There is so much to see, so much to do and so much to enjoy in La Havana and with a good variety of restaurants, bars, cafes and sights to make sure you will never be bored in this city. Never heard of the Cuban cuisine? Well, neither had I…. I assumed rice and beans were sort of the main thing in this country but after having tried the dishes they serve around town in some of the many great restaurants in Havana I will conclude with the fact that the food was so much more than what I expected. I ate lobster, fish, tapas, tacos and probably the best caramel flan I´ve had in my life (and I´m not even that into flan anyways). There is also plenty to see and do and although I did spend some time in Havana I know there is still so much I never got to see. Here I put together a collection of my favourite places in the city of lemon daquiri.
This is a restaurant a bit outside the city center but it´s definitely worth the extra trip. The restaurant itself is in an old factory building that they did a great job renovating. You can either enjoy your food inside with intimate and cosy interiors or head upstairs to their roof terrace to enjoy their delicious food. An additional bonus is the nigh club/ cultural center (Fabrica del arte) just down the street that you dont wanna miss out on.
A great restaurant pick for a lazy afternoon. A bit on the pricier side (but still totally affordable compared to US/EU prices) but totally worth it if you are looking for some yummy seafood and some bubbles in your glass. I had lobster/veggie dishes followed by chocolate cake for desert and it was delicious!! If you are not into rooftops (what´s worng with you???) you would still enjoy the cool interior with a slight vintage touch.
El del Frente
Probably my favorite restaurant in Havana and also the place where I ate like a pig and ended up with food triplets, no joke. The food was just sooooo good. It kinda had a Barcelona feeling for those familiar with the city. Try to get a rooftop table, the vibe is super nice. Also their drinks are twice the price but also twice the size compared to other places.
This place is a bit outside the city center in the ambassadorial area but I really liked it. The restaurant is located in an old villa so you´ll feel extra special dining there. They honestly have the best frappe mojitos in town. And the black beans are to die for.
This restaurant is located by the seaside (Malecón) and suitably serve tasty seafood dishes (with other dishes for those not as into seafood as I am). If you´re into maritime theme this is your place.
Despite of being a bit touristic this charming place tucked in between the Plaza de la Catedral in the old town and Havana cafes. It´s a really cosy place with with sweet, old ladies serving you black beans and veggie plates whether you choose to sit outside and do some people watching or check out the cute walls of this traditional eatery.
Unfortunately I never got to eat here but was recommended this place by a Cuban friend as portions are big, inexpensive and tasty. You´ll find the place by Calle Brazil and Calle Teniente Rey. Let me know if the food is as good as promised!
This is an excellent option for breakfast in Havana; cute, inexpensive and just the vintage look I love. I actually had to have a look around and check out all the cute little details; an old sewing machine here, some old bottles turned into lamps there… Hot tip; go for the pancakes with Nutella and the ice coffee frappe. And thank me later!
El dandy cafe
My favourite cafe (for now) in Havana. Not sure if because of the cool bartender, the most DELICIOUS melt-in-your-mouth caramel flan ever (and that says a lot as I don´t really like t´flan that much), the feeling of sitting in your *Cuban* grandmother´s living room while sipping on a dark Cuban cortado with toast with butter, the tacos that are suprisingly yummy, the cooling drinks, the stunning phototgraphs on the wall, the view to the city life on Calle Brazil in the old city or the fact that it´s just a nice place to sit down for a break after walking around in the old city of Havana.
La dulcería Bianchini
This little cute cafe has great coffee, delightful little sweet treats and way too charming waiters. A great place at night if you´re in need of a quick spike in your blood sugar to continue the hunt for the best place for dinner in the old city.
This is a nice cafe by malecón and a perfect waterhole if you are looking for a place to cool down in the Cuban heat or are just in the mood to sit down with your notebook to collect your thoughts and impessions.
This bar on Plaza Vieja has the best and biggest daquiris in Havana! I just LOVE their drinks! The bar is located on the second floor and with tables outside on the terrace, meaning you´ll get a great view of Plaza Vieja. And the name sounds pretty sweet in my ears as I have the biggest sweet tooth ever. Azucar means sugar!!!
