Calle Obispo & around

This important street, linking Plaza de Armas to today’s Parque Central, dates back to 1519, only four years after the founding of Havana, when the first rudimentary city grid was laid out. Throughout its existence, it has had several names, but in 1936 it was formally identified by its original name, meaning Bishop Street, supposedly because it was popular with ecclesiasticals. The narrow street, framed by tall buildings providing canyon-like shade, took on new import when the city wall was constructed, with the principal gate at the west end of Obispo.

Merchants stores, drugstores, cafés, bakeries, hotels and, in time, grand public buildings were built the full length of the street. Still by far the busiest and most important conduit in Habana Vieja, as it was back then, Calle Obispo is a constant hive of pedestrian activity. A walk down Obispo is de rigueur while exploring Habana Vieja—courtesy of a throng of tourists and locals alike (including plenty of hustlers). It’s lined with galleries and shops offering handicrafts, art and books, plus bars, restaurants and holes-in-the-wall selling cheap pizzas and ice-cream. Important not-to-miss sites include Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Ernest Hemingway frequently stayed (he penned For Whom the Bell Tolls Here); the Museo Farmacia Taquechel pharmacy; El Floridita bar (Hemingway’s favorite hang-out); and the block between Calles Oficios and Mercaderes containing the oldest buildings still extant in Havana.

Don’t miss it!