History & Heritage
Visit the Museo de la Revolución, and Relive the Fight for Cuba
Museo de la Revolución, Havana
The city of Havana has a vibrant cultural life. It has one of the most extensive networks of museums and art galleries in the Caribbean, which will help you learn more about the country’s art, traditions, and the history that created them.
If you seek to learn more about Cuban history, the Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolución) is a great place to start. Its vast collection of historical artifacts is spread over 30 exhibition rooms, all arranged chronologically. They will take you from the first precolombin revolts to the island’s independence wars. Let’s get to know it!
History of the Building
The first gem in the museum is the building itself. It dates back to 1913 and encapsulates the transformations Cuba has endured throughout the last century – from an aristocratic palace to a beacon of the island’s collective heritage.
Located within walking distance of other historical buildings, the Museum of the Revolution was first meant to host the city’s local council. According to popular legend, upon seeing the lavish decor (commissioned by Tiffany & Co., of Audrey Hepburn’s breakfast fame) and splendorous dome built, the First Lady decided it should act as her family’s new official residence instead.
During the tenure of subsequent rulers, the palace accumulated more symbols of the wealth that passed through the island’s playgrounds: solid gold and bronze detailing, Carrara marble panels, and a Hall of Mirrors built after its Versailles’ namesake. After the 1959 Revolution, it was repurposed into a Museum, and its splendor became a public right.
Cuban flag at Museo de la Revolución, Havana
What you Can’t Miss
The museum provides visitors with a complete journey through Cuba’s history for Cubans, and doesn’t shy away from trying to fan the flames of their patriotic pride. The exhibit starts with a collection of pre-discovery artifacts, follows with some of the most important relics from the War of Independence, and ends with the definitive bangs of the 1959 Revolution. Here, you’ll find autographed documents and pictures from some of their most famous guerrilleros, such as the Che Guevara and warrior-poet Camilo Cienfuegos.
The biggest highlight? The chance to enter the original Granma Yacht, which brought the first 13 Cuban guerrilla fighters from Mexico. Eventually, they would hide in the Sierra Maestra mountains to start fighting against Fulgencio Batista. The yacht is located in one of the outer courtyards, where it’s visible from the outside – so even if you don’t have the time for a full Museum tour, you can take a few pictures from the street.
If you’d rather nurture your soul with art than with politics, make sure to visit the halls devoted to Cuba’s greatest painting masters. This area includes masterworks by Leopoldo Romañach and Armando Menocal, who depicted scenes from everyday 20th-century island living. Next to them, you’ll find a bust of Cuba’s National Hero, poet Jose Martí, watching over one of the palace’s main staircases.
Finally, the columns by the main entrance hide a detail that often goes unnoticed by most visitors. A series of bullet holes remain visible, although unceremoniously unmarked. These holes date back to one of the key moments in Cuban history: the assault on the Presidential Palace in 1957.
Interior details of the Museo de la Revolución, Havana
Other Useful Details
The museum offers guided tours in both English and Spanish. Pictures are allowed everywhere, so make sure to bring a camera or your cellphone – just turn off the flash when taking pics of the oldest paintings. After your visit, you can walk to the Museum of Fine Arts, which is right next door, or stop for a quick snack in one of the nearby cafés.
You can find the museum at #1 Refugio Street, in Downtown Old Havana. It is open every day from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Written by Gabriela Rey.
Published October 2022.
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