Havana… Guys, I have been wanting to write this guide for sooo long, and finally, here we are! If you ever have the chance to travel to Cuba and visit Havana, do not hesitate. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. As a tourist, it’s a wonderful place to visit. An enchanting timecapsule in technicolor, unlike any other country in the world. Which is of course why it’s a whole different story when you live there. We talked to locals who discribed their country as a “golden cage”, who had family in Miami they knew they’d never see again, and no matter how you look at that, it’s a tough situation. We saw youth hang around outside hotels to get their hands on a WIFI card and get online with their laptops, something I think none of us can ever imagine as everyday life. But the vibes, the people, and the colors of this beautiful island make it one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited.
- We did almost all our trips in Cuba with Viazul buses which were air conditioned and pretty good.
- If you are looking for wifi you can buy cards with internet codes in Etecsa stores, and access the web with your phone/laptop in the vicinity of the store, as well as many of the more upscale hotels (they also often sell them over there).
- Cuba has a currency for locals and one for tourists (CuC)
- Check out the “Sleep” section of this post for the hotels. A lot of people sleep in casas particulares (as did we in Vinales and Trinidad) but I personally think the Hotels in Havana can be worth splurging on.
- It’s important to keep in mind that because of Cuba’s particular situation, 5 stars doesn’t always mean what we expect it to in other countries. I didn’t mind at all, because in return you get a whole lot of authentic charm.
- The food in Cuba… well, not the greatest. Expect to eat a lot of Chicken, beans & rice. But again, the location more than makes up for it!
Cine La Rampa – Every time we’re in another country we love to check out a movie. It’s always such a different experience. In Cuba there were a lot of people going in and out of the theatre during the movie and making noise. A bit weird for us, but entertaining nonetheless.
Museo de Artes Decorativas – This beautiful museum is like a time capsule from the glory days of pre-revolution Havana. The building was commissioned by the wealthy Gomez family in 1924 and remains more or less intact to this day.
Edificio Bacardi – The former Bacardi HQ turned office building has a stunning art deco lobby and also one of the best viewpoints in town! Slip the doorman 1 CuC and you can take the elevator up to the tower for a beautiful view over old Havana.
Museo de la Revolucion – A Classic Havana stop, and for a reason. You can just imagine the opulent banquets and parties hosted in the Salon de los Espejos, modeled to resemble the Mirror room of Versailles. At the same time you can still see the bullet holes from a failed attempt to take President Batista’s life in 1957 and a tank used by Fidel Castro in 1961’s bay of pigs battle. So it’s safe to say the many faces of Cuba are well represented.
Johnson Drugstore –This building was opened in 1914 and offered medicine, perfumes, disinfectants, and chemicals. After the revolution the pharmacy was nationalized, and was an important pharmacy until the end of the 20th century. In 2005 it caught fire but has since been restored and reopened.
Jardin Botanico / Russian Embassy
Jardin Botanico – The botanical garden is located in the outskirts of Havana and is quite a drive but well worth it.
Russian Embassy – This constructivist building from the eighties reminds me a bit of a robot, and is worth driving by if you’re exploring that side of town.
Eat & Drink
Polinesio – Awesome tiki tiki vibes from another era.
Sia Kara Cafe – One of my favorites in Centro Havana, right behind the Capitolio.
Cafe Bohemia – We went to his cute restaurant for lunch and did not regret it.
El Atelier – Outdoor dining has never been this lovely, and the interior of this place was my favorite of all the restaurants in Havana where we’ve been.
Madrigal – The perfect place for sipping cocktails on a boiling hot Havana summer evening.
La Divina Pastora – Ask for a table on the terrace overlooking the city.
We stayed with locals in Viñales and Trinidad, but booked a beautiful hotel in Havana, Santa Isabel. Upon our arrival at midnight however we were informed that the hotel was closed because their air conditioning had failed and they had to rebook all their guests to another hotel. Bummer! We ended up in the far less charming but super well located Iberostar Parque Central and Armadores de Santander Hotel, which I found a more charming and adequate but not great. Unfortunately the city was full so we really did not have a say in the matter but here are some other hotels that I’d rather stayed at (but where we had a drink instead):
Hotel Saratoga – This hotel is everything you imagine and more when you think of the glamour of Old Havana. Even if you are not a guest you can have a drink on the rooftop terrace.
Hotel Raquel -This hotel was built in 1905 and has a very elegant interior with only 25 rooms, and a Kosher restaurant!
Habana Libre – This icon is located in Vedado and built in the 1950s, and served as Fidel Castro’s HQ for three months during the revolution.
Habana Riviera – The midcentury details in this place are droolworthy, and if you’re a designlover this hotel overlooking the Malecon is definitely a must visit!
So, there you have it, a trip down memory lane for me, maybe a trip in the future for you?