I’m off to a German function in Las Vegas on Thursday and since that is technically a trip I thought I would finally share with you the new sites I saw on my last visit back to Havana, Cuba, to keep with a “travel” theme for today’s post.
The Barcadi Building-Art Deco Gem
I have missed this building every-time I visit Havana, but this time I made sure I saw it. Unfortunately we could only get into the lobby but what a lobby it was.
The building was designed by architects Rafael Fernández Ruenes, Esteban Rodríguez Castell and José Menéndez, for the Bacardi rum company. The art deco landmark was completed in 1930 and was at the time the largest building in the city.
After the Cuban revolution and the departure of Bacardi from Cuba, the building continued to be used for offices. At the end of the 1990s it was renovated by the city historian’s office (source).
Look at those Elevators! Oh Wow!
I have shown this image before but I still love this sign.
La Moderna Poesia: Owned by the López Serrano family–who evidently had a preference for Art Deco–this bookstore has been the “insignia” bookstore of the city (Source).
We took time to check out the Havana Club Museum. It was a fun little tour and perfect for when the weather is crummy (which it was that day).
I managed to capture this beautiful sunset over Havana after the rain went away.
On one of the days we decided to take a walk along the Malecon towards Vedado an area of Havana we have never seen and holds such famous structures like the Hotel Nacional De Cuba.
The walk ended up taking us 40 minutes in 30 degree heat and was really dumb to do because we were dying of thirst and realized later on our way home that a cab was 8 minutes for like $4Cdn (oops!), BUT worth it once we arrived!
Then the Hotel appeared before us….on a hill (Just fantastic).
But we made it up the hill and boy were we in for a real treat.
Brief History of the Hotel:
- Opened December 30th, 1930.
- Famous Guests: Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Mickey Mantle, Buster Keaton, Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando and Ernest Hemingway. Plus: Winston Churchill and the Duke & Duchess of Windsor.
- December 1946 the hotel hosted the Havana Conference, an infamous mob summit run by Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. Francis Ford Coppola memorably dramatized the conference in his film The Godfather Part II.
- In 1956, singer Nat King Cole was contracted to perform in Cuba and wanted to stay at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba but was not allowed to because he was black. Cole honored his contract, and the concert at the Tropicana was a huge success. The following year, he returned to Cuba for another concert, singing many songs in Spanish. There is now a tribute to him in the form of a bust and a jukebox in the Hotel Nacional.
- In the 1950s a casino and club were added onto the Hotel and were a huge success.
- After the Revolution, the hotel manly housed visiting diplomats and foreign government officials. In the 90s when Cuba opened it’s doors to tourism the hotel was restored and even though has not returned to its former glory is still is a fantastic piece of history (Source).
More cool elevators. I love that in many old hotels the elevators have some of the best details.
We then ventured outside for a drink, cigar and some people watching.
Back of the hotel facing the sea.
Did you know that the hotel style of the Famous Breakers in Palm Beach was influenced by the Hotel Nacional?
The Nacional and then below is the Breakers. See the resemblance?
Look a Canada Car!
After we had our drink and our break we started to wander the area called Vedado.
Vedado is very different from Old Havana, as it’s a central business district and an urban neighborhood and a great way to see Havana outside of the traditional tourist area. There are tons of things to do including great restaurants, bars and sites. We really liked this area and will go back to finish exploring in the near future.
One of the buildings I wanted to see was FOCSA Building– The Tallest Building in Cuba.
It is considered one of the seven wonders of Cuban civil engineering. Its construction took about 2 years and 4 months. At completion in 1956 it was considered a national sensation due to its modern technology and it signalled the start of a wave of construction of tall buildings in Havana.
In an era when concrete construction of buildings more than 18 storeys tall was considered unaffordable, the FOCSA was only the second project of its kind in the world (Source).
Next up the famous Coppelia in Havana. The Coppelia is an ice cream chain with the one in Havana being the largest Ice Cream Parlor in the world, holding 1000 guests.
The Lineups are long for the ice cream here and when we got there, they were lined up for miles. Then I remembered a tip for from a travel book I read that there was a “tourist section” where you pay more than the Cubans but the lineups are short. We chose to go that route.
And here is the ice cream…yummy.
After we got our chill on we decided to walk the neighbourhood because I read there was some large mansions and wonderful architecture in the area, and we were not disappointed.
This movie theatre sign is fantastic!
Jose Marti Parque Stadium
After that long day, we just headed back to the hotel in Old Havana and had a chill night checking out a new restaurant and listening to some music.
On the last day we wandered the streets and took our time taking in what a beautiful city Havana truly is and discussed when we would come back (hopefully sooner then later)
I hope you enjoyed my new round of never seen photos of Havana and maybe this go around I convinced you to now visit or check out never seen before sites in the city.
Happy Travels! And if you want to see some of my other Cuba posts check them out HERE.