Havana, a key destination in Cuba's tourism agenda, is a true reflection of the architectural heritage bequeathed by the Spanish presence and under the European influence after the Spanish colonial era.
One of the first seven villas founded by the Spanish conquistadors, who named it San Cristobal de La Habana, holds Old Havana, which was designated Humankind's Cultural Heritage in 1982 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and covers an area of 4.5 square kilometers that are rich in exponents of colonial architecture, customs and traditions that have accumulated for five centuries.
The primary nucleus of the Cuban capital preserves a true collection of castles, fortresses and buildings of high cultural and historic values, built around a system of squares, monasteries and temples.
Those open spaces marked the framework of the so-called intramural city, with special emphasis on the Arms Square, Cathedral Square, Old Square, and the so-called Christ and Saint Francis squares.
The Minor Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi stands out among Havana's attractions, as its construction dates back to 1738 to constitute a set of extraordinary values.
The most significant element of the church is, without a doubt, the 42-meter-high tower, the second highest in the colonial era, being only surpassed by the Iznaga Tower in Trinidad.
The church also has two cloisters with perimeter galleries, connected by an original staircase, while the cover of the latter shows Tuscan columns superimposed on three levels, topped by a Baroque motif.
As an element to highlight is the Cathedral of Havana, whose construction began in 1748 at the request of the Jesuits, in order to house a missionary school of the Sons of Saint Ignatius.
Its façade is a clear example of neoclassical baroque, sculpted in stone. It transmits impressions to the observer from the low level view to the front.
The church treasures valuable works of art, such as oils made by French painter Jean-Baptiste Vermay, frescoes by the Italian artist Giuseppe Perovani, the canvas of the Virgin of Loreto, blessed by Bishop Morell de Santa Cruz in 1755, and the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, the Patron Saint of the Cathedral.
There are also numerous museums, churches, cultural centers and buildings closely linked to the colonial era, with some 33,000 buildings built mostly during the 18th and 19th centuries.
For those who venture through the tangle of streets and alleys of the old part of Havana, there is a network of small buildings where time seems to have come to a standstill, but that offer all the comforts that modern tourism demands.