The Havana museums definitely have some interesting choices among them, and the Museo de la Revolucion is one of the more intriguing. Found at Calle Refugio 1, it is just one of the featured attractions in the Old Havana district, if not just for the building in which it is housed. Previously the Presidential Palace, the Museo de la Revolucion (Museum of the Revolution) took on its new role after Fidel Castro managed to oust then President, Fulgencio Batista. This is part of what makes the museum's building so interesting. Once the home to the fallen leader, it would become none other than a museum to pay homage to the revolutionary party that was responsible for removing him.
Behind the museum is the Granma Memorial, which houses the famous Granma yacht, as well as other significant historical artifacts. Although it was constructed several decades later, the small plaza blends in nicely with the ornate, neo-classical edifice housing the museum itself.
The Museum of the Revolution was finished in 1920. Carlos Maruri, a Cuban architect, was partly responsible for its design, as was a Belgian architect by the name of Paul Belau. Interestingly enough, Tiffany & Company of New York, was responsible for much of the Palace's decor. Definitely resembling a palace that you might find in Europe, the Museo de la Revolucion employs architectural elements of French, Spanish and German influence.
As Cuba worked its way through the first half of the twentieth century, there were increasing issues concerning U.S. interests and those of the native peoples. When the Spanish-American War ended in 1898, the United States assumed control of Cuba, and from there, it would help establish the U.S.-backed dictators that ruled the country for decades.
As Fidel Castro was planning his coup, with the help of Che Guevara, General Fugencio Batista would first have to contend with other assaults on his office. Castro himself had made a past attempt on the President's residence in the past. March 13, 1957 saw a university student uprising in which a group of angry youths attempted to assassinate Batista, and student riots were becoming increasingly popular. Failing in their endeavors every time, many students would be captured, often times only to be tortured or killed. Batista's strong-handed retaliations only served to increase civil unrest.
In 1959, after sailing from Mexico to Havana aboard the motor launch yacht named Granma, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, among others, were successful in pushing Batista out, and the former President would then immediately flee the country. Behind the Museum of the Revolution lies one of the more curious exhibits here. Housed in a glass enclosure is none other than the famed Granma. Revolution-aiding tanks and vehicles are also strewn about, as is part of a American U2 spy plane.
Inside the museum, the exhibits are dedicated to both the Cuban Revolution, and the War of Independence that was waged against Spain. You can take a guided tour if you would like more insight into what is displayed, and entrance into the museum is not at all expensive. Those interested in Cuban history will appreciate these exhibits, as they pertain to such important times. You can easily spend more than an hour here, and while you are in Old Havana, you will want to visit a few of the other great Havana museums.
The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts), is surely worth a stop in Old Havana, and here you can view works from both Cuban and international artists. The Museo de la Ciudad (Museum of the City), which is found at the Plaza de Armas in Old Havana, is another example of a museum whose building alone is an exhibit. Cuba's colonial-era is the focus here, and the well-appointed museum rooms are dazzling, to say the least.
Some of the best Havana hotels are found in Old Havana, and this historic district is surely a Havana tourism favorite. You can also find old Spanish fortresses, like the Castillo de la Real Fuerza in Old Havana, and the famed Malecon runs part of its stretch where Old Havana meets the sea. It's truly a dynamic and intriguing neighborhood capable of leaving a mark on even the most seasoned traveler.