Discovering Cuba’s colonial architecture: historic buildings and emblematic squares

cuba colonial architecture

Cuba is a living history museum. Go for a walk in Havana and pay attention to the buildings that surround you. The constructions that dot the landscape of Cuba are a testament to the island’s complex past, which includes influences from the Spanish, African, and indigenous cultures.

One of the most common styles in the island is Cuba’s colonial architecture, which Spaniards brought between the 16th and 18th centuries. By understanding some of the secrets of Cuba’s architecture, you will enhance your trip and truly enjoy an authentic experience. Does that sound right up your street? Then, keep reading. Espíritu Travel has put together a comprehensive blog with everything you should know about Cuba’s colonial architecture before your trip. 

A few interesting facts on colonial architecture in Cuba 

Colonial architecture in Cuba has its roots in the Baroque style, which is characterized by elaborate decoration and intricate patterns carved into stone or plaster. As mentioned before, this style was imposed by the Spanish colonizers in the 16th century. However, over time the techniques evolved to incorporate local elements, such as African and Caribbean influences, creating what we understand now as Cuban colonial architecture. 

An interesting fact about Cuba’s architecture is that many colonial buildings were constructed using local materials such as limestone and coral. The use of these materials not only gave buildings a unique aesthetic but also helped them withstand the island’s hot and humid climate. For that reason, this style was widely used and served a variety of purposes during that time. Including governmental, religious, commercial, and residential. Some of the most impressive buildings were those used by the colonial government, such as the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales.

Top colonial buildings you shouldn’t miss

Even though you can find thousands of colonial buildings in Cuba, one of the most iconic examples of Cuban colonial architecture is the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca in Santiago de Cuba. Built in the 17th century, this fortress is perfect to admire the Spanish Baroque style through its imposing walls and intricate detailing. Another impressive example is the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales in Havana, which was constructed in the 18th century and served as the seat of the colonial government. Its ornate balconies and intricate wrought-iron detailing make it one of the most striking buildings in Havana.

colonial architecture in cuba

The Cathedral of Havana is also another great piece of colonial architecture in Cuba. This impressive building dates back to the 18th century and is definitely one of the main features of Havana’s skyline. Besides that, the square just in front of it, Plaza de la Catedral, also shares a colonial style and is one of the most stunning plazas in Havana. So make sure you don’t miss it! To continue admiring Cuba’s colonial architecture outdoors, you can always keep visiting the squares in Old Havana. Plaza Vieja, Plaza de Armas or Plaza del Cristo are great places to explore the city’s history and culture. 

Not far away from Old Havana, you can also find Castillo de la Real Fuerza or Castle of the Royal Force. This fortress was built in the 16th century under the colonial architecture of Cuba to protect Havana’s harbor from pirates and other threats. The style of this construction reflects the Spanish military tradition of the time, with thick walls and a moat surrounding the structure. The castle’s interior is also well-preserved and includes exhibits on Cuba’s maritime history.

Finally, we had to include a must-see example of colonial architecture in Cuba: Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco de Asis. Both buildings date back to the 16th century and feature a mix of Baroque and neoclassical styles. As a bonus, visitors can also explore the adjacent museum, which houses a collection of colonial-era artifacts and artwork.

Now that you know a bit more about Cuba’s architecture, it is time to start planning your bespoke itinerary to discover the island. If you still need some inspiration to design your schedule, check out our trip ideas. You can also contact our team of travel experts to start creating your dream trip.

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