Santa ClaraCopyright: Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Santa ClaraSanta Clara will forever be remembered as the site of the last battle of the Cuban Revolution, where Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara led a group of rebels in a mission to derail an armoured train, resulting in the definitive defeat of the Batista regime. And though bullet holes still bear witness to the hardships of the revolution, today, Santa Clara is a youthful and ferociously creative city, whose large student population contributes to the vibrant nightlife and artistic scenes, and a forward-thinking mentality, making it a unique place in Cuba.
The CityLike most Cuban cities, life in Santa Clara revolves around the central square, Parque Leoncio Vidal. It is a pleasant space, surrounded by some of the city’s most beautiful and best preserved buildings, including theaters, municipal buildings and restaurants. Most cafes and bars can be found around this area, including La Marquesina, a lovely outdoor café right next to the stunning Teatro La Caridad, and El Mejunje, an arts, culture and nightlife center and one of the most interesting spots on town. Just north of the square is a short pedestrianized stretch of Calle Independencia (nicknamed ‘Boulevard’), the main shopping street in Santa Clara. Head directly east or west from Leoncio Vidal to find the city’s two main attractions: just a few blocks to the east lies Parque del Tren Blindado, the site of a historic and vital battle, the last of the revolution, and to the west you can find the Mausoleum, Monument and Museum, all dedicated to the city’s hero, Che Guevara. Santa Clara’s central location in the country also makes it a perfect base for exploring nearby cities, such as breezy coastal Cienfuegos and the elegant colonial city of Trinidad. Havana and Varadero are also within easy reach.
Do & See
Life in Santa Clara is geographically centered around Parque Vidal, a pleasant park and square surrounded by museums, theaters and concert halls, all housed in some of the city's most beautiful buildings. Thematically, though, it revolves around Che Guevara and his role in the revolution and the battles fought here. Be sure to visit his mausoleum and the museum dedicated to his memory and struggles.
Cuban food, like Caribbean food more generally, depends highly on rice, black beans and fried plantain, usually accompanied by a bit of meat or chicken to complete a hearty and wholesome meal. Santa Clara has an abundance of typical restaurants, as well as international restaurants serving the best of world cuisine.
Cuban coffee is famously strong and delicious, and Santa Clara is awash in great cafes and restaurants where visitors can give it a try. You can also find some modern cafes that prepare lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos like you might get at home. Be sure to try some local desserts and baked goods, as well as Coppelia (the national ice cream). Visit the cares around Leoncio Vidal for the best views and atmosphere. Here are some of the best cafes in Santa Clara, Cuba:
Bars & Nightlife
Like in the rest of Cuba, Santa Clara's nightlife centres around music and dancing. Crowds gather around fabulous live bands at bars, restaurants, and cafes in breezy outdoor terraces and inner courtyards, each one claiming to have the best mojito or daiquiri, and each one also claiming to have been Ernest Hemingway's favourite haunt. That part may not necessarily be true, but that won't get in the way of a good night out.
Most visitors to Cuba look for two things when shopping: rum and cigars. And while you can find them in droves (and always of the highest quality), there is more to be found. Cuban handicrafts and artworks are top-notch, and you can also find pretty unique tomes at some of the city's bookstores. The main shopping artery is a pedestrianized stretch of Calle Independencia, nicknamed the 'Boulevard'.