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With about a million occupants, Santiago de Cuba may be the country's second greatest city, situated in the Eastern end of the island. The biggest, Havana, might be referred to as refined inside a Colonial-type manner, with large boulevards,  old worldly yet charming squares and architecture, disseminate flat across the ocean front Santiago by comparison is really a jumbled mess of roads organized chaotically on the steep hill side, more similar to Rio de Janeirio. Santiago Cuba includes a strong Caribbean vibe into it, apparent within the people, the meals, a brief history, the night life and also the culture.
Santiago also offers a powerful musical heritage, affected by these cultures. Cuba's popular national music, Boy, came from in Santiago and it is best exemplified through the music of Buena Vista Social Club, a well known music venue in Havana. Santiago also hosts probably the most riotous and legendary Carnivals within this place in the world in This summer.
Where You are Docked
The ships moor at the tip of town in the Bahia Santiago Cuba. You will find the Cadeca along with a lady selling postcards and stamps. You have to mix the street and mind in the Calle Aguilera, the street just opposite the main harbour to get at town. Be cautioned, it is a sharp climb and Santiago Cuba is warm and full of dust.
Making Your Way Around
The easiest method to begin to see the city is as simple as feet. Santiago is scores of edgy roads, full of chaotic traffic. The good thing about this city would be to wander when needed and find out which entrance you fall under next.
You will find taxis around although not in the port. If you wish to obtain a taxi, mind as much as Parque Cespedes where you will find a stand. Make certain you receive motorists to accept a cost placed on the meter that is often damaged.
You will observe huge old belching Soviet-era buses and trucks grinding in the roads. These function as trains and buses, and there's nothing preventing you against jumping on at any of the numerous stops. Be cautioned: They're noisy and crowded -- as well as in the trucks you probably will be standing. Count on paying a peso or two.
Must Do Attractions
Parque Baconao is really a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve which has among the biggest endemic types of plants and creatures around the island (some 1,800 finally count). The park stretches lower towards the shoreline and east towards the river then it's named. It's most well-known because of its Valle La Prehistoria (Prehistoric Valley), that has greater than 100 existence-size dinosaur models and most likely will help remind you of the scene from Jurassic Park (except the dinosaurs don't move). There is also a classic vehicle museum, Museo Nacional Transporte Terrestre, however, you question the purpose when you are able get up on any street corner in almost any Cuban town and find out exactly the same cars driving past.
Parque Cespedes, between wonderful good examples of Colonial and older architecture, used to be the area for local people to sit down under shady palms, spend time and gossip watching the planet pass. They haven't been changed, even though the square continues to be a well known place, people generally don't linger due to there being no shade.
Flanking the whole south side from the square may be the Catedral p Nuestra Senora La Asuncion, a sensational illustration of neoclassical architecture, again heavily restored and, like many structures in Cuba, going through ongoing restoration. It may be visited and it is worth an optimum inside, with beautiful frescoes and designs and carvings decorating the walls. Just beneath may be the condition tourist agency, which sells books, postcards, caps and T-t shirts at inflated prices.
The east side from the square hosts the imposing Hotel Casa Granda, using its wonderful roof terrace, and beside this, Casa p la Cultura Miguel Matamoros, an old private people club for wealthy local people.
No visit to Santiago is finished without a vacation to the Museo del Ron, that is actually a shrine to any or all things rum-related around the island. Gleam welcome bar in the finish where one can sample the wares.
There's even the Bacardi Rum Factory in the other finish of town close to the stop. Regrettably, Bacardi doesn't offer tours, but there's a little bar attached where you'll have a drink and purchase the merchandise.
A few blocks north of there, near Aguilera, are yet another museum using the title most carefully associated with rum -- Bacardi. Museo Municipal Emilio Bacardi Moreau is really a stunning building devoted to Emilio Bacardi's extremely diverse assortment of items accumulated from the existence of fascinating travels. Apart from that, you find out about how he grew to become among the richest males from the age.
