Havana Accommodation: Old Havana vs Central Havana

central havana central parkChoosing where to stay in a particular part of Havana will be easier after we can understand how the city is divided up, by both its inhabitants and geographical area.

Havana is a large city, it spans a total of 728 km2 with a population of 2,1 million inhabitants in June 2015. Anyway, the Cuban capital is not a very populated city when compared with other European capitals such as Madrid (650 km2 y 3.2 million inhabitants).

Havana is divided into quarters or districts, comparable to our own neighborhoods or boroughs. The main tourist areas include: Old Havana, Central Havana, Vedado and Miramar, but I’ll leave the last two for another time.

You should always take into account the comfort levels of the area when choosing a place to stay. Decide if you prefer to explore the streets, visit museums or discover historical heritages and how much time you have. For this it would be most handy to aim for Old Havana, eg Apartament PG which is located on the Old Town Square, right in the historic center. But if you’re on a budget and still want a central location, it’ll be wise to choose staying in Central Havana at either Puertas al Cielo B&B or Lunas Guesthouse, a little further away but still close to the main attractions.

Advantages of staying in Old Havana

old havana streetThis district is the oldest, most emblematic and most visited by tourists who come to the island in search of its historical and cultural highlights. The historic quarter remains a masterpiece condensing the city’s 500 year history into a warren of streets and avenues. A pleasant journey back in time filled with 4 km² of history, legends, mysteries and charms on every corner, street and square. The many churches, cathedral, museums and colonial buildings create a unique atmosphere.

During the day until sunset, Old Havana is bustling and always full of tourists buzzing around the many hotels, markets, restaurants and bars with live music or a vibrant salsa band performing in every corner. Endlessly joyful and entertaining, music and dance endlessly take turns. But it is also a very commercial area with a varied cultural and gastronomic offer of various Caribbean delicacies.

The best way to know the area is by foot or from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage. At night, the neighborhood is home to rest while the music spills out of the bars, restaurants and squares.

Old Havana is bordered by the famous Malecon seawall, Paseo del Prado and the Capitolio, squeezing Central Havana to the very banks of the Bay.

This is the ideal district to stay when time is an issue. Don’t be fooled by the outer appearance of the buildings, many hide interior apartments as comfortable and welcoming as a good hotel room.

Here is a select choice of private accommodation in Old Havana.

Advantages of staying in Central Havana

central havana streetLocated between Old Havana, Vedado and the Malecon coastline, the area displays similar architectural styles to Old Havana. While its buildings are of great visual deterioration, the appearance of the facades does not necessarily represent its interior.

Cultural highlights include the Capitolio, Tobacco Factory, Paseo del Prado, Grand Theatre and numerous museums worth visiting. It is highly recommended to stroll the streets to get a full appreciation of the buildings and their architectural value including the hotels Inglaterra and Sevilla or the majestic Spanish embassy building.

The area definitely has its own character and its main attractions include the Malecon seawall, the House of Music and Callejon Hamel alley- known as the birthplace of Afro-Cuban music, where shows and performances are held on a regular basis.

Its privileged location makes Central Havana the favorite place for young people, students and tourists with the advantage of saving money and time on transport or taxi fares around the city. In just a short walk you can easily reach Old Havana or in the opposite direction Vedado the commercial and financial area of the city, which at night transforms into the place for music and danc.

Perfect district for those who prefer to explore the city on foot and, definitely, the favorite for its proximity to the Malecon, Paseo del Prado, Capitolio, and Old Havana.

Here you can find places to stay in Central Havana

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