One of Cuba’s most impressive cities is Matanzas, located on the north shore of the island, roughly 50 miles east of Havana. Rich with Cuban culture and historical significance, the city is one of the best places to visit in Cuba and is often the destination for a Cuba travel group. As the meeting point of three major rivers, Matanzas is often referred to as the “Venice of Cuba” for its expansive waterways and network of 17 bridges.
Founded in 1693, Matanzas was initially a center of the Cuban sugar plantation industry, housing as many as 100,000 African slaves by the middle 1800’s. This would eventually lead to the area becoming a hotbed of Afro-Cuban culture, inspiring several significant movements, including the Rhumba and Danzon dance styles, which are heavily influenced by African rhythms. The area is also widely heralded as a center of Cuban poetry.
But Matanzas was also an important location during the Spanish-American War, which served as the setting for the war’s opening battle when the US Navy bombarded the city in 1898. Fortunately, many of Matanza’s cultural icons remained intact, and have survived for hundreds of years. One such place that draws in Cuban visitors each year is the Cathedral of San Carlos De Borromeo. Completed in 1735, the San Carlos Cathedral is a relic to the city’s former wealth, complete with fascinating frescoes and an impressive, ornate dome.
Another must-see attraction in Matanzas is the Sauto Theater. Completed in 1863, the theater has been one of the defining buildings of the city, and of Cuba itself, featuring a variety of plays, operas, ballets, and musical performances throughout its 150-year history. Bearing decorative wood paneling throughout its interior, the Sauto Theater is said to have some of the best acoustics worldwide. After undergoing serious renovations, the theater will be an incredible sight to behold, with its famous architecture marking it clearly on any Matanzas Cuba guided tour.
For lovers of history, a visit to the Museo Historico Provincial de Matanzas is a must. The Historical Museum of Matanzas covers the history of the entire province of Matanzas, and is a testament to the Cuban culture and history. The building originally served as a palace for Don Vicente del Junco y Sardinas, one of the city’s wealthiest men, but following the revolution became property of the state. Now serving as a fascinating historical relic, the museum offers visitors a taste of the nation’s heritage, and viewing window into a home of one of Matanzas’ elite families.
As one of Cuba’s oldest and most culturally significant cities, Matanzas is the perfect location for many guided Cuba tours, offering visitors an opportunity to see the birthplace of much of Cuba’s culture throughout an expansive city that is both unique and beautiful. The experience of a lifetime awaits within this exquisite city that lives and breathes the true essence of Cuba!