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Havana Attractions and Things to See
Havana is the capital,
main port and top commercial hub of Cuba, one its fifteen
provinces, with 2.1 million residents, making it the biggest
city in the country, as well as the second biggest in the
Caribbean, with the slow moving Almendares River that runs from
the south to the north ion the Straits of Florida, a couple of
miles from the west side of its bay. In 1592, King Phillip of
Spain would grant the settlement of the title of city, and then
in 1634, a royal decree would recognize it significance by
making it the "key to the New World and Rampart of the West
Indies". The Spanish would begin constructing fortifications,
and by 1553, they moved the governor's residence to Havana from
Santiago de Cuba on the east coast to the city, making it the de
facto capital. The significance of its harbor forts would be
realized early on as the Dutch, French and English sea pirates
would attack the city in the 16th century, and in 1898, when the
US battleship Maine was sunk in its harbor, the Spanish-American
The city is rich in history and heritage, with a unique architecture that was constructed mainly by Spanish immigrants, with the majority of its interior patios similar to the designs of Granada, Cadiz and Seville. Neo-classicism influences every new structure built in the city, and can be viewed everywhere, with numerous urban features first introduced in the city that included gas public lighting in 1848 and the railroad in 1837. At the turn of the 20th century, the city would become one of the grandest and most significant Latin American city in terms of architecture, that would become known as the vacas gordas of fat cows, with enormous examples of structures from the international influences of art deco, eclectic and art nouveau. During the 1940s and 1950s, it would market itself as a destination for gambling and holidays in the sun, with more new structures being built in it that were more of the modernism architecture, like the Havana libre, or the Hilton, before the revolution, and the La Rampa theater.
The city has some excellent landmarks today, like the Fortaleza San Carlos de la Cabana, the Necropolis Cristobal Colon, El Capitolio Nacional, Museo de la Revolucion, the Cuban Academy of Sciences, El Malecon Habanero, Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro, Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Castillo San Salvador de la Punta, the Great Theater of Havana and the Cristo de La Habana. Havana is the cultural hub of the country, with a big variety of palaces, museums, churches, avenues, public squares, ballet, art and musical festivals, fortresses that include the biggest fortified complex in the Americas that date from the 16th to the 18th centuries, as well as museum of the artifacts of the Cuban Revolution, with even the government putting special emphasis on it cultural activities that are free of charge or with just a small donation or charge.
Old Havana contains the original nucleus of the city, with the richest colonial set of Latin America, since the city had been founded in 1519 in the natural harbor of the Bay of Havana, becoming a very important stopping point for the heavy treasure filled Spanish galleons that would make the treacherous and difficult crossing from the New World to the Old World and Spain. During the 17th century it had become a major shipbuilding hub, with its structures built in the baroque and neoclassical style.
Today, Havana has excellent visual arts and performing arts, with a number of large and marvelous festivals, like the Havana International Jazz Festival, Habanos Cigar Festival, the International Havana Ballet Festival and many others. The city's cuisine is a marvelous fusion of Caribbean, Spanish and African flavors, with their recipes sharing techniques and spices with African and Spanish cooking, as well as some Caribbean influences in flavor and spices. Cuba's tropical climate adds to the mix, with many excellent fruits and root vegetables that have been incorporated in their food, and a typical meal includes; rice and beans, cooked together of apart, and when cooked together, it is called congri, which is black beans and rice or moros that is red beans and rice; but if cooked apart or separately, it is called arroz con/y frijoles or rice with/and beans. Their main course would be pork or beef, along with some kind of vianda, that includes numerous kinds of tubers, like yucca, potato, malanga, unripe bananas, corn and plantains.