I Heart My City: Tim’s Havana

Tim Weed may live in Vermont, but his heart belongs to Havana. Having led students and adults on trips to the island nation of Cuba for more than a decade, Tim has come to feel at home in its dynamic capital city. In addition to helping establish our Student Expeditions program, the award-winning writer and educator is a featured expert for National Geographic Expeditions. Check out a few of Tim’s favorite things about this striking city, then add your own two cents!

Follow Tim’s travels on Twitter @weedlit, on his personal website, or join us on our next trip to Cuba!

Havana is My City

The first place I take a friend in Havana is the roof of the Plaza Hotel.

Local boys pal around at Havana Bay, with the Morro fortress in the background. (Photograph by Jixue Yang, My Shot)

Local boys pal around at Havana Bay, with the Morro fortress in the background. (Photograph by Jixue Yang, My Shot)

Early spring is the best time to visit my city because the weather is perfect and you might be tired of the northern winter.

You can see my city best from the Morro fortress.

Locals know to skip the Tropicana cabaret club and check out the bars along Obispo instead.

The used book market in the Plaza de Armas is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

In the past, notable people like Ernest Hemingway, Meyer Lansky, and Che Guevara have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the Museo de Bellas Artes because it has an amazing collection of Cuban art and a surprisingly great international art collection as well.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s you don’t need an air-conditioned bus.

Check out the used book sale at the Plaza de Armas. (Photograph by Vaisens, Flickr)

Check out the used book sale at the Plaza de Armas. (Photograph by Vaisens, Flickr)

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is the Malecón – or on a fishing boat from the Marina Tarará.

My city really knows how to celebrate the important things in life — art, music, and the unassailable dignity of the human spirit – because its people understand that luxuries are hard to come by, and the future is impossible to predict.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they know that the best food isn’t in state-run restaurants and the best nightlife doesn’t come with a cover charge.

For a fancy night out, I avoid the places meant exclusively for tourists.

Just outside my city, you can visit the Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s writing haven for nearly three decades, and Cojímar, the setting for The Old Man and the Sea.

My city is known for being frozen in time, but it’s really changing pretty quickly.

Any casa particular is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and the Copelia has good ice cream.

A bartender prepares mojitos where the iconic cocktail got its start -- at La Bodeguita del Medio.  (Photograph by Svet Ivantchev, Flickr)

A bartender prepares mojitos where the iconic cocktail got its start — at La Bodeguita del Medio. (Photograph by Svet Ivantchev, Flickr)

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, ask a local.

My city’s biggest sports event is the pelota. Watch it at Estadio Latinoamericano.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I walk down Obispo or take a stroll on the Malecón.

To escape the crowds, I head east for the beaches or into the interior for the Parques Naturales.

The dish that represents my city best is ropa viejaand the mojito is my city’s signature drink.

The Bacardi is my favorite building in town because it’s beautifully art deco and I love the bat statue on top.

The most random thing about my city is the Colón Necropolis and the U.S. Interests Section.

Plaza Vieja (Old Square) in Old Havana. (Photograph by Stefano Liboni, Flickr)

Plaza Vieja (Old Square) in Old Havana. (Photograph by Stefano Liboni, Flickr)

Obispo is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out la Casa del Son.

So many things could only happen in my city. Where do I begin?

The best book about my city is probably Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is ”Compositor Confundido“ by Ibrahim Ferrer.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because it’s glorious and simultaneously joyous and sad. It’s also one of the few world capitals I know where you can see the stars at night.

Comments

  1. Martin
    London
    April 24, 2013, 5:06 pm

    Havana is a unique place. However I believe as Cuba is open to the world now (which is a good thing) Havana will lose some of it’s original charme.
    Here’s a few impressions of Havana when Fidel was still in office: http://www.fm1721.net/#!Cuba/cg0o

  2. Heidi Siefkas
    South Florida
    April 27, 2013, 9:39 am

    De acuerdo! The passion of the Cuban people is undeniable. I’ve visited only twice, but I will be returning many more times.
    Regarding your tips, my favorite place is also the Malecon for sunrise, afternoon paseo, and of course at night. It is wonderful to see the stars. I haven’t seen the stars in Florida with all the city lights. I’ll be returning this summer various times.
    If you have any specific tips on paladares and places not to miss on Obispo, they would be appreciated.

  3. Zoe Leonard
    United Kingdom
    April 27, 2013, 11:37 am

    I Love Cuba, it’s where I got engaged and Married, and Havana is such a wonderful place, we saw most of your list when we visited, but want to go back many more times and see it all, it feels like genuine travelling and experiencing different culture, rather than western culture on a different shore, like so many other places!

  4. Gloria Mossburg
    Tucson, Arizona
    April 27, 2013, 6:46 pm

    I loved my time in Cuba; especially the friendly people. It wil change the complection of the country if too many tourists are allowed in although it will help the economy so sidewalks and roads can be repaired.
    There were only three of us plus a guide and it was a wonderful experience.

  5. Miladis
    Havana
    October 4, 2013, 12:27 pm

    Dear Tim, I absolutely love your post, I still don’t know how I came across it but what luck I have found it!!! You have captured perfectly the essence of the city of Havana, where I live and was born. One thing I differ from you ‘When I think about my city’ I think of Gerardo Alfonso song’s Sabanas Blancas, this song makes many Cubans cry, we still don’t know why. Now that it is legal I have started a business selling houses in this city and will definitely point people to this post to understand more the magic of having a place here. My new site is http://www.cubahomesdirect.com please visit it, you are more than welcome to visit my house code in the site is CVA :-), Hope to meet you one day. Milly from Cuba Homes Direct

  6. Hilary
    March 20, 5:42 pm

    I have always wanted to visit Havana! My husband and I are planning on taking a vacation this summer. I really want to go there! I’m sure he would totally love it just as much as I would. http://www.beatricebakery.com