Plaza de Armas & Plaza Vieja are two of Havana’s oldest squares, yet with quite different styles.
Plaza de Armas is lined with royal palms and hosts a daily (except Sundays) secondhand book market. At the end of Calle Obispo, this petite and vivid plaza is packed with colorful buildings and neoclassicism museums. The swingy live music keeps going on all day long.
We stayed at Hotel Santa Isabel by Plaza de Armas, which is considered one of Havana's finest hotels, as well as one of its oldest (operations began in 1867). Its location is the best, close enough to the tourist part yet far enough that we couldn’t hear the noise. Its historic charm would slow you down to enjoy the Spanish-colonial furniture. No wonder ex-US president Jimmy Carter stayed here during his historic 2002 visit.
Plaza Vieja is Havana's most architecturally eclectic square, where Cuban baroque nestles seamlessly next to Gaudí-inspired art nouveau. Originally called Plaza Nueva (New Square), it was initially used for military exercises and later served as an open-air marketplace. As time goes by, now it has become the Old Plaza.
Come here at dusk and hold a beer from the local brewery. The golden sunset and comforting breeze will end the day and start the nightlife perfectly.