There are many articles on which are the most interesting places and locations to take photographs in Havana, almost all of them have the same and suggest the same sites and photo locations , most of them tourist.
My name is Louis Alarcon, I am a professional photographer specialized in guiding photo tours in Cuba and I would like to make a more extensive list of photography locations with more details about these points so that you can enjoy your photo trip through Cuba, mainly in Havana.
(Daily Photo walks and tours in Havana)
Some of the places I show you are known but you will also find rather unknown locations that only Cuban photographers and residents on the island know.
Top 20 places to photograph in Havana. Great Locations you must visit.
1.- HAMEL ALLEY (Callejón Hamel in Spanish) .
TripAdvisor link : here
It is a really good place to take different pictures in Havana, the show of afrocuban dancers takes place every Sunday, is a show dedicated to the Afro-Cuban culture, begins at noon, at 12 a.m. . The problem is that there are many tourists and it is almost impossible to take good photos.
Suggestion for taking good photos : the picture you can see here was taken because I arrived at 11 a.m. I sat in the front row and gave a tip to the organizers to be there all the time of the dances (from 12 am to 2 pm)
Professional photographers know that sometimes you have to work with helpdesks, fixers, or leave tips to have a good photo location.
Another possibility you have is to go to the Callejón at any other time and enjoy the Afro-Cuban paintings of Salvador Escalona in a relax atmosphere, just you and some cuban citizens who live there.
Google Maps link to see : here
2.- Fruit and vegetable market on Calle Empedrado. (corner Empedrado street and Belgium Avenue)
Google maps links. Click here
Personally, I really like the one at the end of Empedrado Street, next to the Bacardi Building, there are many others in Havana, you can take pictures whenever you want, but a good photographic trick is to buy some fruit at the end of your session or halfway, sometimes I ask that they peel me a pineapple and I eat it with the travelers who travel with me. Other times I leave a tip and I take a couple of bananas.
The prices that you will see in these markets are in "Cuban pesos", not in CUC or convertible pesos, which will be the currency that you carry with you.
Remember 1 cuc = 25 Cuban pesos.
Some of the best places to photograph Havana are the markets because details, colors and even portraits are the strengths of these places, where sometimes it is difficult to take pictures if there are many customers buying.
Markets in Havana are one of the most popular locations to get good colorfull pictures.
3.- MALECON OF HAVANA
The wall that separates the city of Havana from the sea is known as Malecon, it is about 8 kilometers long and some people say it is the longest sofa in the world as many Cubans sit there to relax and chat.
There are different types of photography that you can do there since it is a great location, I have two personal projects, one dedicated to the boys that jump into the sea and that is already very difficult to see since the new laws prevent them from jumping.
Another project is a project almost black and white, a job done on gray days of rain or storm.
I advise you not to take pictures there at noon, when the sun is strong and you will not find anything interesting, the best is in the afternoon, near sunset or at dawn when dozens of fishermen are there to try to catch some fish.
Tip: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at night are the best moments to do portrait photography since the boardwalk is reached by Cubans who come out to enjoy the weekend.
4.- CLUB CAPABLANCA (Chess Club in Havana Center)
Cuba is famous worldwide for activities such as dance, boxing, chess, etc. In particular Cuba had its maximum splendor with the world champion Jose Raul Capablanca, currently in the street Infanta, number 54, is the Capablanca Club where you can spend and see Cubans practicing chess.
Google maps: here
You will be close to the Hamel alley, also near the Malecón, it is a good location to continue working with your camera and obtain photographs of your trip to Cuba.
Tip: ask permission to enter and shoot with your camera , talk to the manager and be respectful while they remain focused on their games.
5.- ANTONIO MACEO PARK
Maceo Park offers many photo opportunities to travelers looking for a good place to do various types of photography. It is located next to the boardwalk of Havana, with a constant traffic of old American old cars, that's why many of my students have fun making panning cars in motion.
I personally like very much to make iconic photography, I mean with this that Maceo was a great character in the history of Cuba and the flag of the nation is also present in the park, you can find interesting photographic combinations.
There are a lot of people doing sports and in the morning the children go out of school to do gymnastics there and in the afternoon many families spend their time there relaxing or swinging on the swings.
Tip: I always say that if you are a woman photographer you can take pictures of what you want in Cuba, but if you are a man maybe it would be better if you did not spend a lot of time taking pictures of the children in the swings, it could be that a father or mother does not feel comfortable with your insistence (the photographers are very persistent when we know that there may be a good photo)
6.- CAPITOL OF HAVANA
The Havana Capitol is a photographic point that everyone photographs in their visit to Cuba. It has many photographic possibilities although since 2013 it is approximately in repair.
Since April 2018 approximately you can already enter the interior so you can also take pictures of the interior, in my case I am going to talk about two places from where to take good pictures, as you can see in the first picture that my friend Yaniel Cepero made in the one that perfectly combined the architecture, the old cars and the Cuban people, all this from a low point of view so that all the elements could fit into the scene.
Another interesting position to take good photographs of the Capitol can be from the upper terrace of the Hotel Saratoga, it is one of the best hotels in Havana and you will have to take it to be allowed to be there, if you want to make a long exposure photograph I recommend tripod and You can take a picture like the one you can see below and I did it shortly after sunset.
Tip: Cuba has quite high temperatures throughout the year, perhaps a good practice may be to take pictures at dawn, but also in the afternoon and at night, here I show you my nightly photos in Cuba.
7.- WIFI AREAS and PARKS
If on your trip to Cuba you do not only want to take tourist photos, but you are also interested in documenting the change that the island is experiencing in recent years, maybe you should take some pictures in the wifi areas, you must go to any of them connect
Since 2015 these areas have increased and thanks to them Cubans have been able to have more contact with their relatives abroad and also access all kinds of information.
There are countless parks with wifi zones, then I leave some links where you can find them, also a simple photographic essay that I did in these places.
This is how travelers connect to the internet in Cuba:
Some of them (also there are wifi connection in every hotel)
8.- FAIR OF SAN JOSE (Souvenir fair)
In photography it is not necessary to walk all day walking looking for good photo opportunities in each street, we also have the opportunity to choose a good place where we can make good photographs simply waiting, this we can sometimes get when we see a good graffiti, a good facade, etc. ..
Personally, I propose you to go to the largest market of souvenirs and handicrafts you can find in Cuba, known as "the fair of San Jose", there you have bathrooms, bars, souvenirs and many photographic opportunities.
It is usually open every day and is located in the port area, it is not difficult to get there, everyone knows it, it is located at the end of Cuba Street, where the Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym is also nearby.
Tip: you can see a lot of T-shirts, magnets, backpacks, etc ... with the face of the commander Ernesto Che Guevara, you could do an exercise to show the omnipresence of the CHE in the current Cuba.
Note: The most reproduced photo in the world is a portrait of "El Che" and the name of this photo is "Heroic Guerrilla man"
Video to know the atmosphere in this special market.
9.- RAFAEL TREJO BOXING GYM.
Located between two old buildings is one of the most charismatic boxing gyms, great champions have come out of this gym that is located in the heart of Old Havana, on Cuba Street, number 815 (near the end of the street, next to the warehouses or fair of San Jose in front Mercedes Church ). Google maps
It is important to ask permission to be able to take pictures in this gym, sometimes it is forbidden, my favorite time to go is at 4 p.m.
Photography in this gym is not easy as there are many elements such as irons, columns, ropes, etc ... so for the photographer it will be a challenge to take good pictures.
Tip: take advantage of the moment when the boxers rest to take pictures, that they rest from their exercises does not mean that you have to rest, concentrate and look for clean scenes with good light.
Here you can see my essay about this Boxing Gym
Alternative boxing gym Kid Chocolate´s video
10.- OLD AMERICAN CARS.
