Visiting Havana (La Habana) is the closest you’ll get to time travelling.
Surrounded by century-old, colourful colonial buildings and watching vintage cars flooding the streets, you’ll be transported to days gone by in this encapsulating destination.
The lively streets of Cuba’s capital are bustling with music on every corner, and the gorgeous and welcoming locals will make it a place you want to stay.
It’s not all beaches and resorts – historically, culturally and politically-packed Havana will have you drinking, dancing, learning and seizing the moment in a matter of hours.
Cuba’s musical influences
Music is deeply engrained in the soul of Cuba. This magical island was colonised by the Spanish, and nowadays, its population is a melting pot of people of Spanish and African descent. Like in most countries of the Caribbean, each culture has largely contributed to the music that has come to define Cuba, such as rumba, son, guaracha, bolero, reggaeton, afro-Cuban jazz and especially salsa, the most Cuban rhythm of all, made internationally famous by late singer Celia Cruz.
The best places to enjoy live music in Havana
- La Zorra y el Cuervo
La Zorra y el Cuervo is the perfect spot for jazz lovers to be introduced to afro-Cuban jazz. The pub features talented jazz singers and players live every night, such as Havana’s own Zule Guerra; as well as talented up-and-coming Cuban artists. This club is small, laid-back and intimate, so don’t expect anything fancy. If you’re a jazz enthusiast, however, you’ll absolutely love the experience.
- La Dichosa
La Dichosa is the perfect little music heaven (a loud one, might we add) located in La Habana Vieja (Old Havana). It features a range of Latin American music at all times, so if you’re super keen for some latin rhythms, this is definitely your place! It is centrally located in one of the main streets of the city (corner of Obispo and Compostela) and you can get drinks as well as food. Even though the latter is nothing out of this world, the live music will more than make up for it.
- Callejón de Hamel
This well-known alley located in the centre of Havana itself comes to life every Sunday at noon. The rumba parties, live music and folkloric dance performances that celebrate Cuba’s African culture are something worth witnessing. It’s not only a great way to learn about the country’s roots, it’s also perfect if you’re an art enthusiast: the walls of the alley are covered with stunning murals, paintings and sculptures created by Cuban painter Salvador Gonzáles, a recognised artist who specialises in afro-Cuban style art. His career started on these streets and alleys, powered by the locals.
- Basílica Menor de San Francisco de Asís
This imposing, 1730’s church has been repurposed as a 21st century museum and concert hall. A trip to visit it will be perfect if you’re keen on experiencing Cuba’s choral and chamber music, which is scheduled quite regularly, about two to three times a week. The church is famed for its amazing acoustics – so if you’re a classic music aficionado, this is definitely something to tick off your ‘Cuban to-do list’. Be sure to book a ticket in advance.
- Santo Angel
This colonial building is located right next to the Old Square of the city and it’s one of the busiest centres in the quarter. It’s divided into different service areas, including the Don Gaspar bar. The restaurant’s porch is quite roomy and works as a stage where traditional Cuban bands perform daily.
- Palacio de la Rumba
Palacio de la Rumba offers something a little bit different: hip hop, R&B and funk. Here, you’ll not only experience the music, but will also be able to witness live dance performances, including break dance, dance battles and hip hop parties every Thursday. Cuban hip hop artists and DJ’s have received international recognition since the 1990s, mainly because of the unique style and their powerful social and political lyrics; so head to Palacio de la Rumba and immerse yourself in the Cuban rap scene.
- Jazz Café
The Jazz Café is a little bit of a fancier venue, located inside a shopping mall. They combine great music with great food and a great ambiance, including live jazz music every night, with the occasional timba and salsa.
Experience the rhythms of Cuba
Let music guide your way through historically beautiful Havana. With its striking colours, street art, mojitos and friendly locals, it’s impossible not to have an amazing time in this city.
For music lovers, there’s something for every taste: whether you’re keen to listen to Latin rhythms such as salsa, guaracha, son and reggeton; or are looking to experience something a bit different like afro-Cuban jazz or Cuban hip hop and R&B, travelling through Havana is an experience you’ll never forget.