Plaza de San Francisco de Asís

Square in Habana Vieja

Image by Diana Rita Cabrera Hernandez Lonely Planet

Facing Havana harbor, the breezy Plaza de San Francisco de Asís first grew up in the 16th century when Spanish galleons stopped by at the quayside on their passage through the Indies to Spain. A market took root in the 1500s, followed by a church in 1608, though when the pious monks complained of too much noise, the market was moved a few blocks south to Plaza Vieja.

The plaza underwent a full restoration in the late 1990s and is most notable for its uneven cobblestones and the white marble Fuente de los Leones, carved by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Gaggini in 1836. A more modern statue outside the square's famous church depicts El Caballero de París, a well-known street person who roamed Havana during the 1950s, engaging passersby with his philosophies on life, religion, politics and current events. The square's newest sculpture (added in 2012) is La Conversación by French artist Etienne, a modernist bronze rendition of two seated people talking.