A mural of three men on the side of a building in Havana, Cuba.

Three Days in Havana: Explore Cuba’s Capital [Itinerary!]

Written By: author image Kyle Cash
author image Kyle Cash
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.


Plan your perfect three days in Havana. This three-day Havana itinerary is the ultimate guide to exploring Cuba’s capital and seeing all the sites on one trip!

Arriving at my Airbnb in Old Havana at midnight didn’t give the best vibes.

It appeared mostly empty, dim lights casting shadows along the narrow-lined streets. But by morning, these same streets would be alive and bumping with energy.

And that’s now the memory I have of Havana.

So, that’s why I made this itinerary to help share what I did. And, hopefully, you can use it to plan an amazing trip yourself. In this guide, I’ll cover everything you should know before visiting, then a day-by-day breakdown of what I did/what to do.

So, if you’re ready for your trip to Havana, let’s get started!

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Is three days in Havana enough?

Short answer: Yes! Three days is enough to give you a taste of Havana’s energy and history.

You’ll have plenty of time to explore its iconic landmarks, roam its colonial-style streets, and explore its cuisine.While more time always allows for more discovery, this timeframe is perfect for hitting the highlights but leaving some for a return trip. After all, just one taste of Cuba isn’t enough to satisfy.

So, enjoy those three days and make the most of them with this itinerary!

What to know before visiting Havana

Before you start a packing list for Cuba, there are a few things to know.

Traveling to and from Cuba is not difficult (especially as it’s made to seem), but it’s not as easy as in other countries. Here’s what you should know:

  • Travel for Americans isn’t difficult, but it requires paperwork: Most people think we can’t travel to Cuba. But traveling to Cuba as an American is possible. You just need to jump through a few hoops.
  • US credit and debit cards won’t work: Take out ALL the money you’ll use in Cuba. You can’t withdraw any once you’re in the country.
  • Don’t exchange money on the street: It’s unsafe, and you’re more likely to get ripped off. Go through the host of your accommodation.
  • Internet access is limited: I only found internet in my Airbnb, which was slow and spotty. So don’t expect much, and focus on enjoying your time!

So, now that the important details are out of the way, let’s jump into the itinerary.

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Cuban scenery

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three days in Havana itinerary

Since three days is plenty for you to see Havana, feel free to add or subtract from this itinerary as needed.

Here’s the three-day breakdown:

Day 1: Old Havana, Classic cars, and mojitos

Morning: Explore Old Havana

I arrived at midnight the previous evening, so I had all day one to enjoy strolling around.

I started early and set off without a destination, and I recommend you do the same. It’s the best way to start the day and dive into the city headfirst on your first day in Havana.

There are free Havana walking tours, which are a great alternative to getting your bearings. But I prefer to venture alone and see what I find and where I end up.

People walk down a colorfully-lined Cuban street

Old Havana isn’t big, so you should have plenty of time to see everything. Keep an eye out for the following sights:

  • Plaza de Catedral: Home of the beautiful Havana Cathedral, one of the best examples of Cuban Baroque architecture.
  • El Capitolio Nacional: Cuba’s Capitol Building, inspired by the US Capitol.
  • Plaza de Armas: The oldest square in Havana, it is also home to historical buildings like the Governor’s Palace.
  • Bodeguita del Medio: Reported to be the birthplace of the mojito and a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway.
  • Plaza Vieja: A restored square that’s great for people-watching. I think it’s more beautiful than Plaza de Armas.
  • Museo de la Revolucion: The former Presidential Palace, the museum is now home to Cuba’s revolutionary history.

I recommend eating breakfast at La Esquina De Oro if you get hungry. It’s a small restaurant at the intersection of Empedrado and Villegas in Old Havana. The breakfast is relatively cheap, large, and delicious.

A big breakfast with eggs, fruit, and bread sits on a table with a menu for La Esquina de Oro sitting next to it.

After that, it’s time for a classic car ride around the city and El Malecon!

Afternoon: El Malecon and a vintage car tour

El Malecon is the iconic seawall and promenade that everyone pictures when they think of Cuba.

It’s about five miles long and offers beautiful ocean and city views. If you choose to walk along it like I did, be prepared for some hassling. (Okay, maybe more than some.) Many tour operators sit along El Malecon (and other parts of Old Havana) and watch for tourists. They’re nice people and are simply doing their job, so it’s hard to fault them. Just be prepared for it.

