vedado havana street view of home with greenery

Planning the Perfect Day in Vedado, Havana

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At the heart of what makes Havana special is its size and diversity. Through fits and starts of growth Havana’s neighborhoods have each developed a distinct look and feel. One of the nicest is the barrio of Vedado.  With an eclectic assortment of nooks, crannies, and otherwise unexpected surprises, a visit is a must for any traveler looking to understand  and appreciate contemporary Cuba. 

In this guide, we’ll dig into all the best things to do in Vedado and what options visitors have to make the most out of a day exploring this lush, quiet seaside district. You take it from there.

Where and What is Vedado?

The Vedado neighborhood, once a dense forest protecting the old city’s western side, runs from Centro Habana to the Almendares River. It was built mostly between the 1920s and 1950s, and its streets are aligned in a grid of squares, making them easy to navigate. 

The malecón waterfront runs the length of Vedado, and the uniform streets extend gently uphill past a dizzying mixture of architectural gems, buckling sidewalks and overgrown banyan trees. 

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General Advice

To make the best of a day in Vedado, we recommend starting early. And unless you really love the heat, you’ll probably want to plan a mid-day break to be indoors in the afternoon when it gets hot. While Vedado is walkable, it’s quite big, so expect to take a few taxis, or hire a taxi for a few hours to take you to a few places on your itinerary. Taxis are easiest to find on the larger streets: Calle 23, Linea, Paseo, Calle G (G Street). 

The rest is up to you—there’s too much to see in just one day, so this isn’t meant to be an itinerary, but rather a collection of options to consider as you plan. So without further ado, some suggestions: 

Explore Art Galleries

Fucina des Artistas interior with paintings

Cuba has an immense amount of highly trained and wildly creative artists, making all manner of art pieces in various forms—and much of it can be seen in the art galleries and workshops of Vedado. Some of our favorites: Galeria Villa Manuela, Fucina des Artistas, El Apartamento, and the studio of artist Roger Toledo. To explore all of the galleries and workshops in Vedado, check out our art galleries map.

See Some Architecture

If Havana is a walking architecture museum, Vedado is perhaps its finest exhibit. Though not as old as the structures  of the historic district, the neighborhood boasts all sorts of gems in neocolonial and art deco styles, as well as more recent examples of brutalist soviet styles, constructed in recent decades under the Revolution. Our favorites: the Lopez Serrano building, FOCSA building, Hotel Nacional, and innumerable others.

Aside from walking around randomly with our architecture map (which is not the worst way to do it btw…) there are a few ways to get a better sampling. Biking—as previously mentioned—or a ride in a vintage American convertible, will allow you to get a quick  glance at the general mix of styles, but the best way to really learn about specific examples is to hire a great guide. 

Go for a Bike Ride 

Solo bike  exploration of Vedado (and Havana more generally) is perfectly safe and a great way to see the city, but finding secure places to lock bikes is not easy, so if you are biking independently, don’t plan on leaving your bike for a long period. Ruta Bikes and Bike Rental Havana are both situated right in the center of Vedado and offer rentals as well as guided bike tours. A guided tour is ideal for a stress free way to learn about Cuba from a local expert as you ride (and directly support a local business!). 

Booking Lodging? Taxis? Activities? Restaurants?

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Make a Stop at Plaza de la Revolución

This big, open square is a tourist draw, but for good reason. The Plaza houses government buildings, the iconic mural of Che Guevara (and the more recent one of revolutionary hero Camilo Cienfuegos), and the massive obelisk shaped monument dedicated to José Martí, Cuba’s founding father. 

It’s the square where Fidel Castro gave innumerable speeches, and where the country gathers every year on May 1st to celebrate Socialist Workers Day.  If you opt for a vintage convertible tour, there will be a quick stop here to take pictures, and that’s probably all the time you need. 

Eat Amazing Food

Despite the quiet, residential feel, Vedado has a robust food scene. There are  lots of just okay spots to choose from, but only a handful of great spots, and the difference between decent great is significant. It’s worth perusing the best options (we have a map that many people find helpful) and adding some to your lunch or dinner plans. And if you’re a large group, we recommend making reservations.  Our faves: Grados, Eclectico, Pazillo, Café Laurent, Topoly

Since these private restaurants are locally owned private enterprises, eating at them is a great way to sample delicious food and  directly support the Cuban people at the same time. 

Get Some Exercise

If your accommodations are in Vedado, we highly recommend early morning exploration of the neighborhood in the form of a walk or run. If you are within shooting distance to the malecón, it’s a great place to run a few miles, but make sure to do it before the sun is too high, since it’s completely exposed. 

Vedado also has many small full-square-block parks that are nice for walks or people watching, as well as several basketball courts. If you’re up for an adventure, check out the aging stadium at malecón and Calle G, which sports a full size track, soccer field, and basketball courts and is a popular workout spot for locals. 

Visit Two Cemeteries

Cementerio Chino mausoleum in Havana Cuba

Vedado’s Cementerio Colón is famously among the two most important cemeteries  in Latin America (along with Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires). It’s replete with elaborate mausoleums with ornate carvings—fun for a stroll and fascinating for those with a deeper interest in the history of Cuba. A guided tour is the best way to tap into the fascinating histories of the cemetery, and a great way to directly support a local Cuban micro-entrepreneur. 

Right down the street from Cementerio Colón is the often forgotten but equally fascinating Cementerio Chino, another historical relic of mausoleums housing the remains of the many thousands of ethnically Chinese citizens of Cuba who came to the island in the 1800s and settled in what was once the largest Chinatown in Latin America. In many cases, they came as indentured servants, but over just a few generations many became pillars of the local community. Since most were Buddhist, they were not permitted to be buried in the Catholics-only Colón Cemetery or the Jewish cemeteries, so a separate one was created. 

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Sample the Nightlife

The ‘La Rampa’ section of Vedado was once a legendary nightlife destination, and despite those days being long over, this neighborhood still knows how to enjoy the night. There are queer friendly spots, a jazz club, and plenty of other spots with great vibes that host an eclectic mix of vivacious locals and international visitors. Some our faves: Bleco, Fabrica de Arte Cubano, EFE, and Teatro Bertolt Brecht. A good way to start exploring is with our curated maps, or use our local business guide to find out more information and the best way to contact them directly. 

Hit Up the Malecón

street scene of fishermen on the malecón in havana Cuba

Whether it’s a late night stroll, or an early morning jog, the málecon is a great place to relax and contemplate the crashing waves of the infinite Caribbean sea. We recommend avoiding it during the middle of the day (too much sun, no shade) but any other time of day—but especially sunset—is perfect. If you go to enjoy sunset with a few beers (yes, you’re allowed to do that) and feel like mingling, you’ll  find more activity near la Rampa and heading east toward Centro Habana. 

Book a Stay in Vedado

If you want to spend more than a day in Vedado, you might consider booking accommodations there. For travelers who are less charmed by the dense streets and occasional noisiness of Old Havana and prefer a quieter area that is still central to everything, Vedado might be your place. And whatever your budget, there are lots of great lodging options that fit the requirements for U.S.-Cuba travel. 

Our #1 favorite is probably Paseo 206, but it’s also one of the most expensive. A great value for a couple is Loft Vedado 18. But we have an entire guide with recommendations for all types of accommodations at all budgets. 

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