A Walk Around Old Havana: Plaza de San Francisco

On the way to Plaza de San Francisco, you’ll notice such diverse architecture styles but it all seems to work together adding to the charm of Old Havana. One of the neat hotels we saw along the way was Hotel Los Frailes. The staff were dressed as monks! Too bad I didn’t get at least one of them in that second photo below.





Plaza de San Francisco

There were a lot of people on the day we went to Old Havana. It was hard to get a decent shot as you can see in the photo below. Plaza de San Francisco’s most prominent building is the Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis which was built in the 16th century. But it was only used as a church under the English rule in Havana, then as offices under the Spanish rule. Today, it is a concert hall for classical, chamber and choral music and a museum. The climb up the bell tower might be worth it for some fantastic views of the city.



See the photo below? Take a close look at the back of the altar. The wall doesn’t extend, but it’s a tromp l’oeil effect. Neat, huh?


This life size statue called El Caballero de Paris. It’s located on the sidewalk just in front of the entrance. You’ll notice that the statue’s beard and finger shines! It’s constantly polished from people touching it because they believe it will bring them luck. Embarrassed when I noticed where the finger is pointing; I didn’t have another photo! I took the photo so quickly just to take advantage of the rare time that it wasn’t surrounded by throngs of people!


United Buddy Bears

We had a special treat when we were in Havana in February 2015. The United Buddy Bears were on display in the square! I had never heard of the United Buddy Bears before this. It originated in Berlin in 2001. The United Buddy Bears promote “living together in peace and harmony“. Their motto is:

“We have to get to know each other better …
… it makes us understand one another better,
trust each other more, and live together more peacefully.”

There is a bear representing each of the 140 countries on display. “The international artists’ different styles are joined together in one work of art, spreading zest for life. … The Message: The Buddy Bears stand together “hand in hand”, symbolising the future vision of a peaceful world. Each bear stands for the people of the different countries and their culture, yet not for political systems.” Click here to read more about the Buddy Bears and when it might be coming to your city!

Now, if you take a look at the next few photos below, you can see the bears surrounding the square.


Of course, aside from the bears, are the beautiful buildings. The Terminal Sierra Maestra building will most likely be the one that will catch your eye as soon as you enter the square. With its pale coloured facade, it is a contrast to all the other buildings in this square.



We had to search for Canada’s bear and here it is! So, I didn’t quite get the pixels but here’s the artist, Trevor Good’s explanation on the design and you can click here for the site:  “The motifs are based on classic Canadian paintings and reflect what I believe to be an essential part of being Canadian: The physical magnitude of the land that is Canada creates a distinctive feeling of modesty. I the relationship between the pixels and the image is just like the project of the bears: many individual objects coming together to present a feeling of empowerment and also recognition that this world needs cooperation and respect; we all need to be humbled by something in our world, and in my own personal way I find this in art and nature.” If your country has a bear, you can find out about the artist’s interpretation for yourself here.


Across the basilica is the Chamber of Commerce which was built in 1909. It served as Cuba’s stock exchange until the revolution. Kinda reminds me of some of the Renaissance style architecture in Italy. The second photo below from Wikipedia shows the entire building.


Chamber of Commerce (Lonja de Comercio)


As you exit the square from the other side of the basilica, you will come across this building. What I noted from the building is the clock at the top. Not sure if you can see it but the number 4 is shown as Roman numeral “IIII” instead of “IX”. This caught my eye because we had bought a clock for our house that also had the Roman numeral “IIII”. I did a little search and there really isn’t a clear answer. But what I was given as an explanation at the time was that the use of “IIII” creates a visual symmetry. Other explanations provided is that it is the old Roman numeral way to depict the number 4.



About May Dayao

Carpe diem!
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