Taken photos of American cars can be a trap for the photographer, in my workshops I have found that travelers can become obsessed with cars simply because it is something they do not see in their countries, so more than making good photos they dedicate themselves to photographing compulsively every one of the cars they see. My suggestion is to select well what type of photography you want to take and so you will not shoot at every car you see.
The best locations to take pictures of these cars in my opinion is in the area of Havana Center , where the streets are wide and the architecture behind the cars is interesting. Street like San Miguel or San Rafael are really good for that.
Here I show you a photographic essay that I made of American cars and that I named as "Americans in a Havana", all the work is done with the same focal 28 mm and in very wide streets.
This car that you see in the following photograph, it is made of wood and is still working through the streets of La Havana.
11.- INSIDE OF OLD CARS
In general, travelers go crazy with the street photographs of old American cars but they may forget interesting details that can be photographed from within them. You can make interesting pictures focusing on the calel but you can also take details of the decoration of these cars that speak a lot about the personality of the Cuban.
Maybe they are not great photographs but they document in a more subtle way the world of the American car in Cuba.
Tip When you see parked cars you can ask your owner if you can sit inside and take a picture, in general they will answer yes and you may want to take a ride in that car. In Cuba, each car is a taxi.
12.- FIELD OF SHOOTING WITH RIFLES
If you put your nose in every door, in Havana you will discover good photo-places to make wonderful photography, you can still find small "shooting ranges with rifles" where Cubans, mainly children practice their aim and have a good time, there is a famous phrase that says "every Cuban must know how to shoot, and he must shoot well".
Here I put the location of one of these spots that is on Avenida Italia corner with Zanja, the Avenida Italia is also known as Galiano (street that I advise you to visit to enjoy Havana more alive and at the same time less tourist)
Google maps here
The Chinatown is a place to take pictures that few travelers visit, I personally love it, I have good friends there who I am documenting little by little since the Chinese footprint in Cuba was very deep but over the years it is disappearing.
The main street you can visit is Dragones street, one of my favorites to shoot photos in the early morning. Do not expect to see a lot of Chinese, the few remaining pure Chinese are already very old and are in their societies, some of them secret.
You also have the opportunity in this neighborhood to visit its restaurants, gyms, etc.
Here you have the area of Havana´s Chinatown . Google maps chinatown
Do not think it is a Chinatown like other countries, it is a Chinese neighborhood but without Chinese.
One of my photo essays about chinese community in Cuba. "Yellow"
13.- REVOLUTION SQUARE OF HAVANA
The Revolution Square in Havana is an impressive open space, where the José Martí tower is located, the highest point in Havana, from where you can also take great photographs of the city.
There is a special day to take photographs in the Plaza de la Revolución and it is the first day of May, the day of the workers, that day thousands and thousands of Cubans parade through the plaza at a communism party.
If you are not in Cuba that day you can also enjoy the Plaza de la Revolución, my advice is to go early or almost at dusk because at noon the sun is very strong and it will be harder to make good photos, it is also a good place where Photographers take pictures of convertible cars, as there are many of them parked there. Click here to see
Here you can see a couple of totally different photographic works that have as protagonist the Plaza de la Revolución de la Habana (Revolution Square)
14.- THE PORT OF REGLA.
Little by little more photographers are seen in the Regla neighborhood, but almost nobody knows this place since it is not in many guides. Also to get there you have to take a small ferry that is a delight because the adventurous photographer will enjoy a 5 minute trip through the bay of Havana and with good views of boats, the city and the small port of the Regla neighborhood.
The price of this ferry is 1 Cuban peso, that is about 5 cents of the CUC which is the currency with which all travelers change in Cuba, but you can give 1 cuc to the gentlemen who work there, they will appreciate it.
Remember to not take pictures from the Ferry, the black and white picture below was when entering the ferry.
The following photograph is made from the Barrio de Regla at dusk, the highest point of the city that you can see in the background is the Capitol of Havana. As you can see, it is a good place to take photographs of the city of Havana, without being inside it.
15.- CHURCH OF REGLA.
