Emptied your pockets on world-class habanos cigars and Cuban añejo rum? Don't fret, Cuba's capital city can still be your oyster. From stunning views to small, leafy gardens hidden in plain sight and underground bunkers dating back to the cold war, these seven options will make going gratis (free) in Havana a breeze.
The Estatua de Cristo (Christ of Havana) park offers some of the best views of the city © Florian Augustin / Lonely Planet
1. Best view of the city in El Cristo
The Estatua de Cristo (Christ of Havana) park is arguably the best place to take in knockout views of Cuba’s capital city. The 66ft tall sculpture of Jesus Christ was created by Cuban artist Jilma Madera using 67 pieces of white marble from Carrara, Italy and sits on top of a 10ft pedestal. The monument overlooks the Havana Bay and a large part of the city thanks in part to its great location in Casablanca town which sits 167ft above sea level and is aligned with the Catedral de la Habana (Havana Cathedral) across the bay.
The colonial plazas in Old Havana each offer their own unique Cuban experience © Prisma by Dukas / Getty Images
2. Go for baroque in five colonial plazas
Take a walking tour of the five most important colonial plazas around Old Havana. Each with a soul all its own. Plaza de Armas is a leafy oasis on a sunny day while Plaza Vieja is known for its excellent array of restaurants and coffee shops. Plaza de la Catedral is home to Havana’s most impressive church (also free to visit) and don’t miss the artsy Callejón del Chorro nearby. Breezy Plaza de San Francisco de Asis is closer to the bay and a favorite spot for pigeons. Plaza del Cristo – overlooked for decades until Havana’s up-and-coming gastronomic scene took over – is now the trendiest and liveliest nightspot for locals.
For a glance into Cuba's long colonial and industrial history a visit to Calle Mercaderes is a must © Prisma by Dukas / Getty Images
3. Visit unusual museums in Calle Mercaderes
The Calle Mercaderes (Merchants' Street) feels like a time warp to Havana’s past with workshops, street vendors and trade shops interspersed with small museums housed in colonial mansions. Costing nothing at all, you can visit Casa de Asia, a small museum celebrating Cuba’s ties with Asian culture; Casa Museo de Simón Bolívar which highlights the life of Latin American’s Liberator; Museo Casa de Osvaldo Guaysamín, housed in the former studio of the famous Ecuadorian painter; Museo Armería 9 de abril, a small expo of historic weapons, and Museo del Tabaco, which showcases an often overlooked collection of habanos-related relics.
Enjoying a sunset at the malecn seaside promenade is the ultimate Havana experience © Diana Rita Cabrera / Lonely Planet
4. Unwind at the seaside malecón
A quintessential Havana experience, strolling along the malecón as the sun sets is a unique opportunity to witness the liveliest part of the city. Stay here for a couple of hours and catch a glimpse of Cuba all in one place: young sweethearts hand-in-hand, street musicians playing Cuban traditional hits, youngsters blasting reggaeton on portable speakers – you get a little bit of everything by just walking (or sitting) and people watching.
Jardin Madre Teresa de Calcuta is an oasis next to Plaza San Francisco de Asis © Diana Rita Cabrera / Lonely Planet
5. Explore a unique hidden oasis
Next to Plaza de San Franciso de Asis, right behind the convent, lies the Jardín Madre Teresa de Calcuta, a small garden turned graveyard of Cuba’s intellectual elite. Take a detour on a sunny day and discover the sculptures among the trees. A tiny Greek orthodox cathedral sits in the middle of the garden.
6. Memorial garden to Princess Diana
There’s a small plot just off the cruise terminal named after the beloved Diana, Princess of Wales. Rumor has it she was planning to sponsor a house for disabled children in Old Havana before her untimely death in 1997. It was one of the first memorial places to be opened in her name, just a few months after she passed away. Take a quick break on your walking tours and admire the central sculpture with its intricate smash of colors and geometrical shapes. It was designed by famous Cuban artist Alfedo Sosabravo.
Hotel Nacional's underground bunker leads to an old weapons warehouse © Dan Lundberg / Flickr
7. Tour underground bunkers below Hotel Nacional
Cuba’s grande dame (grand lady), Hotel Nacional, is an art deco gem and a living catalogue of famous guests and historic events. It was a favorite among American celebrities like Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra, but also one of the headquarters in the Missile Crisis in 1962. A free tour offers views of the bunkers circuit below the hotel’s gardens and connects some sights toward the bay and a weapons warehouse. Stop by the lobby and ask for the more comprehensive free tour that takes you to some of the hotel’s famous halls.