Havana, one of the trendiest places in the Caribbean, is a city of inspiration with its modern attitude, distinctive culture, snazzy localities and rich history.
The Cubans’ particular love of music and dance can be seen and felt in the spontaneous salsa street performances erupting across the city. Cuba itself is a tropical paradise with sandy beaches surrounded by palm trees, crystal clear waters, and unspoiled coral reefs. With an opportunity to combine a city break with a beach holiday, you won’t run out of things to explore. As far as bucket lists go, this one is the place to discover.
El Malecon is a popular promenade frequented by locals and tourists alike especially at dusk as the perfect place to relax and take in the atmosphere. Waves crushing on the shore while the sun sets beyond the horizon also makes it the perfect romantic retreat. A brief detour from the promenade to the Callejón de Hamel will lead you to fascinating street art within a general Afro-Cuban atmosphere.
Art lovers will definitely enjoy a trip to Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, which exhibits both international collections as well as Cuban art from the colonial times up to contemporary generations.
You can also time your trip to catch some of Havana’s popular festivals to make the most of the experience. The International Jazz Festival takes place in November and will give you the opportunity to fully take in the vibes of Latin Jazz at the three-day event. The International Film Festival in December offers the world’s leading films of fiction as well as documentaries and Latin American cinema.
Time to shop
Almacenes San Jose, the Artisans’ Market, is an ideal spot to shop for souvenirs and gifts. It features a variety of Cuban made crafts by local artisans from paintings, clothing and wood carvings to musical instruments and antiques. Take home a unique piece of Cuban art to cherish the memory. With a little luck your shopping spree will coincide with the performance of some local band to take in the vibes.
An excellent opportunity to enjoy the atmosphere of the Old Havana district with some added retail therapy can be found on Obispo Street which is the main shopping area in the Old City, with more than a few clothing and shoe stores as well as jewellery and watch shops.
Fototeca De Cuba is a small shop attached to a photography gallery, specialising in the work of Cuban photographers. The themes range from social commentary to artistic pieces and breath-taking landscapes making sure you bring home both a conversation starter and a unique piece of memorabilia to remember your trip by.
When you get hungry
In the heat of the Havana streets you must try Guarapo, freshly squeezed pure sugarcane juice, to cool you down. You can also add lime to the mix to dilute the especially sweet taste.
For an opportunity to try something different and local, Malanga Chips are crisps made from a potato-like vegetable, closely related to the better known taro root. Great for snacking, they are similar to banana chips, but less sweet.
Habana 61, highly ranked amongst diners, is the place to be. This contemporary restaurant only has around 10 tables, so having a reservation is strongly recommended, not least for its popularity amongst those in the know. Their Ropa Vieja, a shredded beef dish with peppers and onions in a tomato sauce, simmered until it falls apart, is heavenly.
La Guarida, meaning ‘Hideaway’, is concealed on the upper floors of a shabby-chic residential building. This restaurant has gained international fame for its unusual setting and fabulous food making it the place to visit. With fish tacos and tuna steak, watermelon soup and ice cream on pineapple on the menu, gastronomes will delight in the opportunity to dine there.
The thing you never knew
There is a Chinatown in Havana, but it is conspicuously devoid of actual Chinese people. While Cuba once hosted a large Chinese community all that is left today is a few Chinese restaurants.
Havana has a semitropical climate with an average temperature of 28°C in the summer and 22°C in the winter. There is no cold season.
5 hours behind Scotland.
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