A frame from Havana, the City with the Most Beautiful Arcades in the World, showing the arcades of Havana’s Plaza Vieja
Courtesy YouTube

As an exceptionally hot and humid summer crawls into August, we think this is a perfect time to focus on the architecture of Havana—specifically, on the arcades that for centuries have kept habaneros cool, shaded, and sheltered from the tropical rains.

This spring, Coral Gables-based architect Ángel C. Saqui posted Havana Arcades, the City with the Most Beautiful in the World, a 7-minute video narrated in English by Saqui himself.

Saqui begins the video by recalling his childhood home on Galiano Street, also known as the Avenida de Italia, in the center of the city.

“Galiano had continuous arcades, starting at El Malecón, by the waterfront,” Saqui says, going on to trace a wide loop of arcades that includes the Paseo del Prado and the Enfanta [10 de Octubre] Avenue.

“When a code was written to regulate construction in the city,” he continues, “arcades became a mandatory item. Their width, height, and architectural features were regulated by law. Those regulations have remained in the city code to the present.”

An arcade on the Plaza de la Catedral, near the Havana Cathedral.
Courtesy Institute for Traditional Architecture

The only other city in the world with this many arcades, Saqui says, is the Italian city of Bologna, where some arcades date back to the Middle Ages. But, says Saqui, “they do not compare with the abundance and magnificence of the ones in Havana.”