Sights Along Havana’s Calle Oficios

Facing the cathedral, cobbled Calle Oficios is lined with 17th-century colonial buildings that possess a marked Mudejar style, exemplified by their wooden balconies. Many of the buildings have been converted into art galleries, including Galería de Carmen Montilla Tinoco (Oficios #162, tel. 07/866-8768, Mon.-Sat. 9am-5pm, free); only the front of the house remains, but the architects have made creative use of the empty shell. Next door, Estudio Galería Los Oficios (Oficios #166, tel. 07/863-0497, Mon.-Sat. 9:30am-5pm, Sun. 9am-1pm, free) displays works by renowned artist Nelson Domínguez.

Facing the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco de Asís, cobbled Calle Oficios is lined with 17th-century colonial buildings.
Facing the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco de Asís, cobbled Calle Oficios is lined with 17th-century colonial buildings. Photo © Byron Howes, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

Midway down the block, cobbled Calle Brasil extends west about 80 meters to Plaza Vieja. Portions of the original colonial-era aqueduct (the Zanja Real) are exposed. Detour to visit the Aqvarium (Brasil #9, tel. 07/863-9493, Tues.-Sat. 9am-5pm, Sun. 9am-1pm, CUC1, children free), displaying tropical fish. Next door, La Casa Cubana del Perfume (Brasil #13, tel. 07/866-3759, Mon.-Sat. 10am-7pm, Sun. 10am-1pm) displays colonial-era distilleries, has aromatherapy demos, and sells handmade perfumes made on-site.

Back on Oficios, the former Casa de Don Lorenzo Montalvo today houses a convent and the Hostal Convento de Santa Brígida. Opposite the hotel, the Sala Teatro de la Orden Tres hosts performances by La Colmenita, a children’s theater troupe. To its side, the Coche Presidencial Mambí railway carriage (Mon.-Fri. 8:30am-4:45pm, CUC1) stands on rails at Oficios and Churruca. It served as the official presidential carriage of five presidents, beginning in 1902 with Tomás Estrada Palma. Its polished hardwood interior gleams with brass fittings.

Immediately east is the Museo Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace Museum, Oficios #211, esq. Muralla, tel. 07/863-4358, Tues.-Sat. 9:30am-5pm, Sun. 9:30am-1pm). This 19th-century neoclassical building housed the Cámara de Representantes (Chamber of Representatives) during the early republic. Later it served as the Ministerio de Educación (1929-1960) and, following the Revolution, housed the Poder Popular Municipal (Havana’s local government office). Today it has uniforms, documents, and other items relating to its past use, and the office of the President of the Senate is maintained with period furniture. The interior lobby is striking for its magnificent stained-glass skylight.

The Tienda Museo el Reloj (Watch Museum, Oficios, esq. Muralla, tel. 07/864-9515, Mon.-Sat. 10am-7pm, Sun. 10am-1pm) doubles as a watch and clock museum, a deluxe store selling watches and pens made by Cuervo y Sobrinos (a Swiss-Italian company that began life in Cuba in 1882), and a classy café.

On the southeast side of Oficios and Muralla is Casa Alejandro Von Humboldt (Oficios #254, tel. 07/863-1144, Tues.-Sat. 9am-5pm, Sun. 9am-noon, CUC1), a museum dedicated to the German explorer (1769-1854) who lived here while investigating Cuba in 1800-1801.

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