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Saint Augustine
Cienfuegos, Cuba
Pearl of the South

Page 2
Catedral de la Purisima Concepción
Dominating the park from the eastern end of the park is the Catedral de la Purisima Concepción erected in 1869. The pale colored cathedral has a neo-Classical façade with two large red capped bell towers of different heights, three arched entrances and French stained glass windows of the Twelve Apostles.

On the western side of the park is the blue domed Casa de la Cultura Benjamin Duarte, the former Palacio de Ferrer. If possible, walk up its marble staircase pass the beautiful mosaic wall tiles for an outstanding view of the plaza and other parts of the city and bay.

Casa de la Cultura Benjamin Duarte, former Palacio de Ferrer
Cienfuegos, founded in 1819, is Cuba’s only city founded by the French. The European influence can be seen in the wide, straight tree-lined Parisian-style avenues and the eclectic architectural presentation. The city is laid out in easy to negotiate squares and is one of the cleanest cities in Cuba. In most tourist literature, Cienfuegos is known as “The Pearl of the South” because of its well preserved colonial buildings, proverbial cleanliness and beautiful surroundings.

Adding to the city's artistic image is Benny Moré, one of the city's best loved Cuban musicians. Moré was a master of most Cuban music genres including mamba or the country music known as guajira and chose to remain in Cuban after the 1959 Revolution even when other musical stars left Cuba. A popular tourist attraction is the life-sized bronze statue of Moré which stands in a shady spot on Paseo del Prado at Avenida 54.

Cienfuegos is Cuba’s third largest port and has one of the highest levels of business development in the country. Much of the prosperity began after the Independence War against Spain ended and American investors began to pour capital in sugar mills in the province. In th
e early 20th century, the United States was the principal market for Cienfuegos.

With a well developed business culture based on sugar cane, mango, tobacco and coffee production, Cienfuegos is not dependent on tourism for survival. The city is the home to the only deep-water terminal on Cuba’s south coast and home to a sizeable fishing and shrimping fleet. Cienfuegos handles roughly 30% of Cuba’s sugar exports. With a relatively robust economy, its residents tend to be more prosperous than their brethren in most other Cuban cities.

Palacio de VallePaseo del Prado, the longest boulevard in Cienfuegos and in Cuba as well, runs through most of the city and into an area known as Punta Gorda. At the south end of Paseo del Prado is the Palacio de Valle, one of the city’s best know landmarks. The palace architecture is an eclectic mix of Gothic, Neo-Moorish and Venetian. Built for a Palacio de Valle, Carmen piano playerwealthy sugar merchant, Aciclio de Valle Blanco, the palace rooftop terrace offers incredible view of the water. If timed properly, the third floor balcony is a great place to have a cocktail and watch the sun set over the Cienfuegos Bay for a nominal fee of two pesos. On your way up the steps toward the iron staircase, you’ll pass Carmen, the flamboyant piano player who will pose for a photo or play a song for you – for a peso or two. Today most rooms of the palace are used as a high end Italian restaurant.

The best way to get from the historic downtown area to Punta Gorda is to hop a ride on one of horse drawn carriages. It’ll cost around two CUC each way but it’s a lovely ride down the boulevard lined on both sides with royal palms with stately old pastel colored homes on one side and the Bahia de Cienfuegos on the other.

Bahia de Cienfuegos MaléconBeginning just south of Avenida 46 where a seawall separates Paseo del Prada from the Bahia de Cienfuegos, the street is known as the Malécon. Similar to the malécon in Havana and Baracoa, the street along the seawall is where the locals hang out to socialize. With 88 km2 of water, the bay is the perfect place for fishing as well as casual and competitive canoeing.

Cienfuegos, now a midsized city of just over 100,000 residents, has been the scene of flourishing economic, arts and social activity and an outstanding early example of urban planning in Latin America since the Avenida 54, El Bulevar19th century. Although the local administration remains concentrated in the downtown area, the entire city has retained its compact, historic authenticity and integrity.

To fully appreciate this jewel of a city, plan to spend at least one full day and night exploring its sites. In addition to enjoying the José Martí Parque, spend some time strolling in down the pedestrian only Avenida 54 also called “El Bulevar”, grab a bowl of Cuba’s famous ice cream at the Coppelia near Paseo del Prado and Avenida 52, take in a performance at the Teatro Tomás Terry or enjoy the live music, comedians and cabaret acts at Club Benny Moré.

 Also take a little extra time to enjoy the attractions near the city such as Cemeterio Tomás Acea, a neoclassical cemetery overlooking the bay, and the 94 hectare / 232 acre Jardin Botanico Soledad (Botanical Garden) located about 18 km / 12 miles east of the city where you can see more than 14,000 plants including more than 16,000 trees.

If you go

Cienfuegos has a warm tropical climate throughout the year. However, the best time to visit the city is from November to April.

Cienfuegos is 340 km / 211 miles east of Havana and 69 km / 43 miles southwest of Santa Clara. You can also reach the city from Havana and Trinidad or by train from Havana and Santa Clara.


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