Matanzas Tourist Attractions
Matanzas is the capital city of the province of the same name. The city was built in the 1600s and settled by former residents of the Canary Islands, many of whom were promptly massacred by the disgruntled Siboney Indians who lived here at the time. Today Matanzas is a quiet city with many colonial buildings and bridges spanning the rivers that run through the town. Few tourists spend any real length of time in Matanzas because it is primarily an industrial town and the resort area of Varadero draws most of the attention. There are a few sights worth taking in for visitors passing through or spending time here. Some of the main highlights are the pharmacy museum and the Teatro Sauto, in addition to the fabulous architecture.
Ediciones Vigia is a very unique attraction. This interesting publishing house in Matanzas produces handmade paper and first edition copies of books. Only 200 copies of each book are made so each is a collector's item. Visitors can wander through the workshop at Ediciones Vigia and watch the process as workers type, stencil and bind the books. It is also possible to buy books here at a reasonable price. This is more of a work place than a museum but it is worth a look if you are passing through Matanzas, just to see the process and the books that are created, particularly for those who are not familiar with this type of industry. The Ediciones Vigia opened in 1985.
The Teatro Sauto opened in 1863 and is one of the grandest buildings in Matanzas. The neo-Classical theatre was designed by Italian architect Daniele Dell 'Aglio. The interior of this horseshoe shaped building is covered with wood panels to allow for better acoustics. Still today the Teatro Sauto is one of the finest theatre venues in the country and has attracted such artists to the stage as Sarah Bernhardt, Jose White, Andres Segovia, and many other performers.The Teatro Sauto is a three storey structure with balconies on all levels. Marble statues of Greek classical figures grace the entrance. The floor of the theatre, which can seat 775 people, can also be lifted to turn the theatre into a ballroom.
The Museo Farmaceutico is an old operating pharmacy that is now an antique pharmacy museum. The original pharmacy was founded in Matanzas in the late 1800s by the Triolet family. Some of the items that would have been found in a pharmacy during that time period can still be found here on the shelves. Hand painted French porcelain vases, medical recipes, old bottles and jars, medical instruments, labels, mortars, scorpion oil and other seemingly ancient pharmaceutical items can be found at the Museo Farmaceutico.The pharmacy, formerly known as Botica La Francesa, was operational until 1964 when it was transformed into a museum.
Provincial Historical Museum
The Museo Historico Provincial (Provincial Historical Museum) in Matanzas is housed in the Palacio del Junco. This deep blue building was constructed between 1835 and 1840 for a plantation owner. The museum covers the history of Matanzas from pre-Columbian times until the Cuban Revolution. Topics covered include the colonial period, slavery, sugar cane farming, and other miscellaneous pieces related to the history of the province. If you are not interested in the Museo Historico Provincial but would like to see the inside of the Palacio del Junco, trying visiting in the late afternoon when concerts are regularly held here, free of charge.
At the end of Calle Milanes in Matanzas is the large open Parque Libertad. This park was formerly the parade grounds, which were used in the 1800s for military parades. Today it is a nice area to relax in Matanzas and soak up the impressive architecture that surrounds the plaza. Some of the noteworthy buildings on Parque Libertad include the Liceo Artistico y Literario from the 1860s, the Catedral de San Carlos, built in the 17th Century, and the Palacio de Gobierno. In the center of the Parque Libertad is a bronze statue of Jose Marti.