Morro-Cabaña Historical Military Park
Two large fortresses stand solemnly over the Bay of Havana. Together, these forts make up Morro-Cabaña Historical Military Park. At the time of its creation, this was the largest Spanish defensive complex in the Americas.
As you wind your way along the Malecón in Havana, the massive fortresses of Morro-Cabaña Historical Military Park dominate the horizon. The park is divided into two areas, and you have to pay separately to enter each location. At both of these castles, you’ll enjoy beautiful views of the Havana skyline and learn a tremendous amount about the Spanish defensive system in Cuba.
The most prominent of the structures is the Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro. Built along the rocky cliffs at the entrance to the Havana channel, this fort was designed by Italian engineer Bautista Antonelli and constructed in the late 16th century. Its thick walls are composed of stone and coral, and are 10 feet thick in places. Large cannons face the bay, as does a still-functioning lighthouse, which was built in 1844 and now flashes an electric lantern every 15 seconds.
Visitors enter the castle via a drawbridge. Inside the castle, you can explore at will. Spend a moment or two reflecting in the chapel, which is quiet and built deep into the walls. There is a small museum detailing the history of the castle, and there are several lookout points where you can get stellar views of the bay. During its heyday, the Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro repelled a 44-day British siege and numerous pirate attacks.
The other major fort in the park is the huge Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña. Extending over 25 acres (10 ha), this is the largest fort in all of the Americas. It was built between 1763 and 1774 and cost 14 million pesos, a fortune at the time. 1,300 men were permanently stationed here, and they had access to over 120 cannons. Incredibly, the fort was never actually used in battle—it’s been claimed that this was because of its imposing presence, which kept any would-be intruders at bay.
Inside the fort, small alleys lead throughout the complex. A wall lined with cannons overlooks the city; cannon-firing ceremonies are held here each night. During these ceremonies, troops dressed in 18th-century costumes light a cannon to signal the closing of the city gates. Nearby is a small museum dedicated to Che Guevara, who established his headquarters here following the Revolution. Another museum outlines the castle’s weaponry.
On the north side of the fort are missiles from the Cuban Missile Crisis, including a nuclear missile that had a range of 1,300 miles (2,100 km). This was one of 36 similar missiles that were on-hand during the crisis. Also on display are anti-aircraft guns and pieces from the U-2 fighter jet that was shot down in Cuba in 1962.