Arriving in A Ghost Like Havana!
A ghost town… This was our first impression of Havana when arriving late in the evening. Luckily I’ve discovered some of the best places to stay in Havana as well as what to do in Havana! Malecón, where Hotel Terral was located, was all dark. No street lights as far as we could see. Plus, with the furious waves splashing over the seawall onto the street, it was a bit spooky. Malecón was supposed to be the gathering place for the young people, a vibrant part of Havana. But this evening, the youngsters had chosen another place and were elsewhere figuring out what to do in Havana!
Walking the dark streets to the Swedish/Cuban restaurant, Casa Miglis, with a flashlight in hand, we felt a bit scared. However, entering this eclectic and colourful place filled with people and candle lights, we quickly left the darkness behind. Here, we got our first tip of what to do in Havana: eat!
Owned by Mr. Miglis, a Greek/Swedish film, and music producer, this place offers an interesting menu. You can find Toast Skagen, Swedish Meatballs, Greek Souvlaki mixed with local Cuban dishes. The design is also one of a kind, a mix of Swedish & Cuban styles, creating a vibrant and mysterious atmosphere. It is easy to understand why Casa Miglis has become a popular meeting point for creative people and artists from all over the world!
In daylight, Havana is a totally different city, a city like no other. Colurful, vibrant with the history present in every step you take, every street, square and corner you visit. There is so much to see and experience here! We would have loved to stay much longer and see more options of what to do in Havana!
Get a glimpse of all the beauty this city has to offer in the video below, and see what to do in Havana!
Exploring – What to do in Havana
What can be a better way to explore Havana than in an old American car and we found ourselves a perfect pink Chevrolet from 1951!
If you’re wondering what to see in Havana, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that Havana is full of magnificent buildings. One of them is El Capitolio, former seat of the Cuban government but now home to the Cuban Academy of Science. With its resemblance of the Capitol in Washington D.C., it is easy to drift away to the other side of the Mexican Gulf, when cruising down the big avenue of Paseo de Marti….
We stopped at Plaza de la Revolucíon, the place for important political speeches during the past decades and where Jose Martí Memorial is located.
Outside the city center there are more quiet ambassador and residential areas and beautiful green parks like Parque John Lennon. His majesty is sitting on a bench with the inscription “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”.
And if you are a bit star struck, you can of course sit next to him to get a picture:)!
Cruising and walking down Malecón, the broad esplanade with a seawall stretching 8 km along the coast of Havana with the wind in your hair, you feel free. But it is also a good spot for car lovers as well as for some nice photos with Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta in the background!
The Streets of Havana
Still the best part of Havana are the streets of Havana Vieja! We loved to stroll down these narrow and colorful streets, exploring every corner, taking in all its beauty. Amazing architecture and colors but in many places very worn out or even destroyed, giving Havana a retro feeling, a vintage shimmer, not to be found anywhere else.
The busy streets of O’Reilly and Obispo are filled with people and tourists, restaurants and shops but it was the streets beyond the crowds that we liked the most. The more quiet streets between and around Plaza Del Cristo and Plaza Vieja quickly became our favorites but also the blocks east of Museo de La Revolution. This area is filled with small cosy restaurants, bars and ice cream boutiques and requires many stops!
Havana Beyond the Crowds
Only a few blocks from this area, you find a different Havana. Even more destroyed, rough and worn out but still colorful. People are living in dilapidated houses with doors and windows fully open. Old cars, abandoned houses, overgrown yards, garbage everywhere. Here you find no tourists. Still, the people have such a dignity, are so friendly and, with a smile on their faces, let you take a photo of them.
And the music has found its place also here. In one corner someone had put out an old speaker of a model I have never seen and people were dancing. You just wish that you could give them at least a piece of all the things, of all the luxury, we have in Sweden…
So, it is not only admiration and happiness, you feel when exploring Havana. You also get a melancholic feeling, a sadness, seeing the tough life this city is offering its people but also its hidden potential. A true diamond, just waiting to be polished!
Places to Stay in Havana – An Old Palace & A Modern Gem
Finding good places to stay in Havana is not an easy task. First of all, there are not so many places to stay in Havana. Secondly, the general quality seems to be very poor, at least according to the reviews we read before booking.
But we found our little palace in La Florida Hotel. Turned into a hotel in 1885 after having been an aristocratic residence for decades, this is a truly historical place. Behind the carved wooden doors, is a world very different from the busy Obispo street. The Art Deco sculptures, marble-floored foyer and indoor patio with plants, arches, and columns, all make this place feels like a little castle. And it is so much more than a hotel with its traditional shoemaker store, bakery, art gallery, and popular salsa club.
So, we slept like kings and queens in our Senior Suite, in one of the bes places to stay in Havana :)!
We also visited the elegant Saratoga Hotel,, one of the famous places to stay in Havana. We would have loved to stay a night or two but it was unfortunately fully booked. Beautiful it was and with a great rooftop. This will for sure be on our list for the next visit!
You need to do your research to find the best restaurants in Havana as most of them are almost impossible to discover spontaneously. There are the traditional and famous places like La Floridita, with a long cue outside, where you can have a drink next to Hemingway. However, if you want to find some less touristy places they are hard to find in the darkness.
We found a fantastic breakfast place in Le Cafe, with the most delicious pancakes and fresh juices. Not far away is El Dandy located, a small but cute lunch and cocktail place with images of Olof Palme on the wall.
The last night we spent at the hip and cozy El Del Frente, just a block from our hotel. This small little secret is almost impossible to find if you do not know where you are going. With tasty Cuban and international dishes, live music and a great mix of locals and tourists, we did not want to leave. So, we stayed on the small rooftop until late… sipping on our huge mojitos!
Time to Say Goodbye…
Now you may ask, but what about the salsa. All the best places to stay in Havana have salsa clubs, and you can feel the beat everywhere here. Did we not dance?
Well… we watched a lot of dancing at the salsa club in our hotel but we never dared to enter the dance floor! The others were way too good…
Three nights and one and half day in Havana was for sure too short and we were not ready to leave. Still, when the time came we left in true Havana style. And this time it was Fredrik that got to choose so pink became blue:)!
Read our Havana Travel Guide here, including places to stay in Havana, and start planning your Havana getaway!
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