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World Travel Guide > Guides > Caribbean > Cuba > Havana

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Local time Havana

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Restaurants in Havana

Havana has two types of restaurants: state-run and privately-owned and operated. While there are some very fine state restaurants and food quality and service have vastly improved in recent years, paladares (private restaurants) generally offer more variety (at a corresponding higher price) and more welcoming ambience. Always check restaurant bills carefully to make sure a random starter or cerveza hasn't migrated onto your bill - a pretty common scam.

The restaurants below have been classed into four different pricing categories:
Expensive (over CUC20)
Moderate (CUC10 - CUC20)
Cheap (up to CUC10)
These prices are for a three course meal for one, including tax but not drinks. A service charge of 10% will be added to your bill in most restaurants. Tipping is customary if not.

Expensive

Café Laurent

Cuisine: International

For a splurge or celebration, look no further than this classy, sophisticated paladar (private restaurant). A block from the Hotel Nacional, the balcony tables here offer fine views and the menu is Havana haute at its best. Seafood standouts include whole red snapper and grilled lobster tails and these folks do nice twists on classics including squid in its ink and pork chops with dates. Vegetarians are accommodated with care and creativity here. Reservations recommended.

Address: between Calles 19 & 21, Calle M #257, Havana,
Telephone: +53 7 831 2090.

Ivan Chef Justo

Cuisine: International

The prime Habana Vieja location, the hip setting, and the innovative menu here all combine to mean Ivan Justo – who will be in the teeny kitchen whipping up fresh and delicious dishes as you enter – is setting a new standard in Havana. There’s no going wrong with the homemade pasta perfectly dressed in sparkling green pesto, the mini rack of lamb or toothsome steak with goat cheese. Save room for the cuatros leches dessert – Havana’s best sweet treat.

Address: corner Chacón , Aguacate #9, Havana,
Telephone: +53 7 863 9697.

La Fontana

Cuisine: International

One of Havana's top private restaurants bar none, La Fontana's European-style menu is inspired. With charcoal-grilled sausages, cilantro spiked ceviche and Dijon mustard dressed rabbit as highlights, La Fontana specialises in dishes typically not found elsewhere in Cuba. The people watching is great too, since famous locals frequent this intimate place. The new Eden Bar, added in 2012, is spectacular and gives a good idea of how sophisticated Havana is becoming. It doesn't get going until 0100 at the earliest.

Address: , Calle 3ra A #305, Havana,
Telephone: +53 7 202 8337.
Website: http://www.lafontanahavana.info

Moderate

Doña Eutimia

Cuisine: Cuban

With the relaxation of rules for private restaurants in 2011, it was only a matter of time before someone opened an excellent dining establishment in the heart of Habana Vieja; Doña Eutimia (voted one of the top 100 restaurants in the world by Newsweek) is it. The menu is dominated by solid traditional Cuban dishes including picadillo (ground beef in tomato sauce with raisins and olives), stuffed plantains and pork done a variety of ways. Try the mojito frappe. Reservations are recommended.

Address: Plaza de Catedral, Callejón del Chorro #60C, Havana,
Telephone: +53 7 861 1332.

El Aljibe

Cuisine: Cuban

This restaurant is world famous with reason: the all-you-can-eat prix fixe chicken meal. It comes with all the traditional trimmings, including mouth-watering black bean potaje (Cuba's classic soupy side dish), and perfectly roasted and seasoned chicken. The secret is in the sauce, based on naranja agria (bitter orange), a staple in all Cuban kitchens. The wine list is one of the city's best. Located in Miramar, 15 minutes by car from the oldest part of the city, the restaurant has a rustic décor though it can get loud with boisterous diners.

Address: between Calle 24 & Calle 26, Avenida 7ma, Havana,
Telephone: +53 7 204 1583.

Tien Tan

Cuisine: Chinese

Havana's Chinatown is small, with the heart of things happening along the ‘cuchillo’ (diagonal alley), where restaurants packed cheek by jowl angle for diners. The best of the lot is this popular place anchoring the alley’s southern end. The house speciality is res al hierro caliente (beef on hot iron), or try the equally delicious seafood soup; adventurous eaters might point to one of the specials listed on the wall (in Chinese!). The food is authentic Cuban Chinese and the portions generous.

Address: Centro Habana, Calle Zanja 1 & San Nicolás, Havana,
Telephone: +53 7 861 5478.

Cheap

La Roca

Cuisine: Cuban

Step back in time at this Vedado classic, where your chicken or pork fillet comes with live piano accompaniment and fine service. Old timers as well as young couples typically fill this fun place and the bar is a happy hour hangout for local film, television and music luminaries. Word about town is the CUC15 surf and turf for two is a veritable feast. This place is very popular with local families and couples on dates.

Address: , Calle 21 #102, Havana,
Telephone: +53 7 334 501.

La Vicaria

Cuisine: Cuban

Waiting-staff-in-training cut their teeth at this sprawling restaurant offering traditional Cuban food, so you can be sure of attentive service. Choose between a leafy outdoor setting or head indoors into a converted mansion full of intimate dining rooms. This place is popular with Cuban families digging into super affordable shish kebabs, pizzas, and shellfish casseroles. In keeping with changes sweeping Havana, La Vicaria now offers drive-thru' takeout service.

Address: corner Calle 13, 5ta Avenida #18207, Havana,
Telephone: +53 7 339 100.

Los Nardos

Cuisine: International

A perennial favourite among Cubans and visitors alike, this cavernous restaurant directly across from the Capitolio has gained fame for its huge portions and affordable prices. The menu is pages long, with selections ranging from traditional dishes like ropa vieja to spaghetti and whole fish. There's a terrific wine list and vegetarians will appreciate the (meatless) chef salad. Always check your bill twice and take heart: the long line to get in moves fast.

Address: , Paseo de Martí #563, Havana,
Telephone: +53 7 863 2985.

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Parque Central Hotel

This well-situated, upscale hotel straddling Central Havana and Old Havana has been setting the standard for luxury lodging in the Cuban capital for years. In 2010, the Parque Central added 149 rooms in its new, chic La Torre building, further cementing its reputation as one of the city's best places to stay. Connected to the original building (with 277 rooms), La Torre is more low-key and the rooms fresher. The rooftop pool with panoramic city views is a real draw here.

Hotel Habana Riviera

Once upon a time, this hotel overlooking the Malecón was a major mobster hangout (it was built by infamous mafia kingpin Meyer Lansky) and everything from the retro, low-slung couches in the lobby to the legendary shows at The Copa Room cabaret throw back to that bygone era. Unfortunately, it can feel like the rooms haven't been updated since then. On the upside, even standard rooms are giant, each has city or sea views (go for one on the upper floors, with a balcony), and the windows actually open. The seawater pool here and lobby bar are attractions in themselves.

Hotel El Terral

One of Havana's newest properties, this boutique hotel is superbly perched overlooking the Malecón – and every room has a private balcony from which to appreciate the killer sea views. One guest says it's like being on a ship, you're that close to the water. So chic and popular is this place, you'll be lucky to land one of the 14 rooms. Doubly lucky are those that book a corner room (with two balconies) or one of the two suites each with long, deep terraces. The staff are friendly and pay meticulous attention to detail, plus you can walk to some excellent restaurants and sites.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Built in the 1930s by a New York firm, this historic hotel is a national monument and a destination in its own right. The rich and famous have always favoured its beautiful gardens overlooking the Malecón – notable guests include Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Steven Spielberg and Uma Thurman. The hotel's cigar bar is tops (especially during December's film festival when the Nacional is packed with luminaries) and the Cabaret Parisien is popular for its scantily-clad, floor show. The rooms here are nothing fancy; upgrade to the sixth (executive) floor if you're coming for more than the history.

Saratoga Hotel

Widely considered one of Havana's top luxury hotels (just ask Beyoncé and Jay-Z who celebrated their wedding anniversary here in 2013), the Saratoga offers understated elegance in a prime location across the street from the majestic Capitolio Building. There are 96 equally-comfortable rooms, though décor varies from charming colonial to modern chic – 'deluxe patio' (or standard rooms) overlook the interior patio and are less desirable. If budget allows, upgrade to a suite – from the wraparound balcony to mahogany interior, they're spectacular.

Hotel Saint John's

Although this hotel in Havana's verdant Vedado section of town has a great location and is walking distance from the Malecón, it has seen better days. The 86 rooms are pretty well worn and not all electrical outlets, faucets or lights may be working. But there's a small rooftop pool, the famous Pico Blanco disco on the top floor, and some rooms have sea views, which allows many guests (especially students and younger travellers, who favour this place) to overlook the shabbiness.