Unique Architecture of Old Havana

One of the most interesting and exciting aspects of Cuba has to be the unique architecture of Old Havana. Old Havana is the center of the country’s capital, Havana. The Spanish conquistadors founded it in the 16th century. Starting from that time to the time of independence and later Soviet influence, the architecture of Old Havana constantly changed skins. Today, different buildings from different eras together in harmony are visible in the city center.

colorful buildings, an example of architecture of old havana

Castillo de la Real Fuerza

First and foremost, Old Havana is a fortified place. Since the first settlers, it has been an important place of commerce via sea. Therefore, to detect threats, and provide security, the Spaniards put up this bastion fort. Castillo de la Real Fuerza is an example of the colonial architecture of Old Havana. Moreover, it is the oldest stone fort in the Americas and a UNESCO heritage site.

castillo de la real fuerza belonging to the colonial architecture of old havana
M Eduardo Colocho

Today, the fort functions as a museum and a popular tourist attraction. It is mainly famous for its bell tower dating back to the early 17th century, which has also become the symbol of Old Havana. The little statue on top of the tower is a replica of such a sculpture in Spain. Furthermore, the statue functioned as a wind wane to determine the way of the wind to help ships and captains.

castillo de la real fuerza walls
Eli Comenda

Catedral de San Cristóbal

One of the eleven Catholic churches in Cuba, Catedral de San Cristobal or Catedral de Havan (Havana Cathedral) is an example of late colonial architecture. Its construction started in 1748 and ended nearly in 30 years. The cathedral is home to the catholic archbishop of Havana and it was built by the Jesuits who were exiled from Spain.

catedral de san cristobal another 
example of colonial architecture of old havana
Juli Ercoli

Arguably the most interesting aspect of the cathedral is that for a century, it held the remains of Christopher Columbus. Columbus was a hero to the Spaniards in the New World since they believed that basically, he brought Christianity to the Americas. The cathedral originally had a baroque style but when Spain left Cuba to the French they replaced several parts of the cathedral with neoclassical altars.

catedral de san cristobal entrance

El Capitolio

Cuba gained independence in 1902 after a series of battles against the Spanish. The war caused the death of nearly 300,000 Cuban civilians and more than 5 thousand Cuban soldiers. 20 years later, the new Cuban government built the El Capitolio which became the house of parliament until the revolution in the late 50s. The building is 92 meters tall and was the tallest building in Havana for 30 years.

el capitolia beloging to the post-independence architecture of old havana

Although it fell into bad shape after the revolution, the renovations in the following decades turned the building back to its former glory. Moreover, El Capitolio is home to the third-largest indoor statue in the world. Standing at 17 meters, what the Cubans call the La Republica, symbolizing honest work and virtue, is located inside the building in a room called the Room of the Lost Steps.

el capitolio entrance
Alberto Lopez Faba

Museo de la Revolución

Like the parliament house, the seat of the president was also in Old Havana. The building’s name was Palacio Presidental and it was a prominent example of post-independence architecture of Old Havana. The white bricks, sculptures, towers, and stylish exterior made it an icon of the city center. The building housed several presidents until the revolution in 1959.

museo de la revolucion another example of post-independence architecture of old havana

After the revolution, the building was turned into a museum called the Museo de la Revolucion, or the Museum of Revolution. It contains many documents, weapons, photographs, and objects belonging to the era of revolution in the country. Probably, the most interesting parts of the museum are the lifelike mannequins of Che Guevera and the actual tank Fidel Castro used while invading Cochinos Bay in 1961.

museo de la revolucion tower