Santiago de Cuba To Do
Built in 1950 after a design belonging to an Indian archive. It was at the central balcony of this building, Fidel Castro held his first speech to the Cuban people at January 1 1959
Bacardi Rum Factory
Pío Rosado y Aguilera, Santiago de Cuba
Open: 3pm-8pm Mon; 9am-9pm Tue-Sat; 9am-4pm Sun
This was one of Cuba's very first museums, set up by Emilio Bacardí, and built by architect Carlos Segrera. Housed within the museum is a valuable collection covering the period between the Spanish conquest and the Wars of Independence (from Spain). On the great entrance doorway there are some wonderful images of the goddess Minerva; while inside there is a large collection of weapons and mambí artifacts (pertaining to African rebel slaves). There is also a good exhibit of Cuban and European paintings as well as an archaeological display that includes the only Egyptian mummy to be found in Cuba.
Barrio El Tivolí
A charming, hilly neighborhood just south of Parque Céspedes (loosely bordered by Av. Trocha and Calle Padre Pico)
El Tivolí was once the most fashionable place to live in Santiago. Today it's a relaxed place of steep streets, weathered and decrepit wooden houses, and a couple of attractions, but mostly it's a good place to wander.
The famous Padre Pico steps are named for a Santiaguero priest who aided the city's poor. Castro once roared fire and brimstone down on the Batista government here, but today you'll find more pacifistic chess and dominoes players who've set up all-hours tables on the steps. Take the steps up to the Museo de la Lucha Clandestina (Museum of the Underground Struggle), General Rabí 1 between Santa Rita and San Carlos (tel. 22/62-4689), which is housed in a handsome 18th-century mansion on a hill, Loma del Intendente. Inside are exhibits related to the November 1956 attack on this former police headquarters, led by rebel leader and schoolteacher Frank País and his brother Josué, both executed by the army. Frank País's funeral was massively attended by Santiagueros, a signal that the Revolution would have significant local support. Other photos and documents attest to the phenomenal years of tension, rumors, and conflict that led to the rebels' triumph. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm, and Sunday from 9am to 1pm; admission is 1 cuc
Casa Museo de Frank y Josue Pais
General Banderas #226, Santiago de Cuba
About the underground section M-26-7
Carnaval de Santiago
Aguilera 251, (Asamblea Municipal del Poder Popular), Santiago de Cuba
When the carnival begins in Santiago the whole city turns into one big party. Even the radio stations change their programming schedules.
What most characterizes carnival are the congas, which can be heard in areas such as Trocha or on any street. Contagious drum rhythms draw local people and visitors alike into one long flowing dance. Popular orchestras make their way to Santiago for the festivities. For the city's inhabitants, as long as there is music to dance to, and plenty of beer, the carnival is a success.
Castillo El Morro
Bahía de Santiago, Santiago de Cuba
Tel: +53 22 691569
Guarding the entrance to the Bahía de Santiago, this seemingly impregnable fortress is built atop a rocky promontory and entered across a formidable drawbridge. The medieval and Renaissance-style structure, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a warren of platforms, passageways, and cells spread across five levels and protected by 1.5m-thick (5-ft.) walls. It was engineered in 1638 by the Italian architect who built similar fortresses in Havana as well as Cartagena, Colombia, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, to protect against pirate attacks. (This it didn't do so well, as pirates including Henry Morgan succeeded in ransacking the place.)
The site, where the sun beats down unrelentingly, is slightly cooled off by the magnificent views of the bay and the Caribbean coastline stretching all the way to the Sierra Maestra. Inside the fortress, built above a dry moat, is a sparse museum about the history of piracy and Santiago de Cuba. One room contains artifacts related to the 1898 Spanish-American War, principal naval battles of which were fought right in the Bay of Santiago. Nineteen modern American ships sunk all seven Spanish ships; ironically, the Spanish ship Cristóbal Colón was the last to sink, thus closing the door on the history of Spanish colonialism in the Americas.
A daily ceremony, called the "Puesta del Sol," takes place at sunset, recalling the 19th-century importance of the fortress. Youngsters dressed as mambises, or members of the Cuban rebel army, lower the flag and shoot off the ancient 1805 Spanish cannon to cries of "¡Viva Cuba Libre!" Visiting El Morro for the day-ending ceremony, when it has cooled off some, is an excellent idea. Avoid the hours of 11am to 4pm at all costs; if you do come in the middle of the day, two great spots for lunch -- and cooling off -- are the nearby Restaurant El Morro and El Cayo.
To get there, an organized excursion or a car or taxi is required. The fortress is about 16km (10 miles) south of the center of Santiago along the Carretera del Morro.
Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion
At the south side of Parque Cespedes
The facade of the Cathedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion is Neo-classical, the church itself 400 years old. They say Diegos Velazquez is buried somewhere under the building ... however, there is no evidence for this gossip.