After this, look for a vintage car tour.

A row of classic cars sits on a main avenue in Havana and is a must for three days in Havana.

One place to look is Parque Central, which is near the Capitol. Many cars are lined up here, and drivers will call you to ask if you want a ride. I’m unsure about the prices as I didn’t take this option. I honestly assumed they might be higher priced.

I lined up a car through a person who worked at a restaurant I visited multiple times.

We were chatting, and I mentioned wanting to go on a car tour. So he phoned up someone he knew, and I was in his convertible 15 minutes later for a tour around the city. It was an hour long and cost me $30.

The author rides in a classic car with a local Cuban driver

His name is Bayron, and here are his contact details if you’d like to arrange a tour through him. Just mention you read Tony’s blog post; he knows you may contact him. He’s a great guy, so enjoy!

Contact Bayron via WhatsApp: +53 5 4139335

For reference: My name is Kyle, but it’s difficult for Spanish speakers to pronounce. So, I go by my middle name, Anthony, in Spanish-speaking countries.

Evening: Get a drink at Bodeguita del Medio

Bodeguita del Medio is a star in Old Havana.

Formerly a small grocery store (bodeguita), it transformed into a bumping restaurant and bar and even became a regular haunt for Ernest Hemingway. You can even see a handwritten note, “My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita.”

The La Bodeguita del Medio sign hangs in front of the building

It’s also (reportedly) the birthplace of the mojito, which draws many tourists. But it’s also an excellent place for a drink and a lively atmosphere.

If you’re hungry and Bodeguita is a bit busy, check out the restaurant across the street, La Pinta. I ate there multiple times during my trip because I loved the food and the amazing people working there.

Day 2: Vedado, Central Havana, and daiquiris

Morning: Walk around Vedado

Starting day two, I booked a tour with a local through Airbnb Experiences.

Airbnb may get a bad rap, but its experiences have always impressed me. As I mentioned earlier, getting a receipt is easy if needed. If you’re interested in the same tour, I highly recommend it. We met at Don Quijote Park, which had a cool statue of Don Quijote in the center.

A statue of Don Quijote on a horse in a Vedado park

It’s run by three Cuban men, one of whom will join you for the tour. I was joined by Carlos, an intelligent and patient guide. He was thoughtful with his answers and what he showed me about daily Cuban life. He was also extremely patient with my mediocre Spanish.

Book it here: Explore Cuban life with a local 👈

Whether on a tour or exploring independently, Vedado is an amazing area to start.

A normal street in Vedado with a colorful house and motorbike sitting in front of it.

Its more modern look is a refreshing contrast to Old Havana’s charm. It’s an important part of Havana’s culture, with buildings like the University of Havana, major hotels (like Hotel Nacional), embassies, and parks.

It’s also less tourist-focused, so it’s a great place to escape the Old Havana Hassle, as I’ve dubbed it.

Plaza de la Revolucion is a nearby. It’s an extremely important area of Cuban history, plus it has murals of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos — both important Cuban historical figures — on buildings surrounding it.

A mural of Camilo Cienfuegos on the side of a building near Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana.

It’s also where Fidel Castro gave many of his most famous speeches, so it’s a very important area for recent Cuban history. Nice for a quick stop-off, but you don’t have to spend long here.

Afternoon: Check out Central Havana

There’s a very clear split between Old and Central Havana. And it’s Paseo de Marti right in front of the Capitol. West of the Capitol, and it’s all Central Havana. East of it, and you’re in Old Havana.

A map with a line showing the different areas of Old and Central Havana.

I didn’t head to Central Havana with any real destinations in mind. I had passed through it briefly on my vintage car tour, so I figured I’d wander over and explore it more in-depth afterward. There’s Chinatown, which is worth a quick stop-off, but it won’t take long.

I asked my driver if any Chinese people lived or worked in Chinatown, and he said no. It kept the name from when many Chinese people lived there years ago.

A woman walks under a set of arches in Chinatown in Havana.

Other than that, you can enjoy wandering around and taking photos. This area is a glimpse into everyday Cuban life, so it’s great to get up close to see how the average Cuban lives.

Evening: Get a daiquiri at El Floridita (or optional active alternative)

If Bodeguita del Medio is (allegedly) the birthplace of the mojito, then El Floridita is (allegedly) the birthplace of the daiquiri.

