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Your Home in Havana

Whether They Showcase the Old City, the Skyline or the Sea, Havana's Hotels Offer Plenty of Diverse Places to Stay
From the Print Edition:
The Cuba Issue, May/Jun 99

(continued from page 1)

Hotel Santa Isabel
Calle Baratillo No. 9 entre
Obispo y Narciso López
Plaza de Armas
La Habana Vieja
Phone: 33 82 01
Fax: 33 83 91
27 rooms
Rates: $110 to $210 with breakfast
This is the most elite hotel in Havana. A former palace of a Spanish noble family in the early nineteenth century, the Hotel Santa Isabel has lost very little of the elegant ambience of that period. Small and exclusive, it's like staying in a large private home. There's a secluded lobby with a patio as well as a good restaurant. Everything is done in Spanish colonial style. Rooms are large, with poster beds and reproduction antique furniture. Many have large terraces overlooking the Plaza de Armas, the shaded square behind the Castillo de la Fuerza, where booksellers set up stands every day. A rooftop swimming pool is planned for this year. The Santa Isabel is a favorite with affluent European tourists and businesspeople.

Hostal Conde de Villanueva
202 Mercaderes esquina Lamparilla
La Habana Vieja
Phone: 62 96 82
9 rooms
Rates: $53 to $135
This tiny hotel, located in the middle of Old Havana, could be a cigar smoker's paradise. The inn is a former Spanish merchant's house built in the eighteenth century, and it has been restored to perfection. The rooms are large and airy, with all the modern amenities. In addition, there's a small bar, a restaurant, a cigar shop and a cigar club. Lockers to keep cigars in perfect condition will be available for VIP guests. Renovations were nearly complete when this report was written.

Hotel Sevilla
No. 55 Trocadero
La Habana Vieja
Phone: 33 85 60
Fax: 33 85 82
188 rooms
Rates: $89 to $157
Of the old Spanish-style hotels in Old Havana, Hotel Sevilla remains one of the best. Everything is a cut above the rest, whether it's the recently repainted wooden shutters or the clean and airy patio bar on the ground floor. The restaurant on the top floor is spectacular, with an awe-inspiring Venetian-style painted ceiling, not to mention the panoramic views of the city and the sea. Unfortunately, the food is dreadful. It's better to have a drink at the bar. Rooms are generally small and dark, more Third World than what you'd find in Europe or America. However, service is personable and attentive.

Parque Central
Neptuno e/ Prado y Zulueta
La Habana Vieja
Phone: 66 66 27
Fax: 66 66 30
281 rooms
Rates: $180 to $250
The recently opened Parque Central has the potential to be one of the best downtown hotels, but it's still too early to tell. Located in Old Havana near the capitol, everything from the Partagas cigar factory to the Cathedral is a short walk away.

It's a slightly strange-looking building, a pastiche of neocolonial and modern architecture. The lobby is light and inviting, with a large, airy bar. Rooms are good-sized and well outfitted. The rooftop swimming pool and Jacuzzi are bliss. There's even an excellent cigar shop and smokers' club and bar. The restaurants have potential because the hotel has arranged a special permit to import its own food. The big question mark is service. Late last year, I tried twice to reserve a room and the response was late and unaccommodating.

Hotel Inglaterra
416 Prado entre San Rafel
y Neptuno
Habana Central
Phone: 33 85 93
Fax: 33 82 54
83 rooms
Rates: $75 to $126
Nothing ever seems to change at the Hotel Inglaterra, which is located in the center of Havana near the theater and El Capitolio. With its painted wood and ceramic tiles, this colonial-style hotel has loads of character even though it is rather run-down. It looks as if it hasn't been renovated since English author Graham Greene last stayed here in the late 1950s. The lobby and bar are tatty yet comfortable. It's a good place to take a break from the hustle of central Havana. Unlike most places in the area, here you can sit outside and watch the world go by on the street. Rooms are the big drawback here, unless you reserve one with a balcony facing the Parque Central. Most are spartan, dark and dusty. Yet some people keep coming back for the Our Man in Havana experience.

Hotel Plaza
No. 267 Calle Ignacio Agramonte
La Habana Vieja
Phone: 33 85 83, 33 85 89
Fax: 33 85 91
188 rooms
Rates: $70 to $155, including breakfast
Stepping inside the high-ceilinged, marble-floored lobby of the Hotel Plaza is like going back in time to nineteenth-century Spanish Cuba. However, the abundance of tourists in shorts and bright T-shirts brings you jarringly to the 1990s. The hotel is full of low-budget travelers on package tours, armed with hotel vouchers. Rooms are dark and dire. At least there's air conditioning--when it works.

Hotel Ambos Mundos
Calle Obispo No. 153 esquina
Mercaderes
La Habana Vieja
Phone: 66 95 30
Fax: 66 95 32
52 rooms
Rates: $55 to $90
One of the few hotels in the heart of Old Havana, the Ambos Mundos was a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway in the 1950s. Renovated about two years ago, it looks wonderful from the outside with its well-restored eclectic facade. The reception area is mostly taken up by the bar, which is a pleasant place to relax and have a cocktail or coffee and watch the street action on Calle Obispo. A terrace on the top floor has a bar and restaurant that offer excellent views over the rooftops of Old Havana. Unfortunately, the rooms are a nightmare. They are small, dark and tacky. One friend was recently given a room without windows. And the service is very poor.

VEDADO

Hotel Meliá Cohiba
Calle Paseo entre 1ra. y 3ra.
Vedado
Phone: 33 36 36
Fax: 33 45 55
512 rooms
Rates: $190 to $350
Do not judge this hotel solely by its outward appearance. Although it resembles one of thousands of other modern high-rise hotels throughout the world, the Meliá Cohiba continues to be one of the best places to stay in Havana, especially for business travelers. On the Malecón overlooking the sea, and managed by Spain's Meliá hotel group, it has no comparison in Havana.


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