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Founded in the 1500s, the city of Havana was molded upon the designs of the Spanish colonists. While the city grew and expanded beyond the original city walls, Old Havana remains one of the city's most populous and vibrant districts. Even as it thrives along side a bustling metropolis and urban center, Old Havana wears its heritage proudly in form of over 3,000 historic Neoclassical and Baroque buildings. Some of the most interesting sights in La Habana Vieja include the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, Castillo del Morro, La Cabaña fortress and National Capitol and Plaza de Armas, to name a few. Inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old Havana and its Fortification System sheds light on the traditional architecture and cultural heritage of Havana.
It was the inhabitants of 19th century Havana, motivated perhaps by the origins of all around them, who erected this shrine with a bust of Christopher Columbus and three paintings by Juan Bautista Vermay. The monument marks the exact place where the settlement of San Cristóbal de la Habana was founded in 1519. Together with this building, which is one of the first examples of a neo-classical style from the colonial architectural period, also stands a column to represent the original ceiba tree under which the first mass and Council of Havana were held.
One of the principal landmarks of Havana's skyline is the Bacardi Building, built in 1930. Designed by architect Esteban Rodríguez Castells for the Bacardi rum company, the building is a reflection of art deco architecture and is decorated with red Bavarian granite and embedded with a modernized version of Havava's coat of arms. The Bacardi bat in three-dimensional glory also manifests itself in the central tower, and throughout the structure of the building, besides featuring art deco-style motifs of tropical fruits, roses and pineapples. After the exit of Bacardi from Cuba, the building has retained use for offices, and also currently houses on one of its mezzanine floors, an open bar.
Framed by majestic-looking early 19th-century buildings, this park (also known as Parque José Martí) dates back to 1903. It is a large park surrounded by some of Old Havana's finest restaurants and hotels, including the hotels Sevilla, Plaza and Inglaterra. There are many exotic trees and royal palms in a well-landscaped garden environment. Well lit and quite safe, many people come to sit and relax with friends, while enjoying a drink and listening to the music that drifts over from the local clubs and nearby theater.
Built in 1929 to house the island's Senate and House of Representatives, National Capitol Building and with a dome that dominates the Havana skyline, this building looks rather similar to the Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. Inside there is a statue of La Republica, the biggest indoor bronze effigy in the world. There is also an enormous and historic gallery called the Salón de los Pasos Perdidos (The Hall of Lost Steps); a 25-carat diamond that marks the exact centre of the city; and the headquarters of the Cuban Natural History housing the country's largest natural history collection.
Havana's statue of Christ blesses the city from the other side of the bay, much like another well-known effigy of Jesus that gazes down on Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. This particular marble sculpture is the work of Jilma Madera, and was erected in 1958 on a rise in the land that offers the perfect place to watch the sunset. Access is either by road, or across the bay in a boat.
Built between 1763 and 1774, this is one of the largest colonial fortresses in the Americas. During the 1800s the surrounding moat was used by firing squads to shoot independence patriots; poet Juan Clemente Zenea was amongst those executed here. It was then used as a military prison until the triumph of the Cuban revolution, when it became Ernesto "Ché" Guevara's headquarters. Today it houses the Fortresses and Weaponry Museum. A canon firing ceremony is held daily at 9p.
Parque Histórico Morro y Cabaña is a park of historic forts and barracks that were responsible for the protection of the city for several years. These monuments were constructed between 1764 and 1774 in response to British invasion and is located across the Harbor channel from Habana Vieja. The Fort of San Carlos de La Cabaña and Castillo del Morro are comprised inside the park and located at a distance of one kilometer from each other.