There’s nowhere in the world quite like Havana. In Habana Viejo you have camera-seducing colonial buildings in various states of restoration. In the streets, visitors look up and around while local life carries on around them. While in neighbourhoods such as Vedado, Art Deco mansions rub shoulders with edgy art spaces and place-to-be-seen clubs. It’s a heady mix for a boutique city break – and one that’s sure to steal your heart.
A bright patchwork of old and new, woven with creative energy and a zest for life
THINGS TO DO
Over 500 years of history have shaped Havana’s streets and squares. The place to start is Habana Viejo, the endlessly charming, UNESCO-listed old town. Walk from Plaza de Armas down alleys lined with faded neoclassical buildings and criss-crossed with washing lines. For a big-picture view of Havana, visit a defensive post such as Castillo de la Real Fuerza, built by the Spanish in the 16th century to protect their new colony. For an unmissable look at the island’s modern history, visit Plaza de la Revolucion followed by the Museum of the Revolution, to set it in context.
With such a turbulent history and irrepressible spirit, it’s no surprise that Havana has a thriving art scene. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is where to see Cuban painting through the centuries, from the colonial era to after the revolution. However, soaking up Havana’s culture is as much about sipping coffee as strolling through galleries. Take a seat at a cafe under a stately colonnade and follow the local lead by ordering espresso. Far from a quick caffeine fix, coffee here is something to savour over a long conversation.
When the sun goes down, the fun is just beginning in Havana. Get dressed up for the ballet at Gran Teatro de la Habana, a 19th century theatre that recently reopened. Or slip on your dancing shoes and seek out jazz and salsa clubs in Vedado. Although, it’s just as enjoyable sitting down with a drink and watching the pros at work. For something completely different, try Fabrica de Arte Cubano. This former factory turned creative space hosts avant-garde theatre, political art and more – along with an excellent cocktail bar.
There’s no missing the Malecón waterside promenade. Take an early evening stroll to join the flow of dramas, dates and debates playing out.
TOP TIP FROM SLH