The largest city in the West Indies, Havana is on the northern coast of the island, south of Key West, Florida. The Bay of Havana is one of the safest harbours in the world; a narrow strait affords entrance to the bay, which is navigable by ocean-going vessels. The eastern side of the outer entrance is dominated by Morro Castle, a 16th-century fortress. Castillo de la Punta, another old fortress, is on the western side of the strait.
Its rich Spanish colonial heritage has left a superb architectural legacy, though now somewhat faded. The original portion of the city, located near the inner entrance of the harbour, contains narrow, crooked streets, old houses with overhanging balconies, and various historic landmarks. Beyond the older section, Havana is essentially modern, with numerous magnificent residences, imposing public buildings and ecclesiastical edifices, beautiful parks and plazas, and broad, tree-lined boulevards.
Besides Morro Castle, the outstanding historic landmarks are the former convent of Santa Clara, constructed in 1644; El Castillo de la Real Fuerza (called La Fuerza), a fortress built between 1565 and 1583; the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, dating from 1656; the city post office, originally the Church of San Francisco, which dates from 1575; the Castillo del Príncipe, another old fortress, now used as the city jail; and the City Hall, a former palace of the colonial governors, completed in 1792 and generally regarded as the best example of Spanish colonial architecture in Cuba.
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