The ornate building that currently houses the Museo de la Revolución (Refugio #1, e/ Zulueta y Monserrate, tel. 07/862-4091; daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; CUC5, cameras free) was initiated in 1913 to house the provincial government. Before it could be finished (in 1920), it was earmarked as the Palacio Presidencial (Presidential Palace), and Tiffany’s of New York was entrusted with its interior decoration. It was designed by Belgian Paul Belau and Cuban Carlos Maruri in an eclectic style, with a lofty dome.
Following the Revolution, the three-story palace (now much deteriorated) was converted into the dour Museo de la Revolución (Museum of the Revolution, Refugio #1, e/ Zulueta y Monserrate, tel. 07/862-4091, daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m., CUC5, cameras CUC2, guide CUC2).
The marble staircase leads upstairs to the Salón de los Espejos (the Mirror Room), a replica of that in Versailles (replete with paintings by Armando Menocal and other notable Cuban painters); and Salón Dorado (the Gold Room), decorated with yellow marble and gold leaf and highlighted by its magnificently decorated dome.
Rooms are divided chronologically, from the colonial period to the modern day. Maps describe the progress of the revolutionary war. Guns and rifles are displayed alongside grisly photos of dead and tortured heroes. One section is dedicated to the revolutionaries who died in an assault on the palace on March 13, 1957, when Batista escaped through a secret door. The Rincón de los Cretinos (“Corner of Cretins”) pokes fun at Batista, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush.
A room to the right of the entrance celebrates the ill-fated efforts of Che to inspire a revolution in Bolivia.
At the rear, in the former palace gardens, is the Granma Memorial, preserving the vessel that brought Castro and his revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba in 1956. The Granma is encased in a massive glass structure. It’s surrounded by vehicles used in the revolutionary war: armored vehicles, the bullet-riddled “Fast Delivery” truck used in the student commandos’ assault on the Presidential Palace in 1957, and Castro’s Toyota jeep from the Sierra Maestra. There’s also a turbine from the U-2 spy plane downed during the missile crisis in 1962, plus a naval Sea Fury and a T-34 tank.