Known as the “Venice of the Cuba”, Matanzas is one of the most beautiful and culturally rich cities in Cuba, known for its poets, culture, and Afro-Cuban folklore. It is located 20 mi. west of Varadero on the Bay of Matanzas. The city is a tribute to 19th Century architecture, but also home to some of the oldest known archaeological sites in Cuba dating back centuries, as well as the primary port for the African slave trade in the Caribbean.
This historical city’s name, Matanzas, means “massacre”, and was named for a slaughter of Spanish soldiers trying to reach an aboriginal camp by crossing one of the three rivers that traverse the city. The three rivers - the Yumuri, San Juan and Canimar – run through the city of Matanzas and have 17 bridges crossing them, thus “the Venice of Cuba”.
Only 20 miles West of Varadero, a visit to this city and the exploration of its profound history, architecture, culture, and natural beauty makes a perfect day trip when your yacht is docked in Varadero.
PLACES TO VISIT
The Teatro Sauto, a proud symbol of the city, opened in 1863. The U-shaped, 775-seat theatre is a National Monument of Cuba. Almost entirely covered with wood paneling, it has three balconies, and its floor can be raised to convert the auditorium into a ballroom. Carrara marble statues of Greek goddesses and the theater still hosts opera, ballet and symphonies grace the lobby.
A pharmacy, originally built in 1882 by the French, it stands unchanged today, giving the impression that time stood still. This is one of many testaments as to how this city reveres and conserves its diverse, international history.
SAN CARLOS DE BORROMEO
The first stone of this church was laid on October 12, 1693. The once beautiful church with frescoes on the walls, ceilings, and in the big dome, is now in a state of irreparable decay but is emblematic of a 17th Century Catholic presence on the island, with the first mass being held in 1693 by the Bishop Diego Evelino Hurtado de Compostela.
Ediciones Vigia is an independent publishing collective that began production in 1985. It produces handmade books, each not only of literary value but also a unique work of art. Located in a beautifully restored colonial house, the books are manufactured by dedicated artisans.
A Natural Monument of Cuba, just East of the city toward Varadero, lies the largest and most impressive of the natural caves in Cuba. Bellamar is home to giant caverns, indigenous burial grounds, and cave drawing, and guided tours are offered daily.
THE BRIDGE OF MATANZAS
The city of Matanzas is built around the Bay of Matanzas, which cuts deep in the island and into which three rivers flow inside city limits. The Yumuri, San Juan, and Canimar Rivers flow through the city, traversed by seventeen bridges, making it the Venice of Cuba or The City of Bridges. A guided tour of the bridges is fascinating and offers a great perspective of the city.