Places - Cuba's Western Region
Prado, Capitolio, Parque Central
El Prado is one of the most exquisitely designed and splendid major avenues in all of the Americas and home to the quintessential structures that define Havana, ranging from Colonial to Baroque to Neoclassical to Art Deco. Designed in 1772 by French landscape architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, El Prado runs for many blocks from the dramatic fountain, La Fuente de la India, to the iconic Malecon, marking the boundary between Habana Vieja and Centro Habana. El Paseo, a marble promenade lined with a natural canopy of trees, marble benches and bronze lions was recently chosen by the House of Chanel for one of the most dramatic runway shows in the history of fashion. The avenue, home to the elite families of the 17th Century, continued to evolve throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries as the definitive city center of Havana as major buildings were erected on either side. It is home to El Capitolio (1929), the Capitol building that is almost a replica of the US Capitol in Washington, DC but one foot bigger in every direction and much more opulent in its decorative elements; El Gran Teatro de La Habana (1918), home to the National Ballet of Cuba and a highly stylized structure built by Galicians, heavily decorated with stone and marble statues; The Bacardi Building (1930), a testament to Art Deco and dozens of other structures immortalized in photography and film for decades. Havana’s Central Park, El Parque Central, is a wooded space at the heart of El Prado on the edge of Old Havana and home to first statue of Jose Marti in Cuba. Among the centuries old trees there are trails to small interior spaces, with fountains and sculptures, lined with stone benches and flowerbeds. The gardens stand out for the 28 magnificent royal palms. Some of Havana most recognizable buildings surround the park including the hotel of the same name, Hotel Parque Central, a remarkable restoration of a colonial and a modern structure (2009), connected by a tunnel and each boasting glorious rooftop terraces from with breathtaking panoramic views of Havana. El Prado encompasses all of the mystery and magic, all of the historic and cultural wealth that Havana has offered from the 17th to the 21st century.