Bar de Luca
The antique crystal chandelier seen through the tremendous teal doors lures you in and then there are choices to be made. Do you opt for one of Havana’s freshest mojitos or the house specialty: a Scotch old fashioned to enjoy with a puro (a 100 per cent Cuban cigar)? Chef/owner Luca’s intergalactic-looking barbecue (think R2-D2) delivers juicy and tender eight-hour charcoal-smoked meat that makes its way into pulled pork tacos. Order a side of sweet potato fries served with homemade mayo dips then sit back on the vintage armchairs and enjoy the orchestra of dimly lit bulbs that set the tone.
Do not expect to find a quiet spot to sip a mojito and have a conversation at Elegua, which is named after the orisha (deity) from the Santería religion. The vibe at this speakeasy (open 10pm-3am) is more – down a shot of rum, climb up on the minimalist furniture and boogie. If you’re not in the mood to get down and dance with locals in a dark room draped in red neon light, this probably isn’t the place for you. The music is a mix of rumba, salsa and Drake songs. If you look the part, you might be given a card by a stranger on any given street summoning you to this clandestine club.
Address: Aguiar #209, between Empedrado and Tejadillo
Contact: Instagram page
Getting in: 5 CUC entrance fee. No beach clothes
Credit: Heidi Hollinger
Fábrica de Arte Cubano (FAC)
Havana’s most original nightclub, set in a former cooking oil factory, is a multimedia labyrinth that takes you step by step into a different dimension. Here you can lounge, drink, eat, admire the ever-changing art exhibits and meet people from all over the world. If that is not enough, you can shop, dance, watch films, concerts, symphonies or just hang out and let yourself be blown away by the place itself. Seen as the beacon of Havana’s modern cultural revolution, Fábrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) is the one place you cannot miss on your trip to the capital.
Address: Calle 26, corner 11
Getting in: Arrive between 8pm and 9pm to avoid a queue. There is a 2 CUC entrance fee
If you want to dance under the stars, the place to go to is El Turquino on the top floor of the Habana Libre Hotel. When you walk into this rather posh nightclub, the showpiece is a majestic circular bar flanked by 1950s barstools. But the real thrill is seeing all of Havana through the glass windows and the open sky when the retractable roof comes off at midnight. It’s breathtaking every time. Locals and tourists alike pack the joint on Fridays and Saturdays for cabaret shows, live bands, DJs and dance parties.
Address: Calle L, between Calle 23 and 25
Contact: Facebook page
Getting in: 10 CUC entrance fee
Cuba’s only Scandinavian restaurant is also home to a dinner show starring the Havana Queens Dance Company, where salsa meets break dance, hip-hop, mambo, cha-cha and classical ballet. Enjoy a first-class canchanchara (rum, lime, honey) and toast skagen (prawn salad with fresh dill, mayo, mustard and horseradish on toasted homemade bread) at this intimate mini-cabaret, which is set in the majestic former home of restaurant owner Michel Miglis. The décor could be described as idiosyncratic with antique chairs hanging on the walls and 3D Swedish design objects set in glassless frames. There are even photos of the Swedish royal family – approved and sent by the royal house – on display.
Address: Lealtad #120, between Animas and Lagunas
Contact: 00 537 864 1486; Facebook page
Getting in: Show with gala dinner, Euro 60; show with regular menu, E 45; show with tapas dinner, E 30
Mio y Tuyo
Tucked away on a quiet street in residential Miramar, Mio y Tuyo is the bar in Havana that is open the latest (until 6am) and is where the Cuban farándula (celebrities) come for an after-party. Lined with murals by artist Stephen Palladino and glow-in-the-dark art throughout, this bar is a beauty. The inviting, sprawling nightclub starts to pick up at 3am and really gets rocking with full-on reggaeton. There is a VIP section at the back where you must order full bottles of aged rum, vodka or whisky to be admitted. Satisfy your after-hours appetite with their chorizo quesadilla, Cubano sandwich or chicken tacos.
Address: Avenida 5ta B #4206, between Calle 42 and 44
Contact: Facebook page
Getting in: No shorts
Open every day from 4pm to 4am, Sangri-la is a fun place for late-night drinks and dancing. Located in the basement of a residential building in suburban Miramar, the layout and acoustics have been fine-tuned to let the neighbours sleep and the patrons party. This sociable spot is where a stranger may start salsa dancing with you the moment you walk in. A house specialty is the Gin Love cocktail – a mix of gin, passionfruit and ginger beer. There is a tiny stage for legendary local bands that on occasion is cordoned off and turns into the VIP lounge, where one must spend a minimum of 500 CUC (£385).
Walk through the stunning mansion, just past the ultra-cool bar and a huge outdoor terrace with a sprawling green beer garden marks the spot for an improvised fiesta. Espacios provides the perfect ambiance for outdoor chilling, whether you visit for lunch, dinner or late-night partying. The cocktails are masterfully done, service is friendly and the thin-crust wood-burning-oven pizzas (try the cheese and rocket) are the best in town. Expect a jam-packed dance party inside, with eclectic works by Cuba’s most illustrious contemporary artists covering every inch of wall space.
Address: Calle 10 #513, between Avenida 5 and 7
Contact: 00 537 202 2921; Facebook page
LM is one of newest and chicest nightclubs in town. Sitting a little off the beaten path at the edge of suburban Miramar, inside it feels modern and expensive, with elegant leather sofas and mirrored walls. The multi-hued strobe lights and the smoke and confetti released onto the dance floor create a party vibe. Bands and DJs play on the exclusive second floor balcony where the VIPs also get to show their swagger and deep pockets by ordering the required pricey bottles to gain access. The fluorescent green unicorn lounge will take you into another realm and is the perfect vantage point to take in the entire scene.
Address:Calle 72, corner Avenida 41
Opening times: Daily, 10pm-4.30am
Getting in: No shorts
Don Cangrejo looks to be nothing but a simple blue house with Spanish Colonial ceramic tile roofing but go around the side, past the red crab sculpture, and a huge open festival-like area reveals itself. At this rocking alfresco nightclub, you can dance by the sea to live cutting-edge Cuban fusion from the country’s most popular musicians. Reserve your table in advance and arrive early to beat the queues at this favourite local hotspot. The party usually picks up at around 1am with plenty of cheap beer to drink in the meantime.
Address: Avenida 1 #1606, between Calle 16 and 18
Contact: 00 537 204 3839; Facebook page
Getting in: 5 CUC entrance fee, or more on concert nights