Havana is a living museum of nearly four centuries of Spanish domination. Founded in 1514 by Panfilio de Narvaez on the orders of Diego Velazquez, Havana has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This international recognition says a lot about this historic city, which was the jewel of the Spanish colonies. A seaport and commercial centre, Havana was also an important market for African slaves who were sold off to Central American merchants. The city’s growing wealth attracted pirates, who attacked the capital on numerous occasions. The most famous assaults were launched by the French pirate, Jacques de Sores, in 1555 and English navigator, Francis Drake, in 1589, although the latter was unsuccessful.

The Cuban capital has since been the centre of various historic developments in the country, from the wars of independence during the last century to the Cuban revolution in 1959. Havana’s historic and cultural legacy is unique.

From 1898 to 1902, Havana was ruled with a firm hand by the United States following the signing of the Treaty of Paris by the United States and Spain. The Republic was indirectly controlled from Washington, and the American influence transformed the capital, profoundly changing not only its residents’ way of life, but also its architecture. In the 1940s and 1950s, at the height of America’s presence, the Cuban capital rocked with casinos, cabarets and nightclubs. In those years it was known as the pearl or the Monte Carlo of the Caribbean. Rum flowed like water, and American gangsters and Mafioso flocked there to gamble.

Of course, Havana is no longer what it was; Fidel Castro’s ascension to power in 1959 and the establishment of a socialist system has altered the habits of local residents considerably.

Havana is no ordinary tropical city, but rather one of those places that make you feel as if you’re looking at a three-dimensional postcard. It has depth and character (don’t expect to learn all its ins and outs overnight), emanates mystery from every nook and cranny and is a past master in the art of seduction. You can easily spend anywhere from 2 to 10 days in Havana and still feel that you haven’t uncovered all of its mysteries.