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.
The first thing that will strike you is the architecture.
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.
In the center of Cienfuegos is what many consider to be the prettiest central square in Cuba.
I love cemeteries and always try to visit one when in a new city. 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 legends surrounding some monuments like the beautiful Sleeping Beauty.
After hot days of exploring Cienfuegos, 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.
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.
Cienfuegos has some decent dining options. Two of my favorite paladares were “Dona Nora” on Paseo del Prado and “Te Quedaras” which translates to “You’ll stay” 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
Do you find cemeteries interesting?