Color, music, history, nature, and Caribbean flavor make this a unique city of its kind on the map. The land where Santiago de Cuba stands was blessed with the rhythm that distinguishes its geography, its architecture, and its people. Here lies the best blend of the Spanish salt shaker, the African passion and the French distinction, which transpires in a mystique of the city, where every moment perspires tradition, rum and good music. We propose a visit with specialized guide, through the best historical, musical, religious and natural attributes that has to offer this paradise of the mestizo and caribbean culture, that had the whim of being born between the sea and the mountains.
Santiago de Cuba is located to the east of the island. It is the second most important city of the country due to its economy and population. It was capital of the old province of Oriente and at the moment it is of the province of the same name. It was founded in 1515 by the Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, among the first seven Cuban villas. The conqueror Hernán Cortés was the first mayor of the city and from there he left for the conquest of Mexico. From Santiago also the conqueror and explorer Pánfilo de Narváez with the title of Adelantado also left the title of Governor heading for the coasts of Florida in exploratory trip, trip that ended in failure and it cost the life to Narváez.
It was the first capital of Cuba counting on exceptional geographical conditions. Through the bay of Santiago, the first black slaves entered Cuba and with them strong African and Spanish roots.
The city boasts an eclectic array of architectural influences, from the imposing Castillo del Morro (declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO) to the exquisite colonial houses of Parque Cespedes in the Historic Center, and the glorious Basilica of Our Lady of the Caridad del Cobre, Cuba’s holiest pilgrimage site.
To the east of Santiago is the Baconao Biosphere Reserve recognized by UNESCO, with its coffee plantations; while the high peaks of the Sierra Maestra rise to the west.
The breaking of the waves along the mountainous coast of the region is a spectacular ride to enjoy by car. Underwater, lovers of diving with oxygen tank or snorkel, are attracted by the vestiges of shipwrecks that rest in the marine bottoms.
Places of interest
Cathedral + MuseoArquidiocesano
Every hour that passes in the city of Santiago de Cuba takes the rhythm that the bells of its cathedral prints it. Its beginnings go back to 1522, when it receives the title of primitive hermitage of Santa Catalina, built in 1515. It has been reconstructed in five occasions product to the frequent earthquakes and the attacks of corsairs and pirates that destroyed it totally or partially. The image that presents, paradigm of the “eclecticismo santiaguero”, is due to the remodelings that were realized between the years 1916 and 1922 in charge of the architect Carlos Segrera, that it stylized the towers, painted and decorated its interior, it varied the neoclassical facade, had sculpted a marble angel above the main entrance and opened the niches for the sculptures of Christopher Columbus and Father Las Casas. Associated with the Cathedral is also the Archdiocesan Museum, which preserves important works of art, such as the painting of Saint Ecce Homo, considered to be the oldest in Cuba, as well as valuable collections of objects of religious imagery, goldsmiths, paintings of bishops, executed by Cuban and foreign painters. The collection lodges the archbishop’s seat, chair where the three Supreme Pontiffs who have visited the city have been seated.
Museum of Historical Environment (Casa de Diego Velázquez)
In front of the old Plaza de Armas, this example of Cuban architecture is presumed to be one of the oldest buildings on the island. The beginning of its construction dates back to the first third of the 16th century. It served as House of Recruitment, residence of the governors, and of the most important families of the city. Its status as a Museum of Historic Environment gives an endless number of spaces characterizing daily life from the XVI to XVIII centuries, where furniture, imported or built on the island, shows its stylistic evolution and the refined elaboration of local cabinetmakers.
House of José María Heredia
The first romantic poet of the Island, José María Heredia, was born on a small street in the center of the city of Santiago de Cuba. The home of the Niagara Cantor offers a well-preserved scent, as a museum, of colonial customs and traditions, which reach the visitor through beautifully preserved 19th-century architecture, as well as Collections of objects of the time that shows the enclosure.
Emilio Bacardí Museum
Thanks to the efforts of Mayor Emilio Bacardi, a museum was set up in Santiago de Cuba to exhibit historical, archaeological and artistic relics. The building inscribed within the codes of eclecticism, is majestic by its façade, the staircase that allows the passage to the main access is guarded by regal columns. The interior of the building has been remodeled twice. In 1999, when celebrating its centenary, it was conferred the status of National Monument.
The carnival of Santiago is one of the traditions that stand out in all of Cuba for its color, bustle, and joy. The museum that gathers the history of this festivity, dating back to colonial times, shows a detailed collection of costumes, illustrations and references to emblematic characters of the city who have made history through their carnivals.
Emblematic drink of the Caribbean and of course of Cuba. Considered the “joyful son of sugar cane”, the rum made in Santiago de Cuba has the secret formula of the best rum masters of the country. The history of the city could not be told without including the stories and the imaginary gathered in the manufacture of this spirit drink. This mansion located in the historical center of the city treasures the memories that tell the indissoluble bond of this drink and the city, in addition they allow the visitor to taste the most exquisite samples of the rums of Santiago.
San Basilio Magno
First college in all of Cuba. It is the settlement of a rich heritage of wisdom and culture. Distinguished personalities from all over Cuba were formed in this institution.
Balcony of Velázquez
Viewpoint from which you can enjoy an impressive view of Santiago de Cuba and its bay while you get the daily sounds of the city and the singing of its minstrels. The view allows to enjoy the stepped geography of the city itself and the combination of greens and ochres of the mountains that protect it.