Do not forget if you are in the Regla neighborhood, take pictures in your church, is a great place to shoot with your camera, remember close at 5 o'clock in the afternoon.
You can take pictures inside but remember to remove your cap or hat to enter as an act of respect, it is mandatory.
TIP: the women in the door of the church are santeras who read your hand and charge for them, their prices are usually 50 times more expensive than what they usually charge Cubans, if you want to live the experience forward, but you I suggest clarifying the price of the service, often give many surprises ;-) Pictures of these santeras in this link
Curiosity: the photo you see below is the church of Regla from within, was made at Easter. The participants in my photo tour thought that there were no statues of saints because Cuba is communist, the real reason is that during Holy Week they are removed from the church and hide for a week, likewise the Afro-Cuban ceremonies of religion remain inactive during all that week
More pictures of Church of Regla
16.- TROPICAL DE LA HABANA
La Tropical se Havana is known as "the palace of the dancers" a place where, mainly working class Cubans go to dance on weekends, there photographers are welcome, it is advisable to be nice and dance with one of your " new friends" .
To me is a "palace of the photographers" :-)
It is an open-air place, where you can dine, drink and dance, but also take good documentary photographs of the Cuban people during their leisure time.
Short video about the atmosphera in Tropical of Havana
17.- LA TORRE RESTAURANT
One of the best places to take good panoramic pictures in Havana.
It is one of my favorite restaurants, because of the views but also because it is almost unknown, the food is very good and there is almost never a tourist, only a few Cubans with a medium-high economic level.
The reason why this restaurant is not known is because it is a state restaurant (not private) therefore it does not have much activity in social networks, guides, blogs, etc
click to check La Torre in Tripadvisor
Open the windows, enjoy the views and do not forget to close your diaphragm to have a greater depth of field.
18.- PLAYAS DEL ESTEAbout 20 km from Havana there are the beaches of the East of Havana, the most famous are Santa Maria and Guanabo, Cubans only go to bathe in the summer months, June, July and August, it is also a good place for travelers, they are the closest beaches to Havana.
19.- NATIONAL HOTEL
It is not the best Hotel in Havana because it is already quite old but it is still a very special place, there are many photographs that can be taken in this special place and so full of history.
Inside there are halls with the old luxury of Havana, a fantastic viewpoint towards the boardwalk and also a wonderful lobby. The Hotel Nacional also offers musical shows such as El Parisien, which I advise you to visit, another option to see these shows is the Tropicana de la Habana.
The Hotel Nacional also has excellent views from the outside, the photograph that is attached is a photograph taken at the carnival in Havana from the Malecón.
20.- MONTE STREET AND REINA STREET
I love Monte and Reina streets, they are full of life, of everyday life, of Cuban shops everywhere and it is very difficult to see tourists there.
Monte street, is known as Maximo Gomez
Reina street is known as Simon Bolivar
Reina is broader and calmer than Monte but in both you have to select very well what you want to photograph since there are so many options that sometimes you can lose yourself.
The following photo was taken in one of the streets that intersects with Monte Street, at night they have a wonderful atmosphere, as you know Cuba is very safe for travelers but if you have a lot of experience, maybe it is better that at night you go to more tourist places or more illuminated ;-)
Of course there are many more places where you can take pictures in Havana, the vast majority of them will be those that appear first in other tourism websites to Cuba, I put them last because they are so well known and so visited that for I have lost their attraction for years, if it is your first trip to Cuba, do not forget to visit them, you will surely love them, here are a few more.
More great places for photography in Havana
El Cañonazo ceremony
Check this link to visit this place with fantastic opportunities to take good panoramic photos of the city . Morro Cabaña "cañonazo ceremony"
La Guarida entrance , a fantastic building. Every professional photographer who visit Cuba, take pictures here.
After more than 5 hours writing this post about the best photography places in Havana, I hope you like it and you will enjoy your photo trip to Cuba :-)
If you have doubts, please write me : firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the best Vinales photography best spot
One of the best Trinidad photography best spot
Photo taken by my friend Laura Comellas.