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Havana in the Groove: Heidi Hollinger’s Best Spots in the Cuban Capital

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Havana is vibing on a whole new frequency. With recent laws supporting private enterprise, chic and trendy venues are sprouting up, establishing the city as the ultimate “in” spot. I had long predicted that Havana would become the next foodie destination, and here we are! Explore the latest, greatest, and best spots in Havana, in Cuba.

And what is, in my opinion, the most exhilarating place on earth.

Old Havana

San Isidro is Havana’s most creative neighborhood, featuring innovative resto-bars, cafés and electrifying street art. But it wasn’t always this hip!

This was actually one of the most run-down parts of town, brought back to life by Cuban actor Jorge Perugorría when he founded Galería Taller Gorría in 2016, turning a crumbling bakery into a dynamic gallery featuring local artists.This innovative art centre soon became a cultural hub, from which art cascaded onto the streets, embellishing the dilapidated district dearly in need of love.

Take a walk in this open-air museum, where blocks bursting with colors showcase celebrated Cuban and international street artists, making it a little Wynwood of sorts. Look out for murals by Mr. MYL, 2+2=5?, ABSTRK and Stephen Palladino before heading to Galería Taller Gorría to continue the art immersion.

Then head up to the rooftop, to Yarini, a cutting-edge resto-bar-nightclub, opened by Perugorría’s son Adán, the go-to place in town for dinner, live music, some of the most vibrant parties in town and groovy DJs. You can also admire the state-of-the-art architecture by Inclán, renowned for conceiving the swankiest rooftops in the city.

Centro Habana

Pizza galore, master mixologists, top-tier DJs, a matchless Malecón panorama, and possibly the best vibe in the city. Welcome to Bleco, the epitome of where everyone wants to be. The space took shape in 2022, when contemporary dancer Lía Rodríguez and her dance producer husband Camilo Fernández Seguí, metamorphosed their weekly artistic soirées into the sleek yet unassuming, meticulously run restaurant destination it is today.

Bleco has earned legendary status for its outlandish weekend ‘brunch’, offering berry daiquiris, mimosas, mocktails and rounds of piping hot pizzas, heralded as best in the city.

The sunsets are ethereal, and as the music crescendos (as of 2pm on weekends or at dusk every other day), a sizzly Saint Tropez-style ambiance with a Cuban twist takes over. Here, every detail dances to its own beat.

Malecón 663

Hands down the most creative boutique hotel in Havana is with its funky four floor labyrinth of restaurants, a café, a concept shop, four guest accommodations including a suite, and the pièce de resistance—the lively multi-level rooftop lounge overlooking the sea.  With a front row seat on the Straits of Florida, this is the best place to come for sunset apéro, as live music infuses the tropical air, cocktails swirl, and the sky orchestrates its own performance in uncharted pink and orange hues. Encircled by white rails reminiscent of a ship’s contour, and navy blue waters stretched to the horizon, you get the impression you’re on a skyward deck headed for adventure.

This is without doubt the best rooftop in Havana!

Behold the surrounding cityscape including the emblematic Morro Castle, the gold-domed Capitolio building and of course the Malecón—The habaneros’ seven-kilometre seaside ‘sofa’.

Created by Sandra Exposito and Orlandito Mengual, and now run by their savvy son Angelo, this singular space will leave you breathless with its eclectic architecture (also by Inclán), funky avant-garde design, edgy art on every surface space, sublime breakfast, lunch or dinner, the heartfelt hospitality and a great mix of locals and foreigners which, as their slogan goes, is “La Combinación Perfecta”—The perfect combination.

Claxon

best spots in Havana - HOTEL CLAXON - photo credit Heidi Hollinger - bonnes adresses à La Havane

Claxon Boutique Hotel is your dream retro getaway. Owner Giselle Guerra Guerra’s passion for 1950s American cars is evident in the meticulously designed rooms and eclectic décor emanating vintage charm with a contemporary splash.

You will love everything about this hotspot including its sleek lush courtyard, the buzzing rooftop terrace with live jazz nights, and their gourmet restaurant called Fangio named after legendary Argentinian Formula 1 driver.

Miramar

With its high concentration of top-notch restaurants, the luxuriant suburb of Miramar, only ten minutes west of Old Havana, is a food lover’s paradise. It truly is one of the best spots in Havana.

Take in the seaside charm as you dine outdoors at new arrival Arrecife, meaning “coral reef” in Spanish. While you sip on a frozen strawberry margarita and watch the multi-hued sunset ignite the sky, you may sense you’ve just discovered the most romantic spot in the city. Standouts from the menu are their signature fish croquettes—my personal favorite—made with savory Bechamel sauce heavy on freshly-grated nutmeg, pork tenderloin in teriyaki sauce, melt-in-your-mouth sashimi and luscious smoked salmon sushi.

All photo credits: Heidi Hollinger and Rondo Banks

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