Where to go out in Havana
‘In the beginning, before God created Cuba, the earth was chaos, empty of form and without music. The spirit of God stirred over the dark tropical waters and God said, “Let there be music.” And a soft conga began a one-two beat in the background of the chaos,’ wrote Richard Blanco in Havanasis.
Havana moves to the sound of a musical score. She sways, flirts, ruffles and twirls to notes that have been cooked with Bantu beats, Spanish strings, reggae thumps and melancholic love songs. It’s all about the music – and the rum. The minty mojito and the chilled daiquiri were created in Cuba and sparkling cocktails or light Cristal and dark Bucanero beer can be found in her drinking dens, speakeasy-style bars, salsa venues, hip haunts and open-air patios.
Havana’s best bars range from the traditional watering holes in the Old Town to the new raft of stylish mansions serving up cocktails to foreigners and the farándula (Cuba’s artists and celebrities). For the obligatory daiquiri you’ll need to join everyone in town, plus a bronze bust of Hemingway, at the historic El Floridita. For alfresco cocktails with friends, settle in to the leafy patio of Espacios; for a quiet drink and boho atmosphere climb the steps to arty Madrigal (no website); and for smart drinks and even smarter folk, head to the terrace of El Cocinero in an old peanut oil factory.
For la música at Havana’s best music venues, you’ll find addictive rumba beats in the daytime at Callejón de Hamel (Sundays), El Palenque (Saturdays) and El Jelengue de Areito on Fridays. For salsa and timba, head to 1830 and Up-and-Down. For the latest melodies, hipsters flock to the subterranean set at Teatro Bertolt Brecht; far-flung El Sauce’s line-up features musician from timba stars Los Van Van to singer-songwriters. The Friday night parties at Don Cangrejo still draw peacocking locals, while the new Fábrica de Arte is hosting talented jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca, singer William Vivanco and singer-songwriter Tony Avila.
Bar and club details
El Floridita Calle Obispo no.557 corner of Calle Monserrate, La Habana Vieja. + 53 7 867 1300. Mon-Sun, 11am-midnight.
EspaciosCalle 10 no.513 between 5ta Avenida and 7ma Avenida, Miramar. +53 7 202 2921.
Madrigal Calle 17 no.809 altos between Calles 2 and 4, Vedado.+53 7 831 2433. Tues, Wed, Thur and Sun, 6pm-midnight; Fri and Sat, 6pm-4am.
El Cocinero Calle 26 between Calles 11 and 13, Vedado. +53 7 832 2355. Mon-Sun, 4pm-midnight.
Callejón de Hamel Callejón de Hamel, between Calles Aramburu and Hospital, Centro Habana. Sun, noon-late.
El Palenque (Sábado de La Rumba at Centro Cultural El Gran Palenque), Calle 4, between Calle 5ta and Calzada, Vedado. +53 7 833 9075. Sat, noon-5pm.
El Jelengue de Areito Calle San Miguel no.410 between Calles Campanario and Lealtad, Centro Habana.+53 7 862 0673. Fri, 5pm-9pm.
1830 Malecón and Calle 22, Vedado. +53 7 838 3091. Best salsa nights Fri and Sat.
Up & Down Calle 5ta y B, Vedado. Mon-Sun, 3pm-3am.
Teatro Bertolt Brecht Calles 13 and I, Vedado. +53 7 832 9359. Tues-Sun, 10pm-3am.
El Sauce 9th Avenida no.12015 between Calles 120 and 130, Cubanacán, Playa. +53 7 204 7114. Tues-Sat, 9pm-late.
Don Cangrejo Calle 1ra. no.1606 between Calles 16 and 18, Miramar. +53 7 2043837. Fri, 11pm-4am.
Fábrica de Arte Cubano Calle 26 corner of Calle 11, Vedado. +53 7 838 22 60. Wed, 8pm-midnight; Thurs-Sat, 8pm-4am; Sun, 8pm-2am.