The diverse architecture of Havana, reflecting half a millennium of history, holds Spanish colonial baroque and neo-classical buildings, art deco and art nouveau apartment blocks and public buildings, handsome Republican dream homes and Soviet-era monuments and monstrosities.
There is beautiful consistency in Old Havana’s prettily rhythmic arcades, constructed by Spanish immigrants with memories of Andalucia in mind. Much of the city has been dilapidated, particularly in working-class Central Havana, ravaged by sun, hurricanes and tropical rain to create an exercise in romantic decomposition, a unique feature of this beautifully ageing and soulful city.
The restoration of Havana Vieja (recognised by UNESCO as one of the most well preserved colonial cities in the Americas) is funded by the tourist dollar. The government has restored many of the buildings, creating a network of peaceful and stunningly attractive avenues and squares. Private owners are also restoring their architectural treasures, giving us access to the best new-era guesthouses where a 21st-century outlook combines with high-ceiling-ed elegance and tropical light.
Because of Cuba’s isolation many of the towns beyond Havana also remain remarkably unspoiled and intact. Trinidad is the most famous, one of many; a place where nothing has changed for a hundred years and where the wealthy legacy left by the affluent sugar mills is still remarkably palpable.