Havana is a lively and vibrant city if you head to the right bars and know where to find the best nightclubs, pubs and lounges. There are a few locations which cater to both the locals and foreigners and which I highly recommend trying to visit, if you have the time and inclination.There is nothing like having a real mojito, made by a local and drank in Havana, home of the mojito. My favourite Havana bars are listed below. Have I missed one? Let me know!
(Calle 20 esquina) – One of my favourite places to drink in Habana, I love the vibe in this bar and the mix of locals and tourists. The bar and nightclub is one of the best in the city for listening to Cuban music and for seeing some of the top musicians. This is not the cheapest place to drink by far, but it is arguably one of the very best places to hang out.
Some of my British friends who also visit regularly find the place too touristy, so Casa de la Musica is perhaps not for everybody. Given the quality of the musicians they get to play here most days, I think it is one of the best places for live music. Order a bottle of rum and enjoy the music.
(Obispo No. 557 esq) – This bar is one of the most elegant bars in all of Havana and one of the best for trying cocktails. Many famous people drink El Floridita and also eat here because it is also a reasonable place to eat. This place used to be a favourite haunt of Ernest Hemingway and, for this reason, this makes it a tourist trap of sorts. They make some of the best mojitos in Havana here in my opinion, whilst my wife swears by the daiquiris they make. You may want to visit and try for yourself, although be prepared for the drinks to be a little more expensive that some other bars in Havana.
(Calle Obispo No. 316) – Located in Obispo in Old Havana, this bar is a great place to relax and unwind after a long day. This is a nightclub and bar, which is a great alternative to Casa de la Musica if you are looking for somewhere with great live Cuban music. Decent priced, you might also want to try a dish of the freshly made paella also. Given its location, right in the heart of the main shopping street of Obispo, this is an easy to reach bar and really a great place to eat, listen to music and drink. This is my favourite place to drink in Havana, so you might well see me here if you are visiting!
(Oficios No. 112, Esq) – This bar can be found in the Plaza de San Francisco in Old Havana and offers an excellent range of drinks including a number of cocktails. They often have some great live Cuban jazz music band in this bar and, even though it is most popularly known as a restaurant, they have a very good bar area.
(Calle Empedrado) – You may be tiring of me mentioning amazing live music and great cocktails, but this is another one of these bars which makes for the drink and music combination. Live salsa music and sometimes jazz, fairly priced drinks and a quite relaxed atmosphere. You might be forgiven for thinking that Hemingway drank in every bar in Havana all the time, because this is another bar which is said to have been popular with Hemingway. This is quite a small bar but this for me makes it more intimate and I found it one of the best bars for meeting and chatting with others. My wife loved the mojitos also in this bar and, overall, this bar (and restaurant if you wish to eat) comes highly recommended.
(Avenida del Puerto 304) – This bar underwent a refurbishment a few years ago so, if you went in this bar many years ago and did not like it, I recommend to go to the new ‘Bar Dos Hermanos’. With a cafe slash bar atmosphere, there is usually live music with the in-house band made up of two guys. This is quite American in style with a long bar and a good place in terms of atmosphere. The only possible issue is that many people I have sent there in the last year have liked the bar a lot except for when the bill came. They seem to charge tourists quite heavily. Let me know your experience if you visit this bar and I will update the information on this bar! I’ll try and visit the bar again myself soon also.
(Calle O) – This is a bar and a restaurant and it is a nightclub of sorts. It is kind of whatever you want it to be. This place in our opinion serves great food, provides great service, provides some good music entertainment in the evenings and overall it is just a great place to visit and hang out in. If eating then, this is my top choice!
They seem to play music every night but be prepared for a late night. The music does not normally start until midnight and goes on until around four in the morning. You can meet some really interesting people in this place, both in terms of Cuban people and international visitors. This is in fact more of a locals’ place as opposed to a tourist hangout, so any of you who want to try and avoid the tourist trap in Havana, E’l Gato Tuerto’ will be more your cup of tea.
I actually would go as far to say that this place is the best place in Cuba for listening to live Cuban music and for its atmosphere. Everything is very professional about this place. Cannot recommend it highly enough. I just hope that by mentioning it here, I will not inadvertently be sending too many tourists there, because the mix of locals and tourists is just right.