main roads. There are museums and boutiques and restaurants. It is clean and
there are police on almost every street corner. It is absolutely safe, day and night.
Many of the streets in Old Havana are closed to car traffic, thus making it a ped-
estrian sanctuary. Most of the people walking in Old Havana are tourists. Along
the street you will find hundreds of tiny, family-operated, fast food stands selling
pizza, sandwiches, and ice cream.
There are many squares and restaurant terraces where you can sit in and around
Old Havana. The maze of streets makes it a perfect place for you to spend a day
browsing and enjoying the city. Old Havana is not large, so it is almost impossible
to get completely lost. The Bay Of Havana encircles Old Havana on three sides,
so you should always be able to orient yourself. If all else fails, simply ask where
El Capitolio (the Capitol building) is located. It's on the border of Old Havana and
Central Havana, so that will always give you a great reference point.
Since Old Havana is a major tourist spot, you can also expect to find many local
Cubans hanging around the area, trying to glean a bit of money from the relatively
rich foreigners. There are a lot of jineteros in this neighborhood. As you stroll
around the most popular sights, people on the street will, undoubtedly, ask you for
money. It is not advisable to give them any. Many locals will try to strike up
friendly conversations in order to gain your trust. Later they will either ask you dir-
ectly for money, or try to sell you products or services. You should probably as-
sume that if a local in Old Havana is being very nice to you and offering to show
you some special attractions or to take you to a special restaurant, then he or she
is soon going to request a bit of money, as well. They might only ask for a few dol-
lars, but as soon as you give it to them, they will likely ask for more, and it will be
hard to get rid of them. It is best just to be polite and say no from the beginning.
Places of Interest
El Capitolio (The Capitol Building)
El Capitolio is a large domed building, located on Prado Street, on the border of
Old Havana and Central Havana. It was modeled after the American Capitol
building in Washington D.C. The large manicured campus directly beside the
Capitol building is called the Parque Central. Just north of the Capitolio you will
notice the Gran Teatro de La Habana, which is one of the most ornately de-
signed buildings in Havana and where the national ballet performs. The Capitolio
is an important landmark for orienting yourself in the city. The building faces east
and everything in front of it is Old Havana. The neighborhood of Central Havana
starts west of the building (behind it).
Prado Street (Paseo de Marti)
Prado is the street directly in front of the Capitolio. It designates the border
between Old Havana and Central Havana. It runs from the Malecon all the way to