Cementerio Santa Ifigenia
Calzada Crombet, Santiago de Cuba
Tel: +53 22 632723
Northwest of the city center, this sprawling cemetery, dating to 1868, is a small city of the dead, populated by elaborate marble tombs and sarcophagi, including several spectacular mausoleums (many of which are pre-1868, having been moved here from other cemeteries).
By far the most famous is that of José Martí, a massive stone and marble circular structure built in 1951 (Martí died in 1895). The Lincolnesque mausoleum is near the entrance to the museum, at the end of a private path. Martí once wrote that he wished to die, "without a homeland but without a master" and to be buried with "a bouquet of flowers and a flag." In addition to Martí, the remains of Emilio Bacardí, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Pedro (Perucho) Figueredo (author of the Cuban national anthem), and heroes of the Moncada 26th of July rebel attack are interred here. However, the cemetery's palm-lined paths abound with a wealth of other fascinating tombs for families famous and unknown.
- June 24: Fiesta de San Juan
June: Expo Caribe Theatro Heredia
July: Festival of Caribbean Culture
Last 2 weeks of July: Carnaval de Santiago
August: Bolero de Oro (songfestival)
December: Chorus Festival
Down Town Santiago
For almost 5 centuries now, the busy Cespedes Park, the cozy, shade place that Santiago residents regularly visit in search of protection against the hot weather, or for a chat with friends about local, national or world events, has been both witness and protagonist of the most important events in the city.
Young lovers come here to talk of the passion burning in them; parents and grandparents to simply take their little one for a walk; and here and there, one can see groups of people, either sitting on the solid granite or wood benches, or standing in the middle of the park, engaged in heated discussions about the subject Cubans like to talk about the most: baseball, politics, music, invitations or love.
Loma de San Juan
Reparto Santa Bárbara, at the intersection of Av. de Raúl Pujol and Carretera de Siboney Km 1.5
(next to the Hotel San Juan)
This low-rise hill in the center of Reparto Vista Alegre, a leafy, upscale neighborhood, is where the decisive last battle of the Spanish-Cuban-American War was fought. Teddy Roosevelt and his army of an estimated 6,000 Rough Riders stormed the hill and defeated the Spanish troops. At the entrance to the park is the Arbol de la Rendención (Tree of Surrender), where the Spanish forces capitulated to the Americans. Something that still irks Cubans today, besides the commonly used name of the war that leaves them out, is that the Cubans were not even signatories to the surrender. While there are several plaques and monuments in the neatly manicured park that pay tribute to the North Americans who participated and died in the war, there are few dedicated to the Cuban fighters (though the Tomb of the Unknown Mambi, or independence fighter, can be found there).
Diego Velazquez House
Near Cespedes Park, on the corner of Aguilera and Felix Pena Streets (best known by their former names of Marina and Santo Tomas), there stands an elegant, majestic, two-story building with a front that extends along half a block. On its lower floor, it is said, was the Crown's Forge and Contract Office, while Diego Velazquez used the upper floor as his residence.. Experts argue that in its backyard, which in the past led directly to the sea, there was a small fortress.
Two letters by Don Diego to his Majesty Philip II as early as August 1519 mention the existence of this construction and that gold was being forged there. Further evidence of this activity is provided by the remains of a furnace of the type used in forgery found on the corner of the house.
Considered Cuba's, perhaps Americas', most ancient colonial building, today the house has a strong Moorish influence, with ashlars and richly decorated carved wood ceilings regarded as the city's most elaborate. Its reconstruction and recovery as a site of cultural heritage was entrusted to professor Francisco Prat Piug. Work started in 1965, ending on November 30th, 1970. The house then opened as Museum of Cuban Historic Ambience; The complex includes a 19th century residence next door. The two exhibit items of the so-called "material culture" masterfully recreate the lifestyle of 16th and 19th century wealthy classes in Cuba.
Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Carmen
Felix Pena #505, Santiago de Cuba
Iglesia de San Francisco
Juan Bautista #121, Santiago de Cuba
Historic Center of the City of Santiago de Cuba
The present limit of the city, which was declared a national monument on October 10, 1978, are the same as the end of the 19th century. This area which is bounded on the north by the Paseo de Marti, on the south by Avenida 24 de Febrero (Trocha Street), on the east by the 26th of July Monumental Group and on the west by the bay contains the most important examples of colonial Santiago de Cuba architecture and other interesting buildings dating from the Republican era, which began in 1902.
Museo de Ambiente Colonial Cubano
Felix Peña 612, At the corner of Aguilera, Parque Céspedes, Santiago de Cuba
Tel: +53 22 652652
The 1515 mansion that once belonged to Diego Velázquez, founder of the original seven villas in Cuba, still stands despite the unrepentant fumes of tour buses and recent fires that have threatened it. The house has a notable Moorish influence, with a wonderful carved cedar ceiling (most of which had to be reconstructed after a fire). The top floor was the living quarters; the ground floor was the commercial part of the house, where Velázquez maintained offices and the horse carriages were kept. The house's elaborate frescoes have been supplemented by very amateurish reproductions, a real sin against the authenticity that is elsewhere so apparent. The museum aims to depict the varied styles and epochs of colonial life, seen through period furnishings from the 16th to the 19th century. You'll find some splendid pieces of French, British, Spanish, and Cuban furniture; Spanish ceramics; carved chests; and French porcelain. Several dressers have extraordinary inlaid designs, proof of the wealth of the bourgeoisie in colonial Cuba. A second house in back, blue and white with an attractive courtyard, is not part of the original Velázquez house. Allow an hour for your visit.
Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de los Dolores
Aguilera #468, Santiago de Cuba
Iglesia de Santo Tomas
Felix Pena #308, Santiago de Cuba
Iglesia de la Santisima Trinidad
General Portuondo #661 , Santiago de Cuba
Museo del Carnaval
Heredia #303, At the corner of Pío Rosado, Santiago de Cuba
Tel: +53 22 626955
Santiago's Carnival is the most famous in Cuba, and this small museum, in one of the oldest houses on Calle Heredia, aims to give visitors some historical perspective. Carnival counts centuries of tradition; the first published reference to the celebration was in 1669. It displays old costumes, black-and-white photographs, huge papier-mâché masks, and hand-painted and embroidered mamarachos (capes). Percussion instruments show how popular the celebration is: They include old car parts and simple wood instruments. The final room displays a couple of the most recent winners of the costume contests -- elaborate and huge affairs. Folklore and music and dance events are held at the museum Tuesday through Saturday at 4pm, with rumba performances on Sunday. Plan to spend about half an hour viewing the displays. All the printed display information here is in Spanish.
General Portuondo y Avenida Moncada, Santiago de Cuba
Open: 9am-5pm Mon-Sat; 8am-2pm Sun
On July 26, 1953, this military barracks was the scene of a famous revolutionary episode against the tyrannical Batista regime.
Despite the failure of that particular military venture, the attack served to highlight the will of many young Cubans to struggle for their freedom. The building has a plaque on the front wall in remembrance of an assault on the November 30, 1956, by the 26 of July Revolutionary Group. Today, inside you will find the Museo de la Clandestinidad covering the period from the Spanish conquest to the guerrilla movement of the 1959 revolution in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Admission: 1 CUC
Shows collections of furniture, paintings
Museo del Ron
Bartolome Maso, Santiago de Cuba
Museo Municipal Emilio Bacardi Moreau
Pío Rosado y Aguilera, Santiago de Cuba
Open: 3pm-8pm Mon; 9am-9pm Tue-Sat; 9am-4pm Sun
This was one of Cuba's very first museums, set up by Emilio Bacardí, and built by architect Carlos Segrera.
Housed within the museum is a valuable collection covering the period between the Spanish conquest and the Wars of Independence (from Spain). On the great entrance doorway there are some wonderful images of the goddess Minerva; while inside there is a large collection of weapons and mambí artifacts (pertaining to African rebel slaves). There is also a good exhibit of Cuban and European paintings as well as an archaeological display that includes the only Egyptian mummy to be found in Cuba.
Museo Casa Natal de Antonio Maceo
Los Maceos #207, Pío Rosado y Aguilera, Santiago de Cuba
Open Hours: 3pm-8pm Mon; 9am-9pm Tue-Sat; 9am-4pm Sun
About the life of Antonio Maceo
Museo Tomas Romay
Esq. Saco y Monsenor Barnada, Santiago de Cuba
Natural history, archaeology and modern art
Museo de la Lucha Clandestina
Rabi #1, Santiago de Cuba
About the underground struggle against Batista
Plaza de la Revolucion
Av. de las Américas, at Los Desfiles and Carretera Central, Santiago de Cuba
Tel: +53 22 643053
This massive, raised platform monument to Antonio Maceo features a startling equestrian statue of the great patriot surrounded by 23 enormous iron machetes slicing toward the sky, like daggers in the sides of the colonial power.
Maceo, a Cuban of mixed blood, was called the "Bronze Titan" of the Cuban independence wars. Beneath the work is an eternal flame. The monument's an emphatic statement, to be sure. An underground room houses a small and rather uninspiring museum dedicated to the man.
Formerly the parade square, main square and Constitution Square, this area is now called Cespedes Park and boasts a full-sized statue of Carlos Manuel Cespedes, the Father of his Country, on a marble pedestal. This is the best place in the city in which to stop for a few minutes and mix with the people. The park was given a facelift recently, but the tall trees which give it shade and the benches remain the same.
Since it is located in the center of the city, important buildings such as the Town Hall, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba, the house where Diego Velazquez lived (now the Museum of Historical Ambience), the Municipal House of Culture (the old San Carlos Club, inaugurated in 1919) and the Casa Granda Hotel (which first opened its doors in 1914) front on it.
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The very center of the city is Plaza Céspedes, where is the cathedral of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. In front of the church is the Parque Céspedes a nice square with gardens where it's easy to meet new people. It is also the best place to start a tour of the city.
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