The Revolution may have curbed the excesses of the Fabulous Cuban Fifties, but Havana Nightlife’s brand of rum-fuelled hedonism still lures megastars and tourists to its vibrant Havana Nightclubs and bars. Make this vibrant city your home base while on vacation or visit it while staying in Varadero. Another great option is to split your stay between Varadero and Havana which is a very popular choice and will be the best of both worlds. The city’s colorful buildings and more colorful people will brighten your smile. The streets of Havana are blissfully absent of billboards, franchise restaurants, and corner stores. Normalizing relations with the United States and a gradual shift in policy has allowed Cubans to open private businesses, but don’t expect to see any big box chains or mega malls just yet. You will find garages refurbished as barber shops, front porches selling crafts, and fresh coconut cocktails on the side of the road. Small business is booming. Havana seems untouched by American influence, with the exception of the vintage pre-1959 cars rolling around, looking far too good for their age. The fact that these golden-age cars are still humming is a testament to Cuban ingenuity. With limited access to goods the developed world takes for granted, Cubans preserve Havana in any way they can, giving the city a spectacular mosaic feel.
La Bodeguita del Medio is Ernest Hemingway’s most famous haunt is always crowded and the mojitos are worth the visit. Made famous thanks to the rum-swilling exploits of Hemingway, this is Havana’s most celebrated bar and deserves a stop on your Havana Nightlife Excursion.
Bar Las Canitas is a legendary bar with a chill-out style with great ambiance and people enjoying musical videos, billiard games and slow dancing. This bar is well known for its cultural shows with salsa music, poper bands, disco presentations and jazz releases. This venue is outstanding and a great place to go on a Havana Nightlife Tour.
The Café Cantante Mi Habana is a very hip Havana Dance Club that offers live salsa music and dancing, as well as bar snacks and food. It has earned a reputation for being the place to go to meet cool, trendy Cubans in a laid-back environment. For a more tranquil after-hours venue, check out the upstairs Delirio Habanero bar, then head down to the basement for the last hour of Café Cantante. Funky crowds of fashionistas sashay and dance to diverse Cuban beats cranked up well into the early hours. This is a highly regarded venue, popular with local musicians and other cultural notables. Top live bands often play here.
La Casa del Tango “The Tango House” is a welcoming place to take your Havana Nightlife Tour and enjoy shows, take dance classes, meet people and relax. Saturday evenings headline passionate performances from Tango all stars Emilio Alvarez, Katy Angel and Jorge Luis del Cabo. Wednesday and Friday evenings feature amateur performances aimed at cultural promotion. Drop in tango classes and courses are run on Thursdays nights.
At El Patchanka live bands rock the rafters, locals knock back powerful mojitos, and earnest travelers frequent this new hot Havana Party bar. Cultural interaction is the key here because Patchanka attracts everyone.
World Famous El Floridita was a favorite of expat Americans long before Hemingway dropped by in the 1930s, hence the name, which means ‘Little Florida’. And famous for the Papa Hemingway Special, a grapefruit flavored daiquiri. This legendary Havana bar, one of many regularly frequented by Hemmingway, is classy and smart, presided over by waiters in red jackets. Proud of its reputation as the The Cradle of the Daiquiri, there is really only one drink to order here while on a Havana Nightlife Tour. The décor is plush and upscale and the room is dominated by the long central bar.
Delirio Habanero Salon Piano Bar is a sometimes suave, sometimes frenetic lounge hosts everything from young rap artists to smooth, improvised jazz. The sharp red-accented bar and performance space surrounded by a wall of glass overlooking the plaza is very impressive at night. This is the place to go on your Havana Nightlife Tour in the early hours when everywhere else is closed. There is a varied program, which includes mainly smaller salsa bands. Friday’s you can catch the La Sesión at Delirio Habanero which is Cuban rap’s newest spot for lovers of this music genre. Guests include the best DJs in Havana, singers and musicians from other genres, visual artists and stage actors.
Club 1830 is the place to go to Salsa under the Cuban stars. After the Sunday night show literally everyone takes to the floor. It’s at the far west end of the Malecón with a water-facing terrace, a very nice addition to any Havana Nightlife Tour.
At Café París things never stand still, known for its live music and gregarious tourist-heavy atmosphere. On good nights, the rum flows and spontaneous dancing erupts making for an outstanding Havana Party.
Cabaret Pico Blanco is an insanely popular Havana Nightclub, the Pico Blanco is on the 14th floor of a hotel in Vedado. Some nights its karaoke and boleros (ballads), other nights it’s drag queens and boys in tight T-shirts.
