If you’re looking for streets lined with Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Ted Baker and Prada, look elsewhere. Havana isn’t a commercial shopping mecca filled with glistening malls, name brands, and endless sales.
Havana’s shopping scene is a bit more subtle and far more unique. Havana is a place to shop for art, unique clothing, leather goods, cigars, rum and one-of-a-kind household items. It’s a city of artisans and aficionados selling items you can’t find in big box stores or on Amazon. This is a place for shopping in galleries, at street markets and in one-of-a-kind boutiques for treasures you didn’t realize you were looking for.
Clandestina is a Havana boutique that sells T-shirts, tote bags, posters,, and more made by a collection of local artists. Its mission is to upcycle whenever possible and to be a pillar of sustainability in Cuban retail. Clandestina carries a broad selection of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, as well as posters and recycled bags.
Clandestina was one of the earliest private retail shops in Havana, with a brick-and-mortar store in Old Havana and online sales, too. Prices are high for Cuba and on par with what you might expect to pay at a Western retailer.
La Casa del Habano Quinta
Cohiba, anyone? You can’t come to Cuba and not shop for cigars. La Casa del Habano Quinta is one of the best places to shop for cigars in Havana. The store is well-stocked and known for its well-informed staff who can help walk you through its vast selection. La Casa del Habano also offers a smoking room and an on-site restaurant.
Almacenes San José
If Cuban art is on your shopping list, you'll want to visit Almacenes San José. This art market inside a sizeable two-story warehouse features works from dozens of Cuban artists. You'll find lots of paintings, ceramics, handmade jewelry, and more, and you won’t have to battle a blazing hot sun to browse. The building housing the market was built in 1885 and is among the oldest in Havana. It underwent a three-year restoration and reopened as a craft market in 2009.
If you’re interested in vintage Cuba or looking for a truly unique souvenir, you’ll want to add this shop to your itinerary. Memorias Librería is Havana's first antique bookstore. It’s located just 100 meters from Havana’s Fine Arts Museum. The store opened in 2014 and aims to revive the charm of Cuba’s heyday. In addition to antique books, Memorias Librería also carries postcards, cigar labels, posters, and historical photos.
Secondhand Book Market
You’ll find this Havana staple in the open-air ruins of the former Casa de Jústiz y Santa Ana. This is a fascinating place to spend an hour or two. Browse well-worn books that have served generations of Cubans. Discover iconic concert, vintage postcards and movie posters, talk with the vendors operating the market’s stalls and soak up the sense of community that has made this book market a part of the fabric of Havana for so many years.
Victor Manuel Gallery
This gallery can be pricey, but it's worth a visit—even if it's just to browse. The gallery is located in what was once a public bathhouse built over a cistern. Walk through its massive wooden doors, and you’ll find a wonderland of Cuban art. In addition to paintings, this gallery sells jewelry made by local designers and humidors made of Cuban cedar.
For a truly unique souvenir, head to Habana 1791, a perfumery housed in an 18th-century mansion in Old Havana. Habana 1791 is dedicated to the scents of colonial Cuba. It focuses on a dozen fragrances that can be blended to create bespoke perfumes and colognes. Shoppers can even select their bottles, many of them handcrafted in Cuba. Even if you don’t decide to update your scent, you’ll love perusing this space.
This cute boutique is no ordinary souvenir shop. Piscolabis carries all sorts of original decorative items—think pillows, handcrafted pottery, and paintings you’d be proud to display for decades—and well as jewelry and clothing made in Cuba. If you're looking for a truly one of a kind gift, home decor made of recycled materials or guayabera, this is where to find it. Piscolabis also operates an onsite coffee shop.
If you’re looking for traditional souvenirs, make it a point to get lost in Old Havana where you’re sure to stumble onto many intimate souvenir shops sell brightly colored paintings, magnets, cigar boxes, shirts and more. Do take a look at the pictures on Granma newspaper print.
Obispo Street Craft Market
For souvenirs, leather goods, jewelry, and artwork, take a stroll through the craft market on Obispo Street in Old Havana. The market is located between Aguacate and Compostela. If you’re looking for a new pair of shoes, a wallet or a handbag, look here. You’ll also find one-of-a-kind jewelry and any Che Guevarra thing you could imagine at bargain prices.
Galerías de Paseo
Cuba may be a socialist country, but not all Cubans living on the island are economically equal. To experience how Cuba’s elite shop, head to Galerías de Paseo. This is upscale Cuban shopping, but with brands and designers you’ve likely never heard of. With its glass and large curved windows, Galerias de Paseo looks like it’s straight out of the 1980s. It caters primarily to tourists and affluent Cubans and includes both a stocked supermarket and the Jazz Cafe, one of the city’s best places for jazz.
Rum is almost synonymous with Cuba, but airport regulations make flying with a bottle complicated, especially if you’re not checking a bag. When it comes to Cuban rum, your best bet is to buy at the Havana airport’s duty-free shop. You’ll find an ample selection of local rums as well as humidor that stocks everything from Romeo y Julieta to Cohiba cigars. With a sealed bag from the duty-free shop, you’ll be able to walk two bottles of rum onto your flight.