Havana is one of the world's most beguiling cities, one seemingly caught in colonial and 1950s time-warps. Old Havana, or Habana Vieja, is an amalgam of historic structures, cobbled plazas, castles, cathedrals and classical mansions that date back centuries from the height of Spanish international power. In fact, Havana's core is unrivaled in the Americas for its legacy of historic buildings, although many buildings are now in various states of dereliction; others have been renovated and serve as museums, hotels and restaurants.

Beyond the old city core in Havana, the mid-20th-century enclave of Vedado teems with hotels and nightclubs that still maintain their 1950s atmosphere. They are set alongside gracious, century-old mansions of the long-departed well-to-do of Havana. Plaza de la Revolucion hosts Cuba's government buildings. Farther afield, visitors to Havana will find the Museo Hemingway and the glorious beaches of Playas del Este.

Although Havana's physical attractions are reason enough to visit, travelers often go to Havana to experience the unique, almost surreal, amalgam of socialism and sensuality unique to Cuba. Five decades of communism have not been kind to the city of Havana, much of which is dilapidated. At times, the lives of Havana's inhabitants can be truly depressing. But the graciousness and joie de vivre of the Havanans shine through—especially their vivacious love of music and dance, which adds to the city's enigmatic travel appeal.

The city is now in the midst of a reawakening thanks to President Raul Castro's economic reforms and the presence of more and more U.S. travelers.

Note: Havana sustained serious damage during Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Recovery will take months or even years. Travelers should investigate current conditions prior to planning a visit.

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