Hurricane Sandy didn't destroy the palms in Plaza Dolores, quite a square, which is a popular place for local people to spend time, watch people, hustle, have a quiet bet on dominoes or simply possess a drink. You will find bars throughout where one can sit outdoors. Expect some hassle, which dies lower after you have stated you are uninterested in purchasing anything or hearing "Guantanamera" played for that umpteenth time.
There's quite a park opposite the barracks devoted to Santamaria -- Parque Historico Abel Santamaria . Its focal point is a big fountain using the similarities of Santamaria and the other revolutionary, Jose Marti, quietly.
Another museum, Museo p la Lucha Clandestina, is really worth a trip. It's situated toward the foot of town a brief walk in the port. It particulars the subterranean resistant against the Batista regime. Opposite, may be the house where Fidel Castro resided for 2 years as he analyzed there.
Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city in Cuba and a historical and cultural treasure. The city is often regarded as the root of the Cuban Revolution, and the many museums here retrace key events from this important period of Cuba's history. But unlike Trinidad, which seems frozen in time, Santiago de Cuba mixes modern architecture and industrial developments with its colorful colonial gems and historic fort. This bustling metropolis is also home to one of the country's most prominent universities, giving it a young and vibrant edge.
Shaped by its rich mix of cultures and Afro-Caribbean heritage, the city is often said to be the most Caribbean city in the country. Today, travelers can experience this multi-cultural vibe in the eclectic music, diverse architecture, art galleries, and lively festivals. Day trips are also appealing from here. Not far from the city, tourists can visit a famous pilgrimage site, or hike to the top of a rocky summit for inspiring views across mist-shrouded peaks.
Castillo de San Pedro del Morro
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Castillo del Morro enjoys a reputation as one of the best-preserved Spanish fortresses of the 17th century. The huge fortress, at the entrance to the Bay of Santiago, lies about 10 kilometers southwest of Santiago de Cuba. Perched upon a cliff top, the structure took decades to build and was finally completed at the end of the 17th century. Italian engineer, Giovanni Battista Antonelli designed the original plans in 1587, although construction did not begin for almost 45 years.
Castillo de San Pedro del Morro was originally intended to protect against pirate attacks, but has also served as a prison in the late 1700s before being once again converted into a fortress. Today, this elegant fort is open to the public and contains a small naval museum with displays on piracy and the history of the area. After exploring the fortress, visitors can enjoy breathtaking views over the bay from the roof and terrace restaurant. The best time to visit the fort is about an hour before sunset, which allows time to explore the fort and snap some photos before the cannon firing ceremony at sundown.
Parque Cespedes
At the heart of the city, Parque Cespedes is an excellent starting point for sightseeing tours. Many of Santiago de Cuba's most notable buildings surround the square, including the Casa de Diego Velazquez and the Catedral de Nuestra de Senora de la Asuncion. Thanks to pirate attacks, earthquakes, and renovations, the cathedral has undergone many reconstructions. Most recently, Hurricane Sandy damaged parts of the buildings, but restorations are underway. Inside, visitors can explore the Museo Eclesiastico with a number of religious art pieces and sacred musical scores.
Although Parque Cespedes is more of a plaza than a park, it's a popular meeting spot for locals and tourists at any time of the day or evening. Music fills the air, and a lively feeling prevails. It's also a great place to relax with a coffee or a cool drink and watch the world go by.
Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia
The Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia in Santiago de Cuba is home to the remains of some of Cuba's most famous military figures, as well as people of wealth and notoriety. Some of the monuments marking the tombs are spectacular works of art. One of the most impressive features in the cemetery is the Mausoleum of Jose Marti. This huge structure towers over the surroundings and was designed to allow a stream of light to enter in during morning hours.
The Cementerio de Santa Ifigenia also contains the tombs of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, Emilio Bacardi, and Frank Pais. Famous Cubans are still being buried here, including musician Compay Segundo who was laid to rest here in 2003. Every thirty minutes, a changing of the guard ceremony takes place. Guides are highly recommended to shed light on all the history here.
