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How long for Havana?

How long for Havana?

Old Nov 20, 13, 11:05 am
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How long for Havana?

Dear all,

on an upcoming Mexico trip we´d like to take advantage of the opportunity for a side trip to cuba. We´ll be flying MEX-HAV-CUN. How long would you suggest to stay in Havana? 2, 3 or 4 full days???
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Old Nov 20, 13, 5:10 pm
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It's very difficult to say without knowing anything of your predilections, but a three days to a week in Havana / La Habana could be sufficient. There's lots to see and do, but again, it will vary - those with interests in politics, culture, Afro-Cuban and Cuban music, architecture, etc. can get into these topics quite nicely, for example. I'd recommend doing a bit of reading or / and research.
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Old Nov 22, 13, 1:08 pm
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If all you have is 4 days, that is doable. Some people like the place, some hate it. What may happen is you get sick of the food and people hassling you for everything and anything.

Try to stay at the former Hilton, Tryp Habana Libre in Vedado, as that is a best place to explore the city, lots of places to eat. Also try to avoid some tourist trap palada's(family type of restaurants). Anymore questions send me a pm. I will be there Dec 21 as I do every year since 2001.


1. Step into Old Havana

With an architectural heritage spanning more than five centuries, La Hababa Vieja (old Havana) is a virtual time machine of styles and techniques. While the area’s sights are big crowd-pullers – Plaza de Armas (the oldest square in Havana and the site of the city’s foundation), El Templete (the oldest neo-classical building in Havana), Casa de la Obra Pia (notable for its curvaceous baroque portico, which was carved in Cadiz in 1686. Today it houses a museum of 18th century furniture and goods) and the Covento de Santa Clara (a pre-baroque nunnery with rammed-earth walls and beautiful cloister) – visitors are as likely to be excited by the commotion of daily streetlife. So, put your walking shoes on and soak it all up.

2. Check out the state of the art

Opened in its current location in 1954, the Muse Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) (861 3858/www.museonacional.cult.cu) was reopened in 2001 to unanimous praise, following a five-year closure. The art collection – totalling nearly 50,000 works – has been divided into two separate buildings: the Cuban art collection (Arte Cubano), and the international collection (Arte Universal). The international collection is a passable survey of world art but the main draw is the building itself.

3. Take in the view from Cuba’s most famous hotel

Havana’s most famous hotel, and the only one in Cuba that’s a national monument, the National first opened its doors in 1930 hand has been frequented by the rich and famous ever since – there’s something about cruising through the lobby in the knowledge that you’re following in the footsteps of so many famous names, including Winston Churchill and Al Capone. Head up to the hotel bar La Terraza for a cocktail and a magnificent views of the Malecón.

4. Have a glass of cold chocolate

To call Museo del Chocolate (Calle Mercaderes, esquina Amargura, 866 4431) a museum is an overstatement, perhaps, though there are some nice artefacts relating to the history of chocolate in Cuba. In any case, it’s a lovely place to stop for a breather, whether you opt for a warming cup of hot chocolate (thick enough to stand your spoon in) or a soothing glass of cold chocolate. You can also watch chocolates being made at the back of the premises. Make sure you buy some truffles to take away. Note that there are often long queues for tables, and that the museum sometimes closes when the chocolate runs out or a VIP turns up for a visit.

5. Shimmy down to Cabaret Tropicana (The Nacional also has this show as an alternative)

More Vegas than Berlin, Havana’s caberet-espectáculos are song and dance variety shows performed by G-stringed mulatas. With the state aware of their huge popularity with foreign visitors, the primary function of cabarets these days seems to be to fleece tourists. Dress appropriately – avoid shorts, sleeveless T-shirts and sandals – and keep your mind on your money and you’ll be sure to have a good time. Shimmy down to the Copa Room (Hotel Riviera, Malecón, esquina Pasea, Verdado, 334051 ext 119) to see some of Havana’s finest groups perform at the weekends but the real coup de grace is Cabaret Tropicana (Calle 72 #4504, Linea del Ferrocarril, 267 171/0110, www.cabaret-tropicana.com) – tucked away in the western neighbourhood of Marianao, it’s the grandest of Havana’s cabarets with an outdoor theatre seating up to 800.

6. Tour the city in a classic 50’s car

What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Cuba? Rum, you say. No, not that one. Cigars? Close, but no… That’s right, cruising around town in a 1950’s classic car is the only way to take in the sights. Make sure you ask your driver to cruise along the Malecón, the atmospheric ocean road lined with lovers, fisherman and dogs peering out to sea set against a backdrop of a long parade of coloured but fading, dilapidated and salt-eroded colonial and art deco buildings.

Bookable through Gran Car at all hotel tour desks. Cars are recognisable by their highly preserved state and black logo. They cannot be hailed on the street.

7. Toast Hemingway, then go to a real Cuban bar

The classic Hemingway haunts – La Bodeguita del Medio (Calle Empedrado #207, entre San Ignacio y Cuba, 866 8857/867 1374/5) and El Floridita (Calle Obispo #557, esquina Bélgica (Monserrate), reservations 867 1299, switchboard 867 1300) – are particularly under-patronised by locals, and have become little more than photo opportunities and places to rip off tourists with watered down mojitos at extortionate prices. Of course, Hemingway would be not want to be seen dead in such spots, so make like the great man himself and situate yourself appropriately for cultural osmosis: Bar Monserrate (Avenida de Bélgica, #401, esquina Obrapía, 860 9751) consistently comes up with the goods and Lluvia de Oro (Calle Obispo #316, esquina Habana, 862 9870) has a fabulously raucous atmosphere when a band plays.

8. ‘Playas’ around on white sand

The Playas del Este are frequently overlooked by tourists, but more than hold their own against the slicked-up resorts elsewhere in the country. Just 20 minutes by car from Old Havana the beaches are really a single, eight-kilometre (five-mile) stretch with changing names (from west to east): Tarará, El Mégano, Santa María del Mar, Boca Ciega and Guanabo. Each with their own differing scenic nuances and unique feel, they offer something for everyone.

Last edited by djjaguar64; Nov 23, 13 at 5:03 pm
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Old Nov 24, 13, 9:58 pm
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Another decent hotel to consider (well stuated, well kept up and minimal "Fawlty Towers" issues common in lower priced - and even pricey! - hotels) is the Iberostar Hotel Parque Central.

For a good read on what La Habana (and Cuba) was like in the 1950s, I recommend Havana Nocturne by T. J. English (in particular how the Mob changed Cuba to create a nexus for Mafia-controlled crime). In the Hotel Nacional, visit Room 211, where the Mob met and divvied up the gaming and crime sectors.

And yep, Gran Car is a nice way to spend some time - imagine yourself in the back seat of a 1949 Chevrolet Deluxe convertible, top down, driving down 5a Avenida and the Malecón (as we did a week ago Saturday...)
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