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A Day with Hemingway in Cuba

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Wondering where to go in Cuba? You could certainly lie on a beautiful beach at an all-inclusive resort and drink fabulous cocktails all day. Or you could be a little more adventurous and see Cuba, and Havana in particular, through the eyes of one of the most prolific writers in history. Here’s how to spend a day in the life of Ernest Hemingway in Cuba – more specifically Havana – with him as your guide.

When and why did Hemingway move to Cuba?

Ernest Hemingway travelled extensively. He had a wide repertoire of destinations, including extended stays in Paris, African safaris and war reporting in China. But Cuba must have been a source of endless inspiration for Hemingway, who wrote several of his most famous works while living there.

In 1940, Hemingway and his new wife, Martha, settled into a new home just outside Havana, Cuba, where they would live for the next two decades. They filled their abode with Hemingway’s adored cats and an array of trophies from his prolific hunting and fishing expeditions. Despite the growing tension between Cuba and the United States, Hemingway remained a prominent and enduring presence in Havana, outlasting many of his fellow Americans who chose to leave as diplomatic relations soured.

“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”

Ernest Hemingway

What was it about this part of the world that inspired such creativity in Hemingway? What makes a culture so inviting it makes a person want to lay down roots and spend time there? While we will never know exactly what drew Hemingway to Cuba, after spending a day travelling through the city as he would, it is not hard to see why he would want to lay down some roots.

Hemingway’s home and museum in Cuba

A day in the life of Hemingway would begin at the amazing Finca Vigia (look out farm) in San Francisco de Paula, just outside Havana. The Ernest Hemingway House is a wonderful reason to venture outside the capital and see a different side of Cuba.

Hemingway lived there from the early 1930s to 1960, with his third wife Martha Gellhorn and then with his fourth wife Mary Welsh. The house is now a museum and has been left almost exactly as he left it in 1960, with a few photos of Hemingway’s life in Cuba scattered throughout. One of his favourite things to do there was to play baseball with the local boys. A Cuban baseball enthusiast, Hemingway would pitch for both teams. The cost to visit is only CUC3 per person and is worth every penny. As Finca Vigía is located on a beautiful hilltop, it’s the perfect photo opportunity.

Significant Hemingway sites in Havana

With the warmth of the day taking shape, the next stop would be for a cocktail. Make your way through Havana to El Floridita bar, a restaurant and cocktail bar in the older part of town that was famously frequented by Hemingway and other famous travellers of the time. Not much has changed in the bar since the ’40s and ’50s, except that now most of the patrons are tourists looking for a glimpse of history. Don’t miss out on the iconic Hemingway bust by the bar!

Hemingway’s favourite libation was a simple lime daiquiri, which he once described as “feeling the way downhill glacier skiing feels running through powdered snow.” Sounds good to us—make it a double!

After quenching your thirst, drive a short 6 miles east of Havana to Cojimar. This small fishing village was featured in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and was where he moored his boat, the Pilar. Here you can enjoy an afternoon of fishing. Once you’ve taken stock of your catch, head to La Terraza,, a restaurant and bar with stunning views over the bay, for a good old fashioned sundowner, just as Hemingway would have done. Now a popular tourist destination, Cojimar feels more like a bustling city than a lazy fishing village.

With dinnertime approaching, it’s time to head back to Havana—Barrio Chino, to be precise. Hemingway was a lover of Havana’s Chinatown and enjoyed the cheap starters in its restaurants. Cuba has a rich history of Chinese immigration since 1847. Today, most Chinese Cubans live outside Barrio Chino, but it is still a vibrant part of the city and a worthwhile stop when looking for things to do in Havana.

After a long day, it’s time to make your last stop at Hotel Ambos Mundos. This beautiful eclectic five-storey building is located on the corner of Calle Obispo and Calle Mercaderes in Old Havana. Built in 1924, it was Hemingway’s home for seven years in the 1930s, when he rented room 511 for $1.50 a night. The room is now a small museum with regular daytime tours. There is also a corner of the hotel lobby dedicated to Hemingway, with a collection of photographs and memorabilia.

What books did Hemingway write in Cuba?

Hemingway spent much of his time at his Cuban house Finca Vigía writing, especially when he wasn’t out fishing or traveling for his World War II reporting. Although few of his works from this period were published during his lifetime, many of the projects he focused on throughout the 1940s were later edited and released posthumously.

  • The Old Man and the Sea, which garnered Hemingway a Pulitzer Prize in 1953 as well as the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954
  • Islands in the Stream
  • A Moveable Feast
  • To Have and Have Not
  • The Dangerous Summer

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