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La Habana Vieja La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) is the historic colonial heart of Havana. Situated at the eastern edge of the city, in the area beginning around the Paseo del Prado, or Paseo de Martí, and the Parque Central, and extending to the Harbor Channel, it is a dense collection of colonial-era and neocolonial houses, mansions, churches, seminaries, and apartment buildings punctuated by a few picturesque plazas and parks. UNESCO declared La Habana Vieja a World Heritage Site in 1982, and today it is one of the most beautiful restored colonial cities in the world. You will find the city's greatest collection of museums and attractions here, as well as a broad selection of restaurants and beautifully restored boutique hotels. This is an area best explored on foot.

Centro Habana In many ways, Central Havana is little more than the necessary and neglected area connecting La Habana Vieja with Vedado. It is defined on its northern edge by the Malecón, the seaside pedestrian walkway that stretches from La Habana Vieja to the end of Vedado. The stretch of the Malecón (and everything inland from it) between the Hotel Nacional and La Habana Vieja is a study in decay and decomposition. Still, it is quite picturesque and charming in its own way. Centro Habana is primarily a residential area, although it does have a high concentration of casas particulares (private rooms for rent).

Beware: I cannot stress enough the level of decay here. Balconies, crown molding, and other large chunks of brick, mortar, and stone regularly drop off buildings here, sometimes injuring passersby below.

Vedado & the Plaza de la Revolución Beginning more or less at the Hotel Nacional and extending west to the Almendares River, and south to the Plaza de la Revolución, Vedado is a busy mix of middle- to upper-class houses and businesses. As the older sections of La Habana Vieja and Centro Habana began to overflow, residential and business growth centered on Vedado. Calle 23, or La Rampa, is the principal avenue defining Vedado, and it's where you'll find Coppelia, the Tryp Habana Libre (former Havana Hilton), and the Hotel Nacional. The broad Plaza de la Revolución sits on high ground on the southern edge of Vedado and houses several government agencies, in addition to the towering José Martí Memorial, the National Theater, and the National Library.

Playa This upscale residential district is located just west of Vedado, past the Almendares River. The most important neighborhood here is Miramar, home to many prominent businesses and most of the resident foreign community in Cuba. Almost all of the various embassies and diplomatic missions have set up shop in the various Batista-era mansions that make up this neighborhood. There are several large and luxurious, business-class hotels here, as well as many private rooms for rent in wonderfully maintained, neocolonial mansions.

Habana del Este & Playas del Este On the eastern banks of the harbor is Habana del Este, and about 11km (6 3/4 miles) farther east along the coast are the Playas del Este, or eastern beaches, which stretch on for about 15km (9 miles) of their own. Habana del Este and Playas del Este are connected to the rest of Havana by a tunnel running between La Habana Vieja and the area around the Morro Castle. There are also frequent little passenger ferries running between La Habana Vieja and the neighborhoods of Regla and Casablanca. The towns that comprise Habana del Este, Alamar, Cojímar, and Ciudad Panamericana are working class and industrial. The beaches of Playas del Este, on the other hand, are beautiful stretches of white sand fronting the sea. These beaches are popular with both Cubans and travelers alike.

Near the Airport The area near and around the airport is an industrial wasteland. There are no hotels or facilities for tourists here. Playa and Miramar, about a 15- to 20-minute drive away, are the closest neighborhoods for travelers looking for quick access to the airport; however, the extra time and distance to hotels in Vedado or La Habana Vieja are negligible.

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.