Casa de Diego Velazquez (Museo de Ambiente Historico Cubano)
Presiding over Parque Cespedes the Casa de Diego Velazquez offers a fascinating glimpse of a Spanish conquistador's former residence. Built in the early 1500s, the building is thought to be the oldest residence in Cuba, and now houses the Museo de Ambiente Historico Cubano. The conquistador and governor, Diego Velazquez, lived in the upstairs portion of the house, while the lower level was used as a gold foundry; the furnace used for melting gold still stands. Seeing the building's intricately carved ceilings, thick walls, and solid construction give a sense of the wealth and power of the Spanish empire.
Beginning in 1965, the house underwent restoration work and is now the Museo de Ambiente Historico Cubano. The museum displays a large furniture collection from the 16th to 19th centuries. Each room shows a different time period, and the collections are impressive with exquisite porcelain, glass, and other household items, which complement the antique furniture. For those who don't speak Spanish, guided tours in English are recommended to get the most out of a visit here. Address: Felix Pena 602
Cuartel Moncada (Museo Historico 26 de Julio)
History buffs interested in the Revolution should make time for a visit to this historic attack site and macabre museum. On July 26th, 1953 during carnival celebrations, rebel forces led by Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, and Che Guevara attacked these concrete barracks to seize weapons. The attempt failed, but the revolutionaries gained much recognition from their efforts, and many people consider this incident to mark the beginning of the Revolution. Visitors here can see the bullet holes from the attacks and explore the museum, which describes the history of Cuba from the 1500s onward. The exhibits focus on the events of the 1950s, including the fateful attack on July 26.
Plaza de la Revolucion
Northeast of the city center, the Plaza de la Revolucion is the famous site of many important events. Here, Fidel Castro delivered speeches, the Pope celebrated mass during his visit to Cuba in 1998, and many protests have taken place. The most striking feature of this large square is the dramatic monument dedicated to the 19th century war hero, General Antonio Maceo. Saw-toothed machetes rise from the grass and surround a large sculpture of the General on horseback. A local artist, Alberto Lezcay, created this impressive work of art and it was erected in the 1990s.
Also located here is the small underground Museo Holografia with holograms depicting images from the Revolution and General Maceo.
Museo Provincial Bacardi Moreau
In an elegant 1929 neoclassical building, the Museo Provincial Bacardi Moreau is among the oldest museums in Cuba with an impressive diversity of art and collectibles from around the world. The collection spans prehistory, the Spanish Conquest, the wars of independence, and the Revolution. Emilio Bacardi Moreau, a Cuban politician and writer, obtained most of the items and even traveled to Egypt in 1912 to purchase a mummy.
Among the things to see are artifacts from the Amerindians, the conquistadors, and the slave trade as well as personal items of national heroes such as Carlos Manuel Cespedes and Jose Marti. Perhaps the most impressive portion of the museum is the art exhibit featuring national and international artists, while the archeological section features Egyptian and Peruvian mummies and shrunken heads from the Amazon. Address: Calle Pío Rosado at Aguilera
Vista Alegre
The Vista Alegre section of Santiago de Cuba is the former upscale residential area of the town. Much of the architecture in this area dates from the 1920s and 1930s with several neoclassical mansions. Sightseers can stroll along the wide tree-lined streets here and imagine how life must have been for the wealthy Cubans who once lived in these grand homes. Many of them have been converted into offices, restaurants, and schools.
Besides the architecture, other tourist attractions in Vista Alegre include the Centro Cultural Africano Fernando Ortiz displaying African artifacts and handicrafts, the Museo de Imagen with interesting displays on the history of photography in Cuba, and the Casa del Caribe, a cultural research center that hosts concert nights and stages festivals.
Museum of the Clandestine Struggle
Housed in the old police headquarters, the yellow Museo de la Lucha Clandestina (Museum of the Clandestine Struggle) presents another intriguing chapter of the Revolution. The museum depicts the history of the movement led by Frank Pais, against the Batista regime and offers insight into the history of this time period as it relates to Santiago de Cuba and the role of the local residents in the revolution. Pais along with other revolutionaries set fire to this building in 1956. Today, it is beautifully restored and features a splendid courtyard, as well as fine views over Santiago de Cuba from the balcony.
