El Escuadrón Hopped to Havana Bars, Balconies and Views!
On my last day in Cuba I pulled together a squad (el escuadrón as we called it), including a new NYC friend who went to Cuba with a tour and had a free day, and a few Cuban friends, one I had met at a wifi park and the other at a restaurant. Considering I’m old enough to remember life without texting, it shouldn’t have felt so awkward to pick up the house phone to invite my Cuban friends. After 8 days in Cuba though, I was into it and found it far more efficient than texting. We secured a driver for the afternoon to explore Havana bars, balconies and views.
One minute it’s Open the Next it’s Closed
Bars and restaurants close in Havana in a hot second. I had starred Bar Piscina Mirador (in the Hotel Saratoga) on my google maps app but turns out it closed recently. I made friends one night with a waiter at Paladar de Mercaderes. He told me to check out the rooftop bar, Roma Bar after I left the restaurant. I walked over to the cross streets but wasn’t sure where it was located. I asked a woman working across the street. She explained it had just closed the past Friday and she didn’t know why but that that sort of thing happens all the time in Cuba. Something else that happens all the time in Cuba is making friends. We chatted for a while and are now Facebook friends. When searching for Havana bars, balconies and views and you find one is closed try the next place on your list. You won’t have enough time for all the terrific places in Havana!
Where to find Havana bars, balconies and views!
Hotel Ambos Mundos is a boutique hotel in the Habana Vieja neighborhood. The hotel is famous for being Ernest Hemingway’s home in the 1930’s and they maintain his room on the 5th floor. I took the old-fashioned elevator managed by an elevator operator to the 6th floor several times to have a seat in the comfy couches al fresco logging into wifi (with a wifi card) overlooking excellent views of the city. Next time I will definitely stay for drinks and live music.
Cafe O’Reilly in Habana Vieja offers 4 tables located al fresco overlooking O’Reilly street below. I enjoyed a delicious sandwich and mojito for lunch.
El Chanchullero in Habana Vieja is a hip, hole-in-the-wall, 3-floor space for excellent tapas and drinks. A sign outside the restaruant reads “Hemingway did not drink here.”
La Guarida in El Centro neighborhood is the most famous restaurant in the city and they have a roster of international celebrities to prove it. Like many Havana bars in Cuba the outside is dilapidated. The contradiction continues as you climb a grand winding staircase past construction and private apartments. These stairs are famous for photo shoots and now social media posts. Before you head to Cuba check out the 1993 Cuban film, “Fresa y Chocolate.” The restaurant was opened in 1996 due to the film’s popularity.
Paladar de Mercaderes in Habana Vieja is considered one of the high-end restaurants of the city as the food, service and prices demonstrate. You’ll climb stairs covered in rose petals to enter a bohemian space with art-adorned walls. There are only a few tables overlooking the street so you’ll need a reservation.
Restaurante Porto Habana in the Vedado neighborhood offers stunning food and views from a converted apartment. The outside is a non-descript apartment building but once you step out onto the 11th floor you’ll understand the appeal.