Santiago de Cuba is known as Cuba’s culture capital. It is a great destination for both novice and experienced travelers looking to see a unique blend of history and culture. History and art lovers will be thrilled to explore the endless options to experience and learn in Santiago de Cuba.
Santiago de Cuba is a city in Cuba known as the rum capital. Founded by the Spanish in 1515, this city is well-known for its colonial architecture and rich history. There is a distinct Afro-Cuban influence in this city, and there is always something to celebrate in Santiago de Cuba! This list will give you a list of places to include in your travel itinerary so you can make the most of your time in Santiago de Cuba!
8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Miss an Amazing Visit to Santiago de Cuba
1. Visit Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca del Morro World Heritage Site
- One of the best things to see in Santiago de Cuba is this Unesco World Heritage Site. The San Pedro fort rests on a 60 meters high promontory overlooking the Santiago harbor. It offers views of the beautiful beaches from all angles, and it also holds a rich history inside.
- Built in 1700, this historic site has survived pirate attacks and colonial rule.
- There are a number of gun and cannon artifacts to explore, and for 5 CUC’s, visitors can roam the entire property
2. Find Rich Cuban History in the Cementerio Santa Ifigenia
- Located on the west of the city, the Cementerio Santa Ifigenia is one of the most important burial grounds in Cuba.
- This cemetery was created in 1868 as a home for those who fell in the War of Independence and also the victims of yellow fever.
- Travelers can see many historical figures in the 8000-plus tombs, including Jose Marti and Fidel Castro.
3. Experience the Cuban Revolution at the Cuartel Moncada
- Cuartel Moncada, known in English as the Moncada Barracks is now a school building. During the Cuban Revolution, however, more than 100 rebels led by Fidel Castro stormed the troops under President Batista in what was once CUba’s second-most important military garrison.
- Today, there is a museum inside the Cuartel Moncada. Visitors can walk through the many exhibits and see the walls that are still scattered with bullet holes.
- The Cuartel Moncada is one of the most well-known museums and relics of the Cuban Revolution.
4. See the Oldest House – Museo de Ambiente Histórico Cuba
- This present day museum is technically the oldest house still standing in Cuba. Built around 1522, this house used to be the home of the island’s first governor, Diego Velazquez.
- The ground floor of this home used to be a trading house and a gold foundry while the upstairs was reserved as a living space.
- Visitors can try the two-way screens where you can look out without fear of being seen.
- You can also take in the surprising amount of Turkish influence in this structure.
5. People Watch in Cespedes Park
- Surrounded by colonial architecture, the Cespedes Park emphasizes Cuba’s rich street life. This park is always buzzing with life both day and night, making this one of the best places to take in the sights and sounds of Santiago de Cuba without having to pay a museum fee.
- Within this park is the bronze bust of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, one of the leaders of the Cuban independence movement in 1868.
- Today, this park also boasts a Wi-Fi hot-spot which draws both locals and tourists.
6. Sail to Granma Island
- If you need a break from the bustle of Santiago de Cuba, you can take one of the many scheduled boats to Granma Island. Located very close to the city, this secluded island sees very little tourists.
- Recent hurricanes have done harm to this quaint little paradise. But the homes and businesses are continuing to recover.
- Granma Island is easily recognizable with its red-roofed wooden houses, many of which rest on stilts above the water. Today, this island is just as it was hundreds of years ago, still a quaint fishing village.
- The entire island can be explored in less than 20 minutes, making it a great day trip destination for any Santiago de Cuba visitors.
7. Stroll the Scalinata di Padre Pico
- Located in the heart of Santiago de Cuba is this local strip of restaurants and shops. Climb the stairs up to the upper city and enjoy mixing with the locals.
- The colonial architecture is perfect for photos and there are plenty of cafes to choose from.
- The Scalinata di Padre Pico is the core of the city’s up and coming private economy!
- This street of steps is not to be missed!
8. Sample Local Spirits at the Bacardi Rum Factory
- A trip to the Cuban rum capital wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Bacardi Rum Factory. Unlike the modern Bermuda Headquarters, this original Bacardi factory still maintains its rich history.
- Though the Bacardi family fled the island after the Revolution, the Cuban government still continues to make traditional rum in this location.
- There are no official tours of the factory anymore. But the Baraita de Ron Havana Club tourist bar attached to the factory offers rum sales and tastings daily.
Santiago de Cuba remains one of Cuba’s most popular destinations year after year. Situated geographically closer to Haiti and the Dominican Republic than to Havana, it has a strong eastern influence giving the city a unique feel. Home to the birthplace of Fidel Castro’s Revolution and the first Bacardi rum factory, Santiago de Cuba has a lot to offer tourists looking to experience Cuba. There is a definite energy to these streets that isn’t seen anywhere else in the world.
There are activities and itineraries for every budget and type of traveler in Santiago de Cuba! Also, there is an abundance of museums, heritage sites, and unique streets. So you might have a hard time finding time for everything they want to do. This passionate city will capture your heart!