Whenever I’m asked to do a go-to guide on the best ways to enjoy Havana’s cultural scene, my first thought is: “I can’t choose – just go out there and explore!”. My initial, helpless advice boils down to the fact that Havana is ideal for travelers in search for lesser known, off-the-beaten-track places. In Cuba’s capital, there are no hidden clubs or elite-styled galleries. Art lies in plain sight here, especially in houses turned galleries in quirky neighborhoods.But, if you’re looking for a hint, a preview, a quick glimpse into this 500-year-old city and its cultural expressions, read on for the must-go places and our list of Havana’s quirkiest cultural hot spots.
Bienal de La Habana 2019, Havana, Cuba
Open-air gigs – the ones you can go to for free!
Paseo del Prado on a Sunday morning, Havana, Cuba
- Paseo del Prado (specially on Sundays!)
- La Rampa
San Isidro Art District, Havana, Cuba
Galleries – walk into the lesser-known too
- Galería Taller Gorría (and the entire San Isidro district)
- Ojo del Ciclón
- Estudio Taller Santacana
Salsa dancing is inherent to Cubans' identity
Musical venues - dancing your way through the city
- Pop / Alternative / Electronic
Colourful street performers adorn the cobbled alleys of Old Havana with their drumming and dancing
Events – when’s best to come?
- Jazz Plaza
The main concerts take place in Teatro Mella, Teatro Nacional and the smaller hall at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.
Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso
- Ballet Festival
One of my personal favourites and certainly one of Havana’s most sought-after events, the International Ballet Festival happens biennially at the end of October and the first days of November. Cuba’s talented and world renowned dancers showcase their finest repertoires, welcoming invited guests from across the globe. Over the years, the line-up has included guests from the Paris Opera Ballet, the Teatro alla Scala from Milan, the American Ballet Theatre, the New York City Ballet, the Bolshoi of Moscow, the Ballet Estable of the Colon Theater from Argentina, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Ballet of the Opera of Berlin, the National Hungarian Ballet, the Classical Ballet of Guangzhou, China, and the National Dance Company of Mexico, among others.The most important presentations take place at the impressive Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso, inaugurated as Teatro Tacón in 1838.
Top Tip: Even if you can’t make it to the event, don’t miss the chance to partake on a guided tour of the theatre. It’s a fantastic 45-minute walk inside the building, and it’s available daily on the very premises of the theatre.
A piece from 2019's Bienal de La Habana at the malecón seadrive
- Bienal de La Habana
Take a look at the Biennale's latest edition in our gallery at Instagram @cubadirectholidays.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Cuban Arts Building), Havana, Cuba
Museums - encompassing 500 years of history!
We made a full blog post on our selection of the best museums to visit in Havana, updating its timing details and a brief description of most of them. Give it a read here. But, briefly, why would you want to visit…?
- Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Cuban Arts’ Building): Because it’s the largest collection of Cuban art, ranging from the colonial times to the 1990’s. It’s worth a half-day tour.
- Museo de La Ciudad (housed within Palacio de los Capitanes Generales): Because it treasures the original flag that waved in 1850 and later became Cuba's national emblem.
- Segundo Cabo: Because it’s the city’s most modern museum and a popular one among kids.
Read more about travelling with kids in our blog Havana with Kids: 5 Must-Do's
- Museo de la Revolución: Because Winston Churchill was here when it was Palacio Presidencial, and now it’s the 1959-Revolution’s binnacle.
Watch our exclusive Q&A’s with Sir Cliff Richard when he visited the Revolution Museum. Check his personal tips for a Cuba holiday on our highlighted stories at Instagram @cubadirectholidays
Fábrica de Arte Cubano, Havana, Cuba
PS: Our personal favourite: the one-size-fits-all Fábrica de Arte Cubano
The art factory comprises several sections, each with a distinctive style, genre, exhibition or function. There’s an area for live concerts, one for theatre plays and dance workshops, another one for DJ sessions and a few others for food stalls and open-air gatherings. The exhibitions are renovated every three months, so there’s no chance you’ll see the same curation if you visit Havana next season.Why is it our favourite one? Because it’s like stepping into a hypster’s dreamland, with art pulsating literally everywhere, drinks and tapas-styled food, and it’s affordable! Entrance fee is $CUC 2 (less than £2).