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Caribbean Cuba Travel

Discover Havana: Mojito’s, Bites & Wander-ful Places

Havana is a city where you wander on and on. So many different places to discover! In my previous Getting around in Havana post you can find everything about the Havana way of getting around & where to stay during your trip. This post will focus on places to go, restaurants to visit & the best spots for daiquiri’s & mojito’s.

Where to wander

When in Havana make sure to make a stroll through Obispo Street. In the heart of Old Havana (Habana Vieja) you’ll find this most peculiar street; it’s full of old book stores, cafe’s and people. Great old buildings and so much to see. There is this cute little market full of handmade souvenirs and this street even offers you a place to witdraw money (with debit cards, which is very rare in Havana). It’s almost the only street in whole Havana where you’ll see this many shops next to each other or so nearby. Very modern for Cuban standards.

Another favorite spot is Havana’s vintage market. Here you’ll discover old vinyl records, revolution posters, timeless old watches and forbidden books. We’ve visited so many times and every time we were amazed by the obscure objects – we couldn’t help ourselves to bring some home with us. You’ll find this little gem at the corner of Plaza de Armas.

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Take a walk on the sea side: El Malec贸n. This 7 kilometer long boulevard is the city’s safeguard from the sea’s waves. Walking along and on the Malec贸n itself in the sunlight gives you a great, adventures feeling. At one side you have (old) cars passing by and all the noise of the city, at the other you’ll find the restless sea bouncing at this blockade. It’s a great place to have a break in the sunlight and to watch the cars pass by.

Havana has 2 museums you can not skip. First of all it’s most famous Revolution Museum. Situated in Havana’s old presidential palace, with the bullet holes still in its walls. This museum is very complete and gives in a chronological order a lot of details about the revolution. Displaying many objects, from soldiers hats to war stained shirts. Most is presented in Spanish, but there is a lot in English too. If you go downstairs to the courtyard you’ll find vehicles used during the revolution. Ships, tanks and even planes. The way this museum present it’s collection, and of course the historical place of the palace itself, leaves a great impression.

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The second museum I am definitely recommending is the Museum del Ron Havana Club – the Havana Club Rum Museum. Here you’ll learn everything there is to know about your favorite Cuban rum. Where it originates from, it’s history, how they make it and the importance of it in Cuban culture. There even is a maquette of a sugar factory and train transportation from the early 1930’s. A highlight for the real rum lovers: at the end of the tour at a Sloppy Joe’s bar replica you’ll get a Havana Club 7 years tasting!

There even is a (different) bar next to it which you can visit separate from the museum.

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Havana Club Rum Bar

There are a few more spots I would like to cover. A famous spot for tourist is – of course – Plaza de la Revoluci贸n. If you know a little bit of Cubans history – from Fidel’s famous speeches to the goodbye ceremony of Che Guevara – this spot is a must visit.

A familiar looking building at the gates of Havana centrum is El Capitolio. A building build during the roaring 20’s and it’s supposed to be a replica of the US White House. Fun fact: they intended to make it bigger than the original. Unfortunately for the Cubans, the architect took some of the construction money for his own benefit – they had to slim the size of the building mid building it. Therefore its out of proportion thus smaller than the original.

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El Capitolio

When you’re in the neighborhood of any of the old Cigar Factories, don’t hesitate to take a look inside. We found one behind El Capitolio that was deserted, but still very impressive. Its original cigar shop is still intact and open, and some of the old factory employees still hang around to tell you their stories. Some might even saved some of their daily free cigars – which they will sell (behind closed doors) for a decent price. Worth your money and 100% the real deal.

While doing a vintage car tour – highly recommended! – we stopped at the John Lennon Park. Here you’ll see a statue of John sitting on a bench. Nothing special really, but if you happen to be nearby – why not. Good excuse to get on the picture with the one and only – Cuban statued – John Lennon.馃摳 by Niekartistiek

Think I have discussed all my favorite markets yet? Don’t think so. Havana is full of them! The last one I will mention is it’s Hand Craft Market. This is basically a handmade souvenir & art market. This one is nearby the harbor and gigantic. Never have I ever seen so many souvenirs. My interest was most peeked by the outer corners of this market. Here you can find unique local art – and not just the once you see elsewhere in the city. People here are proud of their work – and they should be. I’m a proud owner of a very nice piece hanging in our living room.

Where to eat

Havana has so many options for where to go for a bite. From paladres to state owned restaurants, or street corner food trucks with its own delights. Don’t expect to find state of the art cooking – the Cuban kitchen is simple, therefore very pure in its taste.

Our first night we ate at Cafe Paris. This restaurant has nothing to do with the French! It is a very cozy spot at the corner of Obispo & San Ignacio. Very cheap but very tasteful. Simple food but fine for cuban standards. A lot of nights they have live music – a real cuban get away.

