As the inner city of Havana, what we now know as Habana Vieja, grew in population and the walls that surrounded the city were demolished in 1863, the wealthiest families began moving to the western side of Havana City. Life within the walled city had become too cramped and too crowded and the growing population demanded expansion. The growth of Havana that created Centro Habana during the 19th century quickly became the retail heart of the city, with hundreds of fashionable shops and businesses promoted by a spectacular display of neon signs sticking out of the storefronts, hanging over the bustling, busy streets. There is a mysterious aura to Centro Habana, battered by the sea and left to decay, but there remains a ghostly essence of its former brilliance. There is a compelling charm to the locals and the deeply rooted afro-cuban culture of the district. And some of the city’s top paladares (privately owned restaurants) are located in Centro Habana including the San Cristobal where President Barack Obama recently dined. Undoubtedly, the impending restoration frenzy of Havana will turn its eye on Centro Habana and bring this once commercially booming area to the 21st century.