How to celebrate 500 years of Havana in 2019
By Claire Boobbyer
Enjoy films, jazz, Cuban cocktails and lashings of history as Havana gears up for the big 500 bash.
Ahead of the 500th anniversary of the founding of the city next year, winter estivities began in balmy weather in December, with cinemagoers flocking to Havana for the Havana Film Festival (habanafilmfestival.com), and music fans for January’s Festival of Jazz (festivaljazzplaza.com). Connections from the UK with Virgin Atlantic (virginatlantic.com).
With an infinity pool overlooking El Morro Castle, and the Bay of Havana, the central location of new Iberostar Grand Packard (iberostar.com) is perfect for Old Town sights and wandering Havana’s iconic ocean boulevard.
Walk south from the ocean along elegant El Prado Promenade. Swing left, past the Moorish facade of the Hotel Sevilla (guests have included Al Capone, and Josephine Baker) on Trocadero Street. Cross Zulueta Street passing between the Revolution Museum garden with the encased yacht Granma, which brought Fidel Castro from Mexico to Cuba in 1956 at the start of his rebel campaign, and the modern Museum of Fine Arts.
Turn right on Monserrate Avenue; look up for the exquisite caramel-and-cream art deco Bacardí building topped by a bat sculpture. Further up is Hemingway haunt, El Floridita. Step inside for live music and that icy daiquiri at the gorgeous long bar.
Cuba’s renovated wedding-cake white Capitol building has reopened to the public. Go for the third largest interior statue in the world, the gleaming Hall of LostSteps, and the unusual garden statue of Lucifer.
For a Lilliputian view of Old Havana life, climb to the Camera Obscura on Plaza Vieja.
Browse memorabilia at the Book and Curiosities Market, Baratillo St, corner of Justíz St, off Plaza de Armas. For cool Cuban design gifts, visit Clandestina (clandestina.co).
For funky colours, convivial company and live piano and sax, pull back the curtain at Siá Kará (facebook.com/pg/siakaracafecuba) and head straight to the bar.
Off the map
Hemingway’s Havana home for 21 years, Finca Vigía is preserved as a museum. The novelist’s house, writing tower, pool and beloved boat Pilar can be seen in the fragrant gardens.