Sarao’s Bar aims for more of a South Beach vibe, the white couches, sleek interior and price list make it the Havana Nightclub of choice for Havana’s well to do. Still, depending on the night, you can find top musicians playing here after 10 pm.
Habana Café is a hip and trendy Havana Nightclub and cabaret show laid out in 1950s American style, but with salsa music. Habana Cafe is Cubas answer to the Hard Rock Cafe and a great option for your Havana Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties. After 1:00 am the tables are cleared and the place rocks to ‘international music’ until dawn. Among many vintage objects, photos of famous artists or relevant historical events, the presence of two superb automobiles are striking, a convertible Chevrolet and a 1957 Buick, which every night with its lights and the sound of its horns are part of the Habana Café show. No less attractive are the two-seater plane YAK-18 and the 1947 Harley Davidson motorcycle that complete the decoration of the place and have served as the background for the innumerable photos taken by visitors to the premises.
Tropicana Nightclub is a city institution since its 1939 opening, the world-famous Tropicana was one of the few bastions of Havana’s Las Vegas style Nightlife to survive the revolution. Immortalized in Graham Greene’s 1958 classic Our Man in Havana, the open-air cabaret show here has changed little since its 1950s heyday, with scantily clad señoritas descending from palm trees to dance Latin salsa amid bright lights.
Jazz Club la Zorra El Cuervo is Havana’s most famous jazz club which means “The Vixen and the Crow” opens its doors nightly at 10pm to long lines of committed music lovers. Enter through a red British phone box and descend into a diminutive and dark venue. The scene here is hot and clamorous and leans toward freestyle jazz.
Turquino Cabaret might be called a disco, but this fantastic little Havana Dance Club plays host to authentic Cuban music each and every night. Once the band has finished, the DJ starts and the club turns into a disco. This disco has wrap-around windows offering a gorgeous panoramic view of Havana. On certain occasions the roof is also uncovered to offer a view of the night sky. Live salsa music is played on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights. On Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, modern American rock is played, and live bands perform.
It might seem like a stereotype, but no exploration of Havana Nightlife is complete without a bit of salsa dancing. Club Salseando Chevere is a combination dance school, theatre and Havana Nightclub. You can learn a few steps under the patient supervision of some truly skilled teachers, who will demonstrate their skills later in the evening. After that, it’s a free-for-all and everyone hits the dance floor.
Located in a defunct oil factory, Fabrica de Arte Cubano is a prime example of the Cuban government’s dedication to arts and culture. The multi-floored space is part art gallery, part Havana Dance Club, part concert hall, and part film/performance theater. It is gigantic, with enough outdoor areas and bars to satisfy the hundreds of hipsters who attend this Havana Party every weekend.
At Bar Up & Down, head up to talk, go down to dance, and anticipate heavy pours and hordes of fancy dressed people. Where drinks and tapas are perfect for a famous Havana Nightlife Excursion. A very modern site and, as its name suggests, with two well-defined areas for you to choose according to the occasion and the company. Up more quiet and intimate, Down ideal for dancing and sharing with friends.
Cafe Teatro Bertoit Brecht is a subterranean concert bar, you can listen and dance to up-and-coming Cuban musicians, and actively embrace contemporary fusion music. This has got to be the coolest Havana Nightclub. Think MTV’s unplugged and consider this venue for your Havana Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties. This is where the coolest musicians play for fun like Sintesis, David Torrens, Qba Libre, Polito Ibáñez, Interactivo and Raul Paz.
Submarino Amarillo. The American trade embargo that happened in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis effectively led to a Cuba-wide Beatles ban for close to two decades. This means that a campy Beatles-themed Havana Party spot is actually a welcome place to make up lost time for Cubans and a great place to stop on a Havana Nightlife Excursion. Expect Beatles and classic rock music, and heavy Beatles nostalgia.
El Gato Tuerto was once the Havana Party headquarters for alternative artistic and sexual scene, the “One-Eyed Cat” is now a nexus for middle-aged karaoke singers who come here to knock out rum-fueled renditions of traditional Cuban boleros “ballads”. The Gato Tuerto Bar is a Jazz club where you can listen to the traditional Cuban bolero’s by the best local artists. This Havana Nightclub is popular among Cubans but also frequented by tourists, mostly an older clientele.
La Cecilia is currently the most popular Havana Dance Club. It is also one of the city’s largest outdoor music venues where some of the most popular bands in Cuba regularly perform. For large events, the club will attract thousands of locals. Even if a popular band is not playing, this is the premier nighttime spot for dancing and having fun.