Our second night in Havana we had dinner at Hotel Nacional. We took a blue vintage car to drive us all the way up the Malec贸n to this marvelous hotel. The building is very large and old and looks a bit extravagant. It is kind of a mythical hotel with a lot of history as well. With a sea view over the Malec贸n nothing could go wrong – except for the food. It was a big disappointment. Beautiful building so you could always visit for a drink – but I wouldn’t recommend eating here.

We did visit other places to eat as well, but I think these were the main things. Best dinner I had in Cuba happened to be in Trinidad – you’ll read more about that in a later post 馃槈

Where to go mojito

There we are – the part where we all waited for – where in Havana do they serve the best Mojito’s? Let me start with this: the first day we stumbled upon this cute little bar – La Reliquia – where we tried our first mojito’s in Cuba. The music was giving het Cuban vibes, we even danced – after our second cocktail – and had a lot of fun with the staff.

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La Reliquia

Feeling a bit naughty? Try sneaking up to one of Havana’s 5 star hotel rooftops. The view is to die for! We’ve been successful 2 out of 3 times. At Iberostar they serve the most delicious fruity mojito’s: we’ve tried orange and pineapple. I know – not the classic ones – but oh my these are just delicious. Sipping these while sitting in the sun enjoying the overwatch view of the city.. Trust me, it’s worth it.

We also had lunch at their gorgeous inside patio – El Portico Bar – it was a delight as well.

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Cuba Libre & Pineapple Mojito

For all the Hemingway fans: Havana’s famous 2 Hemingway bars. La Bodeguita del Medio is famous for their mojito’s and it’s Hemingway quotes. Tourists are lined up to see the spectacle of the making of a dozen mojito’s at a time. To be honest – not the best mojito’s in town – and not the cheapest. But hey a true fan will visit anyway. Even if it’s just to read his famous quote: “My mojito in La Bodequita, my daiquiri in El Floridita”.

You may have guessed it, Hemingway’s second bar El Floridita is one you may not mis from your travel list. This bar is legend! With a copper Hemingway at the bar and live music that’s a delight for your ears this is a must visit. Although it’s a very touristic hotspot, never the less worth the wait for a place to sit and to enjoy a daiquiri. My tip: order the one with a帽ejo rum instead of the regular one. This one is darker and has so much more layers of taste! The bites here are a treat too. One of my favorite bars in Havana.

Havana stole my hart. This city is alive and has its own way of doing things. Walking around gives you a stroll through history, with beautiful buildings, vintage cars and the people around you. Don’t hesitate to just wander around and get off the beaten path! This city offers so many possibilities to discover and explore, you won’t get bored. Every corner there’s something going on or something to see.

Bueno Vista! Havana is an experience I will never forget.


Categories
Caribbean Cuba Travel

Getting around in Havana

Havana stole my heart. It is one of the Caribbeans most authentic cities I’ve visited so far. In this post I’ll share with you where to stay & what kind of vehicles this city has to offer. It’s the first part of my city guide of how to get around in Havana.

Cuba is an island like no other. With its own charms, time-bending surroundings it will mesmerize you for sure. We stayed a total of 8 days in Cuba. The first 3 nights in the beautiful city of Havana, traveled for 2 nights to the authentic city of Trinidad & stayed our last 2 nights in Havana again. We had a bit of rain, but when you live on a sunny island yourself you don’t really mind.

Havana can be divided in 3 main area’s: Habana Vieja (Old Havana), Central Havana & Vedado. We stayed all our Havana nights in Habana Vieja but we’ve seen Havana Centrum as well.

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Getting around

Cuba is famous for its old vintage cars. You’ll not be disappointed! Everywhere you look you see these amazing cars in all colors you can possibly imagine. There are plenty of them in the city used for taxi, Classic Car tours to all of Havana’s touristic main points or for personal use. When in Havana you should definitely take a ride with such a car at least once. We’ve tried to take as many vintage car rides as possible. The smell, sound & feeling in such a car is just indescribable.

Classic (American) Cars are not the only way of getting around. There are the state caps, coco taxi’s & bicycle taxi’s.

A coco taxi is a small yellow circle on 3 wheels. It’s a crazy, weird vehicle but very popular in the city. One of its popular features is the difference in price compared with a car taxi. It is a lot faster than the bicycle taxi as well, but slower than a normal car. It also ain’t that steady so you better make sure you divide the weight equally. It was an adventure to ride in one of those!

A bicycle taxi is as referred to: a taxi that’s being bicycled. Its in the shape on an triangle and goes really slow. Sometimes the driver has a radio build on top which will make the experience even more fun. It’s the most cheap way of getting from A to B (Apart form walking of course). We took a bicycle taxi in Trindad (you’ll read more about that in the Trinidad post!).

Where to stay

While planning your trip to this city you want to make it unforgettable. One way of doing that is by booking your stays at a casa particular.

