|Havana was founded in 1519 and is by far the largest city in the West Indies. Although crumbling in some areas, it still maintains much of its former splendour. The architecture is spectacular, its museums, theatres and colonial hotels incorporating a unique combination of European and South Americaan influences-UNESCO has declared Old Havana as a world heritage site. Here there is a mixture of architectural styles from many different periods and cultures. It has an atmosphere all of its own; the streets are bustling with life, there are now street markets with people selling a variety of tourist goods. There is some street crime but it is safer than London. |
Cuba was often described as "the jewel in the Spanish crown" and Havana was frequently the target of attack for many of Spain's rivals; many of the imposing fortresses originally built to defend the city still stand and are an impressive reminder of its early history. This century has seen independence from Spain followed by a heavy economic dependence on the USA. The country became a playground for visiting Americans, and the Vedado district is modelled on American cities. The preponderance of huge 1950's American cars are a memento of these times, although they are to be seen less and less in their full glory due to the chronic shortage of spare parts and the huge increase in petrol prices in the last few years. More recently the country has seen one of the most important revolutions of the 20th Century, followed by a US blockade and the establishment of full-blooded socialism (albeit with the massive support of the USSR). Monuments in the Revolution Square are in the form of statues, a dedicated museum, anti-yanqul billboards and an enormous mural of Che Guevara.
The combination of all these elements makes Havana one of the most fascinating cities in the world. The hotels we have selected are probably amongst the most famous in Havana. Not only do they represent a cross-section of the architectural styles but they also cater for different budgets. Cubans are famous for their music. Salsa, Son, the Bossa Nova and the Rumba all originated in Cuba and you will hear their rhythms played by local bands in many places. In fact you could say 'The streets are alive with the sound of music'. As a result the nightlife is very vibrant and fun, particularly in Havana and Santiago de Cuba, although music and dance is spectacular and generally spontaneous wherever you go in Cuba. Every night in Havana one can find some of the world's best Salsa bands playing live in various great nightclubs. In 1996 the Cuban government allowed families to open private restaurant in their homes, called locally 'Paladares'. There are now literally hundreds of these all over Havana. Like family tavernas in the Greek islands, these capture the real atmosphere and character of Cuba. The food ranges from simple Creole menus to cordon bleu French cooking. Most of them offer great live music and a warm friendly reception.
|HOTELS IN HAVANA|
|THE HOTEL NACIONAL DE CUBA (
) is on the sea front (the Malecon) in the canter of Havana. This magnificent hotel was built in the early 1930's.Thisis the ideal place to stay, where you can mix five-star comfort with Cuban charm. The hotel is roughly in the centre of the Malecon, so most of Havana is easily accessible by taxi. It included one of the main casinos in Havana prior to the revolution in 1958/9. All the rooms are air-conditioned, have satellite television, telephone and en-suite bathrooms, and there is 24 hour room service. The sixth floor is dedicated to businessmen offering an express check-in and out service, secretarial services, executive dining facilities and meeting rooms. The hotel has many facilities including 2 swimming pools, a tennis court, massage parlour, gym, sauna, 4 restaurants, 7 bars and various shops. |
|HOTEL SANTA ISABEL (
) is set in the beautiful colonial square Plaza de Armas in the heart of old Havana. This area of Havana is fast becoming the centre of interest for most visitors. The narrow streets and surrounding colonial squares are full of bustling coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Live music emanates from almost every doorway creating an atmosphere unique to Havana. Santa Isabel is a refurbished colonial house. The 27 rooms, 10 of which are suites, are set around a central courtyard. These are comfortable, air-conditioned and have en-suite bath / shower rooms. All rooms have satellite TV, safes and a minibar. The bar and restaurant offer relaxing surroundings away from the madding crowd. The Santa Isabel does not have a swimming pool. |
|AMBOS MUNDOS (
) opened in February 1997. This has been completely refurbished to a good standard, it is situated in Plaza de Armas in the heart of Old Havana. This whole district is being refurbished creating a buzzing atmosphere of cafes, bars and restaurants. This area is full of museums, art galleries and beautiful architecture going back to the early 16th century and the Spanish colonial period. The hotel has 52 rooms all with shower rooms en-suite. There is a roof terrace restaurant with wonderful views over old Havana. The ground floor piano bar has the cool airy atmosphere of traditional old Havana. This is the hotel where Ernest Hemingway regularly stayed. His corner room has been preserved as it was during his lifetime. The Ambos Mundos does not have a swimming pool.|
THE INGLATERRA (
) is a charming colonial hotel next to the Grand Theatre on the Prado. Old Havana is within close walking distance, offering dozens of bars, restaurants, shops and galleries to keep you busy. The ground floor piano bar is popular for day and night time drinks and has a cool refreshing atmosphere. The Inglaterra is the ideal place to stay if you want to blend into the Havana scene, with music playing, people coming and going and a colonial atmosphere which has not changed for years. All the slightly old fashioned bedrooms are air-conditioned, have satellite television, telephone and en-suite shower rooms. The Inglaterra does not have a swimming pool.