Old Havana is located in the center of the city of Havana . Geographically speaking, Old Havana is a municipality within the city and gets its name because it encloses in its territory the portion of the city that is considered its colonial core, the territory limited, with some exceptions, by the wall surrounding the city, mainly during the 16th and 17th centuries, and the urban expansion taking place during the 19th century.
The intramural portion of Old Havana has an enviable location in the northwestern zone of the ancient port of Carenas , today's Havana 's Harbor. Its territory limits to the northeast with the entrance channel of the bay, to the southeast and south with the zone of the docks of the port and the Cove of Atarés, and to the west and northwest with a strip of the municipality that is not part of the historical center as such and with the neighboring municipality of Central Havana. Old Havana has a territorial expansion of about half a square mile.
The decision of locating the city of San Cristóbal de La Habana in that zone was precisely influenced by the outstanding characteristics of the bay, one of the best in Cuba and the West Indies and considered among the safest in the whole world. The bay has the form of a bag, formed by three major lobules and four coves as well as having a narrow entrance channel pretty much protected by the elevations of the coasts. These are generally high with some low zones. In the latter are located the most part of the facilities, docks, and piers of the Havana 's Harbor, the most important of the country and witness to more than 50% of the nation's imports and exports.
The main source of income of the zone is undoubtedly tourism. Old Havana is one of the most visited tourist centers in Cuba and one of the most profitable in Cuban economy. Also associated with this municipality, other activities such as port and shipyard ones as well as others linked to commerce and trade. An example of this is the presence in this area of the Lonja del Comercio, sophisticated office building which is the seat of important national and foreign firms as well as embassies like that of Brazil.
The urbanistic outline is complex and reticular, with short and narrow streets and some boulevards and avenues among which some of the most representative are: the Avenida del Puerto, bordering all the coast and the dock zone; the Paseo del Prado, splendid avenue with a wide central walkway under the shade of big leafy trees and which constitutes a distinctive element of Old Havana; and the Alameda de Paula, the most ancient promenade and meeting place for the high aristocracy of Havana.
The grasp a precise idea about Old Havana and admire it as if you were watching it from the air, the Office of the Historian of the City has put at your disposal the Model of Old Havana, located at 116 Mercaderes Street. Featuring a representation at a 1:500 scale, this little wonder covers an area of 0.8 sq. mi. and has modeled about 3500 buildings.