Model of the city
Singular for the possibility that offers to enjoy the view of the city in miniature, as a bird flight. The visitor can learn about the evolution of Santiago de Cuba from its founding to the present, discover the whimsical layout of its streets and the mix of architectural styles in its neighborhoods rebuilt to detail by specialists of the Office of the City Conservative.
Padre Pico Staircase
The irregularities of the geography of Santiago have been the ideal pretext to mobilize the ingenuity of its inhabitants, and to convert what could be seen as a disadvantage in one of the singularities of city planning in the city: the stairs. The Padre Pico Staircase is an emblematic image that defines the city. The clay brick floors bring a reddish coloration that enhances this small stretch between the streets Santa Lucia and Santa Rita. On the way up you can see on both sides simple buildings that respond to the architecture of the colonial period and the eclecticism typical of the first decades of the twentieth century.
Casa de la Trova
“Let the troubadours live that the trova is immortal.” Enclosure where you can enjoy the most authentic musical creations of this genre. Home to the old Santiago trova, visitors will be able to recognize, while listening to the music performed live by the main bardos of the patio, to the great musicians of the genre immortalized in portraits that are conserved in their walls. Here is preserved as a valuable memory the chair from which the Beatle Paul McCartney heard during his fleeting passage through this city.
Cemetery Santa Ifigenia
The historical coincidence of its emergence, along with the libertarian wars in the country, conditioned that it became a place of veneration of the great heroes of Cuba, and personalities of social life. Main place inside this necropolis occupies the mausoleum erected to the memory of Jose Martí, that also counts on a military guard of honor that is renewed every hour. To their spiritual values is added the artistic merit of funerary constructions with stylistic tendencies marked by the era of construction. It constitutes an interesting oasis of Neoclassicism, to the eclecticism, happening through the art decó, until the modernism. It was declared a National Monument in 1979.
Ron Bacardí Factory
Founded in 1838 by the illustrious Bacardi family, it is the cradle of one of the most famous and controversial rums in the world. The peculiar chemistry of the city’s waters, the unique wood of its casks and the vibration produced by the trains of the nearby railway terminal is due to the birth of a legend that can be tasted. Currently this factory makes brands like Ron Caney, Matusalen and Ron Santiago de Cuba.
Cervecería Puerto del Rey
Inaugurated during the celebrations for the 500 anniversary of the once Villa de Santiago de Cuba. In this establishment, different types of beers and malts are handcrafted, making the visitor part of the brewing process. While sipping these drinks you can enjoy the view of the newly built Paseo Marítimo de Santiago, the old Alameda Michaelsen Avenue and the docking and departure of ships and cruises in the Guillermón Moncada port.
The castle of Morro San Pedro de la Roca was erected at the entrance of the channel of access to the bay of Santiago de Cuba with the purpose of repelling the continuous actions of privateers and pirates who prowled the Caribbean. Its architecture is impressive by the coherent overlap of medieval and Renaissance codes, applied to the whimsical geography of the city, resulting in the sight as a spearhead directed to the sea. From the middle of the 70’s it functions as a Museum of Piracy. In 1997 it was declared by the UNESCO, Patrimony of the Humanity.
House of the Popular Religions + Casa del Caribe
Institution that was constituted in 1982 for the rescue and conservation of the cultural and historical heritage of the Caribbean. It is the seat of the Feast of Fire. It is a must visit place to understand the importance of Afro-Cuban religion in the national and Caribbean context.
House of Ceramics
Socio-cultural project inaugurated on July 23, 2015, as part of the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the founding of the town of Santiago de Cuba. Its main objective is the development of artistic ceramics in the city, this is an institution where the gallery and the workshop are united. The visitor can not only enjoy exhibitions of Santiago artists, but also moments of the creative process that precedes the birth of the pieces.
Its greatest historical importance was obtained from the events of July 26, 1953, when a group of 135 men, led by Fidel Castro, attempted to seize the fortress, the second largest in the country at that time, in order to seize the armament stored, raise arms in the city, and initiate the uprising throughout the country. The assault did not have the expected success but ignited the flame of rebellion and struggle. In 1960, once the liberating movement triumphed, it was converted into a school with the name School City July 26. In 1967 a museum is created in the area adjacent to the old post 3, which shows the history of the fortress.
Iglesia del Cobre
The mining town of Santiago del Prado, dating from the sixteenth century, traditionally known as El Cobre, due to the existence of abundant mines in the area, exploited since this century. It is a picturesque and unique place, in which landscape, historical and religious values are combined, as the seat of the Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, patroness of Cuba, appeared in the 17th century in the bay of Nipe, from where she went on pilgrimage until she reached the hermitage where tribute is paid today. The temple has a posterior area that allows access to a sacred site of great symbolism and religiosity where believers and devotees make their offering to the deity, symbol of Cubanism.
Fire Party in Cuba
It starts on July 3 and ends on July 9.
The city of Santiago de Cuba is filled every year with color and rhythm to celebrate the “Fiesta del Fuego”, with street dancing, night parties, workshops and lots of fun.
Each year the party is dedicated to a guest country, which is the representative with the greatest presence. The festival festival is an integration event that lasts three days and ends with the burning of the Devil in the middle of the square.
Carnivals of Santiago de Cuba
They start on July 21, 2016 and end on July 27.
The Carnivals of Santiago de Cuba, also known as “Carnaval Santiaguero“, is one of the most traditional popular festivals in Cuba. During these days the city is transforms itself and attracts great amount of public, hungry for music, dance and joy.
The feast of July in Santiago de Cuba is considered by the specialists, as the most comprehensive of all of its kind in the country, since it is not confined to a certain area, but to the city, completely. Parades of congas, walks and floats monopolize carnival of Santiago de Cuba.