Havana is one of these cities that naturally ends up in people´s bucket lists. We all saw it in the movies. And there´s something in that city we want to see. We want to live it. We want to experience it. We all want to have our own dirty dancing in Havana.
Tourist guides are full of places you should see. Museum of the revolution (only if you speak Spanish though). Habana Vieja (amazing for 1/2 hour walk). Revolution Square ( huge square with Che and Camilo faces on the building and that’s it). You can visit it all but will it mean that you get to know the real face of Havana?
This is what I would recommend you to do when you’re done with all the sightseeing.
1.It’s a cliche I know. But if you’re in Havana you should come to the Malecón. In the end of the day, when all the Cubans are off work already. This is the biggest meeting point in Cuba. Kinds playing, couples dating, friends drinking rum and dancing. You will see it here. On the sunset. During the day nothing to see really. Just old cars full of tourist passing by. The magic happens later on 🙂
2. Get lost in Centro Habana and find Callejón de Hamel. Be careful though. Centro Habana may not be the safest place to walk around so make sure you avoid small streets and this is not the best place to talk to locals. Jineteros are the hustlers who are pretending to be really nice, and start to talk to you to “exchange cultures” but in the end they always try to rip you off. They’re not very dangerous but annoying.
They take a lot of people to Callejón de Hamel. However this place is still worth to visit. It’s a home to eccentric artist and a place for Santería rituals. Great on Sundays especially if you´re curious about the Afro-Cuban heritage.
3. Visit Vedado. But not just pass by it n the hop-on, hop-off bus or the american car. Walk it to discover amazing architecture it offers. Mansions build in Art Deco style are just beautiful, some of them abandoned or super expensive waiting for somebody to buy them. This is where you can really imagine how amazing Havana was back in the 50´s.
4.Feel like a star and eat in La Guarida. Beside the fact all the celebrities who visited Havana (Beyonce, Rihanna etc.) had their dinner there, La Guarida is a part of Cuban history. The building got cult and famous after Strawberries and Chocolate movie was filmed there amazing by the way). After this the owners decided to open a restaurant there. You may think because it´s so famous the prices will be crazy but they are not! And it´s almost hard to believe that such a building can host such a place.
It´s of course more expensive than the average Cuban restaurant but affordable and the feeling after eating in such a famous place – amazing. Don´t miss their roof top bar!
5. Feel Havana and visit a local bar. Not La Floridita. Not La Bodeguita del Medio. Cubans don´t go there! Maybe those were Hemingway´s favorite bars but I´m sure if he came to Havana now and saw how busy they are, he would find himself a better place to get drunk. And I recommend you the same. Get lost in the alleys and find your unique spot to meet the locals.
In the end, the more local you keep your travel, the more you´ll learn about the place you visit.