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Written by Kieran Proctor

The Best Free Tours In Havana Cuba (2024)

Havana offers a blend of rich history, distinctive culture and tantalizing cuisine that captivates the hearts of thousands of tourists ...

Havana offers a blend of rich history, distinctive culture and tantalizing cuisine that captivates the hearts of thousands of tourists every year. Whether it’s the symphony of colors that grace its streets, or the aroma of tropical fruits that fills the air, Havana has a unique charm that is hard to resist.

To truly experience the essence of this fascinating city, you should consider taking a free tour guided by a local. As you meander through the streets of Havana, you’ll uncover hidden gems and iconic landmarks, while immersing yourself in the rhythm of Cuban culture.

In this comprehensive guide, I delve into the best free tours in Havana, offering expert insights and practical tips to help you plan your Cuban adventure. Now, I spend at least 3 months of the year in Cuba and when I’m there, I’m based out of Havana. So, these are the tours an tips that I wish I had access to, when I first came to Cuba!

Introduction To Havana Cuba

Havana, or La Habana as it’s locally known, is a bustling city that seamlessly blends the old with the new. Here, classic American cars chug along streets lined with Spanish colonial structures, exuding a unique charm that’s hard to resist. This has made Havana a popular holiday destination for tourists from all over the world.

Around every corner in Havana, you’ll find a new photo opportunity. From spectacular oceanfront sunsets along Havana’s famed ‘Malec贸n‘, to colorfully restored colonial streets in the old town, you’re never short of things to see, do and take pictures of. And it’s the constant surprises around every corner of the city, that keep drawing me back to Havana.

Sunset from the Malecon
Sunset along Havana’s famed seawall, called the Malec贸n.

Planning Your Trip To Havana

Before we explore the best free tours in Havana, it’s worth noting that if you’re planning your visit during peak season (November to May), it does require booking your tours well in advance.

Likewise, flights should be booked a minimum of 3 months in advance for the best prices. And you should book your mode of transfer from the Havana airport to your hotel, when you book your flights.

Havana is served by the Jose Marti International Airport. Yet, some visitors to Havana (Canadians) will typically fly into Varadero’s Juan Gualberto G贸mez Airport (VRA). In either case, upon arrival, there are several transport options including private taxis, shared taxis and collectivos (shared minivans). For convenience and to save money, it’s advisable to pre-book a private airport transfer.

Here鈥檚 a handy list of resources to help you聽plan your holiday in Havana:

  1. Packing for a trip to Cuba
  2. Don’t travel to Cuba without a VPN
  3. Essential items for traveling to Cuba
  4. Common tourist scams to avoid!
  5. Transfers from the Jos茅 Mart铆 International Airport(HAV)
  6. How to spend 48 hours in Havana (itinerary planning)
  7. Best restaurants in Havana: A foodies guide
  8. How to visit Vi帽ales from Havana (or Varadero)
  9. Transfers between Havana and Varadero
  10. How to spend 48 hours to one week in Varadero (itinerary planning)
  11. Best restaurants in Varadero: A foodies guide
  12. 10 Best Tours In Havana Cuba
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Exploring Havana: Old Havana vs. Modern Havana

Havana is a city of contrasts. On one hand, you have Old Havana (Habana Vieja), a UNESCO World Heritage Site that transports you back to the colonial era. On the other hand, you have Modern Havana, which includes districts like Vedado, Miramar and Playa, that illustrate the city’s contemporary side.

While both parts of Havana have their own unique charm, if you’re short on time, focusing on Old Havana can offer a richer cultural experience. The narrow cobblestone streets of Old Havana teem with historical landmarks, vibrant plazas, colorful buildings and bustling markets.

Old Havana's El Capitolio and Plaza de San Francisco de Asis - Havana Cuba
El Capitolio – Havana’s National Capital Building in Havana Cuba

Best Tour Booking Platforms In Havana Cuba

It鈥檚 important to note, that not all the best free tours in Havana are listed on a single platform. Therefore, you should consider checking multiple platforms to find the tour that best suits your itinerary and interests.

In Cuba, the two platforms with the best available free tours are聽Civitatis聽and聽Guru Walks. With my favorite booking application being聽Civitatis,聽for its ease of use.聽Civitatis聽and聽Guru Walks聽are available at the below addresses.

