Top things to do in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Top things to do in Santiago de Cuba

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    Castillo de San Pedro del Morro

    Castillo de San Pedro del Morro

    Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city in Cuba and a historical and cultural treasure. The city is often regarded as the root of the Cuban Revolution, and the many museums here retrace key events from this important period of Cuba's history. But unlike Trinidad, which seems frozen in time, Santiago de Cuba mixes modern architecture and industrial developments with its colorful colonial gems and historic fort. This bustling metropolis is also home to one of the country's most prominent universities, giving it a young and vibrant edge. Not far from the city, tourists can visit a famous pilgrimage site, or hike to the top of a rocky summit for inspiring views across mist-shrouded peaks.

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    Parque Cespedes

    Parque Cespedes

    At the heart of the city, Parque Cespedes is an excellent starting point for sightseeing tours. Many of Santiago de Cuba's most notable buildings surround the square, including the Casa de Diego Velazquez and the Catedral de Nuestra de Senora de la Asuncion. Thanks to pirate attacks, earthquakes, and renovations, the cathedral has undergone many reconstructions. Most recently, Hurricane Sandy damaged parts of the buildings, but restorations are underway. Inside, visitors can explore the Museo Eclesiastico with a number of religious art pieces and sacred musical scores. Although Parque Cespedes is more of a plaza than a park, it's a popular meeting spot for locals and tourists at any time of the day or evening. Music fills the air, and a lively feeling prevails. It's also a great place to relax with a coffee or a cool drink and watch the world go by.

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    Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia

    Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia

    The Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia in Santiago de Cuba is home to the remains of some of Cuba's most famous military figures, as well as people of wealth and notoriety. Some of the monuments marking the tombs are spectacular works of art. One of the most impressive features in the cemetery is the Mausoleum of Jose Marti. This huge structure towers over the surroundings and was designed to allow a stream of light to enter in during morning hours. The Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia also contains the tombs of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, Emilio Bacardi, and Frank Pais. Famous Cubans are still being buried here, including musician Compay Segundo who was laid to rest here in 2003. Every thirty minutes, a changing of the guard ceremony takes place. Guides are highly recommended to shed light on all the history here.

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    Museo de Ambiente Historico Cubano

    Museo de Ambiente Historico Cubano

    Presiding over Parque Cespedes the Casa de Diego Velazquez offers a fascinating glimpse of a Spanish conquistador's former residence. Built in the early 1500s, the building is thought to be the oldest residence in Cuba, and now houses the Museo de Ambiente Historico Cubano. The conquistador and governor, Diego Velazquez, lived in the upstairs portion of the house, while the lower level was used as a gold foundry; the furnace used for melting gold still stands. Seeing the building's intricately carved ceilings, thick walls, and solid construction give a sense of the wealth and power of the Spanish empire. Each room shows a different time period, and the collections are impressive with exquisite porcelain, glass, and other household items, which complement the antique furniture. For those who don't speak Spanish, guided tours in English are recommended to get the most out of a visit here.

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    Cuartel Moncada

    Cuartel Moncada

    Museo Historico 26 de Julio. History buffs interested in the Revolution should make time for a visit to this historic attack site and macabre museum. On July 26th, 1953 during carnival celebrations, rebel forces led by Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, and Che Guevara attacked these concrete barracks to seize weapons. The attempt failed, but the revolutionaries gained much recognition from their efforts, and many people consider this incident to mark the beginning of the Revolution. Visitors here can see the bullet holes from the attacks and explore the museum, which describes the history of Cuba from the 1500s onward. The exhibits focus on the events of the 1950s, including the fateful attack on July 26. In the center of the city.

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    Plaza de la Revolucion

    Plaza de la Revolucion

    Northeast of the city center, the Plaza de la Revolucion is the famous site of many important events. Here, Fidel Castro delivered speeches, the Pope celebrated mass during his visit to Cuba in 1998, and many protests have taken place. The most striking feature of this large square is the dramatic monument dedicated to the 19th century war hero, General Antonio Maceo. Saw-toothed machetes rise from the grass and surround a large sculpture of the General on horseback. A local artist, Alberto Lezcay, created this impressive work of art and it was erected in the 1990s. Also located here is the small underground Museo Holografia with holograms depicting images from the Revolution and General Maceo.

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    Gran Piedra (Jardin Botanico) | Day Trip

    Gran Piedra (Jardin Botanico)

    About 25 kilometers southeast from the city, Gran Piedra (Grand Stone) is a large volcanic rock perched atop a mountain, which affords spectacular views over misty peaks and coastal plains. The drive to Gran Piedra, though a little hair raising, is worth the effort. A 12-kilometer road winds up to the Jardin Botanico from the main coastal road in Parque Baconao, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of lushly-cloaked mountains and golden beaches. Here, visitors can admire a variety of orchids and other tropical plants. At the end of the Jardin Botanico is a seemingly never ending set of stairs that leads up to the 1,234-meter-high peak of Gran Piedra and breathtaking views. The area is sometimes hazy in the afternoon, so it's best to plan an ascent during the morning hours. Easy Day Trip.

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    Caridad del Cobre | Day Trip

    Caridad del Cobre

    Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre. The old mining town of Cobre, about 18 kilometers northwest from Santiago de Cuba, is home to the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre, one of Cuba's most famous churches. Standing out against a lush backdrop, the church and its red-domed towers is a beautiful sight. The basilica is actually best known for a statue it contains. Adorned with precious jewels, the statue of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobra (Our Lady of Charity), Cuba's patron saint, is a black Madonna wearing a lavish yellow dress. She carries a diamond and amethyst cross and is crowned with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. Each year on September 8, the Virgen is extracted from her air-conditioned glass enclosure inside the Basilica for an annual public procession. She was blessed by Pope John Paul II in 1998. This magnificent church is a pilgrimage site and attracts people from all over Cuba who come seeking the Virgin's purported healing powers. Easy Day Trip