About Habana Vieja
Life on the streets is vibrant and noisy, and just as interesting as the fine architecture.
Seen from a distance, Havana looks spectacular. Waves crash over the city’s famous promenade, the Malecón, where people stroll past pastel-colored buildings. Stone fortresses turn golden in the Caribbean light, recalling the days when Havana was the jewel in the Spanish Crown. There are two areas, linked on the sea side by the Malecón:
First, La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), a mixture of beautifully renovated squares and buildings, and narrow, noisy streets where Cubans live. This is where Loft Habana is located, right in the center of attraction! La Habana Vieja is the city’s vibrant beating heart, and this is where visitors to Cuba spend the first days of their visit – a tremendous place to begin any vacation.
Second, Vedado, which was modeled on Miami; most of its tallest buildings are the hotels originally financed by the US mafia in the 1940s and 1950s. Here and in the other main western suburb, Miramar, farther afield, the pre-revolutionary mansions of the rich are today occupied either by Cuban families or by a number of embassy officials, foreign investors, and Cuban bureaucrats.
Havana is exhilarating, exhausting, with a neurotic, anxious edge to life. It is one of the most fascinating places on earth – a city of great paradox and tremendous presence. As well as Cuba’s political and economic center, it is also the focus of Cuba’s artistic life, its youth culture, and its aspirations for the future.
The compact grid of narrow colonial streets, graceful squares, and aristocratic mansions that make up Old Havana was, for some 350 years, the entire city. It was only in the 1860s that the massive city walls were knocked down and habaneros began distinguishing the district as “old.”
Since the old city was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1982, the authorities have embarked on an ambitious process of restoration. This has rescued sections of the city from decay, and restored many buildings to their former glory, but in other areas, buildings continue to collapse after bad weather. Still, some 150 of Havana’s remaining buildings date back to the 16th and 17th centuries, 200 from the 18th, and 460 from the 19th, which makes it the best-preserved colonial city in the Americas.