What To Do When You Travel To Cuba

Cuba, a vibrant island nation nestled in the Caribbean Sea, lures travelers with its rich history, lively music, and warm hospitality. From the cobbled streets of Old Havana to the tropical shores of Varadero, Cuba offers a captivating blend of old-world charm and modern allure. In this article, we'll embark on a journey to discover five exceptional restaurants, three vibrant nightclubs, three luxurious hotels, three shopping havens, and five must-visit tourist attractions that will make your trip to Cuba an unforgettable adventure.

1. **La Guarida** - Havana
Located in a beautifully restored mansion in Havana, La Guarida is an iconic restaurant that has earned global recognition. Its history and ambiance are as captivating as its culinary creations. Savor the flavors of Cuba with dishes like ropa vieja, congrí (rice and black beans), and succulent roast pork while surrounded by the charm of Old Havana.

2. **Paladar Los Mercaderes** - Havana
Situated in the heart of Old Havana, Paladar Los Mercaderes offers a taste of Cuban home-cooking in an intimate setting. This family-run restaurant specializes in traditional dishes such as arroz con pollo and picadillo (ground beef hash), all served with genuine Cuban warmth and hospitality.

3. **El Cocinero** - Havana
Housed in a former oil factory, El Cocinero is a trendy and contemporary restaurant in Havana. Its rooftop terrace offers a delightful setting for enjoying Cuban fusion cuisine, creative cocktails, and live music. As the evening unfolds, the rooftop transforms into a vibrant bar and lounge, making it a hotspot for both locals and visitors.

4. **Vistamar** - Havana
Perched on the coast with stunning views of the ocean, Vistamar is an elegant restaurant that celebrates the bounty of Cuban seafood. Indulge in fresh catches of the day, such as lobster and fish, while the sound of gentle waves provides a soothing backdrop to your dining experience.

5. **Restaurante Ivan Chefs Justo** - Varadero
In the idyllic beach town of Varadero, Restaurante Ivan Chefs Justo is a culinary gem that captivates food enthusiasts with its gourmet dishes and delightful ambiance. Chef Ivan Justo's innovative creations blend Cuban flavors with international influences, offering a unique and memorable gastronomic journey.

1. **Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC)** - Havana
A revolutionary concept, Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) is a multi-disciplinary space that showcases art, music, and nightlife under one roof. Housed in a former cooking oil factory, FAC hosts art exhibitions, live music performances, film screenings, and dance parties. Experience Cuba's vibrant cultural scene in this dynamic and immersive venue.

2. **Casa de la Musica** - Havana
For an authentic Cuban music experience, head to Casa de la Musica in Havana. This legendary venue features live performances of traditional music genres like salsa and son, inviting you to dance the night away alongside locals and other travelers.

3. **Club Tropicana** - Havana
Step back in time at Club Tropicana, an iconic open-air cabaret that has been entertaining guests since the 1930s. Marvel at the dazzling costumes and mesmerizing performances as you enjoy classic Cuban music and dance in this historic venue.

1. **Hotel Nacional de Cuba** - Havana
Overlooking the Malecón and the sea, Hotel Nacional de Cuba is a historic and prestigious landmark in Havana. With its elegant architecture and storied past, this five-star hotel offers a glimpse into Cuba's glamorous history. Enjoy classic cocktails at the legendary bar, and take in breathtaking views of the ocean and the city.

2. **Iberostar Grand Packard** - Havana
Located on Paseo del Prado, one of Havana's grand boulevards, the Iberostar Grand Packard is a luxurious hotel that seamlessly blends modernity and elegance. With its rooftop pool, spa, and refined dining options, the hotel provides a sumptuous retreat in the heart of the capital.

3. **Melia Cohiba** - Havana
Set along the Malecón in the vibrant Vedado neighborhood, Melia Cohiba is a five-star hotel that caters to the discerning traveler. Its spacious rooms, excellent facilities, and scenic views of the city and the sea ensure a comfortable and memorable stay in Havana.

**Places to Shop:**
1. **Almacenes San José Artisans' Market** - Havana
Located near the harbor in Old Havana, Almacenes San José Artisans' Market is a treasure trove of Cuban craftsmanship. Stroll through the market's bustling stalls to discover an array of handcrafted souvenirs, artwork, jewelry, and textiles, making it the perfect spot to find unique mementos of your journey.

2. **Obispo Street** - Havana
Obispo Street, one of Old Havana's most iconic thoroughfares, offers a vibrant shopping experience. Wander along its colorful buildings and storefronts to find an array of boutiques, galleries, and souvenir shops, where you can purchase Cuban cigars, artwork, and local crafts.

3. **Varadero Street Market** - Varadero
In Varadero, the Varadero Street Market showcases a diverse selection of crafts and souvenirs made by local artisans. Peruse the market's offerings for artwork, clothing, and handcrafted goods, and engage with the friendly vendors to learn more about Cuba's artistic heritage.

**Tourist Attractions:**
1. **Havana Vieja (Old Havana)** - Havana
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Havana Vieja transports visitors back in time with its cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and lively plazas. Explore landmarks like Plaza de la Catedral and Plaza Vieja, and wander through the atmospheric alleys to discover the heart and soul of Cuba's capital city.

2. **Viñales Valley** - Viñales
Escape to the enchanting Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its striking limestone formations (mogotes) and lush tobacco fields. Take a horseback ride or hike through the valley's captivating landscapes, and visit local tobacco farms to learn about Cuba's centuries-old tobacco-growing tradition.

3. **Trinidad** - Sancti Spíritus
A living museum of colonial architecture, Trinidad exudes charm and history. Walk along its cobblestone streets and admire the beautifully preserved Spanish colonial buildings. Visit highlights like Plaza Mayor and the Palacio Cantero, and experience the vibrant cultural scene that has earned Trinidad the title of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

4. **El Malecón** - Havana
A symbol of Havana's coastal charm, El Malecón is a picturesque seawall stretching along the city's coastline. Take a leisurely stroll along the esplanade to enjoy stunning views of the sea and the cityscape. At sunset, the Malecón comes alive with locals and tourists gathering to embrace the magic of the Cuban twilight.

5. **Varadero Beach** - Varadero
With its powdery white sands and crystal-clear waters, Varadero Beach is a postcard-perfect Caribbean paradise. Relax on the beach, bask in the sun, or partake in water sports and beach activities.
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