Cuba’s lively capital is one of a kind. Crumbling and gorgeous, lively but relaxed, peaceful but revolutionary, Havana is a place of delightful contrasts and offers its visitors incredible experiences that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. From driving a 1950s Cadillac through the candy coloured streets to enjoying a delicious mojito in a cosy cabana bar, there are some things only to be enjoyed in Havana. Here are the top unique experiences you need to head to Havana to enjoy today:
Whilst you may have enjoyed a Cuban cigar before, enjoying one in Havana in a Cuban cabana bar accompanied by the pulsating salsa rhythms and a deliciously minty mojito is something that doesn’t quite compare.
Image source Wikimedia
Salsa dancing in Cuba is hotter and more alive than salsa anywhere else in the world. From watching local dance groups perform in the city’s salsa clubs, to the open dance floors where you can try out a few of your own, salsa dancing in Havana is livelier and more exciting than anywhere else, try club 1830 for a special outdoor dance experience.
Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Cuba’s most famous hotel, located in the Vedado area can be explored with tours regularly each day to the famous building. Home to guests such as Frank Sinatra, Walt Disney and Winston Churchill, it’s a building that houses a pretty impressive past guest list, not to mention its ancient splendour and impressive views of the Havana harbour on offer.
To the west of the city lies the impressive Siboney boulevard. Beautiful 1950s mansions line the streets of the tree lined boulevard in an array of candy coloured hues. A stroll along the street is enough to transport you back in time to a forgotten era of unique Cuban glamour and decadence.
Havana is the home of rum cocktails and enjoying one in the home of Cuban rum is a must, Strong, sweet and deliciously limey the refreshing cocktails you’re served in Havana go down so easily, you’ll be heading back to the bar in no time.
With Havana serving up some of the most incredible and unique experiences, it’s a must visit location to add your list. Head there today with Cuba’s lively capital for a once in a lifetime trip to a city that’s like nowhere else on earth.
Cuba’s ex President Fidel Castro has made a rare public appearance at an event to mark his 90th birthday on Saturday, August 13.
Fidel Castro appeared at a gala in Havana’s Karl Marx Theatre with his brother, President Raul Castro, and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.
In his first public appearance since April, Fidel Castro appeared frail and remained seated during the event.
Fidel Castro, who stood down in 2008, had earlier attacked President Barack Obama in a newspaper column.
The former Cuban leader criticized President Obama for not apologizing to the people of Hiroshima for the nuclear bomb dropped there by the US in World War Two.
Barack Obama visited Hiroshima in May.
Fidel Castro wrote: “He lacked the words to ask for forgiveness for the killings of hundreds of thousands of people.”
Ties between the United States and Cuba have been restored under Raul Castro’s presidency, but after a visit by Barack Obama to Havana in March, Fidel Castro wrote that “we don’t need the empire to give us anything”.
The gala in Havana focused on key moments of Fidel Castro’s life, including the CIA-backed invasion attempt in the Bay of Pigs in 1961.
A large street party was also held in Havana on August 12, and fireworks exploded when the clock hit midnight.
Tens of thousands of Cubans have attended The Rolling Stones concert in Havana, where most foreign rock music was banned for several decades.
Many of those at the free concert were lifelong fans who for years had to keep quiet about their love of the Stones and other groups.
Mick Jagger welcomed fans in Spanish before opening the performance with the 1968 hit Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
The Stones’ concert comes days after a historic visit by President Barack Obama.
Tens of thousands of Cubans queued for hours to get into the grounds of Havana’s huge 450,000-capacity Ciudad Deportiva venue.
The band swept through 18 songs in a two-hour gig, including Sympathy for the Devil and Satisfaction.
The gig is being seen as another sign of real change on the island. Until about 15 years ago Cuba’s communist government banned most Western rock and pop music, which was deemed decadent and subversive.
Fans traveled from many parts of Cuba and other countries to witness what some described as a historic moment.
The Rolling Stones released a short video saying their concert was a sign of change in Cuba.