So, why not visit the (alleged) birthplaces of two of the world’s most famous drinks? It’s located on the corner of Avenida Belgica and Obispo.

Inside, you’ll find amazing daiquiris, a classic bar environment, and…a bronze statue of Hemingway? It may seem odd, but there is a statue at Hemingway’s favorite spot at the bar.

If you prefer not to drink, there’s another Airbnb Experience I did that I strongly recommend.

And it’s playing basketball with locals outside Havana. This was arguably my favorite thing I did in Havana. We played 2-on-2 pickup basketball for three hours. People who lived in the city (Alamar) showed up as they finished their days, and we played until it was dark.

A Cuban man shoots a basketball as another man attempts to block his shot.

If you’re a basketball fan, I can’t recommend this enough. Or, if you’re just looking for a unique way to connect with local Cubans, this is the way to do it. I was picked up by Randy in Parque Central, and he was an amazing guy to talk to along the way to Alamar.

Book it here: King of Alamar Hoops ⛹️

Day 3: Visit museums and buy souvenirs

Morning: Souvenir shopping

I actually had about 2.5 days, so I didn’t get to spend three days in Havana in their entirety.

Since I had a half day in Havana left, I chose to shop for souvenirs and stop at the museums I’d been passing by. Along the way, I discovered a small park where I found this Ford from 1930.

An older Cuban man poses with a 1930 Ford model car.

There are tons of small souvenir shops in Old Havana, and I stopped off at one I had stopped in on a previous day. I bought a shirt, a small wooden vintage car model (both for my grandpa, who had visited here 60+ years ago), and a dress for my fiancee.

An important note: At the time of writing, visiting Cuba and buying cigars to take back to the US is still illegal. There’s plenty of mixed information online, but it IS illegal. However, you can still visit cigar factories and enjoy them. You just can’t take them back to the USA.

Afternoon: Visit museums and fortresses

After souvenir shopping (or before!), it’s time to hit museums and fortresses. 

Three I recommend because of their importance and proximity are:

  • Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts)
  • Museo de la Revolucion (Museum of the Revolution)
  • Castillo de la Real Fuerza (Royal Force Castle)

Between these three attractions, you get Cuba’s art and historical history.

With the art museum, you can see the largest Cuban art collection — dating from colonial times to the present day. It also has some international art, but it’s relatively small. Meanwhile, The Revolution Museum focuses on the Cuban Revolution, one of the most pivotal moments in Cuban history. On the other hand, the fortress dates much further back and was one of Havana’s most critical defense systems during the colonial era.

A Cuban tank sits outside of the Revolution Museum in Havana.

Whichever museums/fortresses you visit, you’ll have a great time (and learn a lot!). I know I did.

Where to stay in Havana

When staying in Havana, there are multiple areas to choose from, each catering to a different type of traveler.

So, here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Old Havana: Historic heart of the city. It has beautiful architecture, plazas, and attractions.
    • Best for first-time visitors, history buffs, and those who want to be central.
  • Vedado: More modern district with a mix of grand old mansions, hotels, and embassies.
    • Best for travelers who want comfort with easy access to attractions and couples.
  • Central Havana: Densely populated neighborhood in the center. Mostly locals.
    • Best for adventurous travelers, budget travelers, or people who want to be as local as possible.
  • Miramar: Affluent residential area with embassies, large homes, and a more upscale vibe.
    • Best for families, luxury travelers, and those who love tranquility.

I strongly recommend staying in Old Havana if you have the opportunity.

It has the most things to do in Havana, and it’s the easiest area to start and get around. Plus, it’s the most lively area. I stayed in the heart of Old Havana and loved it. I’d walk out my door every morning and immediately be immersed in life in Cuba.

Ready to visit Cuba? Get what you need first!

Hopefully, this three-day itinerary has helped you out.

These fast-paced three days will give you a great overview of this exciting city, from ducking down the streets of Habana Vieja (Old Havana) to seeing local life in Habana Centro (Central Havana).

But, before you start planning your trip, it’s best to ensure you have everything you need to get in…especially if you’re an American. So, check out my guide on visiting Cuba as an American and get everything you need before buying those tickets!

And, if you’d like a copy of one of my 3-day Havana itineraries, be sure to sign up for my email list below to get it sent straight to your inbox!

author avatar
Kyle Cash Owner
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.