Click each to see it鈥檚 full catalogue of tours:

Exploring Havana: The Best Free Tours In Havana Cuba

Havana offers an array of tours, from brief explorations lasting an hour or two to immersive experiences and day trips. Here are the top free tours, that you should consider adding to your Cuban itinerary while planning your stay in Havana.

Cultural Havana: The Best Free Tour In Havana

Venture off the beaten path, with a free walking tour of Havana that includes a visit to Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar, Bar Floridita.

This tour will take you past El Capitolio, through Parque Central and show you the famous art deco Bacardi building. Before continuing past the Partag谩s tobacco factory, down through Parque de la Fraternidad Americana and it will finish at Plaza Vieja.

Duration:聽2.5 hours
Languages:聽English & Spanish
Highlights:This free walking tour hits all of the main sites in the old town and explains Cuba’s often turbulent relations with foreign nations. It’s a great tour to get you started in Havana and will help you get your bearings.
Price:Free 鈥 just tip whatever you think your tour guide was worth!

Casablanca Neighborhood: The Other Side Of Havana

During the free Casablanca Neighborhood Tour, you will get to take a ride across the harbor on the Lanchita de Regla, one of the most popular boats in Havana. You will cross the bay of Havana, to get to the Casablanca pier.

Once on the other side of the harbour, you’ll visit the Christ of Havana before moving past the Comandancia del Che. And you will visit both the dreaded Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Caba帽a and the Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro.

Duration:聽2.5 hours
Languages:聽English & Spanish
Highlights:You’ll learn more about Che Guevara on this tour, than on any other tour in Havana. You’ll also visit two less well known sites – The Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Caba帽a, which was used as a prison after the Revolution. And you will visit the Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro, which I believe has the best view of Havana.
Price:Free 鈥 just tip whatever you think your tour guide was worth!

Havana Cuba Morro Castle Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro Covid travel Cuba
View of Havana from the Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro

Col贸n Cemetery: The Necr贸polis Crist贸bal Col贸n

Beyond being the only place in Havana where you can find an actual pyramid (see my video below), the Necr贸polis Crist贸bal Col贸n is the second most historically significant cemetery in Latin America. It’s second only to Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires Argentina.

Taking a tour of Necr贸polis Crist贸bal Col贸n, is almost obligatory on vacation in Havana. Because, if you want to learn about the Cubans and see how they really lived, you need to observe their tombs and read their gravestones.

On a tour of the Necr贸polis Crist贸bal Col贸n you’ll see the resting places of many historically significant figures. My personal favorite being Carlos Manuel de C茅spedes, the most awarded diplomat of all time.

Duration:聽2.5 hours
Languages:聽English & Spanish
Local Tip: While you can visit Necr贸polis Crist贸bal Col贸n alone and for free by entering via the rear gate, you’ll have a hard time finding anything in this huge Necr贸polis without a guide.
Price: Free 鈥 just tip whatever you think your tour guide was worth!

Walking tour of Col贸n Cemetery in Havana Cuba that I filmed in 2023

Modern Havana: Plaza De La Revoluci贸n (Revolution Square)

Havana is more than just Habana Vieja (Old Havana). On this tour, you’ll visit Vedado and be taken to Plaza de la Revoluci贸n (Revolution Square). Where you’ll see the famous silhouettes of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, sitting across from the Jos茅 Mart铆 Memorial.

You’ll also visit the University of Havana, Avenida de los Presidentes and the iconic Hotel Nacional de Cuba, where Batista’s men fought the previous regime to assume control of Cuba. During the tour, you’ll also visit Callejon de Hamel (Hamel’s Alley), a small alleyway near the University of Havana that is filled with colorful murals and sculptures by Havana’s Afro-Cuban population.

Duration:聽3.5 hours
Languages:聽English & Spanish
Local Tip: After the tour, return to visit Callejon de Hamel. I spent months living next door to Callejon de Hamel and it’s spooky at night.
Price: Free 鈥 just tip whatever you think your tour guide was worth!

Vibrant Nightlife: Havana By Night

Havana’s nightlife can be hit or miss. Havana by night is spectacular if you know where to go out to party. On this tour, you’ll be taken to 3 local establishments in Old Havana by an experienced local.

On this free tour you’ll have opportunity to dance the night away and practice your salsa and rumba. You’ll hear Afro-Caribbean beats and try 3 different cocktails, made famous in Cuba. Don’t expect this tour to educate you on the history of Cuba, the purpose of this tour is to merely have fun.

