Havana City’s Historic Five Squares


APRIL, 2017


Sun, sand, and the sea are the most obvious attractions of Cuba but not the only. Each of the cities in Cuba offers a fascinating variety of natural beauty spots and sites of particular interest. Havana City is the richest in charming and variety, the area known as Habana Vieja (Old Havana) is the oldest part of the city and the main buildings of the colonial period are to be seen there.  The area was shaped according to a none-to-strict interpretation of the Leyes de Indias (laws governing Spain’s American colonies), so instead of the well laid-out, orderly and rectilinear plans of other Latin-American cities, it has some irregularity with streets that tried to be straight but which ended up giving in to the requirements of the land and the interests of the owners. At the ancient part of Havana you could enjoy a remarkable colonial atmosphere: ancient gas lamps, the balconies old wrought iron rails and ornament sills, the vitrales over the windows which flood the rooms with light and color; just walking down over the cobbled stones, smoothed by the passage of time and almost five centuries of shoes, cars or carriage wheels.  Also, the closeness of the sea, the high number of vintage cars gives some magic to the area, a marine and harbor ancient atmosphere to certain places.

Photograph by Sveto Nikic.

But the best way to get a good perspective of this city and his people is approach to Old Havana and explore the main ancient squares. Our city has a polycentric character and the formation of five squares each one with specific functions, mark the starting point of the ancient village. From this five cores starting to grow up the streets what draw now days the physiognomy of Havana.

These famous squares contain a wealth of unusual buildings and architectural styles and also keep deep secrets in their corners. The curiosities and the details of history remains unseen with a simple look. Join us and experience the real Havana.

La Plaza de la Catedral, considered the finest example of baroque style in Latin America. La Plaza de Armas or Square Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in which we can find the birth place of the city, El Templete, a lovely Doric style temple who commemorates the first mass said in Havana in 1519. La Plaza Vieja maybe the preferred for the foreigners, surround by old palaces and galleries of contemporary art, a spectacular place to take pictures. Not to forget La Plaza de San Francisco the ideal spot to drink a coffee admiring the view of a magnificent towered church and convent. And of course Plaza del Cristo adjacent to the church Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje, one of the city´s most restful areas.





La Plaza de Armas was the city´s first square, and formed the nucleus from which the axes determining Havana immediate growth radiated.  It was around 1580 that its definitive location was established and gained prominence as administrative center at the end of the XVIII century with the construction of the Palace of The Captaincy General, house of the Captain General the highest authority at that time in Cuba.

La Plaza San Francisco was created in around 1630 by virtue of a Town Council Resolution to serve as a water supply point for ships berthed in the nearby port. Lately the square has a prominently commercial character, in spite of the proximity of the Church of St. Francis the square was a great market place.

La Plaza Vieja came into being in the second half XVI century to provide the city with a public area. This square was unlike most others in that it contained no religious or civic buildings, is fronted by finest examples of domestic architecture.

La Plaza del Cristo also known as Plaza Nueva was built to complement the Church of St. Christ of Good Journey and to serve as the final station on the religious processions which took place at Lent.

La Plaza de la Catedral. One of the city’s better known squares embraced by key buildings as the Cathedral. This location was originally a water supply point due to the existence of a well and because it was the end of the main branch of the city’s first aqueduct, La Zanja Real.


WEISS, Joaquín. Arquitectura Colonial Cubana (Cuban Colonial Architecture). La Habana, Sevilla, Instituto Cubano del Libro, Junta de Andalucía, Consejería de Obras Públicas y Transporte. 1996.

MARTIN, María Elena. La Habana: Una guía de arquitectura (Havana,Cuba: An Architectural Guide).La Habana; Madrid, Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional.1998

De las CUEVAS, Juan. 500 AÑOS DE CONSTRUCCIONES EN CUBA (500 YEARS OF CONSTRUCTIONS IN CUBA). D.V. Chavín, Servicios Gráficos y Editoriales, S.L. La Habana, 2001.

Share This