Matanzas, Cuba, is one of the country's must-sees. Known alternatively as "The Athens of Cuba" for its arts and cultural scene and "The Venice of Cuba" for its twenty-one bridges, its dilapidated charm inevitably grabs visitors who end up staying longer than they anticipated.
Although Matanzas is just forty kilometers southwest of tourist hot-spot Varadero, until recently it was overlooked in the scramble to get to the beaches and coastline of Varadero. Now that Cuba is welcoming budget travelers as well as cruise tourists, these "in between" places are being discovered.
Matanzas is famous for its nineteenth-century architecture. This was a boom period for Matanzas, and merchants’ houses can be seen scattered all over the city. Highlights include Plaza de la Vigia, which is surrounded on all sides by beautiful Colonial buildings. The Teatro Sauto, Palacio de Justicia, and the Museo Historico Provincial can all be found here.
Parque Libertad has been undergoing some restoration over the last few years, and boasts the Museo Farmaceutico, Sala de Conciertos Jose White, and the Palacio De Gobierno -- all dating from the mid- to late nineteenth century.
The Catedral de San Carlos Borromeo on Calle 282, behind Plaza de la Iglesia, is a neo-Classical structure built in the late seventeenth century and boasts some beautiful frescoes.
Of the twenty-one bridges in and around Matanzas, Puente de la Concordia leads over the River Yumuri to the Versalles district, known as the birthplace of rumba, where the eighteenth-century Castillo de San Severino stands on Avenida del Muelle. The Iglesia de Monserrate, a walk up Calle 306, has a great lookout point over the city, and another neo-Classical church Iglesia de San Pedro Apostol can be found on Calle 57.
There are plenty of hostels in Matanzas, Cuba, but the term "hostel" or "hostal" in Cuba usually means a family house with private rooms to rent. Therefore, there are no Western-style hostels in Matanzas, Cuba, with dorm beds. These Matanzas, Cuba hostels, run by local families, are the cheapest places to stay in the city, but the nearest dorm beds are in Havana (one hundred kilometers west of Matanzas), where a recent explosion in backpacker accommodation has led to at least twenty choices in the capital. It's an easy day trip by local transport.
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