National Museum of Fine Arts
In the heart of downtown Havana is one of the city’s most popular museums—Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana—or the National Museum of Fine Arts. This museum boasts an international gallery and a Cuban gallery, but it’s the latter that attracts most visitors. Through the Cuban gallery people get to glimpse life in Havana through the strokes of its own inhabitants. The art spans from Spanish portraits in the 17th century to Cuban Hyperrealism in the 1970s. Works from renowned Cuban artists René Portocarrero and Wifredo Lam are both featured. Their vibrant, detailed art will leave you with images that are distinctly Cuban.
Museum of the Revolution
Located down the street from the National Museum of Fine Arts is an impressive building that once served as Cuba’s Presidential Palace. That was until the Cuban Revolution, when the president was booted out and the building was converted into the Museum of the Revolution. The museum is filled with many historical artifacts related to the Revolution, such as the Granma Yacht that Fidel Castro, Che Guevarra and 80 other Cuban revolutionaries rode from Mexico to Cuba.
However, not all exhibits can be taken at face value. As an ode to the island’s conversion to communism, some exhibits are strict propaganda. An example is the infamous “Rincon de los Cretinos” (“Corner of the Cretins”), which depicts caricatures of Fulgencio Batista and former U.S. presidents dressed as infamous historical tropes. While the propaganda may be hard for some foreigners to swallow, it provides a glimpse into the mindset of Cuba’s Communist Regime and the narratives Cubans are taught throughout grade school.
Museum of the Revolution, Avenida Bélgica, La Habana, Cuba, +53 7 860 1524
Finca La Vigia—Ernest Hemingway’s Home
While many expect to find references to Cuban revolutionaries, many don’t expect to find so many references to another figure—Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway lived in Havana for over 20 years, and his books still flood Havana’s many secondhand book markets.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Hemingway has a museum of his own. According to the Cuban government, after Hemingway’s suicide his house was given to them, they restored the home and reopened it in 2007. Now visitors can tour its rooms, with Hemingway’s original furniture, decorations, and bookshelves left almost untouched.
Finca La Vigia, Finca Vigía km12.5, La Habana, Cuba, +53 7 691 0809
Museo del Ron Havana Club
For those who don’t have the patience for exhibits about art and literature, here’s a topic that might catch your interest—rum. Cuba is known for its rum, and Havana Club shows visitors why. The tour lasts approximately half an hour and takes visitors through the history and process of making Cuban rum. The best part: there are samples at the end.
Museo del Ron Havana Club, Havana, Cuba, +54 11 4413 7126
Museum of the City
The Museum of the City, also called Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (Palace of the Captain Generals), is a great stop for lovers of architecture. It is a 1700s palace built in the Cuban Baroque style. The middle of the palace houses a large courtyard surrounded by rooms. Many these rooms are still filled with items from 18th century Cuba such as carriages and cannons.
The museum offers visitors three payment options: 3 CUC/USD to walk the building, 5 CUC/USD for an audio guide, and 8 CUC/USD for a guided tour. There aren’t many exhibits in the museum, or signs and descriptions. Still, its location makes it a convenient stop for visitors. Its central location at Plaza de Armas is right next to Havana’s Bookseller’s Market, and it’s walking distance from all the attractions in Old Havana.
Classic Car Museum
If you’re fascinated by Cuba’s antique cars, Havana’s classic car museum—Depósito del Automóvil—is well worth a visit. The museum features over 50 vehicles from 1905–1989 that exemplify the history of the Cuban automobile industry. Some of these cars are extremely rare; the 1905 Cadillac being the oldest existing automobile on the island. There is also a collection of classic Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Other cars reveal history through the people who drove them. Camilo Cienfuego was a Cuban revolutionary who fought beside Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. His Oldsmobile is one of the cars on display, still parading its iconic mint-green. Fidel Castro’s 1977 motorcycle, a Ducati 900SS, is also on display. Consisting of two large rooms, the museum will only take about an hour to walk through. Its location in Old Havana makes it a very convenient stop, and at only 1 CUC/USD for admission, it’s affordable, too.
Many visitors are surprised to find out that Cuba has one of most impressive collections of French history in the world. Despite it being a Spanish colony, Havana houses the most extensive Napoleonic museum in the Caribbean. With over 8,000 items the museum, it spans from the French Revolution to the Second Empire. Items include suits, coins, military equipment, art, and a large library. One of the most famous pieces is a copy of Napoleon’s death mask.
The museum is connected to the University of Havana. Most visitors spend an hour or two walking around the exhibits. Many of the displays don’t have descriptions, so if you’re interested in the details it is worth paying for a guided English tour.
Napoleonic Museum, Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba, +53 7 879 1412