Address: Gran Jesus Rabi 110 Birthplace of Jose Maria Heredia
Casa Natal de Jose Maria Heredia is the birthplace of the romantic poet, Jose Maria Heredia. Born in 1803, he is Cuba's most famous poet, although he died in Mexico while in exile. He wrote largely of the Americas on themes related to nature. The Casa Natal de Jose Maria Heredia is now a museum paying tribute to his life and accomplishments. On display in this splendid house are furnishings, including Heredia's bedroom with mahogany bed, as well as some of his personal items. The building also functions as a cultural center and occasionally features poetry readings.
Gran Piedra (Jardin Botanico)
About 25 kilometers southeast from the city, Gran Piedra (Grand Stone) is a large volcanic rock perched atop a mountain, which affords spectacular views over misty peaks and coastal plains. The drive to Gran Piedra, though a little hair raising, is worth the effort. A 12-kilometer road winds up to the Jardin Botanico from the main coastal road in Parque Baconao, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of lushly-cloaked mountains and golden beaches. Here, visitors can admire a variety of orchids and other tropical plants. At the end of the Jardin Botanico is a seemingly never ending set of stairs that leads up to the 1,234-meter-high peak of Gran Piedra and breathtaking views. The area is sometimes hazy in the afternoon, so it's best to plan an ascent during the morning hours.
The road leading southeast out of Santiago is lined with 26 monuments to revolutionary heroes who died in the attack on the Moncada barracks. About 10km (6 miles) east is the Valle de la Prehistoria, Carretera Baconao Km 6.5 (tel. 22/63-9239), Cuba's very own Jurassic Park -- a lifeless and cheesy attraction. Lodged on farmlands are 250 massive life-size statues of dinosaurs and a giant, club-wielding Stone Age man. The park is open daily from 8am to 5pm; admission is CUC$1. Nearby, in a nod to more recent history, the Museo Nacional del Transporte (Automobile Museum), Carretera Baconao Km 8.5 (tel. 22/63-9197), has a decent number of old cars, some more valuable and in better shape than others. One vehicle, a 1951 Chevrolet, was driven by Fidel's brother Raúl to the Moncada attack (he got lost); a Cadillac on view belonged to the legendary singer Beny Moré. The museum's collection of vintage American cars has been built by the novel practice of offering Cubans new Russian-built Ladas for their old Cadillacs and Chevys. Next door is a collection of several thousand model and Matchbox cars. The museum is open daily from 8am to 5pm; admission is CUC$1; an extra CUC$1 is charged to take photos.
On the coast, at Km 27.5, is the Acuario Baconao (tel. 22/35-6264), a rather sad little aquarium that runs daily dolphin and sea lion shows. Admission is CUC$7. You can also swim with the dolphins for around 15 minutes for CUC$40.
Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre
The old mining town of Cobre, about 18 kilometers northwest from Santiago de Cuba, is home to the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre, one of Cuba's most famous churches. Standing out against a lush backdrop, the church and its red-domed towers is a beautiful sight.
The basilica is actually best known for a statue it contains. Adorned with precious jewels, the statue of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobra (Our Lady of Charity), Cuba's patron saint, is a black Madonna wearing a lavish yellow dress. She carries a diamond and amethyst cross and is crowned with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. Each year on September 8, the Virgen is extracted from her air-conditioned glass enclosure inside the Basilica for an annual public procession. She was blessed by Pope John Paul II in 1998.
This magnificent church is a pilgrimage site and attracts people from all over Cuba who come seeking the Virgin's purported healing powers.
Local Experiences
Granjita Siboney is yet another place enshrined in revolutionary history. A home is well maintained and it has numerous items relevant towards the attack, including photos as well as other weapons.
