The city of Matanzas is the capital of the province bearing the same name. Today, it is an important center of shipping and trade, but does not boast any particularly unique attributes. Completely overshadowed by the glamour of Varadero to the north, Matanzas goes about its business largely without the incursion (or revenue) of tourists.
The city has been a valuable port for some time, so much so that the Spanish built one of their first castles there. During the 18th century, most of the trade going through Matanzas was in tobacco and foodstuffs. As the years went on, sugarcane and slave trading became the Spanish government's trade priorities, and Matanzas received a fair amount of trade in these areas as well. Though it is not especially affluent today (even by Cuban standards), the city's exquisite architecture bears witness to the trendy culture of wealthy traders that developed during Cuba's colonial years.
Because of the size and depth of its bay (la Bahía de Matanzas), the city sees a fair amount of trade. It does not have any tourist attractions to speak of, nor does it have any particularly unique cultural sites or events. Most of the tourists that go through Matanzas are headed for Varadero, Cuba's classy and commercialized (and very expensive!) resort town to the north.