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The Hotels of Havana

The best places to stay in Cuba’s capital city
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Havana—The Insider's Guide, November/December 2011

(continued from page 2)

Hotel Nacional
Calle 21 y O
Vedado, Plaza, Ciudad de la Habana
Tel: (537) 836-3564

This is the grand old dame of Havana’s hotels. The 457 rooms either have views of the Malecón or Vedado, the part of the city between Old Havana and the Miramar section. The lobby has soaring ceilings with large arches, and it runs from the dining room at one end to the Cabaret  Parisien at the other end. The two-story portico has a drive-thru, and you walk up the stairs into that spectacular vista. The rooms are comfortable, but Spartan and a little threadbare in places, even on the executive floor, which charges a 20 to 25 percent premium over the regular rooms.

The executive floor is recommended at least in part because of the Internet service both in the room and in the floor’s private reception area, which is a welcome way to avoid lines when you are checking in. The arcade on the side opposite the entrance surrounds the garden, which leads out to a view over the Malecón; it’s a fantastic place to sit in the large, comfortable chairs with a cigar and a glass of Santiago rum. There is a good Casa del Habano in the basement.

One of the amusing things to do is ask the front desk which famous celebrity of yesteryear has stayed in the room you have for the night: You might get the room favored by Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Gary Cooper or ol’ blue-eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.

Hotel Meliá Cohiba
Av. Paseo, entre 1 y 3
Vedado, Cuidad de la Habana
Tel: (537) 833-3636

Every city needs a top-notch business hotel.  In Havana, it is without a doubt the Meliá Cohiba. The high-rise hotel with 462 rooms towers high above the Malecón, and if you squint just a little, you might imagine you are in a hotel in Madrid or Atlanta. There is a great pool, nice restaurants (some say La Piazza produces excellent Italian food) and a well-
appointed Casa del Habano on the second floor.

There is no Internet service in the rooms, but the business center has half a dozen computer terminals, and the wireless Internet in the lobby, accessed through a prepaid card with passwords, is functional, if not always reliable. The Spanish hotel company Sol Meliá, operates the hotel, and it caters to a well-heeled business crowd.

Prices are somewhat higher than the standard government hotel, with double occupancy rooms running about $150 in the off-season and over $200 during the winter months. There is a pool and a gym, and the highly regarded Havana Café nightclub is in the same building, down about 20 yards from the main entrance.

Tie, for 5th place

Hotel Conde de Villanueva
Mercaderes 1202, esquina Lamparilla
La Habana Vieja
Tel: (537) 862-9293

This is a personal favorite, and will be on my must-stay list next time in Havana. The term boutique hotel would best describe it: there are only nine rooms, all opening out onto an interior courtyard, which is open to the sky. It was an old colonial mansion, so the rooms are spacious, and the marble staircases up to the second floor speak of a grander time.

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