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The trade and travel bans which have prevented Havana keeping proper pace with the rest of the world might almost be considered a gift to travellers. Because this city is magical. From the old American cars to the bright colours the graceful old houses are painted, to Che Guevara - who looks back at you from numerous walls, murals and chests, to the crumbling sea wall and the constant rhythm in the air. For many people the best places to stay in Havana will be in Old Havana, where rows of mansions around graceful plazas have been converted into small hotels. But if you’re looking for something quieter then our Guru’s list of the best places to stay in Havana has something for you too.
Pirates, revolutionaries, Hemingway, salsa: Havana’s history is so rich with fascinating stories that you could spend your whole visit unravelling the past and entirely miss this city’s indefatigable charms. Which would be a mistake, because although the paint is peeling in many places, the sea wall looks like it could crumble at the next big wave and much of the city smells slightly of diesel fumes from all the old bangers kept, miraculously, on the road, there’s plenty of life in this city.
There are so many places to start exploring.
- Do you stroll or drive the Malecón, with its mishmash of architecture, from art nouveau whimsey to neoclassical tradition to square, solid, modern structures, lit up like a dream at sunset or engulfed by waves on a blustery day?
- Do you start at the Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana with its miss-matched baroque towers and classical interior?
- Do you first see the Plaza de Armas, Havana’s oldest square, laid out in the 1520s soon after Havana was founded, and now lush and tropical feeling?
- Or Plaza Vieja, or ‘old square’, a more architecturally eclectic and Havana-typical plaza?
- Or do you head to the harbour to see the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, the huge fortress protecting Havana from the ocean, which is also known for becoming Che Guevara’s headquarters post revolution?
- Or do you head straight for the Tropicana for a Cuba Libre?
Havana’s central handicrafts market, the Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Deposito San Jose is definitely worth adding to your itinerary, as is the Museum of the Revolution, housed in the former Presidential Palace and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes - art museum.
If you’re at all interested in religious architecture or cemeteries, then the Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón with its eerie and elaborate memorials is also worth a stroll through. And then there are Havana’s museums - pf course there’s a Hemingway museum, but there’s also a Napoleon museum. Havana is just full of treasures.
If you want to make sure you get a reservation in one of the best places to stay in Havana, plan well ahead....this island is becoming one of THE places to go!
For classic Cuban style
- The Saratoga is a Cuban icon, known for its classical grandeur and unrivalled views. While the look is pure heritage you’ll still find all the mod. cons. and there’s a chic lobster restaurant and cocktail bar.
- The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is awash with old school glamour. Rooms are spacious and filled with antiques and even the palm-fringed pool has a certain retro charm!
- Santa Isabel is a stunning colonial mansion on a beautiful plaza, now converted into a 27 room hotel with romantic decor, a rooftop bar and an excellent restaurant. There are plenty of original details, like the Spanish feeling courtyard and the sweeping marble staircases.
For great value
- The Palacio Marques Felipe also has 27 bedrooms and has been converted from a colonial aristocrat’s residence in Old Havana, this one built in the 18th Century. While the facade is classical, the interiors are contemporary and there’s a stunning view from the rooftop terrace.
Best Hotels in Havana
Saratoga 96 roomsHavana (esquina a Dragones,)
The most iconic hotel on the island. Typical Cuban style with its classical facade and heightened grandeur, blended with contemporary design for chic effect. Roof top pool with unrivalled views over Havana, lobster restaurant and Cuban cocktail bar, and spa services. Romance, heritage, and style.Roof terrace - Fabulous roof top with pool and stunning views.Chic - The chicest hotel on the island.Views - From the roof top.Luxury
Santa Isabel 27 rooms from $91Havana
A stunning colonial mansion set in a privileged location on a plaza. Sweeping marble staircases, classical facades, balconies, and a charming Spanish courtyard. Romantic bedrooms and suites have antique furniture, stunning city scapes from the rooftop, and an excellent restaurant.Romantic Break - Sweeping marble staircases, charming balconies, and colonial chic rooms or suites.Roof terrace - Magnificent views over the plaza from the rooftop.Air conditioningSights nearby - Well located for major sights.
Palacio Marques Felipe 27 rooms from $93Havana
A colonial 18th century building with stature, previously an aristocratic residence. A classical facade with contemporary interiors. Rooms and suites are simple, some have hot tubs and DVD players. Stunning views over the city from the rooftop terrace. Well positioned in the Old Town, good value.Roof terrace - Spectacular views over the city.Value chicOutstanding location - Fantastically located on the Plaza San Francisco in the heart of Old Havana.Private Hot Tub - The best rooms have hot tubs and DVD players.
Hotel Nacional de Cuba 362 rooms from $208Havana
A bastion of the former days of Cuban sophistication this hotel is awash with old school glamour. Classy, spacious bedrooms are decorated in antique furnishing and dark woods. There is an impressive museum and sitting room. Lovely gardens overlook Malecón sea front.Swimming Pool - Indoor/outdoorFull of character