Santiago de Cuba Tourist Attractions
Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city in Cuba and a historical and cultural treasure. With many different cultural influences and an Afro-Caribbean heritage, Santiago de Cuba is often said to be the most Caribbean city in the country.
These differences can be seen in many different aspects of life in the city, not least of which is the music. The city also celebrates a large number of festivals, particularly during the summer months, some of which are not celebrated in other parts of the country.Santiago de Cuba has numerous old colonial buildings in the city center but also has a variety of more modern style architecture. Signs of industry on the outskirts are also evident. Nonetheless it has enough character to make it an appealing city. Santiago de Cuba is also home to one of the country's most prominent university's, giving it a young and vibrant edge.From a historical stand point Santiago de Cuba also has much to offer. The city is often regarded as the root of the Cuban Revolution and has been the birthplace of many national heroes, which is reflected in the historical museums.
Castillo de San Pedro del Morro
The huge fortress, Castillo de San Pedro del Morro, stands at the entrance to the Bay of Santiago, about 10km / 6mi southwest of Santiago de Cuba. Located high upon a cliff top, the structure took decades to build and was finally completed at the end of the 17th Century. The original plans were designed by Italian engineer,Giovanni Bautista Antonelli, in 1587, although construction did not begin for almost another 45 years.Castillo de San Pedro del Morro was originally intended to protect against pirate attacks but has also served as a prison in the late 1700s before being once again converted into a fortress. Today the building is open to the public and contains a small naval museum with displays on the history of the area as well as the history of piracy in Santiago de Cuba. Castillo del Morro is one of the best preserved Spanish fortresses of the 17th Century and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.There are also great views from the over the bay from the roof and a restaurant on the terrace.
Museo Provincial Bacardi Moreau
The Museo Provincial Bacardi Moreau in Santiago de Cuba displays a broad range of items from prehistory, the time of the Spanish Conquest to the wars of independence and the Revolution, as well as artifacts collected from abroad. The collection was arranged by Emilio Bacardi Moreau, who also obtained most of the items himself. He even traveled to Egypt in 1912 to purchase a mummy for the museum that he hoped to open.On display at the Museo Provincial Bacardi Moreau are artifacts pertaining to the Amerindians, the conquistadors, and the slave trade. Weapons and documents from the wars of independence, as well as personal items of national heroes such as Carlos Manuel Cespedes and Jose Marti can also be seen. Perhaps the most impressive portion of the museum is the art exhibit, featuring national and international artists. Some of the Cuban artists represented include Felipe Lopez Gonzalez, Juan Emilio Hernandez Giro, and Buena-ventura Martinez. Also of interest is a recreated Colonial street from Santiago de Cuba.In the archeological section of the Museo Provincial Bacardi Moreau visitors will find Egyptian and Peruvian mummies, shrunken heads from the Amazon, as well as ceramics and other artifacts.The museum, housed in an interesting 1929 neo-Classical building, is among the oldest museums in Cuba.
Casa de Diego Velazquez (Museo de Ambiente Historico Cubano)
On the Parque Cespedes is the Casa de Diego Velazquez which 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, and a furnace for melting gold can still be seen. Built in the early 1500s, the Casa de Diego Velazquez is thought to be the oldest residence in Cuba, although this is still a matter of some debate. The house changed hands numerous times before becoming offices during the Revolution.Beginning in 1965 the house underwent restoration work and is now the Museo de Ambiente Historico Cubano. The museum displays a large furniture collection from the 16th to 19th Centuries. Each room shows a different time period and the collections are quite impressive with glass wear and other household items in addition to furniture.
Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobra, Cobre, Cuba
The old mining town of Cobre is home to the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobra, one of Cuba's most famous churches. Standing out against the lush backdrop, the church and its three red topped towers are a beautiful site. The basilica is actually best known for a statue it contains. The statue of the Virgen del Cobra is a black Madonna in a lavish yellow dress and adorned with precious stones. She carries a diamond and amethyst cross and is crowed with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. Each year on September 8 the Virgen del Cobre is brought out in public, out from it's air-conditioned glass enclosure inside the Basilica, for an annual procession. The Virgen del Cobra was blessed by Pope John Paul II in 1998.The Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobra is a pilgrimage site and attracts people from all over Cuba.
Museo Abel Santamaria (Parque Historico Abel Santamaria)
The Parque Historico Abel Santamaria is comprised of the Moncada barracks, the Saturnino Lora Civil Hospital, and the law buildings, all of which were apart of the 1953 attempt to overthrow the Batista regime. The Museo Abel Santamaria is housed in the former hospital.The Parque Historic Abel Santamaria commemorates the rebel attacks of July 26, 1953 in which the hospital was attacked by rebels under the command of Abel Santamaria. Fidel Castro led the attack on the barracks that same day. Abel Santamaria was executed by Batista's police for his role in the events. The Museo Abel Santamaria features information on the attacks of that day, as well documents and photographs related to the trials of the accused, including Castro's self-defense speech, which is now famous. There are also personal items of some of the men on display.
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 throughout the morning hours.The Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia also contains the tombs of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, Emilio Bacardi, and Frank Pais. Famous Cuban's are still being buried here, including musician Compay Segundo who was laid to rest here in 2003.Every thirty minutes is a changing of the guard ceremony.
At the heart of the city of Santiago de Cuba is the Parque Cespedes, formerly the Plaza de Armas. A statue of this national hero, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, stands in the middle of the square. The park is where visitors will find locals conversing and relaxing at any time of the day or evening. Music, either live or recorded, usually fills the air here and the park generally has a lively feeling. It's a great place for people watching.Parque Cespedes is also a good place to start sightseeing in Santiago de Cuba. Many of the city's best architecture surrounds the square. Some of the buildings here include the Casa de Cultura Miguel Matamoros, the historic Ayuntamiento, the Casa de Diego Velazquez, the Museo de Ambiente Historico Cubano, and the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Ascuncion.
