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Castillo de la Real Fuerza

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The Castillo de la Real Fuerza (the Castle of the Royal Force) is one of the main attractions in old Havana Cuba and a sure stop on any visit to Cuba. Built by Spanish authorities to defend Havana from invasion from pirates or a rival European power, the Castle of the Royal Force now houses a pottery museum, a café, and a small gift shop. It is the main architectural feature of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Havana Cuba and remains a poignant reminder of Cuba’s rich history.

Construction on the Castillo de la Real Fuerza began in 1555, making the structure the one of the oldest stone fortresses in the Western Hemisphere. The castle was built to replace a fort on the same site that was destroyed by French pirates. Completed in 1577 and added to in subsequent decades, the Castillo de la Real Fuerza never really lived up to its role as protector of the city. It is located some distance from the mouth of Havana’s bay. In 1762, English forces were able to take the Cuban capital without exchanging gunfire with the Castle of the Royal Force.

In later years, the Castillo de la Real Fuerza served as Cuba’s National Archive and National Library. After the Cuban Revolution, it housed government offices and a museum of arms before being converted into a museum of Cuban ceramics.

A stroll around the impressive stone walls of the Castle of the Royal Force should be a part of any visit to Old Havana Cuba. The ground floor of the castle houses a museum of ceramics, with beautiful pottery from pre-Columbian days until the present. In addition to the permanent collection of unique Cuban artwork, there are often interesting temporary exhibits. The Museum de la Ceramica is open 8:30 am to 6:30 pm daily. Entrance to the museum is about $1.

Unfortunately, there is little information in the fortress about the building’s history, but the café on the ramparts provides a great view of Old Havana Cuba and the bay. The small gift shop has some good souvenirs of Old Havana.

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