It’s no longer a fantasy – getting to Havana is now as easy as boarding a non-stop flight. But don’t delay – this time-capsule of a city won’t go undeveloped for long.
Walk the Malecón
The best way to get acquainted with a new locale is to see it by foot – and what better path to walk than the Malecón, with its picturesque views of the Caribbean on one side and the vintage city on the other? Originally constructed as a protective wall against the waves, the esplanade now hosts old fishermen and lounging youths alike, all enjoying the relaxing tableau at every hour of the day. Bring a bottle of wine (or local rum!) for a leisurely stroll or a people-watching picnic.
Devour Delicious Local Cuisine
From ropa vieja to grilled lobster, you can feast your eyes and your belly at La Moraleja, one of Havana’s most delicious Paladares (family-run food establishments). With garden seating in its beautiful terrace, this rustic restaurant serves up several courses of local dishes, all bursting with colorful flavor. Be sure to order their world-class piña colada, replete with a red-and-white sugared rim and fresh coconut – and cap the meal off with a house cigar.
Discover Modern Art and Music
Havana’s trendy Fabrica de Arte Cubano (aka “the FAC”) almost always has a line around the block, but for good reason – the multi-level cultural warehouse is home to fantastic modern art, live music, and video installations, allowing visitors to get lost in its myriad curated spaces. Grab a mojito at one of many bar stations and make your way through the beautiful galleries, or dance the night away to a rotating schedule of bands and DJs. Just be sure to arrive early – though even late, it’s well worth the wait.
Dance All Night at Mio y Tuyo
Havana might put New York to shame as the real city that never sleeps – especially at Mio y Tuyo, a welcoming bar/club where dancing is the #1 priority. Enjoy tasty rum cocktails while locals sing along to hit after hit, hour after hour, all joyously cutting a rug with seemingly no closing time in sight. Novice boppers need not be intimidated – the infectious music and hospitable atmosphere makes a confident dancer out of everyone.
Hit the Beach
You don’t have to venture far into the countryside to enjoy the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean. Just a twenty-minute cab ride outside the city, Havana’s Playas del Este offer easy access to the ocean and miles of sandy beaches for a relaxing day. Grab a coconut (with or without rum) from the casual vendors walking the surf – along with a straw hat if needed. Then, after a long day in and out of the warm waters, visit the roadside seafood shacks for a tasty meal before heading back to town.
Visit Hemingway's Haunt
In the middle of Old Havana lies the famous Floridita, the world-renown restaurant and bar that’s never changed locations since opening in 1817. With live music from an all-female acoustic band and high-arching pours from dapper daiquiri doctors behind the bar, you’ll understand why writers like Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and Graham Greene all frequented the local cantina. Then pose with the bronze statue of Papa himself, forever frozen in pontification alongside the counter. Be sure to try the signature drink (invented at the bar in the 1930s) for a taste of what inspired the Lost Generation’s greatest literature.
Explore Time-Stopped Havana Vieja
Taking a stroll in this vintage neighborhood will give you a real sense of just how untouched Havana has remained since the 1950s. From the ubiquitous antique cars in their brilliant colors to the massive, abandoned skeletons of grand hotels, you can walk block after block and only imagine the lush life that once flowed through the town. Hidden above the marble buildings’ empty, decrepit lobbies, you’ll now find some new dining or dancing establishments – but from the outside, the views are practically as unchanged and beautiful as ever.
Hear the Stars Sing at Rosalia
There’s a reason the Buena Vista Social Club has supplied Cuba’s unofficial soundtrack for decades. To hear the original “estrellas” belt out their classic tunes, be sure to visit the Sociedad Cultural Rosalia de Castro for the best musical revue in town. Housed above an antique, open-air marble staircase, the big-band sound carries through the courtyard and will get you on your feet in no time. Enjoy the infectious beats and booming brass from over a dozen players – and sink your teeth into the club’s delicious ropa vieja sandwich while you’re at it.
Visit a Cigar Factory
Since you no longer have to smuggle the country’s signature export upon your return, why not visit the production house straight at the source? Take a tour at the Fábrica de Tabaco Partagas to watch the hand-rolling in action, breathing in the rich aromas of the locally-grown national crop. Then head downstairs to the shop for an abundant selection of boxes ready for purchase to bring back home to friends and family – that is, if you can abstain from smoking them all yourself!
Visit the Plaza de Armas
This historical monument was recently renovated by UNESCO, and the result is absolutely gorgeous. With lush gardens and a peaceful moat, this former military stronghold (and oldest town square in Havana) is now home to booksellers by day and romantic tranquility by night. And with the Museo de la Ciudad close at hand, there’s plenty of history to soak up among amidst the architectural and floral beauty.