The Catedral de Nuestra de Senora de la Asuncion in Santiago de Cuba has been rebuilt on this spot several times thanks to pirate attacks, earthquakes and reconstruction plans. In the 1520s the first Cathedral in Santiago de Cuba was built on this location. The Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion as it stands today is primarily from work done in the 1920s. This is when, among other changes, the bell towers were added. It is also believed that Diego Velaquez is buried beneath the Cathedral although there is no proof of this assumption. Inside the Cathedral is the Museo Eclesiastico with a number of religious art pieces, and sacred musical scores.The Cathedral is located on the south side of the Parque Cespedes.
Plaza de la Revolucion
The Plaza de la Revolucion lies to the northeast of the city center in Santiago de Cuba. This large square contains a monument dedicated to the 19th century war hero, General Antonio Maceo. There is a large sculpture of the man on horseback with symbolic machetes rising up from the grass below him. The sculpture was created by a local Santiago de Cuba artist, Alberto Lezcay, and erected in the 1990s.Plaza de la Revolucion has been the site of many important speeches and events over the years. Fidel Castro has used the square to deliver several speeches, the Pope said mass here during his visit to Cuba in 1998, and many protests have been held here as well.Located on Plaza de la Revolucion is the Museo Holografia with holograms depicting images from the Revolution and of General Maceo.
Museo del Carnaval
If you can't be in Santiago de Cuba during July for Carnaval then be sure to have a look in the Museo del Carnaval for a glimpse at some of the traditions around this event. Carnaval in Santiago de Cuba is a little different then in other parts of the country due to the Afro-Caribbean influence here, with African and Franco-Haitian traditions mixed in with the Spanish traditions. The Museo del Carnaval displays photographs, costumes, musical instruments, banners and posters, many with write-ups or captions. The folklore group can sometimes be heard performing in the courtyard.The museum is housed in the an 18th Century building, now the Carnival Commission, on Calle Heredia.
Birthplace of Jose Maria Heredia
Casa Natal de Jose Maria Heredia is the birthplace of the romantic poet, Jose Maria Heredia. Born in 1803, he is Cuba's most famous poet, although he died in Mexico while in exile. He wrote largely of the Americas on themes related to nature. The Casa Natal de Jose Maria Heredia is now a museum paying tribute to his life and accomplishments. On display in this splendid house the house are furnishings, including Heredia's bedroom with Mahogany bed, as well as some of his personal items. The building also functions as a cultural center and occasionally features poetry readings.
Cuartel Moncada (Museo Historico 26 de Julio)
The Cuartel Moncada barracks fell under attack on July 26th, 1953 during the carnival celebrations, by rebel forces, led by Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, and Che Guevara. They were intent on capturing the barracks to obtain weapons. The attempt on Moncada failed but the revolutionaries gained recognition. The Museo Historico 26 de Julio is now housed in the former Cuartel Moncada, along with the Ciudad Escolar 26 de Julio. The museum, describes the history of Cuba from the 1500s onward, with particular attention paid to the events of the 1950s, including the attack at Santiago de Cuba on July 26, 1953.
Museum of the Clandestine Struggle
Housed in the old headquarters of the police from 1951 to 1956, is the Museo de la Lucha Clandestina (Museum of the Clandestine Struggle). It depicts the history of the movement led by Frank Pais, against the Batista regime. The museum gives a good overview of the history of this time period as it relates to Santiago de Cuba and the role of the local residents in the revolution. Pais, along with other revolutionaries set fire to this building in 1956. It has of course since been restored and turned into the Museo de la Lucha Clandestina, which features a splendid courtyard, as well as fine views over Santiago de Cuba.
The Plaza Marte is a convenient location where visitors will find taxis and other urban transportation options in Santiago de Cuba. It is also a pleasant place to relax and is generally less busy than the Parque Cespedes. Men come here to discuss the most recent baseball matches, while parents and children come to the park more on weekends when there are simple amusement rides for young children.Despite the pleasant atmosphere, Plaza Marte was historically the site of public executions in Santiago de Cuba during Colonial times. A large column stands in the center of the park as a tribute to Cuban independence.
The Vista Alegre section of Santiago de Cuba is the former upper-end residential area of the town. Much of the architecture in this area dates to the 1920s and 1930s with several neo- classical mansions. The streets are wide and well treed, making it a pleasant place to stroll. Some of the homes have been converted into offices, restaurants and schools.Some of the attractions worth investigating in Vista Alegre include the Centro Cultural Africano Fernando Ortiz, for a look at African artifacts and handicrafts, the Museo de Imagen, with interesting displays on the history of photography in Cuba, and the Casa de Caribe.
Birthplace of Antonio Maceo
Casa Natal de Antonio Maceo is the birthplace of Antonio Maceo, a military hero from the wars of independence. He was born at this house in Santiago de Cuba in 1845, although the house dates to the early 1800s. On display at the Casa Natal de Antonio Maceo are some of his personal belongings as well as information on his life and military career. He fought in both wars of independence and died in battle in 1896.The house itself is rather simple and only worth visiting for the historical significance and information it contains.
Bosque de los Heroes
Bosque de los Heroes sits on top of a hill near the Hotel Las Americas in Santiago de Cuba. This small park contains a large monument, commemorating Che Guevara and the men killed along with him in Bolivia. It was the first monument in honor of Che Guevara to be erected in Cuba. The monument consists of large white interlocking marble slabs with carved images of the men on each slab. Bosque de los Heroes is also quite impressive at night when the monument is lit up. The monument was erected in 1973.