48 hours in Havana
Havana is unique. The crumbling magnificence of the architecture, the colours, the music, the street life, the iconic classic cars. It's everything you imagine it to be and more. I feel so lucky to have experienced this truly captivating city, and urge anyone and everyone to visit the wonderful country of Cuba.
We landed in the evening, and after waiting over an hour for my luggage to appear (it was the very last one off the plane... suffice to say I was getting a little nervous..) we headed off into the city. As soon as we stepped out of the taxi into the Havana streets, we were instantly enthralled.
We had three nights in the city, so technically a little more than 48 hours, and felt that we really got a good feel for the place in that time.
Where to stay:
Cuba's 'Casa Particulars' (private homestays) are the best place to stay to get a taste of the real Cuba. Cuban families are allowed to rent out one or more rooms to travellers, and we really enjoyed meeting the families we stayed with.
We stayed at Casa Madelyn, which had an unbeatable location behind the Capitolio in the heart of the city, close to the vibrant Parque Central and Old Havana which meant we could walk everywhere. You can find Casas like Madelyn's on Airbnb, which makes booking them very easy! https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/14961944
What to do:
First and foremost, did you even go to Havana if you didn't have a classic car ride?! These beautiful cars really are everywhere, and cruising down the Malecon in a fabulous pink 1950s classic car was an absolute highlight of our trip. Just walk over to the one you fancy parked up in Parque Central, negotiate your price and off you go.
Walking, walking and more walking! Simply walking the streets of the districts of Centro and Habana Vieja, you will experience all of Cuban life. The sights, the sounds (there truly is live music around every corner) and the colours make walking this city a real joy. The dilapidated yet magnificent architecture took my breath away. Parque Central is a great starting point, surrounded by the stunning architecture of the Teatro Nacional and various grand hotels. It's also where the classic cars gather, so there's always a wonderful photo opportunity to be had.
Taller Experimental de Gráfica
While walking around the old town, we stumbled across this arts workshop, and were so glad we did. At the end of Callejon de Chorro in Habana Vieja, we were able to walk around this workshop-cum-gallery space and see artists at work screen-printing and engraving some beautiful artwork. There's also a small gallery, where I saw a stunning print that I will regret not buying for the rest of my life!!
Museo de la Revolucion
We paid a visit to this museum, dedicated to the events leading up to, during, and post the 1959 Cuban Revolution. The English translations aren't the best, but we still got a good (albeit biased) understanding of the history, and how the revolution changed the country. It's housed in the very grand former Presidential Palace
Necropolis Cristobal Colon
A huge, city-sized cemetery with the most beautiful bright white sculptures and tombs. It was stunning and very peaceful to wander around.
Where to eat & drink:
The reputation of Cuban food being bland and uninteresting is rapidly changing. More and more private restaurants are popping up and we had some delicious food.
'El Dandy' on Plaza del Cristo became our go-to. This fantastic little bar also serves food morning, noon & night. We had some great pulled pork tacos on our first night, and £1.50 mojitos, which went down very well indeed! http://www.bareldandy.com/bar/
'El Chanchullero' is another gem on the same square, serving enormous portions of tapas and fantastic cocktails. http://www.el-chanchullero.com/
We had a fabulous lunch just outside the Taller Experimental de Grafica, at 'Paladar Dona Eutimia', a restaurant serving traditional Cuban dishes, which was one of our favourite meals in Havana. The roasted chicken with frijoles and rice was absolutely delicious!
'Cafe Arcangel' was our favourite little breakfast place. We sat outside in their tiny courtyard garden and enjoyed bacon and eggs and plenty of fruit. http://cafearcangel.com/pictures.html
There are bars *everywhere*, just follow the sound of live salsa music and you'll stumble across a bar serving cheap and delicious rum cocktails. Sia-Kara Bar, near our Casa, had incredible live music and wonderfully friendly barmen. https://www.havanainsider.com/sia-kara/
Sitting in a bar, listening to beautiful Cuban music (if you weren't a fan of Buena Vista Social Club before visiting, you certainly will be afterwards!!), sipping on a mojito, what could be better. Havana is a true gem, and I can't wait to go back.
We went in early February, which seemed to be the perfect time to explore the city, with warm but not too hot weather at around 27 degrees. It was perfect!
Wifi: Finding Wifi was much easier than we anticipated. Internet isn't allowed in Cuban homes, but it's easy to find around the city in many public squares and hotels. We made the lobby of the Hotel Plaza our wifi point, for checking in with home and sending lots of envy-inducing photos! You have to buy a card for $1 which gives you one hour's access. From the Hotel Plaza we were also able to book our onward travel to rural Viñales, so it's a useful spot to know.