Visit them, discover them and let yourself be loved by them!
1. Casa de la Musica
Casa de la Musica is one of the best places for live music and local culture in Havana. With shows every night of the week and a punishing schedule (4 PM -7 PM and 10 PM – 2 AM), you’d be lying if you came home and said you weren’t able to find any place with live local music and dancing.
2. El Delirio Habanero
If any night spot in Havana can legitimately be called laid back, El Delirio Habanero is it. This is a great spot for a romantic evening. El Delirio Habanero is a piano lounge that doubles as a performance space hosting comedians and cabaret. Popular with locals and tourists, its location on the fourth floor of the National Theatre offers fantastic night views of the city and, especially, the impressive Monumento a la Revolucion.
3. Café Cantante Mi Habana
Located conveniently next door to El Delirio Habanero, Café Cantante Mi Habana is an excellent place to test your dancing skills before taking to the floor at some of the hot spots on our list.
4. El Tropical
El Tropical isn’t the kind of place that makes guidebooks. (Watch the excellent documentary “El Tropical,” available on Netflix, to understand some of the reasons why. Really. Watching the film is mandatory.) And that’s exactly why you should go… but only if you’re ready to dance for hours and if you’re the kind of person who likes to live on the edge. Best experienced with a local. If you need a hook-up, send me a line.
5. Hotel Ambos Mundos Rooftop Bar
The rooftop garden bar of the Ambos Mundos Hotel is a must-see for a few reasons. First, it offers a spectacular view of Havana and its bay. Second, even if you’re looking for a drink and music in the middle of the day, you can have both here. Third, if you happen to be at the bar around 9 PM, you might just hear the nightly cannon firing over at the fort, a tradition. If they have gunpowder, that is.
6. Casa de la Amistad
The “House of Friendship” could just as easily be called “Music in a Mansion.” If you’re in the mood for some smoother music than the pumping beats at El Tropical, Casa de la Amistad is the perfect place and it is usually open until midnight.
Despite its small size and gritty feel, Tikoa is equally popular with young Cubans and travelers alike. Music is 100% Cuban, with lots of Afro-Cuban vibes.
8. El Túnel
Like El Tropical, El Túnel is virtually unknown to tourists and is definitely off the beaten path. And like El Tropical, it is best experienced with a local.
9. La Zorra y el Cuervo
Widely considered among the city’s best venues for Latin jazz, this intimate space has attracted some of the world’s most-loved musicians.
10. Callejón de Hamel
Although word of this joint has increasingly spread far beyond the boundaries of the edgy Central Havana (Centro Habana) neighborhood of Cayo Hueso, where it’s located, this is still one of the most exciting places to catch local music and dancing, even if it is only from 12:00 to 3-ish on Sunday afternoons. Keep your eyes open for the roving street bartender.
Credits: Julie Schwietert, who is a writer, editor, researcher, and translator currently in New York/ Cabarete