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Havana on foot - Paseo del Prado

Havana on foot - Paseo del Prado

Havana's Prado is the city's most famous promenade. It's where artists, roller skaters, loungers, walkers, dogs and debaters congregate on the marble seats which line the long terrazzo pavement.

The leafy promenade, also known as Paseo de Marti, divides Old Havana from Central Havana and unfurls along a kilometre-long road from the Malecon sea wall right up to the Fraternidad park and fountain.

The leafy promenade known as Paseo de Marti.

It was built in 1772 outside the Old City walls, and became the focus of Havana's social life. Today, the handsome terrazzo pavement is lined with marble and stone benches, iron lamp posts and laurel trees, and flanking both ends of the promenade are two bronze lions, which sailed from London in 1920.

Either side of the promenade is a colonnaded busy street housing a jumble of theatres, schools, cafes and restaurants.

Head south from the Malecon, and on your left hand side you'll see a small park, featuring an unused fountain known as the Fuente de los Martires (Martyrs' Fountain) [1]. Its white art deco sculpture is of three entwined figures by Rita Longa, Cuba's most famous sculptor.

Paseo del Prado - Map

Under the columns of Prado at no. 156 (between Calle Refugio and Colon), you'll find a plaque dedicated to Dr Carlos Finlay [2] who, in 1881, carried out tests to prove that mosquitos transmitted yellow fever.

Former Casa del Cientifico (Scientist's House)

On the left-hand side, at the corner of Colon is the chalk-white art deco Teatro Fausto [3]. At Prado no. 212 (between Colon and Trocadero) is the former 1924 house of Cuba's second president Jose Miguel Gomez. Formerly known as the Casa del Cientifico (Scientist's House) [4], it's currently being transformed into a French school. Its glorious sweeping marble staircase and stained glass skylight are the interior highlights. American mobster Meyer Lansky [5], who built the 1950s Hotel Riviera, lived at no. 252 (between Trocadero and Animas).

On the opposite corner is the Moorish-style Hotel Sevilla [6] and its modern yellow extension tower. Pop into the lobby to see the rampant and indulgent Moorish tile spread. This hotel was the haunt of American mobsters and Al Capone lived in room 615 when he was in town.

The Cuban Arab Cultural Centre at no. 258 [7] features a beautiful Egyptian mosaic mural on its upper level. Further south, the 1914 Palacio de los Matrimonios (Palace of Marriages) at no. 302 (between Animas and Virtudes) is sumptuous (Tues-Sun 10am-6pm) and recently restored [8]. Formerly the Spanish Club of Havana, its ornately decorated rooms play host to many wedding services.

Prado, as a busy road, extends beyond the promenade which closes with two further bronze lions, and a statue of 19th-century Cuban journalist Manuel de la Cruz. Here, the Prado continues past the pivotal Parque Central [9]. The park, dominated by a marble statue of Cuban hero Jose Marti [10], was built in 1877, and is surrounded by hotels, a theatre, and a museum.

The royal blue Hotel Telegrafo [11], the historic Hotel Inglaterra [12], and the modern Hotel Iberostar Parque Central [13] enjoy pole position. Across the park sits the Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) (Tues-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-2pm) in the grand former Centro Asturiano [14]. It exhibits paintings from around the world.

Back across the leafy park, passing the Esquina Caliente (Hot Corner), where baseball fans argue passionately and loudly [15], is the wonderfully ornate baroque Grand Theatre [16], formerly the 19th-century Galician Centre. Today, it hosts performances by Cuba's National Ballet, and the upper floors hosts art exhibitions. Currently closed for restoration, its guided tours of the ornate interior are worthwhile.

Cuba's monumental building - Capitolio in Havana.

Beyond the Grand Theatre is Cuba's monumental 1929 Capitolio (Capitol) building [17]. Currently under restoration, it will return to being the seat of Cuba's government when it reopens. Just behind the Capitol is the Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas (Partagas cigar factory) where Cuba's famous cigars are rolled by hand [18].

At the corner of Calle Muralla and Prado is the forest-green Hotel Saratoga [19] with its outstanding roof-top views of the Capitol and Prado. Close to the hotel sits the graceful, marble La Fuente de la India (India Fountain) [20]. Also known as "La Noble Havana", she is said to represent the wife of the Taino Indian chief Habaguanex. She was sculpted by Italian Giuseppe Gaggini in 1837. She holds Havana's coat of arms in one hand: it depicts the three original city fortifications, La Fuerza, El Morro and La Punta and the large key which represents her position as the gateway to the Spanish Empire's New World. The large Parque Fraternidad [21], off to the right hand side of the end of Prado is now a park and large old American car taxi lot.

Claire Boobbyer

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Claire Boobbyer

Cultural Explorer

A self-confessed wanderluster and devoted culture lover, Claire writes about her frequent travels...

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