The square is notable as being where many political rallies take place and Fidel Castro and other political figures address Cubans. Fidel Castro has addressed more than a million Cubans on many important occasions, such as 1 May and 26 July each year. Pope John Paul II, during his 1998 first visit by a Pope, and Pope Francis in 2015, held large Masses there during papal visits to Cuba.
The square is dominated by the José Martí Memorial, which features a 109 m (358 ft) tall tower and an 18 m (59 ft) statue. The National Library, many government ministries, and other buildings are located in and around the Plaza. Located behind the memorial is the Palace of the Revolution, the seat of the Cuban government and Communist Party. Opposite the memorial are the offices of the Ministries of the Interior and Communications, whose facades feature matching steel memorials of the two most important deceased heroes of the Cuban Revolution: Che Guevara, with the quotation "Hasta la Victoria Siempre" (Until the Everlasting Victory, Always) and Camilo Cienfuegos (sometimes mistaken for Fidel Castro), with the quotation "Vas bien, Fidel" (You're doing fine, Fidel). It is also the site of several cultural institutions.
Construction of the square and the José Martí monument commenced during the Presidency of Fulgencio Batista. The square and the memorial were completed in 1959 (the year Fidel Castro came to power). It was originally called Plaza Cívica (Civic Square). After the Cuban Revolution (1959), it was renamed "Plaza de la Revolución" or "Revolution Square." An elevator allows access the top of the memorial, at 109 m one the tallest points in the city.