The melody of horns floating through the air, classic cars parked in colonial squares and revolutionary statues—get over the resort wall and discover the real Cuba! Travel east to Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa and encounter the birthplace of Cuban rhythms and revolutionary fervour. Soak in Spanish heritage while exploring churches, forts and cobblestone streets. Overnight in local homestays for an immersive Cuban experience few travellers get to experience. Don’t just walk down the road less travelled—dance down it. Viva la Revolución!
Essential Havana Holiday Experiences
Author: Emma Lelliott
Mysterious, beguiling Havana has been charming visitors for decades, and remains the one essential place to visit on a Cuba holiday. Havana is a city that sometimes seems frozen in time – the old colonial architecture, ancient cars on the streets and the traditional warmth and hospitality weave a charming spell on everyone who visits.
You could spend weeks on holiday in Havana and still not feel like you’d scratched the surface, but if you are looking for inspiration for things to see and do, here are four suggestions to get you started…
Drink Like Ernest Hemingway
Of course, I’d advise against actually drinking like Hemingway – the Nobel winning author was famed for a prodigious, liver withering rate of consumption! But if you are on holiday in Havana, you should certainly raise a glass to Cuba’s most famous ex pat in one of his old haunts. The Floridita is the most famous, with the Daiquiri being Hemingway’s drink of choice. He also liked to drink Mojitos at another nearby bar – La Bodeguita del Medio.
If you want to complete the Hemingway circuit in style, make sure you stop off at the hotel bar at Ambos Mundos, where the great man stayed and wrote the opening to For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Stroll Through the Old Town
It is the best preserved colonial city in Latin America, with over four centuries of architectural delights kept in remarkable condition. Exploring the Old Town on a holiday to Havana can keep you occupied you hours, wandering from one grand plaza to the next, and enjoying historic sites such as the Gran Teatro and the Catedral de San Cristobal. Make sure you finish up with a walk along the Malecon, the harbour wall that provides breathtaking coastal vistas to accompany the colonial architecture. The Malecon comes alive at night, and is a great place to sit, sip cocktails and watch the crowds go by.
Take in a Cuban Festival
Havana plays host to a variety of different festivals all throughout the year, and it is well worth trying to time your visit to take one in on your holiday to Havana; you’ll see the city at its most exciting and vibrant. Jazz fans shouldn’t miss out on the International Jazz Festival held each February, while the Ballet Festival in October has played host to many world premieres. If you neither jazz nor ballet is your thing, come along to the Havana Carnival in June, where the entire city becomes one giant street party. Be aware that accommodation books up fast in festival time, so plan well in advance if you want to include a festival visit during your Havana holiday.
Dance the Night Away
Nothing embodies the spirit of the city like dance and music. From salsa to son, jazz to reggae, it is a culture of music and movement, and everyone on a Havana holiday should take the time to explore the music clubs and dance venues. Music lovers shouldn’t miss out on the Irakere Jazz Club, founded by Chucho Valdes, one of the country’s most famous jazz musicians. If you’d rather strut your funky stuff on a night out, Casa de la Música de Centro Habana is where the bright young things practise their salsa steps and listen to the best bands.
About the Author
Emma Lelliott is the general manager of Captivating Cuba, an independent specialist in luxury holidays to Cuba. With offices in Havana and the UK, Captivating Cuba can help you tailor-make the perfect Havana holiday.