Museo de la Ciudad

Top choice museum in Habana Vieja

Even with no artifacts, Havana's city museum would be a tour de force, courtesy of the opulent palace in which it resides. Filling the whole west side of Plaza de Armas, the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales dates from the 1770s and is a textbook example of Cuban baroque architecture, hewn out of rock from the nearby San Lázaro quarries. A museum has resided here since 1968.

From 1791 until 1898 the palace was the residence of the Spanish captains general. From 1899 until 1902, the US military governors were based here, and during the first two decades of the 20th century the building briefly became the presidential palace. These days the museum is wrapped regally around a splendid central courtyard adorned with a white marble statue of Christopher Columbus (1862). Artifacts include period furniture, military uniforms and old-fashioned 19th-century horse carriages, while old photos vividly re-create events from Havana's roller-coaster history, such as the 1898 sinking of US battleship Maine in the harbor. It's better to body-swerve the pushy attendants and wander around at your own pace.