The highlight of my visit to Cienfuegos was our late afternoon lunch at the spectacular Palacio de Valle. Built in 1913 for the wealthy business tycoon Don Acisclo del Valle, the palace is an unbelievable mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Mudejar and Baroque styles influenced by Spain’s Moorish past. The palace was designed by an Italian architect, Alfredo Colli and took over four years to complete.
Today the Palacio de Valle is open to tourists at its lovely first floor restaurant and also holds various cultural events throughout the year. After traveling to the South of Spain and Morocco, I fell in love with the Moorish architecture of that part of the world and was a bit surprised to find it in Cuba.
The Palacio de Valle was my favorite building that I saw during my trip to Cuba due to its sheer beauty and architectural genius. The entire place is enchanting and the craftsmanship inside the palace’s interior is a feast for the eyes.
The exterior of the building is stunning and quite majestic. There is so much detail carved into the stone that it must have taken an army of workman to complete in only four years time.
I adored the stained glass windows and the intricate carvings surrounding the windows. When I stepped inside the palace, I was absolutely entranced by her beauty and could not stop taking pictures despite the lovely fragrant smells coming from the kitchen.
There is not an inch of space left undecorated. Every where you look it is utterly surreal.
We enjoyed a delightful lunch of lobster and other Cuban specialties eating until my heart’s desire. We had heard that Cuban food was actually rather boring and bland however everything we ate in Cuba was delicious and in huge, American-style portions. Looking around, it was all tourist groups like ours which is unfortunately quite common in Cuba. Prices at most restaurants are too high for the average Cuban giving their measly salary.
After lunch it was time to explore the best view in Cienfuegos, from the perch on the top. The staircase is equally as ornate and spectacular as the first floor of the palace.
On top of the Palacio de Valle sits the most spectacular balcony overlooking the entire bay. Legend says that the wealthy owner would spend hours on top this patio watching over the bay and taking his afternoon nap.
After lunch, it was time to leave Cienfuegos and head back to Havana. We only had a few more days in Cuba and I wasn’t ready to leave. Despite the country’s hardships, Cuba had cast a spell upon my imagination. I left knowing that someday I’d have to come back.
Beautiful. Thank you.
Such intricate detail absolutely everywhere as you say. Again unfortunate about the discrepancy of food available to the tourist vs the Cuban.
Yes so true Sue. That is why I put this kind of detail into my post. I try to show a place like it is.
I appreciate that Nicole. Not just a “everything if perfect” look at a country. Thank you!
Yes there is a lot of negatives too. I try to create some balance when I write about a place. Cuba has a lot to offer. A beautiful country with a rich culture and people yet the government has created a difficult place to live.
Palacio de Valle is quite a spectacular place isn’t it. And so un-Cuban in many ways. First of all for its Moorish style but most of all because it’s so well kept. Unfortunately you are quite right about the Cubans not having the means to enjoy eating at places like this. Not the average Cuban at least. Enjoy your last couple of days in Havana!
Thanks for stopping by! I did love this town and I would love to explore more of this part of Cuba. It is such a beautiful country with so much culture. Yes it is tragic that there remains so much inequity but hopefully someday at least the Cuban government will get rid of the double currency allowing more Cubans to enjoy things like good dining.
Reblogged this on mgtrrz's Blog and commented:
This PALACIO Is Absolutely BREATHTAKING !!!
A gorgeous palace! I can see where you would want to go back to spend more time in Cuba.
Yes I loved Cuba especially the rich culture and the people.
I can clearly see Moorish and Mudejar influence in Palacia de Valle. Truly a work of art and craftsmanship at its finest.
Yes doesn’t it remind you of Granada and other parts of Spain? I thought this building was gorgeous. I love this style of architecture.
Beautiful architecture! I love looking at different countries buildings and homes.
It is actually criminal that tourists dine on lobster in a palace while the average Cuban eats dreadful food. Did you look in the peso markets?
Yes Debra, it is very unfair. I look at the world and sadly the more I travel especially to developing countries (Cuba obviously doesn’t fit this mold but the people are relatively poor) the more I see exactly what you say. It is unfair. Look at us in Europe and the US what we eat while many people around the world starve? I was in Nepal and we had meat every day while most Nepalese are lucky to eat it once a month. When I go to Ethiopia tomorrow again I will be staying at a hotel that is luxurious and full of more food than most Ethiopians would ever see, and it is criminal. But what can we do? We live in such an inequitable world. I do my best with my social good work such as the next two weeks in Ethiopia to help. But sadly sometimes it makes me feel absolutely awful. Good comment. that is why I mentioned that there are no Cubans there. That is life in Cuba and many many parts of the world. Awful. As for the peso markets, I did write a post on them about the fruits and vegetables for sale. Again, it was expensive.
I hate that the world is so unfair. I live a privileged life simply because of where I was born. I have travelled in India and Africa and have seen the terrible conditions in which people live, but somehow Cuba made me more angry as the problems are almost completely caused by the government. The country is clearly fertile, overpopulation doesn’t appear to be a problem, so why do the people have to live in such rotten conditions? I almost wish I hadn’t travelled with Cubans, I might have been more able to appreciate the beautiful aspects of the country.
Me too. Our hotel here in Ethiopia is gorgeous, modern and luxurious. Right outside the window is a huge slum. It is hard to be inside here.
I remember this building, but it hadn’t been opened as a restaurant when I was in Cienfuegos a decade ago… And I concur with all the comments about most Cubans being unable to eat at such places.
I wonder when it opened. I know more and more state run restaurants are opening for the growing tourist economy in Cuba. It is sad that these places are mainly for tourists. But on the other side of the coin, at least tourism is brining in a lot of money for the country. However, I do wonder if it will end up creating more of an inequitable society with the Cubans who work in the tourist industry getting access to the tourist currency versus the Cubans who are paid in pesos and do not get access to this higher valued currency. That is why do many doctors and other highly educated Cubans are moonlighting as taxi drivers as they make in a day what they make in a month in their day jobs.
Your photographs are amazing Nicole! Utterly Surreal is correct!
This palace is a painful remark of the history of my country of origin. It is a beautiful building, with a lot of style and concept art. But it also shows the absolute indifference of the rich Cubans towards their suffering fellows, especially during the American occupations. Mafia, drugs, alcohol, whores, all of it used to be sold to anyone with enough money. Terrible, disastrous experience that led our people to believe Fidel Castro and his lies.
And where are we now? Tourists enjoy Cuba as a tropical paradise, amused by its history and culture, but at the same time, constantly facing depravity, poverty, and no future for Cuban citizens. I wish more people would realize that, helping Cubans achieve not revolution or democracy, but at least covering basic needs like shelter, education, and honest work.
Thanks for the comment. This is near the end of my post series on Cuba. I have tried my best to cover both the good and bad of Cuba. I have become fascinated too by Cuba’s history. It is a very tumultuous history and it is really sad. I am glad I got to experience it.
This may be the most ornate building I have seen. I have loved these posts on Cuba Nicole and so appreciate seeing many viewpoints of the country, both with pictures and prose. Looking forward to hearing about your trip to Ethiopia.
Thanks LuAnn! 🙂
What a stunningly beautiful place, Nicole. A restaurant doesn’t come much smarter than this one. 🙂
Yes it was very special and beautiful!