98km (61 miles) E of Havana; 40km (25 miles) SW of Varadero
Matanzas is a city of many names: City of Bridges, City of Rivers, and the Venice of Cuba. They all refer to the fact that the city is divided by two major rivers, and connected back by a series of pedestrian, auto, and rail bridges. Due to its slow pace and laid-back nature, Matanzas is also sometimes called Cuba's Sleeping Beauty. However, the city is probably most proud of its moniker as the Athens of Cuba, a name reflecting Matanzas's important cultural tradition and history. The first danzón, a languid and lyrical original dance and musical form, was originally composed and played in Matanzas in 1879 by native son Miguel Faílde, and Matanzas has a rich legacy of prominent poets, writers, painters, and musicians. Still, today's reality is that aside from its beautiful old city center, Matanzas is a relatively unappealing industrial port city of only passing interest to travelers. While it is a popular destination for day trips out of Havana and Varadero, there are no hotels or notable restaurants in Mantanzas.