Tips from 35,000 Feet: Havana

By: Katie Manning

January 9, 2013

For us, there’s nowhere better to get a feel for the colourful history of the city of Havana than the Museo de la Ciudad. Contained within this lovely colonnaded building are a series of elegantly beautiful rooms filled with artistic objects, furnishings and antique pieces from Cuba’s colonial era, as well as a section dedicated to Cuba’s struggles for independence. We’d also recommend reading a newspaper in the foliage-filled courtyard in the shadow of the marble statue of Cristóbal Cólon (Christopher Columbus), which is one of our personal favourite things to do in Havana.

Floridita | HavanaFloridita © Bar Floridita Havana

Once your history’s up to scratch, we say there’s nowhere better to go than Floridita. There’s been a bar on this spot since 1817 and after Ernest Hemingway announced that he liked Floridita for its daiquiris (they were actually invented here), it’s been famous ever since. Although it might be crowded, we love the atmosphere and you never know, the next Hemmingway may well be in your midst”¦

Since Havana is a port-town, we say you can’t really visit without sampling some of its delicious seafood. With a great position overlooking the harbour, we think El Templete is the perfect place to spend an evening devouring lobsters and delicious paella, and if you’re there at 9pm you’ll hear the Canonazo fired from La Cabana fortress across the water (which once signalled the closing of the city gates) – it’s a magical moment that we always listen out for if we’re near the harbour.


Havana Paladares © Class V/ Flickr

As well as fine dining, you really shouldn’t miss a chance to have dinner in a paladar, tiny family-run restaurants that form part of local life in Havana. They’re only supposed to offer 12 seats but if you’re lucky they might squeeze you in.

Hotel Santa Isabel | Havana

Hotel Santa Isabel © Hotel Santa Isabel

One of our favourite hotels to retire to after a busy day of sightseeing (or a busy night of mojito tasting) is Hotel Santa Isabel. It’s perfect because, although it’s in the heart of the old town, it’s also sea-facing, which means you get the wonderful sea breezes that most other colonial hotels in Old Havana lack. We love taking the antiquated lift up to the rooftop and chilling out at the bar – it’s the perfect spot to quietly watch the sunset and enjoy a rum.


Have you been to Havana? What are your favourite spots?


Katie Manning

Katie is an author for the Virgin Atlantic blog. Despite her urban London residency, Katie can often be found exploring far-flung corners of the globe in search of exciting new experiences and stories. A self-confessed night-owl, she makes it her mission to search out the best cocktail bars and live music venues on each and every expedition. Follow Katie @kt_saramanning

Categories: Our Places