Havana is a pretty magical city, and despite my many trips to Cuba starting from when I was an infant, I’m ashamed to say that up until about 3 years ago, I hadn’t experienced much of it.
Although we flew into Havana almost every time we visited Cuba, we typically spent most of our time there at my aunt and uncle’s house which is in a suburb about half an hour from the city. We were there to visit family, and site-seeing wasn’t really part of the agenda. I also had a gap of about 6 years where I didn’t visit due to college and law school.
The past 3 times I have visited Cuba, we stayed in Ciudad de Habana (the city itself) and getting around the city and exploring was much easier. Being walking distance from one of the major hotels in the city, we had cabs at our disposal, including the old classic / beautifully restored cars that Cuba is so famous for. On our first full day, my boyfriend, our friend and I decided that we were going to do one of the touristy classic car tours of Havana. We piled into an old convertible and started to see the city. While some of the “sites” were a little tourist-trappy and not what we had had in mind, overall, it was a pretty great day. As our tour ended, we had our driver and guide drop us off in Old Havana, where we had lunch at one of my favorite restaurants: La Moneda Cubana.
While there are innumerable restaurants and cocktail spots to visit while in Havana, these are a couple of my favorites of each:
La Moneda Cubana: Located in Old Havana, La Moneda Cubana is a staple stop on my trips to the city. I highly recommend sitting on the rooftop patio of this restaurant- you’ll have to climb up some narrow and steep steps to reach the top but let me tell you, it is worth it. The view from this patio is of the Morro, the old fortress of the city, and the bay of Havana. Lobster is always a good choice but ask if there are any specials!
Habana Mia 7: We practically moved into this restaurant during our stay in Havana. Located a block away from our AirBnB and across the street from the Melia Cohiba, we wandered over to this restaurant one night when we were too tired to explore. We loved it so much we went back 3 times and I am not a person who repeats restaurants on vacation. Habana Mia 7 had an open kitchen concept with a large glass window allowing you to view the chef preparing the meals. Everything was delicious (we would know, we probably tried half of the menu during our many visits). Most importantly, however, the people who worked at this place were kind and honest. One member of our group forgot his iPhone at the restaurant and it was there waiting in the manager’s office when we returned the next day. I highly recommend the squid ink risotto and the cheesecake. Also, definitely order the bread- it is delicious!
I hesitated before putting these two in the “Cocktails” category because they really offer so much more of a social experience than just the drink that you might pick up. Even if you don’t drink, I highly recommend stopping by these two spots.
If you’re a Hemingway buff, or just want to have the full Havana experience, there are two bars you cannot miss in Havana: El Floridita, and La Bodeguita del Medio.
El Floridita: This was Hemingway’s Daiquiri bar, and let me tell you, it was his favorite for a reason. We made it there on our last full day in Havana, because, well, I didn’t want to leave Cuba without visiting El Floridita.
We got there about 20 minutes before it opened (it was a busy day so we wanted to make sure we fit this in!) and there were probably 50+ people waiting at the door. As the doors opened, we were greeted with the sound of Cuban music, glasses clinking, and blenders whirring. Daiquiri glasses were lined along the bar as the bartenders prepared for the masses.
La Bodeguita Del Medio: This another favorite, where Hemingway liked to go for his mojitos. On this trip, we only stopped by for a few minutes and it was pretty crowded, so I’m including a picture I took on a previous trip, when I was able to get a seat at the bar. If you visit the Bodeguita, you’ll notice that there are names scribbled on the walls and the wood. I unfortunately didn’t have a sharpie with me this time so I’m making a mental note so I can make my mark next time! The Bodeguita bar area is tiny, and as you’ll see in the picture, lined with a variety of Havana Club rum. There is usually live music here as well and it’s a pretty “Cuban” experience.
This is just a small sample of places that I love in Havana, and ones that I wouldn’t miss if you only have a couple of days there! I hope you enjoy Cuba as much as I do. I would love it if you’d leave me your restaurant recommendations in the comments as I am always looking for new places to visit!