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Old Square: A Landmark in Havana's History

The Cuban capital, founded more than four centuries ago under the name of San Cristóbal de La Habana, assembles the most diverse elements from colonial times in its historic heart, which has today become a singular attraction for tourists.

Thousands of buildings with a centennial history, places linked to culture, commerce, religion and even gastronomy proliferate in a relatively small area for the enjoyment of visitors interested in learning about the major city in the largest Antillean island.

As part of its foundation and development, Havana took shape around five major squares that were built in different points of the village. They were the Arms Square, the Saint Francis Square, the Swamp Square, the Christ Square and the New Square, which is known today as the Old Square.

The order to build the New Square was issued in 1587, but its construction began in the second half of the 17th century. It soon became an excellent place for city dwellers to gather to exchange views about the most recent news, make commercial transactions, or just enjoy the breeze in summer.

The old streets of Muralla, Mercaderes, Teniente Rey and San Ignacio surrounded the New Square; which became a residential area where the most select exponents of Cuban bourgeoisie lived until the 18th century.

When the Christ Square was built, its name was changed into Old Square. In 1835, it took in the Queen Cristina Market, one of the first fish market recorded in documents of that period, which was replaced by a republican-styled park in 1908.

Fountain at Plaza Vieja (Old Havana)
"Benny Moré" Café Tavern
Gómez Vila Building

Cuba, characterized by a true blend of construction styles, reflected its rich architecture in the buildings surrounding the Old Square, which include small palaces with arches and commercial establishments of different shapes, according to the influences of their creators.

The 20th century brought new changes to the Old Square, which central plaza was turned into an indoor parking lot in 1952. It gradually recovered its original looks thanks to the restoration works carried out over the past few years by the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana.

The painstaking work of experts and restorers led the Old Square to show visitors its cobblestone pavement, with a replica in Carrara marble of the original fountain that provided water to its neighbors, now with a merely ornamental purpose.

Many buildings complement the charms of the square. One of them is the Fund of Cultural Assets, located in the former palace of the Counts of Jaruco, built in the first half of the 18th century.

The oldest building in the area - already restored - is the house where Don José Martín de Arrate, considered the pioneer of Havana historians, lived. Other edifices include museums, inns and cultural centers.

Places such as the Old Square complement Havana's wide gamut of offers for the dynamic leisure industry, especially in its historic heart, where time seems to have come to a standstill for the enjoyment of tourists interested in learning about the Cuban capital.

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