Picture a communist country that’s been closed off to the rest of the world for half a century and what images spring to mind? You may envision a drab landscape with grey buildings and cement statues of political figures. That may have been the story in Cold War era-Eastern Europe, but nothing could be further than the truth when you’re talking about Cuba, where the colors of the Caribbean come bursting through, and nowhere exemplifies this more than the Havana art scene.
Who would have thought that Cuba would have such a bustling art scene? There are small art galleries and shops selling artwork all over Havana, ranging from the small, heavily reproduced tourist paintings of classic cars (they make great pasalubong gifts), to large, original canvases costing thousands of dollars.
If you don’t find something you like in the galleries of Havana Vieja (old Havana), then head down to the waterfront and check out the Mercado Artesenal (artist market), housed in an enormous warehouse on a pier. Here, you can shop to your heart's content and find incredible art pieces of every style and for any budget. I had already bought the painting I wanted in one of the galleries (I’d promised to limit myself to only 1 painting on this trip as I can sometimes get a little carried away with art), but was sorely tempted by some of the excellent choices at the Mercado.
I highly recommend visiting this place and getting lost for a few hours. To get there, head to the waterfront near Plaza San Francisco and the Havana Club Rum Museum and turn right along the waterfront. It’s about 500 metres down the road next to the seaside brewery (which is also worth a visit).