“Time changes everything. So we’re very pleased to be here,” said Mick Jagger.
“It would have been surprising for this to happen 10 years ago.”
Cuban authorities said they expected at least half a million people to watch the Stones’ first concert in Cuba.
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
Out of Control
All Down the Line
Paint It Black
Honky Tonk Women
You Got the Silver
Before They Make Me Run
Start Me Up
Sympathy for the Devil
Encores: You Can’t Always Get What You Want. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
More than 50 activists who took part in a march calling on the Cuban government to release political prisoners have been detained in Havana.
The arrests come less than a week before a visit to Cuba by Pope Francis.
Most of the activists were members of the predominantly Catholic dissident group, Ladies in White.
They walked through the streets of Havana holding up pictures of political prisoners, before they were rounded up by police.
According to Cuba’s main dissident website, 14yMedio, members of Ladies in White and activists from other opposition groups were handcuffed and pushed into police cars and buses on September 13.
A number of them were released hours later, it said.
Cuba says the protesters are financed by right-wing American groups to destabilize the government.
Cuban dissidents are planning to protest during Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba, which begins on September 19.
They have accused the Cuban Catholic Church of becoming too cozy with the government of Raul Castro and failing to speak out against human rights abuses.
“The Church should be concerned about this or any time human rights are involved. It’s their duty,” said Jose Daniel Ferrer, head of leading dissident group Patriotic Union of Cuba.
Jose Daniel Ferrer told Reuters he was handcuffed and taken to a police station after Sunday’s protest.
Police later dropped him off at a bus terminal, he said.
The Cuban Catholic Church says it defends the respect of human rights but cannot take up individual political causes.
Pope Francis played a key role in facilitating the historic negotiations between Cuba and the US, which led to diplomatic relations being restored after more than five decades of hostilities.
Senior Cuban and American officials met in secrets for months at the Vatican before Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro surprised the world last December by announcing they had agreed to mend relations.
Francois Hollande has arrived in Havana to meet former Cuban leader Fidel Castro on a historic trip to the Communist island.
The French president is using the one-day trip to Cuba to build business and diplomatic relations five months after a detente between Havana and Washington.
Fidel Castro and Francois Hollande’s meeting was due at 15:00 local time on May 11, away from TV cameras, said the Elysee Palace.
Francois Hollande is the first French president to visit Cuba since 1898.
Speaking at the University of Havana, Francois Hollande said France would do its utmost to ensure that “the measures which have so badly harmed Cuba’s development can finally be repealed”.
Francois Hollande was referring to the US trade embargo with Cuba, which remains in place, although relations between the US and Cuba have improved in recent months.
He was due to meet his current Cuban counterpart, Fidel Castro’s brother and successor Raul, later on Monday evening.
The visit is the first trip by a Western head of state to the Communist island since the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the US was announced in December 2014.
Francois Hollande announced plans to double the number of scholarships to enable Cuban students to continue their studies in France, as part of attempts to increase academic and scientific co-operation between the two nations.
Earlier on Monday, Francois Hollande bestowed France’s highest award, the Legion of Honour, on the head of the Catholic Church in Cuba, Cardinal Jaime Ortega.
The Cuban Catholic Church has acted as a mediator between dissidents and the Communist government.
Unlike some other European countries, France has long maintained reasonably good relations with Cuba and wants to benefit from the new economic openness.
After landing at Havana airport, Francois Hollande said the visit was a moment of “great emotion”.
Before arriving, Francois Hollande told reporters that France sought to “be the first among European nations, and the first among Western nations, to be able to say to the Cubans that we will be at their side if they decide themselves to take needed steps toward opening up”.
A number of high-ranking US and European politicians have visited Cuba since December 17, when the US and Cuba announced they would move towards re-establishing diplomatic ties.
They include New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini and top diplomats from Japan and Russia.
The highest-level US delegation to Cuba in 35 years begins talks aimed at restoring diplomatic ties and eventually normalizing relations between two adversaries who have been locked in Cold War-era hostilities.
