Updated January 20, 2020
Of all the things to do in Cienfuegos, perhaps a tour of the architecture is the most interesting. Elegant, refined, sedate, Cienfuegos, (which translates into one hundred fires) is a step back not only in time but in geography. The center of the city is more reminiscent of a 1920s coastal city in the south of France than a town in modern-day central Cuba. From Cienfuegos restaurants to gorgeous architecture, there’s plenty to see and do here.
Things to Do in Cienfuegos, Cuba. Top Attractions
Explore the Architecture
The first thing that will strike you is the architecture.
Stroll the Jose Marti Park
Settled in 1819 by French immigrants from Bordeaux and Louisiana, the French influence can be seen in many of the more impressive structures. The city center is a wonderful explosion of Baroque, Moorish, Gothic and other influences.
Make sure to see some examples at Jose Marti Park. Many consider the central plaza of Cienfuegos to be the prettiest central square in all of Cuba. Jose Marti was a journalist, statesman and advocate for a free Cuba. He fought and died trying to liberate Cuba from Spain in 1895. He is revered by all Cubans both inside and out of Cuba. You will see many parks, schools, avenues and other locations named after Jose Marti.
Enjoy a Performance at the Teatro Terry
The Teatro Tomas Terry is a beautiful, elegant Italianate-style building on Jose Marti Park. It has regular performances. What is truly captivating about the building is its soaring ceilings, wall decorations and stall seating.
For 5 CUC (see post on Cuban currency) you can get a tour of the theater and for 10 CUC you can see a performance. It is well worth it!
Visit the La Reina Cemetery
I love cemeteries and always try to visit one when in a new city. As a bonus, La Reina Cemetery is one of the most interesting things to do in Cienfuegos. Cemeteries are a good way to learn more about the history of a place and to absorb the culture. A short distance from Cienfuegos is the Reina (Queen) Cemetery. I had heard that the statuary here was impressive but I was not prepared for the level of artistic achievement I saw there.
Opened in 1839 and declared a national monument in 1990, La Reina Cemetery is a must see in Cienfuegos. There is a caretaker at the front gate who will be happy to tell you the history of the cemetery as well as the stories surrounding some monuments like the legend of the beautiful Sleeping Beauty. This story tells the tale of a beautiful young woman who many say died of a broken heart while others say she died of cholera during one of the many epidemics.
A visit to La Reina should be on our list of things to do in Cienfuegos.
Swim in the Waterfalls of El Nicho
Maybe you’re looking for more tropical things to do in Cienfuegos. After hot days of exploring, a visit to El Nicho for a swim in the many waterfalls is a refreshing change.
A taxi to El Nicho should not cost more than 30-35 CUC round trip. The taxi will wait for you. You can spend the day here and snack at the simple, local restaurant.
Splash in Rancho Luna Beach
Similar to most cities in Cuba, there is a beautiful beach nearby. Rancho Luna beach is about a 20-minute taxi ride from Cienfuegos and is good for a day trip. A taxi should cost around 20 CUC round trip. Just tell the taxi when you want to be picked up. There are two hotels on this beach where you can grab a snack.
Things to Do in Cienfuegos: Cienfuegos Restaurants
Eat at Dona Nora
Similar to its sister city, Trinidad, Cienfuegos has a few good restaurants. One of my favorites was were “Dona Nora” on Paseo del Prado, a wide avenue which fronts the beautiful bay of Cienfuegos leading from the center of town to Punta Gorda, an important resort area.
Enjoy the Music at Te Quedaras
“Te Quedaras” which translates to “You’ll stay” is on what is referred to as the Bulevar, the main pedestrian street in the city center. Both are housed in renovated, turn-of-the-century buildings which gives you a peek inside these stately French-influenced mansions. The food is good and the live music is infectious. As usual, try to stick to the paladares, private-sector restaurants.
Cienfuegos is the perfect base from which to explore the surrounding area of south-central Cuba. You certainly won’t run out of interesting things to do in Cienfuegos.
Do you find cemeteries interesting? Which of these things to do in Cienfuegos would be your favorite?
When you decide to go, here is a $40 credit towards your first stay with Airbnb in Cienfuegos or anywhere else in Cuba.
And don’t forget my new book, The Ultimate Cuba Travel Guide, available on Amazon.
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