Hello, Havana: Savoir Flair’s Guide to Cuba’s Capital

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Cuba Travel Guide
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Havana. Walk past pastel buildings and colorful pre-1960s cars while being serenaded by street musicians filling the salty sea air with sultry melodies. It’s no wonder that, for generations, Cuba has lured creatives from around the world including cultural icons like Francis Ford Coppola and Frank Sinatra. The fashion world is no exception; Havana was the focus of many fashion shoots in September issues last year, and the island’s allure featured heavily in Stella McCartney and Proenza Schouler’s 2016 collections.

Yesterday, Chanel’s Cruise 2017 showcase was unveiled in the city. It was the first time Karl Lagerfeld hosted the show in Latin America, also making Chanel’s runway the first large-scale fashion production to grace the island’s shores since Havana’s diplomatic ties with the U.S. were reinstated.

Prepare to be wooed by Cuba with Savoir Flair’s guide of hotspots to eat, shop and beach for an Instagram-worthy vacation.

Stay

Luxury meets old-world charm at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. Situated right on the Malecon, Havana’s popular beachside promenade, the hotel combines a resort feel with the glamour of another era. Built in 1930, the Art Deco hotel became a national monument after receiving a UNESCO award in 2010. From Rita Hayworth to Christian Louboutin, famous faces continue to flock to it. It joins a handful of charming luxury hotels, such as the 100-year-old Hotel Sevilla and the converted mansion Marques Del Prado Ameno, in offering guests a unique travel experience.

Travel Guide to Cuba
Photo: Courtesy of Revista Forum

Eat

For epicurean inspiration, tuck into local eateries as you meander along the streets of Havana to discover the best arroz con pollo. La Guarida, a converted mansion in Havana Vieja, is a crowd pleaser with tourists and locals alike, with Cuban jazz music, abstract art, and candles that light up dishes like sugar-glazed tuna marinated with coconut. Along Malecon, La California is a popular eatery in a restored 19th century building that offers divine Cuban-Creole dishes, such as curry chicken with apple. Top it all off with a nightcap at El Floridita, a 200-year-old bar where you can make like Ernest Hemingway and sip daiquiris.

Cuba Travel Guide
Photo: Courtesy of La Guarida

Dance

Cuba pulses with nightlife bursting with color and rhythm. Feed your soul with afro-Cuban jazz at the elegant La Zorra y La Cuervo. Dancing the night away is a must in Havana, so salsa over to Tropicana, an outdoor cabaret where dancers in bright costumes will have you shimmying your shoulders to the beat in minutes.

Tan

After soaking in the sights, spend an afternoon at Santa Maria del Mar, a sprawling beach with powdery white sand and swaying palm trees. Drive with the top down to Playa Sirena to sink your toes in a 2km stretch of sugary sand in one of Havana’s most scenic beaches. You’ll feel so relaxed you won’t realize you haven’t checked your phone in hours, except to take beautiful sunset shots.

Cuba Travel Guide
Photo: Courtesy of Trip Advisor

Shop

For a spot of shopping, visit the modern Galeria Victor Manuel for upscale clothes by Latin designers or the Palacio de la Artesania, an 18th century palace that has been converted into a collection of boutiques selling music and jewelry. At Habana 1791, local perfumers create customized fragrances sold in bottles made by Cuban ceramic artists — a unique souvenir and wonderful way to support the local economy. Because long after you leave the island, the scent will help you keep reliving your magical experience.

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