Cuba’s state-run hotels don’t have a reputation for great service. However, Raúl Castro’s economic liberalizations mean there are new options for lodging popping up all the time. Every year sees at least one new themed boutique hotel open in Habana Vieja (Old Havana)—an epicenter of gentrification where colonial-era buildings are being rehabbed as family-run boutique B&Bs. Read on for a selection of 10 charming accommodations that will make you want to call Havana home.
U.S. travelers should note that since November 2017, you’re no longer allowed to stay in any of the hotels in Habana Vieja formerly owned by Habaguanex but now operated by Gaviota, the tourism division of the Cuban military. Alas, that means most of the best boutique hotels. Also, For ideas about what to do during your stay in the capital, be sure to check out our Top 15 Things to Do In and Around Havana.
Hotel Santa Isabela
This grandiose former 18th-century palace of the Count of Santovenia enjoys a superb location on Plaza de Armas, Havana’s oldest square. Furnished with period pieces, the 27-room Santa Isabel embodies colonial grandeur, transporting guests back in time to the era of the Spanish viceroys. When you check in you'll understand why the wow-worthy list of recent guests includes President Jimmy Carter, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, and Sting.
Calle Baratillo, Plaza de Armas, Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba
Before the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s, the neighborhood west of Plaza Vieja thrived as the Jewish quarter. Honoring that heritage, the Hotel Raquel induces a double-take at every turn, beginning with its extravagant bas-relief façade—a dramatic example of art nouveau styling. The building began life in 1905 as a bank and looks the part: its palatial lobby is a forest of marble columns beneath a massive stained-glass skylight featuring chandeliers patterned after the Star of David. Rooms are named for Biblical matriarchs and patriarchs, and the restaurant serves kosher food, such as borscht and latkes.
Calle Amargura, corner San Ignacio, Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba
Hotel Los Frailes
At the Hotel Los Frailes, you'll find bellman dressed as monks complete with brown habits. The monastic theme of this 22-room hotel—a former townhouse mansion of the fourth Marquis Duquesne—reflects its proximity to the Convent of Saint Francis of Assisi. Timber-beam ceilings, stained-glass windows, and wrought-iron chandeliers evoke an ecclesiastical mood, and a house quartet plays chamber music in the lobby bar. There’s nothing ascetic, however, about this intimate charmer a stone’s throw from Plaza Vieja.
Calle Teniente Rey (Brasil) between Mercaderes and Oficios, Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba
Its sublime location on the Malecón with vast views over El Morro castle and the Atlantic Ocean is reason enough to lay your head at the Hotel Terral. Throw in modern conveniences such as flat-screen TVs, minibars, and spa tubs, plus ultra-contemporary furnishings that make bold use of travertine tile and stainless steel, and you'll be lodging in style. It does lack a restaurant, but treat that as a bonus, as several superb paladares (private restaurants) are nearby.
Malecón, corner of Lealtad, Centro Habana, Havana, Cuba
There’s a reason Beyoncé and Jay-Z chose to indulge at the Hotel Saratoga, Havana’s premier boutique hotel. In the early 2000s, architects and designers refurbished the Saratoga's derelict edifice into a visual stunner, imbuing a Moorish-inspired colonial theme with contemporary touches. Lavish works of modern art adorn the mezzanine bar—a perfect setting to savor a mojito and fine cigar. A rooftop sundeck with pool offers sensational views over the Capitolio and Gran Teatro.
Prado corner of Dragones, Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba
If you’re seeking historic charm, look no further than Casa Vitrales, located in the hip Cinco Esquinas quarter of Habana Vieja. Owner Osmani Hernández has adorned this restored nine-room, four-story, 18th-century townhouse with a quirky mix of antiques (a barber’s chair in the hallway?) IKEA-style furniture, and vibrant contemporary art. Breakfast on the rooftop terrace is icing on the cake, and climbing up and down the narrow staircase will help you work off the calories.
Calle Habana between Cuarteles & Chacón, Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba
Apartamentos Chacón 162
You get the best of both worlds at the boldly contemporary Chacón 162, located in the heart of trendy Cinco Esquinas. The stylishly modern loft-suite combo occupies two floors above an excellent private restaurant. Its Canadian-Cuban owners have curated a design scheme featuring industrial flair melded with colonial-era elements like tile floors and louvered doors that open to balconies with views of the street life below.
Chacón at Cinco Esquinas, Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba
An English-Cuban couple invested plenty of money and love into rehabbing Casa Concordia, a self-contained apartment in delightfully funky Centro Habana. Its elevated position guarantees rooms with fab views. Perfect for a family, the three airy bedrooms feature antiques, and maid service is offered. The Malecón is five blocks away, as are La Guarida and Casa Miglis—two of Havana’s premier paladares (private restaurants).
Concordia between Manrique & San Nicolás, Centro Habana, Havana, Cuba
Casa Jorge Coalla Potts
Book early to reserve a room at Casa Jorge Coalla Potts, a popular two-bedroom casa particular (homestay) run by a delightful family (Jorge, Mari, and daughter Jessi). Although furnishings are relatively modest, its location in the heart of Vedado (three blocks from the Coppelia ice cream parlor and the Hotel Habana Libre) is a winner. The cozy lounge with rockers invites lazing the day away. The care and attention here are top-notch.
Calle I between 21 & 23, Vedado, Havana, Cuba
VIP Le Blanc
For those who don’t mind spending a little extra, the VIP Le Blanc, a private six-bedroom boutique guesthouse, defines elegance. An architectural stunner, the remarkable 1940s villa—a fusion of Art Deco and Spanish Renaissance styling—resembles a museum stuffed with precious antiques. All rooms are air-conditioned, and bathrooms are 21st-century chic, as are furnishings in some bedrooms. Concierge service, uniformed staff, gourmet meals, and a huge swimming pool with a bar summon images of Italy or France. Welcome to the new Havana!
Calle 92 between 5th Avenue & 5A, Miramar, Havana, Cuba