« The city of contrasts will steal your heart and warm your soul as no other place will »
There is nothing like the feeling of discovering new places, right? Havana
for me became the city of love. More than Rome and Paris, everything in Cuba makes you feel alive and special. It is the city of the contrasts: parts are old and others are contemporary.
One side can be dirty and the other spotless. It is the contrast of passion and love. It is a dance between history and future to come. Everything changed since they decided to re-open doors to the USA and nearly 3 million tourists visit the country every year.
Havana is the place to go. You should visit it before it changes too much.
Here there is my list of places you can't miss while visiting Cuba's charming capital.
It is part of the country's heritage and the most imposing hotel I've ever visited. First of all, for its stunning drive way filled with massive palm trees and the history behind it.
«The guns that made up the Old Santa Clara battery are on exhibition at the garden,they were declared part of the World Heritage Site » it's what is written in the hotel's website, today part of the Gran Caribe hotel chain. Three restaurants,amazing garden with views to the sea and Havana's famous Malecòn
are just some of the many facilities it offers to guests and visitors. I was there for the Buena Vista Social Club's show that happens every Thursday and Saturday's at 9 :30 pm. It is a must!
The oldest hotel in the Habana Vejia (Old Havana) and also one of the most beautiful. Located in the heart of the city, in the charming Paseo del Prado
, the hotel's location offers easy access to the main touristic attractions such as the Capitolio Palace
or the National Theatre
. Its architecture is an attraction on its on and to have a meal or a cup of coffee in the restaurant at its lounge is also an experience. Casa Madelyn
This was my place of choice in Havana and I wouldn't have swapped by any five stars hotel. Madelyn's family look after their guests with care and joy, making you feel at home.The rooms are large and well equipped and the interior decor is colourful and fun, just like Cuba.The location is also a plus as it is steps away from the Capitolio, Paseo del Prado and the Old city's main attractions. Great choice for those travelling on the budget but want to have quality and value for money.
BARSSiá Kará Café
Walking down the road from my hotel towards the centre of Old Havana, and just behind the Capitolio (former presidential palace, copy of USA's White House), I found this hidden gem and decided to go inside. The decoration is stunning and full of great references of local art, music and style. It has a modern touch without missing the essence of the place. They have a menu of delicious local dishes for a very attractive price range (I couldn't get enough of the croquetas!). In the evenings, after dinner, you can enjoy music and fun.
La Bodeguita del MedioEl Floridita
What to say about the most famous bar in Havana? Home of the most famous mojitos in the city, the place is known for have invented the drink. It is a bar and a restaurant with live music. Here, you can eat the most delicious croquettes and enjoy an atmosphere like no other place in Havana. So yes, make sure you pop in and be prepared to have some fun!
Are you looking for the best daiquiri in the city? El Floridita is your place to go. This restaurant and bar is famous for being the bar of choice of Ernest Hemingway while he lived in Cuba. Every detail in the place will transport you back to the 50's. Great place to go for a night out, but be aware, the place is always busy and very likely you will find a waiting list at the door but is totally worthy!
RESTAURANTS Al Carbon
"Carbon" means charcoal in Spanish and it is a give away of what you will experience in here: tradicional cuban dishes cooked over charcoal, tasty and beautifully presented. Located right below Ivan Chef Justo
's renowned restaurant is not a coincidence as Al Carbon is the newest investment of the successful owner. It is behind the Revolution Museum
and not far from the Museum of Fine Arts
. The decoration follows Ivan & Justo's retro-tropical contrasting antique pieces of furniture and tropical inspired objects.
I told Havana was the city of contrasts,didn't I? La Guarida
It was a tip sent by a friend of mine, who told me that I couldn't miss the opportunity to have a meal there. Unfortunately the place was fully booked and I haven't managed to go. I have already included it on my to do's list for my next visit to the city in December this year, so my advice is make sure you book your spot well in advance.
THE SHOPPING SPOT Mercado de Artesania
- Avenida del Puerto, Antiguos Almacenes San Jose, La Habana
Think about colourful paintings, beautiful hand made pieces of home decor, accessories, souvenirs and, of course, the famous Cuban cigars. You can find all in one place, the Mercado of Artesania. I could easily spend hours walking up and down the many lanes of the market, just getting inspired by all you can see there. I bought a lovely Panama hat and paid great price for it.
THE PASTRY SHOP Pastelaria Francesa
Not as fancy as the pastries you see in France or Italy, but the flavours you will find in here, you won't find anywhere else. I got a bit addicted to the Pastel de Queso (cheese pastry) and included it to my daily routine. I always have mine followed by a warm cup of cafe con leche (coffee with milk). The pastry shop is one of the oldest in Cuba and a classic for locals and tourists. Take the opportunity and visit the hotel as it is the oldest in the Havana Vejia and one of the most famous in the city.
I can't put in words how proud I am for having been invited by Elisabetta and her team to become a Pinktrotter's ambassador. I have been writing about travelling and lifestyle for the last two years and have been an admirer of their work for a long time. It feels great to became part of the team!
Thanks to our Ambassadofor na_mala_com_carol
for her amazing tips on Havana. She offers services of "tailored trips to Cuba" via her blog!
Photo credits: Na Mala Com Carol, Dreamstime, Michall Krakowiak, Danita Delimont.