Cuba is one of the most unique and exciting travel destinations on the planet. Known for its beautiful beaches, rolling mountains and of course….its cigars and rum! Havana, the Capital of Cuba, arguably offers the most intoxicating experience with incredible architecture, lively salsa clubs and a colourful, vibrant atmosphere unlike any other place in the world. We visited a couple of years ago and the vivid memories of the place still linger. Thinking of heading there yourself? If so, no trip to Havana would be complete without taking part in some of these amazing things to do….
Visit a piano bar in one of the colonial hotels
Havana is brimming over with both crumbling and beautifully restored colonial buildings and some of which will instantly transport you back to an elegant, bygone era. The best hotel to experience live piano music is Hotel Florida, located in Old Havana, is the best place to experience live piano music as it’s light and airy with a great laid back atmosphere. Head for the piano bar where the resident piano player is very talented and plays a wide range of music from traditional Spanish tunes to more modern folk and jazz. The nights out here offer an authentic Havana experience and attract a mix of salsa-loving locals and tourists.
Go for a ride in a vintage car
This is definitely one of the most incredible things to do in Havana – imagine feeling the wind in your hair whilst watching the beautiful Cuban landscape whiz by from a classic convertible. There are a number of tour options available in Havana, Varadero and Cayo Santa María or you can choose to rent a car and drive it yourself (or alternatively can hire a driver to take you on a tour of the island). There are a number of different cars to choose from; convertibles or classic 1950’s American cars – be delivered in style and luxury to your chosen Havana destination, pure bliss!
Take a stroll down the Malecon and get serenaded.
The Malecón is a broad esplanade, roadway and seawall which stretches for 8 km along the coast but it’s when the sun sets this place really comes alive. Join mostly rum drinking locals and a few tourists and indulge in some serious people watching whilst walking along the sea wall. There are always plenty of buskers around so there’s also a chance of getting serenaded, which is quite an experience in itself!
Check out Da Vinci’s Camera Obscura
Perched above the city of Havana the Camera Obscura is one of the coolest places to visit in Cuba – it warps your view of Havana letting you see it all in one go! Even when you’re not peering through, the gorgeous views of Havana make it worth the trip to the roof top attraction anyway!
Have a mojito at Hotel Nacional de Cuba
When in Cuba you simply cannot leave without sampling the rum and this is best done by enjoying a mojito. The famous Hotel Nacional de cuba, a historic luxury hotel located on the Malecón, is the place to go to indulge in this stereotypical Cuban pastime. Once a favourite haunt of Winston Churchill, Al Capone, Sinatra, Ava Gardner and Nat King Cole, it has a beautiful view of the harbour, the glistening blue sea as well as the city. Sit on a rocking chair on the patio, listen to the live music and while away an hour or two while soaking up the amazing atmosphere!
Stay in a colonial “casa” aka a bed and breakfast
Havana does ‘casas’ (their version of bed and breakfast) very well and there are a number of elegant colonial guest houses to choose from. We stayed at the Hosteria Cartacuba, a beautifully preserved neoclassical style home located in El Vedado, Havana. The owners were both welcoming and friendly, which provided a unique cultural experience and they even hosted a party on their rooftop during our stay! The location in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Havana and gives a taste of how most of the locals live in the capital.
Salsa dance in the open air at 1830 Club
The 1830 Club is an amazing open air salsa club with a great atmosphere, lively music and a selection of reasonably priced drinks. The 1830 Club was one of our highlights of our Havana trip Cuba – it was both fun and entertaining and was a great way to meet some of the more vibrant city dwellers! Locals perform in a short dance show to get everyone in the mood for salsa so this is where to practice your newly learnt salsa moves!
Soak up the atmosphere in Havana’s main square
If you like dancing, then head down to the main square in Havana where you can grab a cocktail or two and watch the salsa dancing and Spanish singing. Locals encourage tourists to join in and its fantastic atmosphere where some seriously unique memories will be made. We loved this place!
Go for a night out at famous Club Tropicana
Club Tropicana is the most famous Cabaret bar in Havana and is well worth a visit. The theatre is located in a vibrant forest with large majestic trees which give it a cool tropical feeling. They have some amazing shows and Tropicana really is a night out to remember!
Visit the important Museo de la Revolucion
One of Cuba’s top tourist attractions, The Museo de la Revolution will help educate you about the Cuba’s unique history. With detailed exhibits on the revolutionary war and Cuban history, the museum will interest anyone who likes history. Here you can learn about the events that led up to Castro gaining control of Cuba.
Hang out at Ernest Hemingway’s favourite haunt ( El Floridita)
If you like fish then follow in Ernest Hemingway’s foot steps and visit El Floridita. This restaurant has been serving fish dishes and cocktails in the older part of Havana for generations and is still as popular as ever – just be prepared to jostle with the crowds, this was the busiest tourist attractions in the whole city!
Go clubbing with the locals at Don Cangrejo
One of the true great Havana experiences is to veer off the tourist trail, and this place offers a fun Friday night disco which caters for a mix of locals and tourists alike (but mostly locals). It’s located in a very cool unique venue, an open concert hall by the sea and its large swimming pool also helps to attract young Cubans looking for a good night out. Definitely worth the trip for a slice of local Havana nightlife!
All words by Beth Pinches and all images (except Hotel Florida, 1820 and Don Cangrejo) by Becky Padmore.