Exploring the historic centre of Santiago de Cuba is the best way to get to know a little of the wealth of cultural heritage that this eternal, revolutionary colonial city has to offer. The Reparto Vista Alegre neighbourhood represents the most important urban development of the 20th century in Santiago de Cuba. It’s a neighbourhood that should be admired for its diverse examples of architecture: art nouveau, neo-colonial, art decó and more. The wonderful Reparto Vista Alegre is home to the eclectic Palacio de los Pioneros, the Heredia Public Park and the Vista Alegre Private Park.
The Paseo la Alameda, located close to the beautiful Santiago de Cuba bay, invites you to stroll along its tree-lined avenue. It’s the preferred boulevard of the people of Santiago, who come daily for its welcoming atmosphere, its sea views and the soft breeze that blows through it. You can take a reading of the local scene in the Alameda. Santiago de Cuba’s main square, Céspedes Park, is equally popular with the locals as a place to gather every day. It also houses the Catedral Metropolitana, the Casa de Diego Velázquez and the Town Hall, all fabulous places to visit.
The Cementerio Santa Ifigenia is the final resting place for numerous Cuban figures such as Fidel Castro, José Martí, José Maceo, Mariana Grajales, Frank País and Josué País. It is also home to diverse funeral buildings of great architectural value with a changing of the guard ceremony at the mausoleum of José Martí.
Located in the centre of Santiago de Cuba, El Tivoli was constructed during the first half of the 17th century for poor Spaniards and Creoles. Its unique origins make it possible to enjoy a mixture of cultures with examples of local folklore dotted around steep streets lined with hilltop houses that look out towards the sea. The Museum dedicated to the Lucha Clandestina features exhibitions dealing with the local revolution that took place in 1956. Nearby, visitors can also admire the Tumba Francesa, a popular Cuban dance that has French-Haitian roots and has been recognised as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
To the north of Santiago de Cuba, visitors will find El Cobre, a district founded on copper mining that receives numerous pilgrims who come to the shrine to visit the Cuba’s Patron saint, the Virgen de la Caridad. The virgin can be found in the basilica of Nuestra Señora del Cobre, at the top of a hill on the north side of the town. Close by, visitors can admire the Monumento al Cimarrón, with its blend of Christianity and Paganism.
Santiago de Cuba boasts two national treasures that can be found on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The first is the Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba, a unique record of agricultural development in a virgin wilderness. The second is the military fortress at Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, whose sea views are just one of the reasons to visit this well preserved example of 17th century military architecture.
In addition to eclectic architecture, daily life and charming districts, Santiago de Cuba is home to a natural landscape of huge importance: Baconao Park, which boasts the accolade of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Unmissable things to do in the park include exploring the Gran Piedra and its surrounding area of La Isabelica Coffee Plantation; roaming through the Botanical Gardens, Prado de las Esculturas, the Prehistoric Valley; and, as a special treat, scuba diving in any of its more than 73 diving spots. Nature is ever present amongst its more than 200 varieties of cactus in the Cactus Garden, in the flight of the green hummingbird, and in the congregating species in the Baconao Aquarium and Baconao Lagoon.