The oldest among Old Havana’s five squares dates from the early 16th century. Plaza de Armas, originally known as Plaza de la Iglesia, changed to its current name after the city’s colonial governor began using the square in front of his residence, the Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales (Palace of The Captain Generals ), as a military training ground. Outside the residence, the street is cobbled with wooden bricks to muffle the sound of horse hooves. For decades before Cuban Independence this was the city’s administrative center.
At the center of the square is the Parque Céspedes, teeming with royal palm trees and Ceiba trees. A statue of national hero Carlos Manuel de Céspedes was erected on the square in 1955, replacing the original statue of Ferdinand VII, an unpopular Spanish king. Many tourists flock here to admire the colonial structures along the square and hunt for second hand books and antiques sold by the street vendors lined along the square. There are also some interesting vintage Cuban film posters and cameras on sale.