What is a casa particular?

As mentioned in my previous聽Prepping for CUBA!聽post, a casa particular is basically a personalized bed&breakfast. We have experienced the Cuban life by our friendly hostesses who invited us into their homes. More Cuban than that you won’t get!

Casa Zaiden - 馃摳 by Niekartistiek
Rooftop Balcony at Casa Zaiden

Casa Zaiden

This casa was probably my favorite of all. It is at a perfect spot in Old Havana (La Habana Vieja) from where you can easily get to all the main points. Our hostess was a friendly, helpful, enthusiastic young woman who introduced us to her cute daughter and to her home. The house itself is very old and furnished with all these old odd little gems. It has a balcony at the common room & a table at the patio for breakfasts.

Our room was build on the roof with 2 private balcony’s : one directly next to our room & one above it. From here you could overlook the ocean, the city and the Russian Orthodox Church. The streetview of all 3 balconies were amazing too: such an authentic experience. To book her casa (highly recommended!) click聽here.

More photo’s of Casa Zaiden:

Casa El Patio

Our last 2 nights in Havana we stayed at Casa El Patio. This Casa has a more modern interior build in an old house. It is located at the other side of El Capitolo (Cuba’s replica of the white house) and therefore in a much different neighborhood. It is still part of Old Havana but at the other edge. Here there is more traffic, more people. I have to admit that this neighborhood was in comparison to the others my least favorite.

What I do loved about this casa where it’s animals! Such cute dogs and a cat that came to greet you each morning while you had your breakfast at its patio. The patio itself is gorgeous, with a lot of greens around you and gives you a quiet, peaceful space in the middle of all the fuzz and buzz of the city. To book your stay at El Patio click here.

Photo’s of El Patio:

 

So many things to share about this amazing city. Can’t wait to show you guys how to get around for hotspots, restaurants & ofcourse Havana’s bars (hint: mojito’s everywhere).

Categories
Caribbean Cuba Travel

Prepping for CUBA!

Buena Vista! We’re going to Cuba! I’ve been meaning to travel there for a long time now & I’m betting it’s on a couple of bucketlists as well. Not surprisingly, given its聽history. For whoever likes to travel back in time – I do – & whoever wants to indulge in a unique & warm culture this is the place to go.

Traveling to Cuba ain’t something you do without making curtain preparations. Here is your Cuba prep list:

Visa

Most countries require a visa – or Tourist Card – to enter Cuba. You can get yours pretty easily, through your local Cuban embassy or online. Sometimes it’s included with the plane ticked. We’ve got ours online.

Travel insurance

A travel insurance is obligatory. If you don’t have one on arrival, they make you buy one at the airport. Don’t wait for the airport option! Rumor has it that you’ll be over paying big time.

Cuba’s currencies

Cuba has 2 currencies: the CUC & the CUP. The CUC – Cuban convertible peso or 鈥楥uban dollar鈥 – is aligned to USD and聽is the one that聽tourists must use. The CUP – Cuban national peso – is worth around 1 CUC = 22 CUP and only meant for the local Cubans.

A trick to keep them apart: the CUC has only monuments & buildings on it, while the CUP is covered with cultural heroes / figures. It’s important to be able to distinguished one and another, there are 聽warnings about getting the wrong change – and therefore overpaying – but if you know the difference you should be fine.

Casa Particular

We’ve booked all of our nights at a Casa Particular. A Casa Particular is basically a house where a Cuban rents rooms to聽tourists. It’s the聽perfect way to get a look into a Cuban’s home and to really absorb its culture. It is very similar to a Bed & Breakfast and ideal for a short stay.

Another pro for a Casa Particular is it’s price. One night can easily be booked for less then 40聽CUC while you’re staying at a colonial residence in the middle of Old Havana.

arrendador-divisa(1).jpg

If your more in for adventure, you can go to Cuba without booking beforehand. Casas Particulars can be recognized by a small sign with two blue triangles against a white background – see image above – most people refer to it as the blue anchor.

I do recommend booking, so you have insurance of a nice place to stay & it is a lot of fun picking out where you wanna stay while you’re in Cuba. We’ve booked our casa’s for Havana & Trinidad at聽http://casaparticular.com/聽

Book!

If you’re considering going to Cuba, just do it! There are some preparations you should consider, but all of them very easy & most of them a lot of fun. I’m excited & can’t wait until we get on our plane. For now we just have to do with our homemade Havana Club mojito’s while we’re listening to Buena Vista Social Club.. can’t wait for the real deal!

馃摳 by Niekartistiek

Getting excited for Cuba? Awesome! Head over to my three articles about my Cuba experience:

Getting around in Havana

Discover Havana: Mojito鈥檚, Bites & Wander-ful Places

Trinidad: Museum City of the Caribbean