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Colonial Havana: Cultural and Historic Values for All

The Cuban capital, formerly known as the village of San Cristóbal de La Habana, is one of the best exponents of Spanish-colonial architecture in the Caribbean island, marked by a notoriety that started in the late 16th century.

At the time, Havana, which was known as the Fortress of the West Indies and the Key to the New World, had an extraordinary system of fortresses that still exist today and are one-of-a-kind attractions for both Cubans and foreign tourists.

Havana's military system, with the emblematic Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro as the main fortress, consisted of nine large buildings that made up the most notable military complex of its kind in the Spanish-speaking Americas.

Another fortress is the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, whose construction was completed in 1577 and paved the way in the continent to the Renaissance design in military constructions, with a style that was predominant in Spain during the kingdom of the Catholic Monarchs, and was also called Elizabethan style.

At present, 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 are from the 19th century, thus creating a mixture of attractions for the most demanding tourists.

Several squares are distributed throughout Havana, especially those known as Arms Square, Cathedral Square, Old Square and that of Saint Francis of Assisi, which is besides the church and convent of the same name.

Castle of Los Tres Reyes del Morro
Night view of Paula Church
Castle of the Royal Force

Restoration works turned the Old Square to show visitors its cobblestone pavement, with a fountain in the center that is a replica in Carrara marble of the one that used to supply water to local residents centuries ago.

The oldest building in the area, which was already restored, is the house where Don José Martín Félix de Arrate, who is considered the pioneer of Havana historians, lived. Other centuries-old buildings currently house museums, inns and cultural centers.

Havana also has distinctive sites such as the famous Paseo del Prado and Alameda de Paula. The latter was built in the second half of the 18th century, but both places very popular among Havana residents at the time.

After the Walls of Havana were brought down in 1863, due to the city's need for expansion at the time, the city grew considerably under the influence of several architectural trends.

That way, Havana offers a mixture of architectural styles, including Renaissance, art deco, Mudejar, baroque, neoclassic, eclectic, art nouveau and Cuban baroque.

The peak of the latter is present at the Palace of the Captain Generals, whose façade is dominated by a dozen columns that create supports, and a frontal street that preserves the original structure of wooden blocks.

Havana's cultural and historic values have been preserved when restoring buildings that have become tourist facilities, so that vacationers can be in direct contact with an environment that is full of elements from past centuries, showing Havana as it was during the period of its development.

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