The talks in Havana are part of a thaw in relations between the two rivals announced last month in simultaneous speeches by President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro.
They come only hours after President Barack Obama urged Congress to seize the chance to end the US trade embargo against Cuba.
The talks will focus on migration and restoring full diplomatic ties.
Both sides are also expected to outline longer-term goals. While Cuba will seek the repeal of Washington’s 53-year-old economic embargo and ask to be removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, the Americans will press the one-party state for greater human rights.
The US delegation will be led by Roberta Jacobson, the top US diplomat for Latin America. The last time someone of her level of seniority visited Cuba was 35 years ago.
The Cubans have not made their agenda public, but talks are expected to focus on migration issues on January 21 and fuller diplomatic relations on January 22.
On January 20, President Barack Obama stressed the importance of the thaw in US-Cuban relations in his State of the Union address to Congress.
He said his decision to engage with Cuba after decades of frozen relations had the potential to “end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere”.
The president also urged Congress to begin work on ending the US trade embargo against Cuba, which has been in force for more than five decades.
“In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new,” he said.
Barack Obama said the shift in his administration’s Cuba policy removed “a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people”.
However, President Barack Obama does not have the power to lift the embargo, only Congress can do that and correspondents say many Republicans are still deeply opposed to this.
Heavy rain has lashed Cuba since Friday, flooding streets and leaving at least two people dead.
A number of buildings have collapsed in the capital, Havana, authorities say.
A 54-year-old man and a 60-year-old woman are reported to have died as a house crumbled in central Havana.
Up to 7.8in of rain fell overnight and the Cuban meteorological service has forecast more heavy rain for Saturday, particularly in the western and central regions.
Heavy rain has lashed Cuba since Friday, flooding streets and leaving at least two people dead
Yunior Amesa, the nephew of the two victims of the building collapse, told Associated Press news agency: “It was raining very hard and there was a lot of weight [from the water] up there. They went to bed.”
He says he narrowly escaped because he had to leave the house to go to work.
Many streets in Havana remain submerged, as the authorities assess the damage to other derelict buildings in the city.
Bad weather also led to the closure of the picturesque Malecon seaside boulevard, lashed by stormy waves, AP reported.
The torrential rain is expected to bring flooding to coastal areas in western Cuba and the central region.
Cuban police were called to keep the crowds at bay after Beyonce and husband Jay-Z were mobbed in Havana.
Beyonce and Jay-Z were celebrating their 5th wedding anniversary in Havana when they were surrounded by dozens of well-wishers.
The law enforcement officers arrived at the renowned restaurant La Guarida on Wednesday night.
Their bodyguards’ presence outside set the gritty, bustling neighborhood of Centre Havana abuzz, and a crowd gathered downstairs shouting Beyonce’s name until she went to a balcony and waved.
Waitress Silvia Fernandez said Beyonce toured the eatery and looked at photos of past celebrity clients including Jack Nicholson, Jodie Foster, Danny Glover, Will Smith and James Belushi.
“She was beautiful, without a drop of makeup, very natural,” Silvia Fernandez said.
“What happened with the people was incredible.”
Beyonce and Jay-Z were celebrating their 5th wedding anniversary in Havana when they were surrounded by dozens of well-wishers
Police arrived and made sure Beyonce was able to exit without incident.
Beyonce, 31, cut a striking image, with her hair styled into cornrows.
She was wearing a patterned yellow ensemble which showed off her legs while rapper Jay-Z, 43, looked like the quintessential tourist in shorts, a blue T-shirt and hat.
La Guarida staffers showed The Associated Press pictures of the two dining on typical Cuban creole favourites – fish, chicken, black beans and rice – accompanied by their mothers.
The privately run restaurant is famous as the filming location for the hit movie Strawberry and Chocolate, and is a mainstay on Havana’s tourist circuit.
Beyonce and Jay-Z – who married in Paris on April 4, 2008 – toured colonial Old Havana wearing dark glasses and were surrounded by bodyguards and excited fans.
