Spread over two campuses, the Bellas Artes is arguably the finest art gallery in the Caribbean. The 'Arte Cubano' building contains the most comprehensive collection of Cuban art in the world, while the 'Arte Universal' section is laid out in a grand eclectic palace overlooking Parque Central, with exterior flourishes that are just as impressive as the art within.
The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes – Arte Cubano displays purely Cuban art and, if you're pressed for time, is the better of the duo. Works are displayed in chronological order starting on the 3rd floor and are surprisingly varied. Artists to look out for are Guillermo Collazo, considered to be the first truly great Cuban artist; Rafael Blanco, with his cartoonlike paintings and sketches; Raúl Martínez, a master of 1960s Cuban pop art; and the Picasso-like Wifredo Lam.
Two blocks away, arranged inside the fabulously eclectic Centro Asturianos (a work of art in its own right), the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes – Arte Universal exhibits international art from 500 BC to the present day on three separate floors. Its undisputed highlight is its Spanish collection with some canvases by Zurbarán, Murillo, de Ribera and a tiny Velázquez. Also worth perusing are the 2000-year-old Roman mosaics, Greek pots from the 5th century BC and a suitably refined Gainsborough canvas (in the British room).