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Havana: 498 Years of History

Havana, Cuba's capital and the major urban center in the Caribbean island, turned 498 years recently and has become a major tourist destination in the country.

The former Village of San Cristobal de la Habana is one of the most evident exponents of Spanish-colonial architecture in Cuba, marked by a relevance that started in the late 16th century, with its own characteristics, although with a strong Spanish influence.

Also known as the Fortress City of the West Indies and the Key to the New World, Havana is a living museum that shows a variety of architectural styles that reflect the different stages of the city's development.

Moreover, Havana's system of fortifications, with the emblematic Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro, consisted of nine buildings that, according to experts, made up the most notable and well-preserved defense system in the Spanish-speaking Americas.

Other fortifications are Castillo de la Real Fuerza (completed in 1577), which paved the way in the continent to the Renaissance design in military constructions, a style that prevailed during the rule of the Catholic Monarchy in Spain, also known as the Elizabethan period.

It should be said that some 140 buildings in Havana's historic heart were built in the 16th and 17th centuries, 200 are from the 18th century and more than 460 edifices are from the 19th century, thus creating a mixture of attractions.

El Comendador Hotel. Façade
Night view of Paula Church
Castle of the Royal Force

Several squares are distributed in Havana's geography, especially the Arms Square, Cathedral Square, the so-called Old Square and that of Saint Francis of Assisi, which is near the church and the convent of the same name.

As an outstanding element is the Malecon (Seaside Drive), one of the main avenues in the city and a reference for those who bet on Cuba as a destination to spend their vacations.

The Malecon runs from the entry of the Bay of Havana, in the east, along five kilometers to the west. It was built parallel to the coast, which is bathed by the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.

For many, The Malecon marks the pulse of the city and it is a true reflection of Havana dwellers' life, their love affairs, games, sadness and meetings, in an area that is thousands of meters long.

In the early 20th century, the Malecon offered public baths where the city dwellers, divided as men and women, enjoyed the warm sea water, according to the customs of the time.

The city still shows distinctive areas like Paseo del Prado (Prado Promenade) and Alameda de Paula. The latter was built in the second half of the 18th century. The two sites were very popular among Havana dwellers centuries ago.

The city has buildings that bear the characteristics of several architectural styles, including Renaissance, art deco, Mudejar, baroque, neoclassicism, eclecticism, art nouveau and Cuban baroque.

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