Havana was once described as a cemetery of cinemas; not to mention bookshops, theatres, markets and much more. At the forefront of Latin Culture, the cultural scene was once a rival for New York and Paris, yet the advent of Communism saw much slide into decline.
Today it us undergoing something of a quiet revolution; nothing overt or ostentatious – though the historic Old Town has had a remarkable facelift – but rather a more subtle process of modernisation. Dusty, classic cars still haunt ramshackle suburban streets, but now there are mobile phones and other technological novelties.
The city’s character, of course, and while exhibitions at sites like the Revolution Museum are fabulous historical records in themselves they are almost incidental to the main event; Havana is itself a museum, a glorious testimonial to a time long past and a once-golden socialist ideal that has succeeded insomuch as it has created one of the most fascinating and unique cities on surface of the planet.
Where to stay
For the hippest hotel in Havana, head to the Saratoga; an elegant and charming building that overlooks several other 19th-century splendours along the Paseo del Prado. The intimate Conde de Villanueva only has nine rooms but the atmospheric hotel feels like an authentic Cuban experience in itself.
What to eat
La Cocina de Lilliam has delightful, traditional menu and a beautiful setting; reservations for this popular restaurant are a must. Flor de Loto rates well for both the quality and quantity of the local cuisine it serves.
What to see
Old Havana is in the process of a facelift and this wonderful piece of world heritage is all the more captivating after widespread restoration. The Partagas Cigar Factory is a fascinating place to tour; learn about the history and process of cigar-making.