Ask the uninitiated to conjure up a vision of Havana and they’ll likely picture a montage of iconic imagery: cigar-smoking street musicians, salsa dancers, jewel-coloured 1950s Chevrolets and faded grandiose buildings.
And while any traveller wishing to tick off those spectacles will not be disappointed, modern Havana is so much more than this. Its real attraction is one of visceral beauty and an underlying energy. As award-winning bartender Dan Miles writes in his HuffPost blog on Havana, it’s “a place that’s not flooded with electricity, [but has] just enough to create shadow and mystery”.
This mystery is made possible because, despite luring visitors from around the world to experience its captivating charm, Havana, unlike so many of its global counterparts, has somehow evaded the usual tourist-resort trappings.
Sure, there are world-city attractions – what visitor wouldn’t want to drink a mojito in Ernest Hemingway’s favourite hangout? But the appeal of contemporary Havana is very different. Enticing private restaurants (paladres) have sprung up, serving innovative, fresh cuisine, while new art centres showcasing contemporary works have also appeared, cramming even more culture into Cuba’s capital.
Music has always been a part of city life, but as Havana evolves, so too does its rhythm. The beat the city moves to is one of emerging musicians who are dabbling in everything from reggaeton and hip hop to more contemporary fusions. Armed with the right insider know-how – and a world-class mojito or two in your belly – your heart will soon be beating along with it.
Watch this city guide from the experts at Havana Club to get you in the mood, and check out our tips from Havana insiders.