Planning a trip to Cuba? You’ll be told, repeatedly, “go before everything changes.”Too late, that change is happening right now, every day, but it’s an exciting time to be there, and we have our friends Chand and Zul to help us navigate this new terrain.
Pace your time in Havana, think of a service à la russe, taking your time to savour it all. Walk to places, making pit-stops along the way. There will most likely be places that your Uber (or its Cuban equivalent yotellevocuba.com, translated, "I will take you”) will in fact, not take you to. Fret not, here’s a guide from the people who know.
“Something we were able to cross off our bucket lists this year was a trip to Cuba. We were very eager to go before it officially opens up to Americans. Our biggest piece of advice is to throw out any preconceived notions you might have about Cuba. The romantic perceptions that a lot of people have about Cuba, like "travelling back in time", is an oversimplification of Cuban people and culture. Not to mention, most times we found it was quite the opposite - the many locals we got to know were very aware of what was going on in the world, and Havana has one of the most trendy and vibrant art scene of any city in the world.
Havana has lots of amazing paladares (home-style restaurants) but the one that we thought was by far the most outstanding was San Cristóbal, in Centro Habana. The décor of antiques, religious icons, old books makes it look and feel like you are dining in a museum. On top of that, after a fantastic three course meal, we were given cigars and several shots of limited edition rum. Another amazing paladar is La Guarida, also in Centro Habana. Both of these restaurants serve traditional but gourmet Cuban food and both are not to be missed.
Another very good (and less high end) paladar is O'Reillys in Habana Vieja - they do a great modern twist on Cuban cuisine. If you want a great view of the entire city, the restaurant on the rooftop of Hotel Ambos Mundos is the place to go - more for the view than the food.