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Get in the Mood: What to Read and Watch Before Going to Havana

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Are you planning on visiting Havana soon? To get you started, here are some films, novels, series and movies set in Havana that feature Cuba at the center of their stories. Enjoy!

300 Reasons to Love Havana

Join writer and photographer Heidi Hollinger on a captivating journey through the vibrant capital of Cuba. Explore world-class art galleries, savor exquisite cuisine, sip fantastic cocktails and stroll along the iconic Malecón. Cross the bay on a ferry, hop aboard the Hershey chocolate train, and immerse yourself in the culture, from cheering on the Industriales baseball team to meeting local artists, writers, and musicians. This unconventional guide proves that Havana continually reinvents itself amid its historic streets filled with stories.

Buena Vista Social Club

This documentary, by famed director Wim Wenders and acclaimed by both critics and the public, introduces us to the Buena Vista Social Club. This legendary group of Cuban musicians, whose rhythms still enchant Cuban nights, was forced into retirement during Fidel Castro’s coup. Their talent is once again showcased here, where extraordinary music, endearing artists, and moving performances await.

Available on Apple TV and Google Play

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

One of Hemingway’s greatest classics! The novel tells the story of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman, who goes on a fishing expedition in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba. Overall, it’s considered a quintessentially Cuban work of literature due to its setting, its portrayal of Cuban culture, and the author’s personal connection to the country. Hemingway’s spirit still lingers throughout Cuba, especially Havana; dine at the bistros where he once sat, try his favorite cocktails, the mojito at Bodeguita del Medio, and the daiquiri at Floridita.

No Time to Die

Reconnect with the famous agent 007 in the chapter “No Time to Die.” Recently retired, Bond leaves his paradise for a new mission: rescuing a kidnapped scientist. It’s in Cuba where he encounters his local contact, setting him on an intriguing path. You’ll get a glimpse of the city’s iconic Malecón waterfront promenade, the historic Palacio de los Matrimonios, as well as colorful colonial buildings that are so quintessentially Havana.

Available on Apple TV and Prime Video

The Cuba Libre Story

Travel through time with this compelling 8-part documentary series, which spans from the colonial era to the modern day. It offers a comprehensive exploration of the island’s rich cultural heritage and complex evolution, going beyond the surface-level narrative with an in-depth exploration of the social, political, and cultural forces at play throughout Cuba’s history. You’ll traverse generations and the pivotal events that have shaped Cuba into what it is today, gaining insight into the resilience, creativity, and unwavering spirit of the Cuban people, who have navigated through both triumphs and hardships.

Available on Netflix

Four Seasons in Havana

The Cuban capital takes center stage in this thrilling drama police series based on multiple novels by Leonardo Padura Fuentes. In each episode, the show follows a police lieutenant and his partner as they solve crimes amidst the vibrant backdrop of Havana.

Available on Netflix

My Life: A Spoken Autobiography by Ignacio Ramonet and Fidel Castro

Gain a unique perspective on the complex and often controversial figure, Fidel Castro, in this unusual biography. The book presents the results of more than 100 hours of interviews with Castro, offering an in-depth exploration of his life, ideas, and the significant role he played in reshaping Cuba’s and Latin America’s history. While acknowledging the controversies, Ramonet provides a comprehensive view of the man behind the revolutionary icon, allowing readers to form their own judgments about his impact on Cuba and the world. It’s a thought-provoking and insightful account that invites reflection on the multifaceted legacy of Fidel Castro.

Strawberry and Chocolate

Transport yourself to the vibrant streets of Havana in 1979 with this compelling tale. Meet Diego, a passionate patriot deeply connected to Cuba’s rich traditions, yet facing marginalization due to his sexual orientation. His life takes an unexpected turn when he crosses paths with David, a passionate student activist. As their unlikely relationship blossoms, they embark on a journey to overcome societal prejudices and bridge their differences. This film is often cited as one of the more inspiring, groundbreaking movies set in Havana.

Amidst the backdrop of this captivating plot is the legendary restaurant, La Guarida, which adds depth and flavor to their evolving narrative by director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío.


Embark on a heartwarming family adventure with “Vivo,” Sony Pictures’ groundbreaking musical animated film. Set against the backdrop of the colorful streets of Havana, this enchanting tale follows the endearing musician, Andrés Hernández, and his trusty kinkajou companion, Vivo. The two talented musicians bring joy to the lively town square with their music; however, their lives take an unexpected turn when they embark on a quest to find a cherished friend.

Available on Netflix, Prime Video, and Apple TV

The Sugar King of Havana: The Rise and Fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba’s Last Tycoon by John Paul Rathbone

Known as the “Sugar King,” Julio Lobo was once Cuba’s richest man before the revolution. His life was filled with thrilling adventures, including a violent shootout. Through his story, the author paints a vivid picture of Cuba’s past and this larger-than-life character worthy of Hollywood tales.

Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights

Dive into 1950s Havana with this second installment of the “Dirty Dancing” series. Follow Katey as she relocates to Havana with her family due to her father’s job. She meets a waiter who introduces her to the music and rhythms of Cuban customs. Definitely one of the best romance movies set in Havana!

Available on Apple TV and Prime Video

The comments and contributions expressed are assumed only by the author. The recommendations, intentions or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Transat AT Inc. or its affiliates. See terms of use of the Air Transat website.

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