Old Havana

Old Havana and its Fortification System represents a historically important colonial city.

Havana was founded by the Spanish in 1519 in the natural harbor of the Bay of Havana. It became a stopping point for the treasure laden Spanish Galleons on the crossing between the New World and the Old World.

The designated area consists of a set of 18 fortifications along the coast and the harbour, the old city center (Habana Vieja) and 19th century extensions. The Castillo de la Real Fuerza is the the oldest extant colonial fortress in the Americas. Other important remaining castles include Castillo del Morro, La Cabaña fortress and San Salvador de la Punta Fortress.

The pattern of the early urban setting has survived in the historic centre.


Visit January 2012

Havana wasn't really what I had expected. The included area spans only the Habana Vieja quarter and the fortresses. On my first morning in the city I walked and walked, thinking "where is it going to start?". I finally arrived at the much restored Plaza Vieja. Most of the streets in the core of Habana Vieja have been renovated as well. I had anticipated a bustling atmosphere, but this is just a couple of brushed up Spanish colonial houses. White, camera-toting tourists I met in abundance.

The full name of the WHS is "Old Havana and its Fortifications", and it were these Fortifications that I came to truly enjoy. The best two are on the other side of the harbour: Morro and Cabana. It's a nice and quiet area to walk in, and the views on the city are spectacular. Morro has an interesting exhibition about the travels of Columbus, and models of other fortifications around Cuba. There even is a good restaurant (12 Apostles). All around the harbour and coast smaller and bigger forts were built during various centuries, and you can still see them.

Inspired by the recent Connection "Equestrian Statues", I was attracted to a huge statue of a man on a horse that can be seen from the fortresses on the other side. This one, of Maximo Gomez (a general during the Ten Years' War and the War of Independence) probably is the most majestic one that I have ever seen. It was sculpted by an Italian, very neoclassical.

Community Reviews

Messy - July 2012


The crowd at the Castle of the Three Kings of the Orient is larger than one would expect for a daily event, but the evening is lovely and there’s really no reason to avoid just hanging out with friends after a hard day’s work, or touring. The sun has just set and the show is starting…


A soldier clad in 18th century uniform walks through the crowd wielding a torch, which he juggles like a bowling pin. This is the first part of an age-old ceremony, where the Spanish army would warn pirates that they weren’t welcome. Calling for silence in this solemn event, he’s soon joined by others similar dress. One carries a cannonball, the other gunpowder. They do their job and ker-POW!

That’s it. The ceremony’s over and the crowd begins to disperse, but one cannot help but think that what they were really aiming at was not ancient buccaneers, but Florida 90 miles to the northeast. This is Cuba, America’s nemesis, and forbidden fruit for tens of thousands of Yankee tourists every year. The government won’t let us go. What better reason to try?

It's possible to do it legally, and I did just as the Bush administration cracked down. Obama made it slightly legal again, but Romney might clamp down again....

stewart ayu - March 2009

I visited old Havana and the impressive fortifications of 'el morro' in November 2008. The old city is really impressive and some of the colonial buildings are being restored. One can attend Mass at the main church and the old plazas are a reminder of how important Havana was in the trade with Seville during the Spanish Golden Age. Adding to old Havana's charm is the Caribbean and tropical flair and the strange timewarp presented by all that remains from pre revolutionary Cuba.

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Site Info

Full name: Old Havana and its Fortification System

Site History

  • 2013 - Name change

    From "Old Havana and its Fortifications" to "Old Havana and its Fortification System"
  • 1982 - Inscribed

    Reasons for inscription


The site has 1 locations.

  • Old Havana


The site has 30 connections.


  • Art Deco Bacardi Building
  • Baroque its old centre retaining an interesting mix of Baroque and neoclassical monuments (Unesco website)
  • Neoclassical architecture its old centre retaining an interesting mix of Baroque and neoclassical monuments (Unesco website)




Human Activity

Individual People

Religion and Belief



WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process

  • Name changes From "Old Havana and its Fortifications" to "Old Havana and its Fortification System" (2013)