La Gran Piedra (admission 1 CUC) lies about forty-five minutes from Santiago and it is named following the huge stone that stands atop the hill. It's lush and eco-friendly, an old coffee plantation that's a part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. You are able to climb towards the summit with relative ease, and you will find breathtaking sights within the mountain tops and also the ocean. Cafetal la Isabelica, lies about two kilometers away and it is the site of Cuba's first coffee plantation, dating in the 1800s.
Tour operators can arrange day trips to some of the southern coastal resorts. As Siboney, the nearest beach, is not the most attractive, the best of these would be to the Brisas Sierra del Mar. A full-day trip at an all-inclusive resort, with transfers and food, costs CUC$23.
Playa Siboney is effectively the town beach, situated only a couple of miles in the center. The feel there's laidback and friendly, and families arrive on weekends. The shore is not spectacular -- Hurricane Sandy saw to that particular -- but it's an enjoyable spot to escape to have an mid-day. You will find greater than 70 diving sites across the coast, mainly dedicated to one place. Most of the beaches were badly broken by Hurricane Sandy, however a couple of gems remain, including Playa Baconao, that is on a corner of the river of the identical title. It lies about 31 miles from Santiago.
Just like the entire relaxation of the nation, Santiago p Cuba has tips greatly in the relaxation from the laws and regulations restricting the possession and size independently run restaurants, referred to as paladars. While less than in the leading edge of cuisine, you will find several worth searching for in the city center and slightly outdoors.
Compay Gallo leads the charge if this involves reinventing Cuban cuisine, with interesting twists on traditional dishes for example grain and fried beans, offered and presented inside a stylish way. Possibly the oddest dish may be the shrimp cocktail, with a live seafood swimming around inside a bowl underneath the dish. The setting is lovely, on two flooring having a waterfall. It is simply a couple of blocks from Parque Cespedes.
Rumba Coffee shop is a great central place to seize a sandwich or perhaps a snack in a reasonable cost. Each drink features a little tapa. Services are excellent, and there is a shady patio behind.
Shoreline Activities
The "Santiago Special" is the easiest method to sample the town, having a walking tour through town -- including appointments with La Casa del Habano, Revolution Square and lunch in the former Bacardi rum factory. You will also visit nearby El Morro Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site dating towards the 16th century, and also the Santa Ifigenia Graveyard, where there's a ceremony for revolutionary hero Jose Marti.
For those who have visited Santiago before or don't fancy the hubbub from the city, go ahead and take full-day tour to Gran Piedra Park and Baconao. The trip includes a vacation to the Ave del Paraiso Botanic Garden, featuring greater than 200 kinds of ferns and orchid flowers. The tour continues onto the Parque Baconao, with appointments with the Valle p la Prehistoria and also the vehicle museum.
Go during the day at Club Amigo Carisol Los Corales, an exciting-inclusive destination about 25 miles from Santiago. The place is on the lovely portion of beach while offering lots of water sport activities, in addition to a refreshing pool and a massive tennis court.
Where to Eat
Santiago has a unique take on Cuban and Caribbean cuisine, but it isn't an especially great place for dining; there are few really good restaurants, and even fewer paladares (private home restaurants). A couple of the better restaurants are outside of downtown, and it's best if you plan ahead to combine them with sightseeing. The couple of officially sanctioned paladares and the state-run restaurants (many of which are concentrated around Plaza Dolores) are nothing to look forward to. Understandably, many visitors tend to eat at their hotel restaurants -- as good an option as any. The Meliá Santiago de Cuba and Hotel Casa Granda have elegant restaurants that are worth a splurge even for nonguests (though you may want to skip the Italian restaurant La Fontana in the Meliá). Although you can only get sandwiches and simple dishes there, one of my favorite lunch spots is the open-air terrace bar at the Hotel Casa Granda. On a hot afternoon, this is the coolest place in town -- in both senses of the word -- but you should be prepared for laughably slow service. You can also get a decent pizza for CUC$4 on the 5th floor terrace of the Casa Granda. This has affordable drinks and one of the best views in Cuba: the cathedral, bay of Santiago, and the mountains beyond. Around the corner on Aguilera is the new pan.com. Its ham and cheese paninis are tastier and cheaper than those of the Casa Granda's, but there's no view.