Duration:聽3.5 hours
Languages:聽English & Spanish
Local Tip: Any tour that involves bars or restaurants can fluctuate in quality. One minute they could be taking tourists to independent establishments and the next, to businesses they get kickbacks from. Always check the most recent reviews on any tour that involves a stop at a bar or restaurant. And familiarise yourself with gringo pricing and other scams in Cuba before venturing out at night in Havana.
Price: Free 鈥 just tip whatever you think your tour guide was worth!

Colonial Havana: A Tour For The History Buffs

This tour covers some of the same sites of interest, covered by the Havana Free Tour in number one position. Yet, this tour focuses more on the history of Havana under colonial rule and it seeks to educate tourists.

The tour of Colonial Havana meanders through the oldest sections of Havana, at a slower pace. You’ll be shown plenty of sites on this tour that you should come back and explore after the walking tour ends.

If you’re a history buff, the free Colonial Tour of Havana is the tour you should take while visiting Cuba. It’s the only tour in Havana that adequately explains the more than 500 years of history on display in Havana. It’s also the only tour that incorporates a visit to聽El Templete.

Duration:聽3 hours
Languages:聽English & Spanish
Highlights: Visiting Plaza de San Francisco de As铆s and the Convento de San Francisco de As铆s.
Price: Free 鈥 just tip whatever you think your tour guide was worth!

Plaza de San Francisco de As铆s in Havana Cuba

Active Exploration: See Havana By Bike

This free bike tour of Havana is for the more adventurous and fit, visitors to Havana. During the 4 hour variant of this tour, you’ll get to experience both sides of Havana. You’ll visit Old Havana and the Casablanca neighbourhood across the harbour.

You’ll see more of Havana on the free bike tour, than on any other free tour of Havana. Yet, the going can be tough on a bike and during the summer months, the temperatures will be sweltering. This tour is fantastic, but should only be booked by those of you who are young and fit.

Duration:聽3-4 hours
Languages:聽English & Spanish
Highlights: You will get to ride through the Casablanca neighbourhood past the Christ of Havana, Comandancia del Che, Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Caba帽a and the Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro.
Local Tip: You probably won’t enjoy this tour in summer. It’s far too hot!
Price: Free 鈥 just tip whatever you think your tour guide was worth!

Preparing For Your Trip To Havana

When preparing for your trip to Havana, it’s essential to consider the season. The peak season runs from November to May. And it’s advisable to book your tours, flights and airport transfers well in advance. If you don’t, you may well miss out.

Upon arrival in Havana, there are several transport options from the airport. These include private taxis, shared taxis, Viazul buses and collectivos (shared minivans). For convenience and ease, it’s highly recommended to pre-book a private airport transfer.

When it comes to exploring Havana, consider focusing on Old Havana if you’re short on time. This area offers a richer cultural experience, with its narrow cobblestone streets teeming with historical landmarks, vibrant plazas, colorful buildings and bustling markets.

Also, remember that when visiting Cuba you will need a VPN on your device to access tour websites, maps, social media and messaging applications. Without a VPN, you won’t be able to access much on the internet from inside Cuba. Don’t travel to Cuba without a VPN.

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My Final Thoughts On The Free Tours In Havana

Choosing the right tours in Havana can enhance your experience and it will ensure that you don’t miss out on any of the city’s best experiences. The local guides hosting the tours in this guide, all speak fluent English. And they will ensure that you make the most of your visit.

Even after years of traveling in Cuba and staying in Havana for months on end, I still discover new places every now and then, thanks to my local friends. So, for a short visit, getting a little guidance is probably the smartest thing you can do.

Make sure to also set aside some time to explore some of the destinations on your own. And maybe, even get a bit lost in Havana’s old colonial streets.

Havana, with its unique blend of history, culture and cuisine, is a destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. This guide is your ticket to a personalized journey through Havana, complete with expert insights and insider tips to make your trip to Havana truly unforgettable!

Safe travels!

Kieran walking through the colorful streets of Havana, Cuba

Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?

I鈥檝e made my Cuba travel guide available on this website. And I recommend you read it, before traveling to Cuba. It will help you navigate Cuba and Cuban society.

My ultimate guide to Cuba will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Cuba. Read the most up to date guide to traveling in Cuba.