Ever since commercial American airlines resumed flights to Cuba in 2016 after 50 long years of embargo, visitors from all over the US have been flocking to the historic country. When they’re done sightseeing and enjoying the nightlife, they can explore the country’s rich history through these seven diverse and engrossing museums.
Classic Car Museum
Besides showcasing over 50 vehicles from 1905 to 1989 that illustrate the history of the island’s automotive industry, including a 1905 Cadillac that’s the oldest car in the country, Depósito del Automóvil also has an impressive assortment of classic Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Another part of the museum is devoted entirely to cars driven by famous people, like the flashy mint green Cadillac driven by Camilo Cienfuego, a notable Cuban revolutionary who fought alongside Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.
Finca La Vigia — Ernest Hemingway’s Home
World-renowned writer Ernest Hemingway lived in Havana for more than 20 years — which is exactly why you’ll find volumes of his work in the country’s local bookstores. The home he shared with his second wife, Finca La Vigia, was returned to the Cuban government after his suicide in Idaho in 1961. It was then transformed into a public museum where visitors can see his memorabilia, bookshelves, and original furniture left virtually unscathed.
Museo del Ron Havana Club
If you need a break from learning Cuban history, make Museo del Ron Havana Club your next stop. Cuba is recognized around the world for its outstanding rum, and Havana Club takes you on a 30-minute tour that explains its roots and the unique way Cuban rum is made. At the conclusion of the tour, everyone gets to sample the notorious liquor.
Museum of the City — Palacio de los Capitanes Generales
The Museum of the City is dedicated to the evolution of Cuban architecture. Built in the 1700s, the palace reflects the iconic Cuban Baroque style. The rooms surrounding the large courtyard are overflowing with 18th-century artifacts, including cannons and carriages. It’s right next to historic Old Havana and the famous Bookseller’s Market, so it’s extremely convenient to tour.
Museum of the Revolution
Soon after Cuba’s president was ousted after the Cuban Revolution, his Presidential Palace was transformed into the Museum of the Revolution. This museum abounds with historical relics linked to the revolution, including the Granma yacht, which Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and around 80 additional Cuban revolutionaries sailed from Mexico to Cuba.
Despite the allure of this museum, it’s important to note that there’s a lot of propaganda mixed into its true history. One prominent example is the infamous “Rincon de los Cretinos” (“Corner of the Cretins”), which portrays caricatures of Fulgencio Batista and past U.S.presidents dressed as villainous historical figures. Visitors may be offended by the images, but they accurately reflect the attitude of Cuba’s communist regime and the tales Cubans are told throughout elementary school.
Many who visit this museum are amazed to discover that Cuba has one of the world’s most remarkable collections of French history (especially since it’s a Spanish colony). As the most far-reaching Napoleonic museum in the Caribbean, the 8,000+ piece collection features artifacts from the French Revolution all the way up to the Second Empire. One of the most viewed items is a copy of Napoleon’s death mask.
National Museum of Fine Arts
This museum in the middle of downtown Havana proudly boasts both an international gallery and a Cuban gallery. The Cuban section is decidedly more famous though, as it depicts life in Havana as seen through the eyes of its citizens, covering everything from 17th-century Spanish portraits through the hyperrealism of the 1970s. Celebrated Cuban artists René Portocarrero and Wifredo Lam have pieces on display that depict some conspicuously Cuban images.