Prado Walking Tour
Begin your walk of the Prado at Parque Central and Neptuno. Heading downhill, the first building of interest, the Palacio de Matrimonio (Prado #306, esq. Ánimas, tel. 07/862-5781, Tues.–Fri. 8 a.m.–4 p.m.), on the west side, at the corner of Ánimas, is where many of Havana’s wedding ceremonies are performed. The palace boasts a magnificent neo-baroque facade and an ornate stuccoed interior in desperate disrepair.
Up and down the Prado you’ll see tiled mosaics reflecting the Moorish style that has influenced Havana’s colonial architecture. The most stunning example is the lobby of the Hotel Sevilla (Trocadero #55), which is like entering a Moroccan medina. It was inspired by the Patio of the Lions at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. The hotel opened in 1908 and became a place of repose for fashionable society.
The gallery walls are festooned with black-and-white photos of famous figures who have stayed here, from singer Josephine Baker and boxer Joe Louis to Al Capone, who took the entire sixth floor (Capone occupied room 615). The top-story restaurant is a magnificent exemplar of neoclassical decor — perfect for sampling a Mary Pickford (rum, pineapple juice, and grenadine), invented here. The Sevilla was the setting for the comical intrigues of Wormold in Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana.
At Trocadero, budding dancers train for potential ballet careers in the Escuela Nacional de Ballet (National School of Ballet, Prado #207, e/ Colón y Trocadero, tel. 07/862-7053; call 07/803-0817 for permission to visit). Across the street, on the west side, the Casa de los Científicos (Prado #212, esq. Trocadero, tel. 07/862-1607), the former home of President José Miguel Gómez, first president of the republic, is now a hotel; pop in to admire the fabulous stained-glass work and chapel where locals come to make offerings.
At Prado and Colón, note the Cine Fausto, a modernist building with an ornamental band on its upper facade harking back to art deco; two blocks north, examine the mosaic mural of a Nubian beauty on the upper wall of the Centro Cultural de Árabe (between Refugio and Trocadero).
The bronze statue of Juan Clemente-Zenea (1832–1871), at the base of the Prado, honors a nationalist poet shot for treason in 1871.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition