A walk down the vibrant esplanade of El Malecon at sundown guarantees a wonderful evening among laid-back locals. As seen on nostalgic Hollywood movies, music blares from a restored car straight out of the 1950s.
Everyone in the city converges on the walkway, charging the air with Friday night vibes. It isn’t called the “world’s longest sofa” for nothing.
Sweethearts hold hands in one corner, while fishers try their luck one more time. Children take an afternoon dip. It’s not uncommon for a group of friends to hang around with a bottle of rum, dance to musicians who play guitar for hours. Cuba’s open-air theater evokes a feeling of deja-vu.
Don Francisco de Albear, Cuba’s most prominent engineer in the late 19th century, intended to build a sophisticated seawall project. Many public establishments were torn down for decades of construction.
The charming 7-km seaside avenue, which has become the city’s central hub, somehow paints a vivid picture of Cuban character. The startling juxtaposition of stately mansions and neoclassical slash neo-Moorish buildings makes more sense, even to those with spotty knowledge of the locale’s history.
Old Havana’s landmarks may be reached on foot from the avenue, such as the Grand Theatre, the St. Francis Basilica, and the Old Square. Remarkably, 14 blocks of El Malecon have been afforded special protection by the City Historian’s Office. The area facing Centro Habana is said to be the most scenic.
Ernest Hemingway was an avid admirer of the El Malecon and you’ll find many bars with his photo on the wall. Some even have statues of the great writer while others like El Floridita boast being the birthplace of the daquiri.
The nightlife on El Malecon starts with huge crowds gathering for the sunset, and prior to visiting the many bars, bistros and clubs in the area.