by Christine Scott
After to traveling to Cuba six times (five in the last three years), I am constantly asked for recommendations on where to go so I've compiled a list of restaurants, bars, clubs and experiences that are worth looking into while in Havana. If you're interested in an "insiders tour" to Cuba, let me know because I'm planning a trip for Fall 2017 (Christine@cultsha.com)
La Guardia: one of my fav's in an old building on the third floor, don't be scared walking up the stairs... it's a hidden gem.
El Cocinero: an old peanut factory turned restaurant with patio. (Next door to La Fabrica del Arte, my favorite hangout, music, art, bar scene in Havana, open Thurs-Sun). Super popular now, need a reservation.
Frente: in Havana Vieja, BEST drinks, rooftop bar/restaurant, ceviche. (same owners at 304 O'Reilly, which is also the address, across the street).
304 O'Reilly: small fun bar, excellent cocktails and ceviche in Havana Vieja. Fun scene.
El Litoral: Restaurant along the Malecon in Vedado. Great salad & seafood bar. Best to go at sunset
Dona Eutimia: in the back of a courtyard in Plaza de Cathedral in Havana Vieja. A hidden gem in a gorgeous plaza.
The Tavern: small spot on side street in Havana Vieja with great live music. In one of the plazas.
La Imprenta: fun lunch spot, on Mercaderes in Havana Vieja in an old printing factory.
Breakfast at Cafe Galeria, calle L between 15 y 17, if you're staying in Vedado.
Los Mercaderes: In Havana Vieja on the second fl. Touristy but good.
Casa Del Marques: on the Plaza de Catedral, great to sit on patio and watch the scene in the plaza.
Hotel Ingleterra: en the Parque Central (near Floridita) this is a patio to sip mojitos, listen to live music and take a break from walking Havana Vieja.
La Bodeguita del Medio: tiny bar in Havana Vieja with music 24/7. Very crowded this last trip, famous for a Hemingway hangout.. A great first stop in your Havana Vieja tour. Calle Empedrado.
Hotel Nacional: historic hotel (suggested reading before you go "Havana Nocturnal"), sit on back patio for mojitos or go down by the waterfront patio bar, live music usually in both places.
Hotel Capri: one block from El Nacional, great bar on rooftop overlooking city.
Sofia restaurant: Corner of 23rd Street, one block down from El Nacional. Great place to hear music at lunch and evening, food is ok but music is always fantastic. Also an internet hotspot.
El Floridita: a busy tourist stop but worth one visit for a daiquiri, famous for Hemingway hangout.
Iberostar rooftop for sunset cocktails.
Beach: Santa Maria about a 1/2 hour away. Local beach, very crowded. 10 mins further is new restaurant right on the water Le Mare for lunch.
Havana Yacht Club (recommended during the week, they don't accept non-members on weekends). A beach 20 minutes away with a bar, pool, restaurant. $15 CUCS each to get in, worth it for a break from the city crowds.
El Diablo Tun Tun: Thursday night at 6:30PM: locals flock to this place in Miramar to hear a local band "Ray Fernandez" pump out all kinds of latin, rock, classics, etc. Weds night is Osain del Monte, an amazing Rumba band that starts at midnite. The other Casa de la Musica is next door. A few doors down is Otramanera, a fantastic restaurant with eclectic seafood dishes and cool interior and patio bar.
Casa de Musica (Havana Central or Miramar): 15 CUC's great salsa bands, starts around 11PM
1830: Along the Malecon in Vedado, outdoor spot along the water, sometimes there a dance show (5 CUC), always dancing. There is a local hangout next door right on the water at the fortress called La Chorrera. Great spot for drinks, especially at sunset or evening.
King Bar: local bar in Havana Vieja, dancing to salsa, reggaeton, etc.
Palermo: reggae bar in Havana Vieja, haven't been there but it was recommended to me several times.
Callejon de Hamel: (Sundays) Art, rumba and Afro-Cuban live music in an alley in Central Havana. Get there early, gets very crowded.
Hemingway House: about 20 minutes outside Havana, a museum where Hemingway once lived and worked. (Just past Havana Yacht club & beach)
Fabrica del Arte: Thurs-Fri 8PM-3AM. Industrial size space with art galleries, bars, performance space, coolest place in Havana. Be prepared for a long line if you can't get in on the VIP or artist line.
If you want a local phone, I suggest bringing an old phone (make sure there is a space for SIM card) and waiting on the telecom line (go early, you can wait 2 hours in the afternoon) and pay $40 to get a line. Great way to connect with local friends, call a taxi, make reservations, etc. Otherwise go into one of the main hotels and they can make calls for you for a small fee.
Internet: You have to buy an internet card and then go to a hotspot in order to log in. If you buy the internet card at one of the hotels, you can only use the card at that hotel, so not a good idea. Calle 23 is an internet hotspot (have a beer at Sofia) but you may not always be able to log in, sometimes it takes a long time to connect (and very frustrating).