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World Travel Guide > Guides > Caribbean > Cuba > Havana

Havana Weather

31°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.

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Featured Hotels

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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 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.

Park View Hotel

A great location combines with a nice price to make the Park View a perennial favourite. Close to both the famous Museo de la Revolución and the exquisite Museo de Bellas Artes, this small Havana hotel provides a warm welcome to the city. Functional rather than fancy, rooms have air conditioning, satellite TV and a safe deposit box. The on-site restaurant has awesome city views and hotel staff are friendly.

Hotel Sevilla

One of the city's most striking examples of Moorish architecture (the façade and lobby, anyway), this historic hotel is a feast for the eyes, from the exotically tiled lobby to the sweeping city views from the Roof Garden Restaurant. Its location (steps from the Paseo del Prado, Gran Teatro and many museums) puts Havana's highlights at your beck and call. The rooms are rough around the edges, however; best to check one out before checking in. The lobby is always abuzz with live music, clinking cocktail glasses and laughter.

Hotel Santa Isabel

To date, the only (supposed) 5-star hotel in Old Havana's historic core, the Santa Isabel occupies a privileged spot on picturesque Plaza de Armas. The setting is charming, with many of the 27 rooms overlooking the Plaza or Havana Harbor, which is largely what attracts famous guests including Jimmy Carter and Robert Plant. However, like many historic buildings (this one dates from the 1700s), interiors can be dark and musty, plus hotel staff can be bristly and less than efficient.

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.