Our first stop through my trip through Cuba is Havana! As most people do, Havana was where my friend and I started and ended our trip around Cuba. Havana has a great literary and historical legacy and some of that aura lasts to this day. For my friend and I though the focus of our Havana adventures (and our whole trip) was design and photography, rather than more touristic or literary focused things.
As she is a graphic designer and I am a photographer we were really interested in the typography around the city, the textures, and city life. We were lucky to experience some great culture and food along with our explorations in design and photography, which are the things I am going to focus on in this little guide. There are plenty of guides out there that highlight the major sites and tourist destinations so I want to focus a bit more on the design, culture, and photographic aspects that we enjoyed. To go with this post and the two that will follow it I have created a Google map that has all the destinations on this list on it with a special addition of the wifi spots we found as well! You can access the map ‘ Intro to Cuba’ via this link! Additionally if you missed it I created a detailed Intro to Cuba guide with all the basic info you might need before going that you can visit here!
Corner Café (Wednesday Night)
Calle B and Calle 3, Vedado, La Habana, Cuba
Every wednesday night one of the best bands in Havana, Interactivo, plays a set at midnight. Defiantly worth a visit, but ask around to make sure the location hasn’t changed! They play a longer sunday set somewhere in the city, ask around to find out the current location!
Jazz Club La Zorra Y El Cuervo
Avenida 23 btwn Calle N and Calle O, Vedado, La Habana, Cuba
+53 7 662402
Famous Jazz Club with acts every night, doors at 10pm for the late show, cover comes with 2 drinks. If you love Jazz this is the place for you.
Fábrica de Arte Cubano (Thursday through Sunday)
Calle 11 and Calle 26, Vedado, La Habana, Cuba
+53 7 8382260
Amazing gallery/ music/ club space open Thursdays to Sundays from 8pm on. Come early to avoid the line and enjoy the awesome art by Cuban artists and the music. A truly one of a kind experience
Museum of the Revolution
Avendia Bélgica and Refugio, La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), La Habana, Cuba
+53 7 8601524
And odd abet interesting museum documenting the events of the Revolution in the old Presidential Palace. The building is beautiful and currently under renovations so you can see what states some of the rooms were in and what they are doing to restore them. The actual exhibits are a bit kitschy and definitely have not been updated in decades since they were first put together. Also do note a lot of the exhibit notes are only in Spanish
National Museum of Fine Arts (Museo de Bellas Artes)
Calle Trocadero btwn Zulueta and Monserrate, La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), La Habana, Cuba
+53 7 8632657
If you are interested in Cuban art through the ages this is the place to go. They have old work and contemporary art, the actual museum layout is a bit odd but overall there was some cool work on display.
Taller Experimental de Gráfica
Callejon del Chorro, La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), La Habana, Cuba
Cool space with a printmaking workshop you can tour, mini gallery, and a print shop. Very cool work by Cuban artists
304 O’Reilly, La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), La Habana, Cuba
+53 7 8630206
This and the restaurant across the street (El del Frente) are great places with good food and especially good drinks, they are both owned by the same person and have similar but different menus.
El del Frente
303 O’Reilly, La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), La Habana, Cuba
+53 7 8630206
This and the restaurant across the street (O’Reilly 304) are great places with good food and especially good drinks, they are both owned by the same person and have similar but different menus.
Paladar Doña Eutimia
#60-C, Callejon del Chorro, La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), La Habana, Cuba
+53 7 8611332
Great cuban food, a must visit. Make sure to call or stop by in advance to make a reservation. This place is very popular and there are a bunch of other restaurants on the street that guys will try to get you to go to, if this is your destination kindly ignore everyone else.
Calle 13 and Calle F, Vedado, La Habana, Cuba
Farm to table restaurant with a Mediterranean twist.
Calle 3 and Calle B (2nd floor), Vedado, La Habana, Cuba
+53 7 8352817
Solid food at a reasonable price
Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Calle Obispo Esquina A S/N, La Habana 10100, Cuba
+53 7 8363564
Great place for a cocktail and a view of the water and the architecture of the building. This is the nicest hotel in the country.
17, on the corner with Calle, Calle M, La Habana, Cuba
+53 7 553088
On the 33 floor this spot is great for a drink with sunset views over Havana
Café El Escorial
317 Mercaderes, La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), La Habana, Cuba
Good coffee in an easy central location
206, Calle L, La Habana, Cuba
Great cafe suggested by locals, good for breakfast, a coffee, or a late night drink
As photography was a main if not the main focus of our trip I wanted to lay out a few spots that are worth a stop to photograph at/ around. This is by no means a full list but a good guide to start your wanders with.
Universidad de la Habana
The University grounds are beautiful and full of plants and old colonial buildings. It is worth a walk through and to take photos, there is a grand staircase down to the main street that could make some great photos.
This was rather unimpressive but worth a stop on your way in or out of the city. Do not spend the time to make a special trip out there.
Central Habana (Simón Bolívar/ Renia & Neptuno)
This was our favorite area to photograph, the streets are full of life, texture, and color. It is a much more locals vibe than in Old Havana.
Havana Old Square
The Old Square is pretty as are the streets around it but it felt almost theme park like perfect to us, worth a visit for some photos but it wasn’t the highlight for us personally.
Only after we returned did I realize what this awesome Art Nuevo styled building was. We saw peeks of it but never went to explore it more.
Airbnb recently launched on their app and now on the web a new thing called ‘Experiences’ these are bookable activities that locals host that give you more insight into the local culture based on your interests. My friend and I did one (noted below) which we loved and randomly met the host of another and would highly recommend hers as well.
‘Fabric of Our City’
This was the experience we did and Emilo and Manuel, the hosts, were both so fantastic that I cannot rave enough about the experience. They are total designers/ artists as my friend and I are so it was cool hearing more about Cuba and the design culture from them while doing fun activities. If you love design this is definitely something you should look into doing.
This experience we did not do but we met the host Lisi while trying to go see the band Interactivo (see Corner Café above) on a night they should have been playing but the show was canceled to a recent sea swell. She ended up taking us around for the night to a Rumba club and then met up with us the following week at the Interactivo show. Her hospitality was fantastic and she was lovely so I can only expect her experience to be a great time. We did talk about her experience and it sounded great, she takes you to a few literary landmarks in town, to Hemmingway’s house, which is outside of Havana, and then to Fabrica (see above).