Parque Céspedes is the focal point of downtown Bayamo. It's an exquisite, peaceful square flanked by tall royal palm trees. The light-blue and pink building at one end of the square, which housed a pharmacy, is where the great blaze began. At one end of the plaza is a marble bust of the independence fighter Perucho Figueredo, which carries the words and music to "La Bayamesa" (later the national anthem), imploring followers not to fear "a glorious death" and encourages Cubans that to "die for the homeland is to live." At the other end of the plaza is a stately granite and bronze statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. Ringing the square are handsome, pastel-colored, arcaded colonial-style (post-1869) buildings. Had the city not been consumed by fire, in all likelihood it would resemble the remarkable colonial core of Trinidad.
Next to the Hotel Royalton on the north side of the square, the Casa Natal de Céspedes, Calle Francisco Maceo Osorio 57 (tel. 23/42-3864), the birthplace of the "father of the Cuban nation," is the only house on the square that escaped destruction from the fire. The significance of it alone being saved is not lost on Cubans. Today it is a museum, open Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 6pm, Saturday from 10am to 3pm and 8 to 10pm, and Sunday from 10am to 3pm and 8 to 10pm; admission is CUC$1. The house has been lovingly restored; the two-story building holds a chronological exhibit about the Céspedes family, elegant 19th-century colonial furnishings, objects belonging to Céspedes (such as his ceremonial saber), and a few odds and ends that help piece together the story of Bayamo's independent streak (including the original printing press that produced the first newspaper of free Cuba, El Cubano Libre, in 1868). The standout item, however, is the extraordinary, huge four-poster bronze bed complete with two oval shields depicting towns in mother-of-pearl decoration; the imagery changes as you glance at the depictions from left to right. Céspedes is remembered for refusing to trade his surrender for the life of his son, who was captured by the Spanish army; the Cuban patriot replied in writing that all Cubans were his sons and he could not be expected to trade their independence for the life of one man. The Spaniards promptly shot his son Oscar.
Just west of the museum and Parque Céspedes, dominating a small open square called Plaza del Himno, is La Catedral de Bayamo (or La Catedral del Santísimo Salvador), an immense, ocher-colored, 16th-century church that succumbed to the 1869 fire. Rebuilt several times over the course of its life, the church was recently magnificently restored. It features a high-peaked wood-beam ceiling and, above the altar, an attention-getting battle mural commemorating a pivotal local episode when the parish priest blessed the rebel army flag. This blurring of the lines between church and state was not the only overtly political statement to take place in the cathedral; the first singing of the revolutionary anthem was staged here in 1869. The cathedral is open to visitors daily from 9am to 1pm and from 3 to 5pm. To one side of the cathedral, the small chapel Capilla de La Dolorosa (Chapel of the Lady of Sorrows), which dates to 174, is distinguished by a lovely Moorish-style, carved wooden ceiling and fine baroque altarpiece; it was only one of three important buildings to survive the 1869 blaze (the others were the Casa de la Trova and Céspedes' home).
Heading south from Parque Céspedes, Calle General García has been turned into a pleasant pedestrian mall, with several shops, simple restaurants, and tour agency offices.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.