a popular place for locals to picnic, take quinceañera photos, and for Santería ceremonies.
Santería emerged in Cuba in the late 17th century as a fusion of Catholic and African folk beliefs, and is widely practiced in Cuba today. Be respectful of people practicing along the river, and avoid taking their picture.
Plaza de Revolucion (Revolution Square)
Next we headed to Revolution Square, the centre of the Cuban government. Plaza de la Revolución, known as Plaza Cívica until 1959, sits at the centre of a hill with roads spreading out towards the Río Almendares, Vedado and Parque de la Fraternidad.
You will find a great photo opportunity against the backdrop of two well known guerrilleros, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. There is also a large 109 metre tower, in honour of the Cuban national hero José Martí.
Stand at the centre of the square, close your eyes and imagine standing with a million people, as Fidel delivers one of his notoriously long political speeches.
Havana Classic Car Tour: Christ of Havana & City View Across the Bay
Continuing on, we passed under El Tunel de Habana heading to El Cristo de la Habana (Christ of Havana).
Sitting in a convertible, in an underground tunnel with slow moving traffic, surrounded by diesel fumes, was not my favourite part. Luckily it was soon over. Chalk it up to all part of the Cuban experience.
The Christ of Havana overlooks the bay, standing at over 20 metres (66 feet) tall. This marble marvel is comprised of 320 tonnes of white Carerra marble from Italy, blessed by Pope Pius XII.
Our guide mentioned that locals jokingly say he was sculpted to depict a cigar in the right hand and a mojito in the left hand, to represent Cuban culture.
Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, this is a peaceful spot to take in a panoramic view of the city. See if you can find El Capitolio and the Jose Marti Memorial in the distance.
Cute story, my six year old asked me to take the picture above saying “Mom, it’s a castle just my size.”
Tour of Havana: El Morro Castle
Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro, also known as El Morro, sits at the entrance to the Bay of Havana, in the Parque Historico Militar.
El Morro was built in the late 16th and early 17th centuries to guard against military and pirate attacks. Children, and adults alike will love visiting this real life fortress.
El Morro is now a museum, and if you have the time, you can visit inside for a small fee. The combination of castle, city and sea, creates a stunning view.
Drive Through Miramar Neighbourhood, Old Havana and the Malecon
While Old Havana is best experienced by foot, the newer parts of Havana such as the Miramar and Vedado neighbourhoods are better by car due to long distances. Touring by convertible was an interesting way to tour through these areas.
Malecon: Havana, Cuba Tour
A visit to Havana is not complete without a walk or drive along the Malecon. The sea front boulevard is an iconic symbol of Havana, which runs seven kilometres (4.3 miles) between Habana Vieja(Old Havana) and Vedado.
This a favourite spot among locals and tourists alike to meet, take a romantic stroll (especially at sunset), and to be inspired by the ocean and the architectural outline of the city. You might even see a local fishing off the wall.
We came back to the Malecon a day later to spend more time meandering along the water, take pictures of pelicans diving for food, and to eat ice cream in the sun. Definitely one of the highlights of Havana for us.
Walking Tour Havana, Cuba – Strawberry Tours
Havana Vieja (Old Havana) is the heart of the city, with its colorful architecture, labyrinth of narrow streets, interconnected plazas and Cuban life in action.
It’s a beautiful contradiction of carefully restored buildings and those in ruin or partly constructed. Add in Cuban music, history, culture, food, art and there is something for everyone.
Old Havana, designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1982, is best seen by foot. I’ve highlighted just a few of the many possibilities for a walking tour. Rest assured wherever you go, there will be lots to look at.
Pro Tip: Let your guide know if there are any particular sites you would like to see. A private walking tour allows for more flexibility.
Lunch in Old Havana
Before we got our walking shoes on, we had a nice leisurely lunch at Mekedé, where I had one of my favourite meals of my whole trip. It made our list top places to eat in Havana with kids. Read why it made our list.
Catedral de San Cristobal
The Catedral de San Cristobal built between 1748 and 1777, is an example of baroque style, with a more austere neoclassical interior. Inside you will find a statue of the Virgin of Caridad del Cobre, Cuba’s patron saint, and a cool, quiet place to rest for a few moments.
Tip: You can access the smaller tower from inside, which you can climb for a small donation. At the time we visited, it was only $1CUC ($1USD equivalent).