When it gets close to sunset go to Hotel Nacional for a daiquiri and sit in the garden overlooking the ocean. It’s a bucket list thing when you are in Havana and kind of mandatory. The hotel is really pretty and very 1930-ish, think Gatesby and a coupe glass with (yet again, surprise surprise) lemon daquiri.
La bodeguita del medio
This is supposed to be THE bar to see in Havana. I never went but it’s worth a drink there as it’s apparently very historic and cool. Both Pablo Nerudo, Fidel Castro and Salvador Allende have supposedly been hanging out here, in addition to Ernst Hemningway who resided for years in Cuba.
Just a really cool nightclub. It’s a big villa they converted into a night club/restaurant with several rooms where you can test your dancing skills with salsa and other Latin rhythms. I kinda got the feeling that this was more of a fancy place for locals, I believe I was the only blonde one there the night we went.
La fábrica del arte
This is a place next to El Cocinero (mentioned above) and it’s a really enjoyable place to hang out. It has several rooms; one for live concerts, one for dancing, one for movie screenings, one for drinking and chatting and another for art expos. I really enjoyed the type of people frequenting here, a mix of artsy Cubans, politically engaged youngsters, party peeps and culturally engaged locals and some outgoing expats. I even got to talk politics with people there, which was such an interesting experience for me seeing as I felt that many Cubans prefer to not discuss politics openly (which I completely respect and understand).
I wanted to visit the Rum museum both times I visited Cuba. Unfortunately, during my first visit we didn’t have the time and the second time our visit accidentally coincided with the passing of Former head of state Fidel Castro, which led to a complete shutdown of everything relating to alcohol. I do believe this could be a really interesting visit.
If the weather get´s too hot as was the case for us jumping on a tour bus is a refreshing option sightseeing alternative if you ask me. It´s such a comfy and effortless way to cover other parts of Havana than just the old city and god bless the wind on the upper deck when the temperature hits 35 celcius and more. You can jump on by the Parque Central (I think) and it will take you to the most interesting areas in Havana, such as La Plaza de la Revoulcion and the Colon Cemetery to mention some.
The old city in Havana is really something extrodinary. You´ll feel as though you wandered into the past. Just walk around, get lost and enjoy the vintage vibe in the city
Castillo de San Carlos de la Cabana
Castillo de San Carlos de la Cabana can be a good alternative for the hours before sunset. The castle is located on the other side of the old city in Havana. I think you would need to get a car to get there as I didn´t see any bridges to cross over but I might be wrong. You´ll get a great view overlooking the city and it´s a beautiful area to walk around in.
Castillo de la real fuerza
Cuba also has a castle next to Plaza de las Armas worth visiting if you are into history. I kind of liked the visit to this castle as well as I have a fascination for old castles and fortresses. If you would like to prioritize I would go for the Castillo de San Carlos de la Cabana as it covers a large area and has better views. But that´s my opinion.
Plaza de Armas Secondhand Book Market
The second hand book market is an enjoyable thing to do when you are walking around in the old city of Havana. I went there to take a look but didn´t end up bying anything though. But there are plenty of possibilities to find little gems or just checking out the vintage books and magazines.
Alameda Main Street
Walking down Alameda Main Street is also a pleasant activity if you enjoy people watching or looking at the old Havana houses. You´ll end up by the sea side and from there you can continue down the Malecon, the avenue along the shore where the view is nice and there are restaurants and cafes to sit and relax.
Callejon de Hamel
After getting this tip from a Cuban we made sure to stop by Callejon de Hamel, a street displaying Afro-Cuban culture on walls and objects placed around as well as sculpturs and a few rooms with paintings made from the creator of the street; Salvador Gonzáles Escalona. Whether your have anthropological tendencies or just want to explore other sides to the Cuban culture Callejon de Hamel is an interesting dive into one element of what is Cuba.
Finally, I´m not really up to speed on things happening in Havana but my friend who still lives there recommends this online magazine for more updated information on new places: http://www.lahabana.com/content/monthly-guide/