She posed for pictures with local schoolchildren while Jay-Z puffed on a Cuban cigar, and then they popped into another restaurant that boasts a rooftop terrace with a sweeping view of the harbour.
Beyonce and Jay-Z declined to speak to reporters, and it was not clear why they travelled to Cuba. State-run website CubaSi called it a tourist trip.
Washington’s 51-year embargo makes it illegal for US citizens to visit Cuba for mere tourism, although tens of thousands of Americans travel there each year on academic, religious, journalistic or cultural exchange visas.
The Obama administration eased many of the restrictions in 2011, but tourists still need a special visa or to be part of an organized tour.
In the past, artists who were challenged by the government have said they visited for cultural purposes.
Cuba has announced it is removing the need for its citizens to obtain exit permits before travelling abroad.
State media said the move, to come into effect on 14 January next year, would “update” migration laws to reflect current and future circumstances.
Cubans currently have to go through a lengthy and expensive process to obtain a permit and dissidents are often denied one, correspondents say.
The move is the latest in a series of reforms under President Raul Castro.
Cubans who have permanent residency on the island will also be allowed to stay abroad for up to 24 months, instead of the current 11, without having to return to renew paperwork.
The exit permit process is hated by most Cubans so this reform, which was much anticipated, will be widely welcomed.
Cuba previously saw people attempting to leave the country as traitors or enemies of the revolution, says our correspondent, but official recognition is growing that many Cubans want to leave for economic reasons and that the country can benefit from the cash and knowledge they bring back with them.
Now all that Cubans will need to leave is a valid passport and a visa.
However, the new law still argues for the need to protect Cuba’s “human capital”, so highly-qualified professionals like doctors, will continue to face extra hurdles to travel.
Government critics are also likely to experience further difficulties, as passport updates can be denied for “reasons of public interest defined by the authorities”.
The restrictions have failed to prevent hundreds of thousands of Cubans emigrating illegally in the past few decades, many of them to the US where they have formed a strongly anti-Havana diaspora.
The US grants automatic residency to anyone who reaches it from Cuba.
For nearly half a century, Cuba was run as a command economy, with almost all activity controlled by the state.
But under President Raul Castro, who took over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, it has gradually eased restrictions in many areas of politics, business and society.
The latest reform comes on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war as the US and the Soviet Union nearly went to war over Soviet missiles placed on the island.
But the crisis was resolved diplomatically when the Soviets agreed to remove the missiles in exchange for a US promise not to invade Cuba.
However the relationship between Cuba and the US remains hostile – they have no diplomatic relations and an American economic blockade of the era is still in effect.
Cuba has struggled economically since the collapse of the Soviet Union and now relies heavily on the support of the left-wing government of Venezuela.
A patient has been diagnosed with cholera in the Cuban capital, Havana, days after three people died in a rare outbreak in the south-eastern town of Manzanillo.
More than 50 people were infected and about 1,000 have received medical attention.
The authorities say the outbreak is under control but four hospitals are prepared to isolate patients.
They say people became ill after drinking water from contaminated wells.
A patient has been diagnosed in Havana, days after three people died in a rare outbreak in the south-eastern town of Manzanillo
But it is not clear what the source of the cholera is.
Most of the cases were in Cuba’s south-eastern Granma province, more than 750 km (470 miles) from Havana.
Hundreds of medical professionals from that area, including nurses, have worked and continue to work with patients in Haiti, where tens of thousands of people were infected after a devastating earthquake in 2010.
For over a week doctors in Havana have been doing the rounds of their patients, checking for symptoms of cholera.
The infirm, elderly and pregnant have been prioritized.
Now tests on a 60-year-old woman, admitted to hospital on Wednesday, have confirmed that she has the disease.
As she was diagnosed early, doctors say she is in a stable condition.
Health officials said they had “all the necessary resources to provide adequate attention to patients.”
They said they had taken a series of measures, including taking samples of water and adding chlorine to purify it, to combat the outbreak.
Cholera is a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration.
The Health Ministry said the last reported cholera outbreak on the island was soon after the 1959 Revolution.