Increased restoration means Havana is an even more interesting place to visit

HAVANA — Originally named San Cristobal de La Habana, the Cuban capital is one of the seven original villas established by the Spanish in Cuba in 1519. It was located on the port of Carenas, now Havana Bay. In 1593 it became Cuba’s capital.

Havana’s central historic district and fortifications, among the oldest in the Caribbean and Latin America, were designated a (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 1982. It features narrow cobblestone streets with approximately 140 buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries, 200 from the 18th century and more than 450 built in the 19th century in various stages of restoration.

Restoration work on various of these buildings is being done at an increasing place. The focus is on restoring it as a living community with residents, stores, and factories as in the past as well as restoring hotels, restaurants and museums to attract tourists.

San Cristobal, Agencia de Viajes offers walking tours of old Havana which includes visits to its various main squares such as the Square of Arms, St. Francis Square, Old Square, Cathedral Square and Christ Square, the Cathedral of Havana, the original fort, over 20 hotels, 38 restaurants and more than 56 cafeterias, including bars frequented by Hemingway and ‘Havana Clubs’ rum making exhibit and bar.

Its guides are friendly, fluent in English, French and of course Spanish and very knowledgeable in the history, architecture, culture and life of Havana and Cuba.

Although there are various street people offering tours, cigars etc. they are generally good-natured and not overly aggressive. The mood of the old city is busy but relaxed. The new bars and restaurants are generally fun, fairly priced and tourist friendly.