Havana is one of the most unique destinations in the world! Cut off from the rest of the world for decades, it serves as a flashback to the 60s with classic cars, rustic architecture and a lack of technology.
Whilst the internet is available it is hugely limited by government regulations, making this a great destination to switch off for a few days.
Due to the travel ban imposed on the country from the United States until 2016, however, it can be tricky to figure out the best places to stay before you arrive. Many hotel booking websites do not display reviews of hotels either, meaning extra research is required.
Luckily, we’ve done some of the research for you in this guide to the three best neighborhoods in Havana! Not only have we categorised each neighborhood by what it is best for, we have also consulted travel experts, online reviews and bloggers to come up with the best accommodation options in each area.
So let’s jump right in!
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At A Glance: Where To Stay In HAVANA
Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Havana.
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Like all of the AirBnBs on this list, the host of AJ Suite has been awarded Superhost status thanks to their excellent guest reviews! Booking on AirBnB is a great alternative to the local casa particular system, whilst still supporting the people of Cuba to make an independent income.
A popular alternative to hotels in Havana is the casa particular! This is a locally owned house that has been converted into a hotel so the residents can make some extra income. These are great ways to save money – and Hotel Chilehabanero is one of our favourites. It comes with a variety of room sizes to suit all kinds of itineraries.
Whilst many of the luxury hotels in Havana fall short of American and European standards, this five star gem right in the heart of the Old Town truly delivers on its promises! As the name suggests, it comes with an artistic flair that is simply unparalleled anywhere else in the city.
Havana is a sprawling city that hugs the northwest coast of Cuba, with multiple different neighborhoods each offering something a little different! Despite the political isolation, Havana is a surprisingly diverse city containing an eclectic mix of cuisines, cultures and drinks offerings to suit a variety of tastes.
The city centre, known locally as Centro Habana, is the logical starting point for getting to know the city! Though it still has some of the rustic charm of the older neighborhoods, it is a little more polished giving first time visitors a more familiar experience.
Even for those looking for some more adventure, the best neighborhoods in the city can all be easily reached from Centro.
Speaking of adventure, if you want to discover the turbulent history of Cuba you should opt instead for Habana Vieja! This is the city’s Old Town, containing some of the beaten architecture Havana is famous for.
It is easily the liveliest neighborhood in the city, offering some great ways to mingle with locals and get to truly know the beating heart of the nation.
That being said, El Vedado is also a great neighborhood for nightlife! Just west of Centro, this suburb has some of the most lavish nightclubs and vibrant bars on offer in the city.
Despite this bustling nightlife, it also remains one of the calmest neighborhoods in the city – giving you the best of both worlds during your stay in Havana.
Still undecided on which of these neighborhoods is best for you? Check out our extended guides, as well as tips on the best accommodation options in each neighborhood, below!
Let’s take a look, in more detail, at the five best neighbourhoods in Havana. Each caters to different interests, so be sure to pick the neighbourhood that’s right for you.
Centro Habana is a little more polished than its older neighbor, but still has a historic charm that makes it a worthwhile destination! For first time visitors, Centro Habana is a great way to ease yourself into the city, and is where you will find a lot of the tourism infrastructure, as well as some great bars and restaurants.
For budget travellers, Centro Habana also has the largest concentration of casa particulares and hostels – helping you to make your money go further! It is also where you will find many of the established cultural highlights – including art galleries, theatres and museums.
This spacious AirBnB has a modern feel to it, thanks to its location in one of the newest buildings in the neighborhood! Guests are given access to the owner’s WiFi card – perfect if you are desperate for internet access. There is also a drinks service, as well as external laundry facilities.
Cuba’s unique situation has resulted in many locals turning their homes into hotels – known as casa particulares. This is one of these hotels, and comes with excellent reviews on TripAdvisor! They provide a complimentary breakfast every morning, and rooms come with their own private balconies. It is located on the boundary between Centro and Vedado.
This is one of the most famous hotels in the world, and has been a longstanding symbol of Cuba! Perched on top of a hill, it comes with great views of both the coastline and the city. It is on the boundary between Centro and El Vedado, and the on-site bar is the birthplace of the classic cocktail – the Hotel Nacional.
Given the unique position that Cuba is in, it wouldn’t be fair to say Havana has a hipster neighborhood – though El Vedado comes pretty close! This area has a fairly youthful population, and many of the buildings were once abandoned and have since been repurposed into hip coffee shops, bars and restaurants.
Though there are plenty of great nightlife options in both Centro and Habana Vieja, El Vedado is truly the cutting edge when it comes to contemporary nightclubs and bars! Despite being surprisingly quiet during the day, the area burst into life from sunset to sunrise.
Another modern apartment, this hotel is located on the main nightlife strip in the area – giving you immediate access to all of the best bars and clubs in El Vedado! There is a large balcony where you can enjoy a relaxed breakfast in the morning, as well as gorgeous views towards the City Centre.
Right in the heart of El Vedado, this is well placed for exploring the best of the city’s nightlife! Though it is officially a four star hotel, as a bed and breakfast it actually has some great bargains on room rates. WiFi is included in the price, making this a must if you want to stay connected.
This four star hotel gives you a little extra luxury without breaking the bank! They have free parking available on-site, and a complimentary breakfast is included in the rate. Aside from hosting their own exhibitions, they are also only a short walk away from some great independent art galleries.
Though Habana Vieja tends to shut down earlier than other parts of the city, this is absolutely where the heart and soul of the city is during the day! As the name suggests, this is the oldest part of the city – and remnants of the original city walls can still be seen to this day.
By far the most popular activity in Habana Vieja is hiring an old Cadillac and transporting yourself back to the 60s by zipping around the streets of Havana! The Old Town is so well preserved that you will truly struggle to believe you are still in modern times.
This apartment beautifully blends old and new – allowing you to enjoy modern convenience whilst still being able to experience the history of the building! It is located right next to the Rum Museum, and you will be able to soak up the vibrant atmosphere of the Old Town throughout your stay.
This is somewhat halfway between a bed and breakfast and a casa particular! Though family owned, it is a bit more established than other casa particulares and offers a complimentary breakfast every morning. They also have a communal kitchen – perfect if you are self catering.
This five star creative gem is located right on the coastline of the Old Town – keeping you within walking distance of all the main attractions in the area! Rooms are spacious and well facilitated, and the large common area is filled with local art. They provide complimentary bicycle hire and breakfast.
Havana is a vibrant city that has a lot to offer tourists! If you can get past the difficult internet situation, the city can serve as an interesting cultural destination as well as a time warp back to the 1960s.
In terms of the best area we have to go with Habana Vieja! This is the heart of the city, and is well connected to all of the other neighborhoods in this guide. If you want to experience the true spirit of the city, you have to stay in Vieja.
That being said, all of the neighborhoods mentioned in this guide have their own charms. Whether you want nightlife, culture or history we hope we have helped you narrow down your options.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
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Gin lover. Coffee addict. Nicola has traveled the world for 7 years and is a staff writer for Hotel Jules. Born in London, Nicola first got the taste of travel studying abroad in Barcelona. Since then she's been hooked - traveling the world non-stop. Passionate about green travel and vegan lifestyle, Nicola spends more of her free time staring at maps wondering where she will head to next!