Posted: 17 August 2018
Cuba’s culture is one of the most intriguing in the world. This relatively small island has seen a big history; first colonised by the Spanish, it was later occupied by the United States. However, what Cuba is known for most is its tumultuous political past. The name of ‘Fidel Castro’ became a hot topic when he led a revolution to oust the ruling dictator and establish a communist order. In the 1960s, Cuba plastered newspaper headlines when the Cuban Missile Crisis had the world on tenterhooks at the prospect of nuclear war, and rocky international relationships followed.Enquire Now
Luckily, the history of Cuba does not end in disaster. On the contrary, this once secretive country has thawed its frosty relations, allowing visitors to come and be immersed in Cuba’s culture and experience everything that makes it so unique. What’s more, luxury hotels in Havana offer the chance to see the city in style, allowing you to explore, dance and dine the night away.
What is Cuba Famous For?
Not only is Cuba famous for its historical events; music, dancing, rum, cigars and those iconic 1950s American cars are also thrown into the mix, along with a spicy spirit of revolution. Cuba’s culture is one of its main draws, offering streets painted with colonial facades and opulent squares, where music pours out of lively salsa bars and tobacco smoke plumes out of doorways – while here, it is essential to tour the famous cigar factories and rum distilleries, before stopping to dance to one of the live bands and sip mojitos until the early hours!
For book-lovers, what Cuba is known for is its renowned literary inhabitant, Ernest Hemingway. Along with his wife, Martha, and his dozens of beloved cats, this canonised American author lived in his Havana abode long after relations with his home country deteriorated - it was here he wrote ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, and though it is listed as one of the America’s most endangered historic sites, you can see his house for yourself, almost exactly how he left it.
As a result of its isolation from the USA, Cuba’s culture retains a sense of untainted magic. You won’t see McDonalds, Starbucks or Coke signs cluttering street corners, but instead, old buildings converted into retro restaurants, bohemian cafés and salsa discos. Beyond urban areas, you will also find green valleys and tobacco plantations, where you can see cigar-rolling in action and zip line over the treetops, plus a bounty of beautiful beaches.
Is Havana Worth Visiting?
Why visit Havana? The capital city is the first port-of-call for many visitors to Cuba, and for good reason. For those seeking a culture trip, Havana is perfect. With creative hubs powering a thriving art scene, you can wander colourful streets with brightly muralled walls as they come alive with the sound of rumba music. Head to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes to see displays of some of the finest Cuban artworks or Fabrica de Arte Cubano to see exciting new displays set in an old oil factory.
The city is also the place to seek out authentic cigars; the famed Partagas factory originally operated in Havana, and though production has since left, you can still visit the Tobacco Museum and find the real deal for yourself at the La Casa del Habanos shop, set within the old Partagas walls.
Cuba is famous for its history, and you can sense it everywhere you look in Havana. Colonial Spanish architecture is slowly being polished up, where you may see students wandering by in their Che Guevara t-shirts – only in Havana! Catedral de San Cristobel is the striking Baroque cathedral that draws the eyes of many, though you should also make time to see Plaza de Armas – the gathering spot for over five centuries, it’s sheltered by shady gardens and occasionally hosts music concerts. Plaza Vieja is also one of the most recognised spots, with its pastel-coloured buildings, while Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum) is a must-do to learn more about Havana’s fascinating history that Cuba is known for.
Havana - Where to Party
Naturally, Havana is also a fabulous place to dance and get lost in the rhythms of the music. The iconic Tropicana Club is one of the most renowned for its lavish shows in its spectacular setting, featuring colourful showgirls and lively music. Launched in 1939, its glory years saw performers such as Carmen Miranda, Celia Cruz and Nat King Cole take to the stage, with stars including Marilyn Monroe, Edith Piaf, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and many more flocking to its doors. Cabaret Parisien is on a smaller scale than Tropicana Club, though you can catch a musical concert with members of the Buena Vuista Social Club, the famed ensemble of Cuban musicians dedicated to reviving pre-revolutionary music, after a fabulous dinner at the restaurant. If you love jazz, be sure to head to La Zorra y el Cuervo (or 'The Fox & Crow'), which is the most celebrated jazz club in Havana. Marked by a red English telephone box, head into the basement to groove the night away in one of the best places to dance in Havana.
Where to Stay in Cuba
With an impending wave of luxury hotels in Havana in the pipeline, staying in the city has never been better. Our new luxury hotel in our Havana portfolio is Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, which is ideally located in the heart of the city. Its highlight is its enviable rooftop, where you can take a dip in the swimming pool, relax on a sun lounger or take a drink from the bar while you gaze out across the UNESCO-listed Old Havana. Set within an original building dating back to 1894, this is one of Cuba’s top true luxury hotels, where you will be welcomed with beautiful French windows with enviable views as you enter your room.
If you want to see more of Cuba beyond Havana, we recommend one of our cruise Journeys. See our Latin American Legends with Silversea itinerary to visit the Cuban cities of Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba, before stopping off at Cartagena de Indias in Columbia and the pristine beaches of San Blas Islands, ending in Panama City.
Alternatively, take a look at our Cuba and the Caribbean with Scenic Eclipse Journey, where you will depart from Miami and spend two full days in Havana, before heading out to discover the stunning island beaches of Providencia, Bocas del Toro Archipelago and the San Blas Islands. For a more intimate cruise, consider our Cuba Roundtrip with SeaDream Cruise to get to know the island's beautiful coastline.
Another fabulous option is to add Cuba to a twin-centre stay with the United States or Mexico. Our Pair With Flair journey offers the perfect combination of five nights in Havana, with daily excursions to immerse you in Cuba's culture plus plenty of time to relax and explore on your own terms, followed by five nights relaxing at the luxurious Fairmont Mayakoba, Riviera Maya.
When to Visit Cuba
Many travellers are keen to get to Cuba before consumer culture does, so now is the time to plan your trip to experience Cuba’s culture at its best. Whether you want a culture trip to Havana, a spot to dance the night away or a place to start an adventure around the Caribbean, the best time to visit Cuba is from December to April, which is when the rainy season typically starts. Hurricane season is usually from August to September, so it is recommended that you avoid these months.
To discover Cuba's culture for yourself, or find out more about our luxury hotels in Havana, please complete one of our online enquiry forms.