6 Things You Must Do When in Havana
Cuba will probably always have the stereotype of not having freedom due to the fact that it is a communist country.
But times have changed as well as people. Havana is no longer frozen in time.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Cuba’s colorful capital (known for the Spanish colonial architecture of its 16th-century Old Havana core) you will now see classic American cars driving by and new offerings in food, culture, and nightlife.
What is so astonishing about the city is that it’s a mash-up of past and present, freedom and restriction. It’s a city full of creativity where people from all over the world can come together and experience something totally different.
Although the capital has new and improved things to offer to the people, some limits for Americans still remain in place.
Despite of the relations with Cuba, tourism is still banned by the embargo to this day. Good news is that for those who reach Havana without permission, the city will be ready to take your breath away.
Below you will find a list of things you MUST do, from the moment you step foot out of your plane until you have to head back home.
- Siá Kará: Just the right sized 50’s style restaurant/bar to have some mojitos. Grab a seat close to the piano or in a far corner from the piano to allow yourself to absorb the tunes and later on dive into a late night conversation. Siá Kará is an Afro- Cuban expression meaning “to wash away the past” and you can’t leave Cuba without an intense discussion about life itself.
2. Café Mamainé: Head to Café Mamainé (old colonial mansion) in Vedado for Havana’s version of the Starbucks frappuccino.It’s sweet, icy, strong and flavored with a touch of cinnamon all in one, yes all in one. Enjoy your frap along with a simple ham and cheese omelet or even with an American breakfast of toast, butter, jelly, fruit, eggs, sausage and some more coffee. Why not.
3. 331 Art Space: Schedule an appointment at a renovated 1941 mansion called 331 Art Space. Here you will find work from young artists like Frank Mujica, Alex Hernández and Adrián Fernández, whose style range from minimal intimate drawings to large scale prints. And if you are an art collector, prices aren’t too shabby. Painting prices are roughly $500 to $10,000. As painter Alex Hernández describes his generation’s grand, global ambition to create art that reflects Cuba but “looks to a wider audience, an international audience.” Even if it’s just to look around, don’t miss out on this exposition.
4. Casa Abel: When in Cuba it’s a crime to not stop by a cigar lounge. Head to Casa Abel, a new bar, restaurant AND cigar lounge. Jose Abel Espósito Díaz, is the owner of this gem. Abel, as everyone knows him, is a charming repository of tobacco lore and explanation. He often hosts events for cigar aficionados from all over the world.
5. Río Mar: Río Mar has become a favorite for Cuban residents for its waterfront location on the edge of lush Miramar. It’s simple, great location and great food. If you are overwhelmed from all the Cuban fare, try the seafood pasta or go back in time with pan de boniato and the ropa vieja (a shredded-meat classic made from lamb.) That was one of the Cuban dishes that vanished right after the Revolution. It’s not over just yet; you can’t leave without ending the feast with some flan while you watch the waves knock into the shore.
6. La Casa de la Música: Get your groove on at La Casa de la Música. You can’t leave Cuba without learning some new salsa moves. Los Van Van, Celia Cruz and other Cuban legends may have to compete with reggaeton and hip-hop these days, but La Casa de la Música in Miramar is still a reliable nightspot for live music and dancing to salsa and merengue. The crowd size varies depending on the night you go, but with the right band on the right night, you can lose yourself here and have a night to remember.
You can thank me later. Safe travels.