Time traveling in a 1956 Ford Fairlane Skyliner on the Paseo de Martí in Old Havana. Many owners of these vintage American cars are independent business owners and terrific, English-speaking guides.

HOTEL RAQUEL

STYLE: Baroque façade, Art Nouveau interior, very Wes Anderson set.

HERITAGE: Former textile warehouse converted, in 2003, to a hotel run by the Cuban government as a tribute to Hebrew culture’s influence on Cuban art.

NAME DROP: Honeymooners and other romantics.

DO IT:  Have a café con leche at Café El Escorial at 37 Plaza Vieja.

 

HOTEL SARATOGA

STYLE: Neoclassical.

HERITAGE: Built in 1933, reopened in 2005.

NAME DROP: Beyoncé and Jay Z, Jimmy Page. DO IT: Mojitos on the roof at sundown. Enjoy the air-conditioning.

DO IT: Mojitos on the roof at sundown. Enjoy the air-conditioning.

 

HOSTAL CHEZ NOUS

STYLE: Colonial. HERITAGE: Proprietor Senor Gustavo

HERITAGE: Proprietor Senor Gustavo Lerenzo Enamorado Zamora has run this lovely gem of a casa particular for 25 years. NAME DROP: Likely

NAME DROP: Likely your distant French or Russian cousins. Cat lovers.

DO IT: Book at table for dinner at 304 O’Reilly at Habana and Aguiar.

 

HOTEL INGLATERRA

STYLE: Colonial, neoclassical.

HERITAGE: Built in 1875. P

KEY FEATURES: Front porch Gran Café el Louvre for people watching.

NAME DROP: Anna Pavlova, Sarah Bernhardt, José Martí.

DO IT: Shuffle over to Hemingway’s hangout, El Floridita on Obispo, for a daiquiri; book a dinner reservation at La Guarida on Concordia.

HOTEL NACIONAL

STYLE: Grand and eclectic mélange of Art Deco, Hispano-Moorish, with neoclassical details.

HERITAGE: Built in 1930.

KEY FEATURES: Sweeping lawns on low cliffs above the Malecón. Garden terrace bar for people watching.

NAME DROP: Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Nat King Cole, Gary Cooper, and Errol Flynn (all have “historic rooms” commemorating their frequent visits).

DO IT: Dance

 

HOSTAL CONDE de VILLANUEVA

STYLE: Colonial.

HERITAGE: 18th-century mansion, home to Count of Villanueva.

NAME DROP: Cigar lovers, those who love them. Chickens and peacocks.

KEY FEATURES: Cigar smoking encouraged, but not overwhelming. Each room named for a tobacco plantation. Casa Del Habano, the best cigar shop in Havana.

DO IT: Light up a cigar in your room and relax.

SANTA ISABEL

STYLE: Colonial. PRICE:

NAME DROP: Jack Nicholson, Sting, former president Jimmy Carter.

KEY FEATURES: Pristine retreat from the hustle of Havana. Colonial furniture, crystal chandeliers. Charming, rooms with balconies overlooking the Plaza de Armas.

DO IT: Stroll a few blocks on Obisbo to the dusty and packed Hotel Ambos Mundos for a look at the room where Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, about the Spanish Civil War, on your way to lunch at their rooftop café; order a Cubano sandwich.

SEVILLA

STYLE: Moorish. HERITAGE: Opened 1908, featured in Graham Greene’s novel Our Man

HERITAGE: Opened 1908, featured in Graham Greene’s novel Our Man in Havana, 1958. NAME DROP: Al Capone, Josephine Baker. KEY FEATURES: Location makes it a very convenient yet private enclave to return to after a day exploring Havana. The courtyard features live music played by local quartets. DO IT: Museum of Cuban Art in one direction and Sloppy Joe’s, a favorite watering hole of Hemingway’s, is in the other.

NAME DROP: Al Capone, Josephine Baker.

KEY FEATURES: Location makes it a very convenient yet private enclave to return to after a day exploring Havana. The courtyard features live music played by local quartets. DO IT: Museum of Cuban Art in one direction and Sloppy Joe’s, a favorite watering hole of Hemingway’s, is in the other.

 

CRUISING OLD HAVANA

In a 1947 vintage convertible that would make my granddad in the States proud. I like to think of Havana’s boteros (private taxi drivers) as the gondoliers of Havana. Like all the Cubans I met in my 10 days there, boteros are genuinely friendly, warm, and more than happy to show you the hot spots of Havana and beyond.

Photos by: Ron Beinner
Source: Vanity Fair