From the cultural point of view, Old Havana is a privileged site within the capital. This territory, small considering its extension, gathers numerous worth-considering elements when we speak about culture. In Old Havana, culture can be even felt in the air we inhale. Walking along its streets is already getting in touch with the culture and the history of this city and its inhabitants. Studying the architecture of Old Havana is moving along almost 4 centuries of styles, tendencies, and influences in construction, first with the ideas brought mainly from Cadiz and Segovia, in Spain, and then with a more national touch. It is not casual that Old Havana is one of the most attractive urban areas in the Americas .
Another worth-mentioning element is the presence in Old Havana of numberless institutions devoted to culture. A more than evident example is the concentration of all kind of museums among which there are some that stand out such as the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, with two separate buildings devoted to Cuban and universal art respectively; the Museo de Historia Natural; the Museo de la Ciudad; and the Museo del Ron. All these and the rest of the museums are a must if you wish to enhance your knowledge about culture and history of Havana and Cuba , past and present.
Arts also find a privileged place in the historical zone of Old Havana. In that zone, there are plenty of art galleries with transitory exhibits of the Cuban contemporary art. Many artists have chosen this place to establish their studios-galleries, spaces where they can create and show their work. Among these artists we can mention Zayda del Río, Roberto Favelo, Pedro Pablo Oliva, and Nelson Domínguez just to provide a small list among the many exponents of Cuban arts.
Music, be it contemporary, classic or ancient, finds also a site in different spaces of this Old Havana of ours. The Cathedral Square and the amphitheater have become splendid open spaces to celebrate concerts and other artistic manifestations; the minor basilica of the convent of Saint Francis of Assisi has been for several years the preferred concert hall of the Camerata “Romeu”, feminine chamber music group of high prestige. In the same way, the church of Paula usually hosts the concerts of the ancient music ensemble “Ars Longa”, a group treasuring a meritorious work in the rescue of authentic jewels of sacral musical art in Cuba .
Thanks to the past existence of the wall, a tradition has made its way to our days and has won a reputation as a symbol of the city. The wall of Havana had as much as eight gateways that had to be closed at dusk to protect the city. This way, every evening at 8, the closing of the gates would be announced by firing a cannon. The cannon shot ceremony, which was initially made from the flagship of the Spanish armada, was retaken several decades ago and takes place every night at 9 pm sharp. It constitutes a cultural tradition that has turn to be a tourist attraction of the city and of the fortress of La Cabaña.
Another worth-mentioning fact is the foundation in 1728 of the Real y Pontificia Universidad de San Jerónimo de La Habana, or simply University of Havana , and the existence of numerous convents, churches and religious colleges that have come to our days. Among these, some are worth-mentioning such as the Cathedral of Havana, the church and convent of Saint Francis de Assisi, the church of Paula , the convent of Santa Clara , and the Seminary San Carlos y San Ignacio just to mention some examples.
From the 1960’s and with renewed strength in the last decades, a process of refurbishment, reconstruction, and conservation of the historical part of the city has been giving back to Old Havana much of its past splendor. In fact, the colonial core of the city, Old Havana, was designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Site in 1982.