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Weekly report on Cuba's tourism industry
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Cuba: Tourism with 495 Years of History

Havana, Cuba's major tourist destination, celebrated 495 years of its foundation with an agenda full of options for foreign and domestic visitors.

The former village of San Cristóbal de La Habana is one of the most outstanding exponents of Spanish-colonial architecture in the country, marked by a fame that began in the late 17th century with unique characteristics strongly influenced by Iberian culture.

Also known as the Fortified City of the West Indies and the Key to the New World, Havana is a living museum that exhibits a wide range of architectural styles that show the different stages of the city's development.

There are several squares in Havana, including Arms Square, Cathedral Square, the Old Square and Saint Francis of Assisi Square, the latter being located by the church and convent of the same name.

The city also holds distinctive sites such as the famous Prado Promenade and Paula Promenade. The latter was built in the second half of the 18th century.

From the 16th century on, the Port of Havana provided all kinds of services to ships, so it became a hub for the country's economic activity until Cuban authorities decided to move its infrastructure to the Bay of Mariel, 45 kilometers west of Havana.

View of the Castle of the Three Kings of El Morro from Havana`s Malecón
Center for the Development of Visual Arts
Night view of Paula Church

Plans include the possibility of building a maritime promenade so that pedestrians can walk over part of the bay.

Havana's system of fortresses, led by the emblematic Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro (Morro Castle), consisted of nine big constructions that made up the most important military complex in the Spanish-speaking Americas, according to experts.

Among those fortressed, the Castillo de la Real Fuerza (Royal Force Castle), whose construction was completed in 1577, paved the way in the continent for Renaissance design in military constructions, with a style that predominated in Spain during the rule of the Catholic Monarchy and the Elizabethan period.

Nearly 140 buildings in Havana's historic heart were built in the 16th and 17th centuries, 200 were constructed in the 18th century, and more than 460 were erected in the 19th century, thus creating a mixture that is full of attractions.

Reconstruction efforts allowed remodeling emblematic sites such as the Martí Theater, which is the birthplace of Cuban comic theater, the butterfly farm at Quinta de los Molinos, Bodegón del Queso and the former Almacén de la Madera y el Tabaco, which was turned into a homemade beer brewery.

Classic hotels housed in centuries-old buildings in Old Havana are highly-demanded by foreign tourists.

That is the case of the Beltrán de Santa Cruz Hotel, which offers 11 rooms and is housed in an elegant mansion from the 18th century, near Old Square.

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