| 4 min read
Although Cienfuegos lies at a stone’s throw from Trinidad, relatively few tourists bother to check it out. As a result, the city exudes a completely different vibe which feels more laid-back and more authentic. We travelled to Cienfuegos the day after celebrating new year’s eve in Trinidad. (I guess it’s no surprise that we got in Cienfuegos quite late in the afternoon.) Although we basically had a very long evening to visit Cienfuegos, we were under the impression that was enough to grasp what the city is about.
Exploring the city center
Functioning as the heart of Cienfuegos, Parque José Marti is a beautiful square surrounded by large colonial buildings. One building that definitely stands out thanks to its beautiful cupola is the Palacio Ferrer, which houses the Casa Provincial de la Cultura.
Looking at the map, we were drawn by the large green area in the west of Cienfuegos. Not realizing we were distancing ourselves from the center, we entered a quiet residential area where the inhabitants were obviously not used to seeing tourists. Everyone was super friendly and greeted us as we walked past. Apart from the Cementerio de la Reina, there wasn’t much to see, but after spending four days in the bustle of Trinidad, it was a relief to encounter some authenticity.
Heading back in the direction of the center, we arrived at the pier Muelle Real around sunset. At the end of the pier, there’s a bar called Piña Colada which seemed like a nice and popular place for tourists to have a drink. As we still felt slighty drunk from new year’s eve the night before, we rather strolled over the pier while taking in the beautiful colors of the evening sky.
Turning our back to the pier, we suddenly faced a giant tree.
Via the pedestrian street Calle 29 (Bulevar) we walked back towards Parque José Marti. Somewhere halfway we stopped to watch a group of men who were enthusiastically playing domino in the street. Back at the square, we turned right into the Avenida 54, which brought us back on the Paseo del Prado, also known as the malecón of Cienfuegos. This area comes alive in the evening, when the bars and restaurants on this avenue draw many hungry Cubans and tourists alike.
Dinner on Paseo del Prado
Following a recommendation of our host, we checked out the restaurant Doña Nora which has a TripAdvisor certificate of excellence. (Sounds promising, right?) We ordered chicken in soy sauce and chicken in sweet and sour sauce, hoping to have some different flavors for once. What we got was one chicken with chunks of pineapple and one chicken that was completely tasteless. Moreover, the meat was still red, even after sending it back to the kitchen. To top it off, the portion wasn’t that large. who’d have thought that we’d ever miss our huge pile of rice with beans? At an average price of 7 to 10 CUC for a main dish, we had far higher expectations for this place.
For what it’s worth, the restaurants El Campesino and Las Mamparas, equally situated on Paseo del prado, were also recommended to us. Let me know if you’d have the opportunity to try them out.
Coppelia’s, Cuba’s most popular ice-cream chain
Still feeling slightly hungry, we checked out a place that allegedly serves the best ice-cream in Cuba. Outside was a long line of Cubans waiting to get in, which had to be a good sign. We had a coupe of coconut ice with hot whipped cream. I wasn’t mind-blown, but at 2,50 CUP or 0,10 EUR it’s undeniably dirt-cheap.
- A Viazul bus runs from Trinidad to Cienfuegos for 6 CUC per person, which takes about 1h30 under normal circumstances. As we however traveled on January 1st, the driver made regular stops to give his best wishes to anyone he recognized along the road (and accept the food they offered him). The ride thus took a bit longer.
- The bus station is at walking distance from the city center
- If you want to travel from Cienfuegos to Havana or Trinidad, you’ll have to leave early in the morning, which is when most taxi colectivo’s depart.
Where we stayed
We stayed at Hostal El Atardecer, which is conveniently situated along Paseo del Prado at 5 minutes walking from Parque José Martin. The hostel was clean, breakfast was abundant and most importantly: the hosts were extremely helpful and friendly. They happily gave us recommendations on places to visit in Cienfuegos or helped arrange transportation to our next destination.
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