Unquestionably, the greatest attraction in Trinidad is the town itself, which constitutes one of the finest colonial centers in the Americas and, justifiably, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety. The town's cobblestone streets contain a treasure-trove of small and grand colonial homes, churches, and quiet squares. Walking aimlessly about the curving streets of the old town is unmatched in Cuba for tranquillity and charm. About the only feature not authentically colonial is the neon cross that crowns the church on Plaza Mayor. Remarkably, as quaint as it is, Trinidad feels like a real town where Cubans live and work, rather than the film set it first appears to be.
A good way to get your bearings in Trinidad is to trace a path from the Plaza Mayor, the heart of the old town, heading west on Echerri and then down Piro Guinart to Plazuela El Jigüe, a quiet and pretty little square. Then head down Peña to Simón Bolívar and east on Antonio Maceo, the closest thing there is to a main drag in Trinidad.
A couple blocks south of here, along Lino Pérez, is Parque Céspedes, the focal point of the "new" town (though newer than the colonial core of Trinidad, it remains anything but shiny and modern).
Northeast of the old town, following Fernando H. Echerri to José Mendoza for several blocks, you'll reach Plaza Santa Ana and the ruins of Iglesia Santa Ana, which looks ancient, but dates only to 1812. On the square is a former 19th-century prison, Real Cárcel, which today houses a touristy restaurant and souvenir shop.
Around the Plaza Mayor
The neo-baroque, 19th-century Plaza Mayor, elaborately adorned with serene sitting areas, statuary, towering palm trees, and gardens enclosed by white wrought-iron fences, is one of Cuba's most beautiful plazas. It's ringed by magnificent palaces and pastel-colored houses with red-tile roofs and wood shutters. On the northwest corner is the cathedral, Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad, which most locals refer to as La Parroquial Mayor. The cathedral, completed in 1892, replaced the original 17th-century church that was destroyed in 1812 by a hurricane. The new construction, completed at the end of the 19th century, is rather simple on the outside, but the restored interior reveals a Gothic vaulted ceiling and nearly a dozen attractive carved altars. The cathedral can be visited Monday through Saturday from 10:30am to 1pm. Mass is at 9am on Sunday.
The highlight of the Plaza Mayor, and the most evocative reminder of Trinidad's glory days, is the lovingly restored Palacio Brunet, Fernando H. Echerri 52 at the corner of Simón Bolívar. The colonial mansion dates to 1704 (the second floor was built in 1808) and houses the Museo Romántico (tel. 41/99-4363). Its splendid collection of period antiques culled from a number of old Trinitario families convincingly evokes the life of a local sugar baron in the 1800s. Don't miss the enormous kitchen, covered in azulejo (glazed ceramic tiles), with a wood-burning stove. The views from upstairs are marvelous. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Admission is CUC$2; allow about 45 minutes for your visit.
In a pale yellow colonial building on the west side of the main square, Museo de Arqueología (tel. 41/99-3420) features a collection that encompasses natural sciences and pre-Columbian Cuba. It's mostly an uninspired hodgepodge of exhibits, though; you'll find bones of Indian natives and slaves, glass-enclosed stuffed animals, and a 19th-century kitchen, which, though interesting, is hard to classify as either archaeology or natural science. It is currently closed and has no scheduled reopening date.
On the east side of the Plaza Mayor, in a squat, sky-blue mansion once belonging to the Sánchez Iznaga family, the Museo de Arquitectura Colonial (tel. 41/99-3208) features moderately interesting exhibits that trace the development of Trinidad, including examples of woodwork and ironwork, maps, models, and photographs. What is on display, though, can hardly compare to the real-life exhibits beyond the museum's doors. It's open Monday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Admission is CUC$1.
The former Palacio Cantero, an 1830 palatial residence built by a noted sugar baron, houses the Museo Histórico Municipal, Simón Bolívar 423 between Peña and Gustavo Izquierdo (tel. 41/99-4460). In addition to antiques and 19th-century furnishings, there are bits and pieces of slave history, old bank notes, and exhibits of revolutionary Cuba. For many visitors, though, the highlight is the climb up the narrow and rickety wooden stairs to the tower, which has terrific bird's-eye views of Trinidad and the surrounding area. The museum is open Saturday through Thursday from 9am to 5pm; admission is CUC$2. Allow about an hour for your visit, a bit longer if you want to linger over the views.
The second of Trinidad's two major towers is the picturesque, yellow-and-white domed bell tower belonging to the former 18th-century Convento de San Francisco (Convent of Saint Francis of Assisi), Fernando H. Echerri at Piro Guinart. Today the building hosts the dogmatic, but rather fascinating Museo de la Lucha Contra Bandidos (tel. 41/99-4121), which focuses on revolutionary Cuba and the continuing "struggle against bandits." Exhibits document Fidel's battles against counterrevolutionaries -- the bandidos in question -- who sought to overturn the regime's ideals by winning support among guajiros (poor rural farmers) and fighting in the Sierra del Escambray in the 1960s. In addition to newspaper reports, you'll find machine guns, military maps, a CIA radio, and photos of the ragtag principals who finally, and quite extraordinarily, overthrew the Batista government in 1959. As is the case with the Museo Histórico, though, the biggest draw may be the panoramic views from atop the bell tower. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 5pm; admission is CUC$1. Allow 45 minutes or so, including the visit to the tower.
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.