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In the 18th and 19th Century, Matanzas was nicknamed ‘the Athens of Cuba’ because of its rich literary and musical culture. That period of great splendor was unfortunately followed by years of neglect and decay. Today, Matanzas is reaffirming her attractiveness by a series of great renovation works. The result is a small, yet pleasant historical center that offers a nice getaway from Varadero.

Matanzas, Cuba

From the bus stop close to the Matanzas bus terminal, we walked over the Puente de Tirry towards the historical center of Matanzas. We reached Plaza de la Vigia, which is surrounded by some impressive buildings, like the neoclassical fire station, the courthouse, the Museo Provincial, the Teatro Sauto and the Ediciones Vigía.

Matanzas, Cuba Matanzas, Cuba Matanzas, Cuba

As we got closer, the beat of reggaeton music became louder and louder. It turns out we had picked the right day to visit. The entire city was partying and the streets were lined with stalls selling food and drinks. Music was playing everywhere and people were dancing. It was especially fun to watch how small children were entertaining themselves by imitating dance moves they’d seen in video clips. We felt a little embarrassed when we realized those five-year old were better dancers than ourselves.

Matanzas, Cuba

We walked through the pedestrian street Medio which led towards Parque Libertad, a beautiful square surrounded by colorful, colonial buildings

Matanzas, Cuba

From there, we headed towards the waterfront where the Yumurí river is lined by a pedestrian street with crazy, surrealistic sculptures. They’re by the hand of a local artist named Lolo, who donates his works to the city to embellish the malecón. When we visited his atelier, a group of children were creating little sculptures with various designs like dinosaurs, elephants and (of course) cigar holders.

Next to Taller (workshop) Lolo, there are a few other art galleries, which are all free to visit.

Matanzas, Cuba Matanzas, Cuba Matanzas, Cuba Matanzas, Cuba Matanzas, Cuba

Finishing our loop through the historical center, we found ourselves back on Plaza de la Vigía where we had started. We bought some beers and a large portion of grilled chicken, all of which costed 1 CUC apiece, and sat on a bench while observing the Cuban dance moves around us. After spending about 5 hours in Matanzas, we took the bus back to Varadero.

Matanzas, Cuba

Practical information

  • How to travel from Santa Marta to Matanzas? From the Santa Marta side of the bridge, you can take a local bus to Matanzas. There are different companies, and not all drivers accept to take tourists aboard. We weren’t allowed onto the first red-and-white Transmetro bus, so we had to wait for the next one. The price was a mere 5 CUP per person.
  • How to travel from Matanzas to Santa Marta? There is no point in going to the Matanzas bus terminal, because only the local omnibuses depart there and they usually don’t let tourists aboard. It’s better to go to the stop called Paradero Varadero, close to the historical center of Matanzas. From there you can take a Transmetro or Transgaviota bus for 5 or 10 CUP per person. Be sure to have Moneda Nacional (CUP), as they might refuse the Moneda Convertible (CUC).

Matanzas, Cuba Matanzas, Cuba


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