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World Travel Guide > Guides > Caribbean > Cuba > Havana

Havana Weather

34°C

Local time Havana

Currency

CUC$

Shopping in Havana

Shopping in Cuba means top cigars and rum, world-class art, and unique handicrafts. As buildings and storefronts get restored and occupied by entrepreneurs, Old Havana is becoming a hive of shopping activity, with everything from artisan chocolates and perfume to sterling silver and hand-sewn dresses. Additionally, every hotel has a souvenir shop. Souvenirs are sold in Convertible Pesos (CUC). Visitors should note that Cuba is a cash-based economy: credit cards are rarely accepted and no cards issued by US banks can be used.

Key areas

Long acknowledged as producing the best in the world, Cuban cigars (known as habanos or puros) are expensive internationally but much cheaper on home soil. The city is peppered with stores where good-quality cigars can be bought; try Casa del Tabaco, Calle Oficios 53, in Habana Vieja or the Casa del Habano on the corner of 5ta Avenida and Calle 16 in Miramar; rum and coffee are also good buys and travel well. Cuban music CDs pack the shelves of music and souvenir stores and wandering minstrels are always peddling their recordings in bars around town.

Markets

The city’s sprawling Almacenes de San José is a hangar-sized, seaside souvenir market at Avenida del Puerto and San Ignacio, open daily 1000-1800. In Vedado, there’s a smaller market selling similar wares on Calle 23 between Calles M & N open daily 1000-1700.

Shopping centres

Shopping malls have arrived in Havana; Tiendas Carlos III (Avenida Salvador Allende), is stuffed with clothes, shoes and beauty products, as is the multi-storied mall, Galerías Paseo, at Paseo and 1ra Avenida in Vedado.

Opening hours

Shops open daily 1000-1800 including Sundays 1000-1300, although this may not always be the case.

Souvenirs

Leather shoes and handbags, hand carved wooden boxes, and everything from aprons to ashtrays with Che's likeness are the bread and butter of most Cuban souvenir stalls. Items emblazoned with Cuba – hats, baseball jerseys, backpacks – are also popular.

A digital image at https://illuminoto.com

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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.