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Havana on foot - Avenida del Puerto

Havana on foot - Avenida del Puerto

Havana's Port Road curves round the edge of Old Havana from the mouth of the harbour right down to the underside of the old town which is punctuated by a section of the old city wall and the railway station.

Begin your walk at the top section of the Avenida del Puerto (Port Road) at the northern tip of the Malecon sea wall next to the harbour. Here, the diminutive Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta (Castle of the Saviour of the Point) [1], built in 1590 (and closed for restoration), sits facing the larger fortification, Castillo El Morro (El Morro Castle), on the eastern headland of the bay. In the colonial era, a wooden barrier connected La Punta with El Morro. Today, a tunnel built in 1957-58, connects both sides of the harbour.

South, and inland of La Punta, is the colossal marble and bronze equestrian statue of Maximo Gomez [2], a military commander in Cuba's War of Independence.

Walk south along Avenida de las Misiones before turning left along Calle Cuarteles alongside the 19th-century neo-Gothic Iglesia del Santo Angel Custodio (Church of the Holy Guardian Angel) [3] where Cuban national hero Jose Marti was baptised. In the adjacent Plazuela del Angel is the new modern Cafe Jacqueline Fumero (daily 10am-10pm) [4] whose Death by Chocolate ice cream shake is worth stopping in for!

Havana on foot - Avenida del Puerto - 1

Continue east down Cuarteles before heading north along tiny Calle Aguiar up to Arte Corte (Tues-Sat 10am-6pm), an intriguing hairdressing salon-cum-hair dressing museum [5] complete with antique hairbrushes, combs, hairdryers and old cash registers. Return to the corner of Calle Pena Pobre and turn east to the port road where you'll be faced with the monumental 18th-century construction of La Cabana (the Fort) on the opposite side of the harbour.

Inland, the port road is lined with the 1936 El Anfiteatro (ampitheatre) [6] which stages musicals, opera and orchestral works, the children's play park La Maestranza [7], and the garden and statue of Hasekura Tsunenaga [8], a samurai, and the first Japanese to set foot in Cuba in 1614.

Further south is the leafy Plaza Jose de la Luz and Caballero [9] dominated by a statue of Cuban scholar Jose de la Luz y Caballero. Behind the park, used by children for horse-riding walks, is the vast former 1767 Jesuit-built Seminario de San Carlos y San Ambrosio (Saint Carlos and Saint Ambrosio Seminario) [10].

Continuing south, the highly visible 1958 marble statue El Cristo (Christ of Havana) surveys the bay from the eastern side. At the prominent bastion of the 1577 fort of La Fuerza (Castle of the Royal Force) [11], and the opening to the Plaza de Armas, the port road begins to round.

The road continues past the excellent state seafood restaurant El Templete [12] before passing the restored 18th-century Pedroso House, the puppet theatre El Arca (Ark Theatre) [13] and the curious Diana, Princess of Wales garden [14] featuring a ceramic column sculpture by Alfredo Sosabravo. The main road passes by the wide open Plaza San Francisco de Asis [15] and former Customs House. Behind railings, on your righthand side, is the Mother Teresa of Calcutta garden [16] featuring a small bronze statue of the Roman Catholic nun by Carlos Alberto Rodriguez. Inside the garden is the Sacra Iglesia Catedral Ortodoxa de San Nicolas de Mira (Sacred Orthodox Cathedral of St Nicholas of Mira) featuring stunning ceiling murals [17].

Havana on foot - Avenida del Puerto - 2

At the corner of Sol and the port road is the Havana Club Museum (9.30am-5.30pm) [18] where the history of rum from sugarcane field to cocktail glass is documented in montage and photos; the highlight is the bar featuring a gorgeous old-world mural and regular crooners.

Further south, along the Port Road, is the copper and gold-domed Our Lady of Kazan Sacred Russian Orthodox Church [19].

Walk further south to the small Parque Aracelio Iglesias [20] dominated by the portals of the Hotel Armadores de Santander [21]. Cross the road, here, to wander along Havana's first promenade, the Alameda de Paula (Paula Poplar Grove Avenue) which was designed by architect Fernandez Trevejo in 1776 [22]. Its elevated pathway, coupled with railings punctuated by stone urns, is an elegant attraction in the southern part of the Old City where the bay view is not so pretty at the moment. Here, floating breakwaters are being built to revive this part of the city. Behind the Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula (Church of St Francis of Paula) [23], now used for classical choral and music concerts, the city historian's office is transforming the Antiguo Almacen de la Madera y el Tabaco (Old Wood and Tobacco Warehouse) [24] into a European-style beer hall, due to open by the end of 2013. Next door, the Almacenes San Jose (San Jose Warehouse) is a large one-stop indoor souvenir and crafts market [25].

Claire Boobbyer

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Claire Boobbyer

Claire Boobbyer

Cultural Explorer

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

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