Founded by the Spanish and located just 90 miles from Key West, Havana, Cuba is rich in history with vibrant architecture, live salsa music, impeccable art, cigar factories, and, of course, local rum. Those who visited Havana during the decades of great splendor in the 30’s and 40’s had to visit three different places when it was about food and enjoyment. They were El Floridita, Sloppy Joe’s Bar, and La Bodeguita del Medio. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have visited Havana.
The Small List
Hotel Nacional de Cuba – This historic Art Deco style hotel in the center of Havana overlooks the Malecón and the city. Hotel Nacional dates back to 1930. It has hosted many famous personalities such as Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra, and Ava Gardner.
La Bodeguita del Medio – One of Hemingway’s favorite bars, full of history and memorabilia since 1942. La Bodeguita is also known as the birthplace of the Mojito cocktail. It is a must to scribe your name on the wall along with Brigitte Bardot, Fidel Castro, and Nat King Cole. Phone: +53 7 8671374
El Floridita – A legendary fish restaurant and cocktail bar, meaning ‘Little Florida’. Bartender Constante Ribalaigua invented the daiquiri here soon after WWI. Hemingway, of course, popularized it.
Restaurant Dos Hermanos – In 1894, the González brothers from Granada opened “Two Brothers” bar and restaurant in the Havana harbor. It is one of the oldest bars in Old Havana. Phone: +53 7 8613514
Sloppy Joe’s – This well appointed, attractive and historic bar had a great splendor in the 30’s and 40’s. Once known as the crossroad of the world, it was part of the restoration project of the Historical Centre of Havana City. It finally reopened in 2013 after being closed for 48 years.
Doctor Cafe – Owned by Dr. Oscar de la Conceptión, he took advantage of Cuba’s laws in 1996 allowing residences to open up there homes and offer home cooking as a private restaurant. Also known as a Paladar, he and his wife have a steady buzz of customers where the exceptional food and service is the best in Cuba. Phone: +53 7 2034718
Paladar Los Mercaderes – Innovative Cuban cuisine in Old Havana at a private residence. The building is historic.
Museum of the Revolution – One of the most beautiful buildings in Havana. The former Presidential Palace features the tank used by Castro during the 1961 Bay of Pigs battle. In addition, there is a replica of the 18m yacht that carried Fidel Castro and 81 other revolutionaries from Tuxpán, Mexico, to Cuba in December 1956. The boat is encased in glass and guarded 24/7. Presumably to stop anyone from breaking in and sailing off to Florida in it. The pavilion is surrounded by other vehicles associated with the revolution. Phone: +53 7 8601524
Havana Club Rum Museum – El Museo del Ron Havana Club is a symbol in the historical heart of Havana. From freshly cut stalks of sugar cane to a reconstitution of a distillery and aging cellars, the museum offers a real-time experience of the rum making process. A real taste of true Cuban culture. Phone: +54 11 4413-7126
Things to Do
Casa Fuster – There are several blocks in a neighborhood in northwest Havana where the homes and gates that surround them are covered entirely by mosaic tile. These ordinary homes began to be transformed into works of art decades ago when artist Jose Fuster took up residence and opened his studio in the community. His own home is a mosaic wonderland, aka Fusterlandia. Small colorful tiles adorn fountains, stairs, rooftops, benches and every other surface. An ever-evolving mosaic installation.
Malecón – The roadway and seawall stretching 5 miles along the coast offers Havana an outdoor lounge. The prefect promenade to stroll and mingle on a stifling day or a hot summer night. Sunset is ideal.
Tropicana – One of the most famous cabarets in the world offering Las Vegas style nightlife. The showgirls are voluptuous and the lights are bright. This historic club mixes the sensuality of the Caribbean and the historic Cuban culture in the open air.
Partagás Cigar Factory – Havana is the birthplace of cigars. The Partagás Factory, the most famous in all of Cuba, is a journey back in time. The earthy, pungent smell of unlit cigar tobacco in unforgettable. Specializing in full-bodied cigars, today some 400 workers toil for up to 12 hours a day rolling such famous cigars. Notably are the Montecristos and Cohibas. Phone: +53 7 338060
Varadero Golf Club – A popular resort town located just 2 hours from Havana on a white-gold sand beach complete with All Inclusive Hotels and the only 18-hole golf course in the country.
Meliá Varadero – An All-Inclusive Hotel next to the sea with freshwater pools equipped with waterfalls and hydromassage, boundless activities, and authentic Cuban cuisine, Japanese teppanyaki, or Trinidadian meals. For golf lovers and beach goers!