Café Ajedrez, Calle Enramada at Felix Peña (no phone), is located in a tiered 1966 art-deco building by architect Walter A. Betancourt. The café features stylized metal tresses, art-deco lamps, and stone tables with chess boards (ajedrez). It's open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-3pm. Another great spot, if it's not overrun with jineteros, is the atmospheric Café La Isabelica on Plaza Dolores, corner of Calle Aguilera and Calvario. The two signature coffees are rocio con gallo (coffee with rum) and the Café Isabelica (coffee, rum, and honey). The cafe is reminiscent of an old inn with darkened furniture, leather-and-hide-covered chairs, and gossiping old men. It is open 24 hours daily. Santiago's Coppelia (the national ice cream chain) is known as La Arboleda and is on the corner of Av. Garzón y Av. de los Libertadores. Get your bargain ice cream bolas here in moneda nacional. There is no entrance fee. Splurge on the seven multi-flavored scoops of the Gran Piedra dish. It is open from 10am to 10pm daily.
Opportunities for shopping in Santiago, despite the city's cultural traditions, aren't that much better than in many smaller cities in Cuba. Your best bets, as elsewhere in Cuba, are handicrafts, music and musical instruments, and the always-dependable rum and cigars.
Art, Books & Handicrafts
Sellers and craftspeople line both sides of Calle Heredia from Parque Céspedes on up to Calle Porfirio Valiente. The informal daily market features a range of handicrafts and souvenirs, including sculptures of shapely (as well as rail-thin) women carved from ebony and other precious woods, paintings, masks, papier-mâché dolls, musical instruments, and jewelry. Señor Aldo sells books, postcards, records, and magazines inspired by the Revolution. A number of state-owned crafts and souvenir shops with similar merchandise, but inflexible pricing, occupy the storefronts at the base of the cathedral on Parque Céspedes. New crafts and souvenir shops line the road leading to the El Morro fortress (across from the El Morro restaurant).
Locally produced abstract and figurative art is available at a handful of galleries, including the Galería de Arte Oriente on Calle General Lacret 653, between Aguilera and Heredia.
Cigars & Rum
The Barra de Ron Caney, at the rum factory that used to be the original Bacardí plant before the Revolution (when the owners fled to the Bahamas and the U.S.), is a gift shop selling an array of types and vintages of Cuban-produced rum, as well as cigars, nice silver jewelry, and other souvenirs. You can taste before you buy. The factory and shop are on Av. Jesús Menéndez 703 between San Antonio and San Ricardo (tel. 22/62-5576), across from the train station. The shop is open daily from 9am to 5:30pm. Alternately, you can check out the Museo de Ron (tel. 22/62-8818), at San Basilio 358, which offers a brief illustrated guide to the history and process of rum production, with a pleasant bar next-door. (The museum was undergoing major renovation in 2010, and at press time, there was no slated reopening date.) When it does reopen, it will be worth visiting for the chandeliers -- -with delicately carved bronze flowers and cascading crystals.
Cigars can be purchased at hotel shops or Casa del Habano, next-door to the Caney rum factory (tel. 22/62-2366), which even has a smokers' lounge and bar. Note: I'd be especially wary of the quality of cigars you are offered by jineteros on the street.
Santiago is the capital of son and other indigenous forms of Cuban music, and there are a few good spots to pick up CDs and tapes of Santiaguero musicians (though overall, Havana has a much better selection of music stores). The EGREM music label has shops at the Antonio Maceo airport. The Casa de la Trova has an ARTex store, and there's a small record shop attached to the Casa de la Música, Corona (Mariano) 564, between Aguilera and José Antonio Saco. Of the artists you may have an opportunity to see perform live, most sell CDs at their performances.
Search the roads running behind the central square Parque Cespedes, where you will find shops filled with souvenirs, with wooden designs and carvings typically the most popular in the region, in addition to castanets, cigar boxes and other beautiful art crafts. You are able to negotiate a good deal if you're ready to haggle or buy several items.

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