10 Interesting Facts About Old Havana

Old Havana is one of the most well-known places in all of Cuba. You can find it right in the city center of Havana and it is the very heart of the city. 

Old Havana is rich in culture and it is a real-life window into Cuba’s past. Most of the buildings in Old Havana still look quite similar to how they did over 200 years ago. 

10 Interesting Facts About Old Havana

There is so much about Old Havana that most people may not know, and in this article, we’ll be telling you 10 interesting facts about this place you should definitely learn about! So, let’s dive in. 

1. Old Havana Is A World Heritage Site

Cuba in general has a lot of UNESCO World Heritage sites, but did you know that Old Havana itself is one too? 

Old Havana is a very old place, and it is famous for its cobbled streets, narrow lanes, and colorful buildings.

There are an array of coffee shops museums and lots of other things that will keep you entertained for days. 

If you really want a window in to what historical Cuba looked like, then Old Havana is a great place to visit as it feels like a window in to the past. 

2. Spanish Roots In The Arcitecture 

If you’ve ever been to Old Havana, you might feel like it’s a bit familiar. This is because the architecture comes from Spain. 

It bares a similar resemblance to Spanish places like Tenerife and Cadiz, and a lot of the architecture in Old Havana was originally used in these Spanish places. 

You can see the echos of the Spanish architecture all around you in Old Havana, from the houses, to the museums, to the churches and even the alleyways. 

3. Old Havana Really Is Old 

By this point, it should come as no surprise that Old Havana really, well… old. 

Old Havana was founded in the November of 1519 by the Spanish. It was along the route the Spanish would use to travel between the Old World and the New World. This date makes the city of Old Havana over 500 years old! 

By the time the 17th Century rolled around, Old Havana became a shipbuilding centre and it was around this time that the architecture it is known for today was implemented into the landscape. 

Over time, the buildings did get ruined, but lots of them have been restored to their former glory now.

So tourists and locals alike can really get a feel for what Old Havana of the past looked and felt like. 

4. Old Havana Is Diverse And Full Of Culture

Old Havana Is Diverse And Full Of Culture

If you’re looking for a place that is rich of culture and is incredibly diverse, then Old Havana is definitely worth visiting. 

The people of Old Havana come from lots of different places all over the world, including Spain, Africa and native Indian tribes.

Because Old Havana has been used as a shipping port and in between point for so many cultures, it has allowed it to become a hub for diversity. 

Originally, the native Indian’s held claim in this area, but as the Spanish began to colonize, they ended up joining them.

Eventually, slaves were brought to Cuba from Africa and when slavery was abolished in the 19th Century, a lot of those slaves ended up settling down in Havana. 

You will find so many different enthicities and cultures living in Old Havana, no matter where you go! 

5. Fires And Rebuiling

In 1555, Frenchman Jacques de Sores ended up destroying the city of Old Havana by burning it to the ground.

He did this because he had managed to take over the city from the original inhabitants and he was looking for treasure. 

But he didn’t actually find any treasure, and he was eventually overpowered and thrown out anyway. Once Jacques de Sores was disposed of, the Spanish set their sights on rebuilding the city. 

In 1558, engineer Bartolomé Sanchez oversaw the construction of Castillo de la Real Fuerza. It was the first fortress to be build in Old Havana. 

If Jacques de Sores had not have burnt Old Havana to the ground, it probably wouldn’t have the beautiful architecture it is known for today. 

6. The Three Districts Of Old Havana

Old Havana is actually separated into three different districts: Old Havana, Vedado, and the suburban district.

Each of these districts has distinguishing features that help you know where exactly you are in the city. 

Old Havana is known for its narrow streets, overhanging balconies, and cobbled streets. It is where most of the action happens in the whole city and is known for it’s commerce and entertainment. 

Vedado is a bit more modern than Old Havana and is where most of the hotels are found. But we’ll go into Vedado a bit more later. 

The three districts of Old Havana have something for everyone and are all equally worth exploring. 

7. Walls Once Protected The City

Walls Once Protected The City

When it comes to rich history, Old Havana never fails to deliver. After Jacques de Sore burned the city to the ground, the Spanish eventually got him out by storming the city with their armies. 

They were incharge of refurbishing and rebuilding Old Havana after this event and one of the new additions they included in the rebuild was walls that surrounded the entire city. 

Eventually though, the borders of Old Havana grew and stretched far beyond these walls. Not much remains of the walls now, but it’s still interesting to know that Old Havana once existed surrounded by protective walls. 

8. The Vedado District

Going back to Vedado, it is a hugely popular area for tourists. Almost all of the buildings in this area were made in the 20th century, so it is definitely one of the more modern areas of the whole city. 

Vedado is known as central Havana and it is where the shopping district is. There are lots of hotels in this area as well, so it is a well known area for tourists to call their home while they stay in Old Havana. 

9. The Murals Of Callejon De Hamel

Another beautiful place in Old Havana is Callejon de Hamel. It is home to lots of residential areas and shops, but what makes the area stand out is it’s murals. 

There are huge murals located on all the buildings and it really gives this area of Old Havana it’s own beauty and uniqueness. 

10. Plaza Vieja

It’s more of a tourist attraction now, but Plaza Vieja was originally used by the military. 

The mitarly used the Plaza for an array of exercises and drills, but eventually, it became a market and then a tourist attraction. 

There is a fountain in the middle of the square that was build in the 18th Century. 


We hope you’ve enjoyed these interesting facts about Old Havana. As you can see, the city is absolutely rich in culture and history and almost every street has some story you can learn about. 

On top of the history, Old Havana is straight up just a beautiful place that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Hopefully these fun facts have convinced you to visit this historic city!

Jim Stanton
Latest posts by Jim Stanton (see all)