Winging It: Havana, Cuba

In the photogenic Cuban capital, it’s not just classic cars and colourful buildings. We find the best of Havana.

What to do

Havana’s Avenida de Maceo, also known as the Malecon, is one of the broadest seaside esplanades anywhere and continues to be a place of special significance for locals a century after its completion. Originally constructed for military defense, the Malecon is the spine that connects the core districts of Havana, from Old Havana to the Vedado business district. At night, the Malecon beams as it turns into a gathering place for locals.

Rum is the soul of Cuba or so the saying goes. Most Cubans prefer Havana Club rum and it’s found in nearly every mojito and daiquiri on the island. Get acquainted with the sugar cane spirit by visiting the Havana Club Museum, located downtown in the Plaza Vieja district. You can also sample sugar cane cocktails in the museum’s courtyard terrace.

Where to eat and drink

The heart of the city’s unique identity is Habana Vieja. A walking tour passes pastel-coloured façades and narrow alleyways. Havana’s traditional aesthetics will give a 1950s time-warp feel as beautiful classic cars zoom by while you enjoy lunch at a local paladar – independent restaurants, which have sprouted all over the city. Visit the Sia-Kara Bar for grilled fish and to find boozy rum cocktails head to Floridita Bar.

If we had to suggest one dining hotspot, it would be La Guardia. The multi-level complex is the most famous paladar in Cuba and remains a draw for tourists and celebrities. Set in a historic 20th-century Spanish mansion, La Guarida’s entrance is a grand marble staircase that takes you to a network of bustling dining rooms and cozy bars. The food is some of the best in Havana, combining Caribbean ingredients with European techniques. End your night with a rum negroni at the rooftop bar.

Where to stay

Saratoga Havana is a stately vintage hotel located in Old Havana, within walking distance to the key hotspots. The 96-room boutique property evokes the historic nature of its surroundings with its interior décor and locally curated artwork. Two restaurants in the hotel offer traditional Cuban and European fare. The rooftop pool and bar have spectacular views of Old Havana.

Another option is Melia Cohiba, a 5-star hotel steps from the Malecon, designed for travellers who need a little pampering after exploring the city. Rooms have a European aesthetic with all the modern amenities one could need, and the seaside suites offer a stunning view of the Caribbean sunset. Digital nomads will appreciate some of the best wifi on the island.