By this point we were hot and tired from walking, so we opted for a leisurely stroll inside the Church and a few moments rest. To our credit, when we left our hometown in northern Canada it was -30 degrees Celsius (-22F), so it was a big, but much anticipated adjustment to Caribbean weather.
Walking Tour, Havana: Obispo Street & Streets of Old Havana
Obispo Street, the longest boulevard in Havana, starts at the Bay, passes through the Plaza de Armas and ends at Montserrat Street.
Obispo is a bustling corridor of shops, art galleries, music venues, and restaurants. You can enjoy everything from sit down establishments, to small hole-in-the-wall places selling street pizza and ice cream.
Along the way, we of course stopped outside the famous La Bodeguita del Medio to listen to the live band performing, and give our nod to Ernest Hemingway. Many people stop in here for a drink.
We also stopped at the Bacardi Building. This Art Deco Havana landmark was built in 1930, as headquarters for the Bacardi Rum Company. At the time it was Cuba’s tallest building.
This building was headquarters for company until 1960, when Castro seized their assets as part of his efforts to nationalize and ban all private property.
Snack Time – Churros and Sugar Cane Juice
You don’t want to miss out on snack time in Old Havana, especially if you have kids. We opted for churros and sugar cane juice from a couple of street stands our guide brought us to.
Our daughter was fascinated by the sugar cane juicing process. She closely watched the vendor turn the wheel of the juicer by hand, sugary liquid dripping into her cup. While I found the drink way too sweet, even with a bit of lemon squeezed in, she proclaimed this was the best drink ever!
To top off snack time we had deep fried, sugary churros filled with chocolate or condensed milk. Need I say more?
Cafe Literario – “Cat Cafe”
Cafe Literario, or the “Cat Cafe’ as our guide and six year old affectionately called it, is a quiet garden oasis and cafe nestled among the hustle and bustle of Old Havana.
This gem had a garden full of wandering cats, apparently fed and taken care of by locals, and a cafe with very inexpensive and delicious coffee. Surprisingly the noise of Havana barely filtered into these walls, so made this cafe perfect for a quiet rest stop.
Walking Tour of Havana: Plaza de San Francisco
Plaza de San Fransisco, in Old Havana takes its name from the convent located there. Wealthy nobles built their homes here in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
The plaza now boasts the former Commercial Exchange and Customs house buildings, alongside more modern additions of a hotel, restaurants, and two sculptures.
The Conversation – Plaza de San Fransisco
Look for the sculpture called The Conversation located opposite the convent of Saint Francis de Asís.
The Conversation was donated in 2012 as a gift of friendship between France and Cuba. Interestingly there is a box of French and Cuban coins inside the marble base, symbolizing this friendship and a message for future generations.
Monument of the Street Person – Plaza de San Fransisco
Monument of the Street Person is in honor of the well known Havana character José María López Lledín. He was a local celebrity in the 1950’s and 60’s, who was known for his kindness and wandering the streets of Havana, Cuba.
The story goes that if you touch his finger and beard at the same time, you will have good luck. As we are not one to miss out on a bit o’ luck, we took part in this local legend.
If you are looking for a kid and adult friendly place to eat in Havana, check out Where to eat in Havana with kids.
San Jose Artisan Market
We ended our day at the San Jose Artisan Market. If you want Cuban handicrafts and art, this is the place to go. Don’t miss the art centre upstairs. We found many unique pieces that weren’t the typical tourist sort.
Strawberry Tours Havana – Havana in a Day Tour Final Thoughts
Strawberry Tours – Havana were helpful from start to finish. I had some questions before booking that were quickly answered by email, and they gave me spot on advice on the right length and type of tour for our family of three, with one six year old.
Our guide Judith was amazing. She went out of her way to make sure we were engaged, happy and had a day we all enjoyed.
Judith happily answered our many questions, giving us insight not only into Cuban history but also into Cuban life as it is today. She guided the day based on our needs and interests, seamlessly including activities our six year old would enjoy, interspersed with historical sites and stops for snacks and lunch.
Strawberry Tours Havana also offer a variety of free food, historical, and nightlife tours, where the guides get paid in tips. These aren’t private, so won’t be as customizable, but are perfect for travellers on a budget.
Based on our experience, we would not hesitate to book again with Strawberry Tours – Havana. You can read more reviews to get a feel for what the different tours are like.
You definitely need more than one day to see all Havana offers. A day tour gives a brief glimpse into this city’s beauty, history, art and culture. We were able to spend four days in Havana, and I have already made an extensive list of things we want to do, when we are lucky enough to return.
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