Arriving in Havana is like stepping back in time.Everywhere in the centre of town are glimpses of it’s golden age and no other hotel will give you that feeling you have indeed stepped back into that glorious period. As you drive down its impressive driveway lined with palm trees and fabulous ’50s American cars, there is a sensation of something special. The lobby is a little disappointing as is the ‘welcome’ you get from the front desk staff. But beyond that the place is a true gem and the other staff are all very friendly. The wide corridors and wonderful wooden doors reflect a certain luxury.
Having booked my room through a third party website at a very reasonable rate, I was expecting a meagre room but as luck would have it my room turned out to be a suite of sorts. A large bedroom with two double beds, a bathroom with two showers, plus a separate sitting room. All this plus a stunning view of the Malecón, Havana’s sweeping waterfront. The hotel room fittings aren’t exactly the most plush you will ever see but the decor is in keeping with the period of hotel. It is important to note here that I cannot guarantee that every room is as lavish.
Behind the hotel is a fabulous little courtyard where guests (and non-guests) can relax and enjoy incredibly cheap cocktails and the sounds of a nightly entertainment of infectious Cuban music. Further back is another bar and tables with views of the Havana Harbour. There are a few restaurants in the hotel and the included buffet breakfast is suitably generous.
Founded in 1930, the Hotel Nacional de Cuba is a declared National Monument. Located on a hill in the middle of Vedado, it offers great views of the Malecón and Havana itself. The hotel is at least 45 minutes’ walk along the Malecón to the start of Paseo del Prado, the main boulevard of Havana. During the heat of the day it’s probably wiser to grab a cab, which cost very little. At the height of its opulence it has played host to a slew of politicians, entertainers and celebrities, including Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Johnny Weismuller, Nat King Cole, Ernest Hemingway and Marlon Brando.
Visited: March 2012