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“El Templete” restaurant, beneath a future boutique hotel in Old Havana

“El Templete” restaurant, beneath a future boutique hotel in Old Havana

A popular local saying in Cuba states: “La Habana no aguanta mas…”, this translates as “Havana cannot take it anymore…” Today, as the saying goes, it seems to be true. Every travel agency is currently struggling with availability of Havana: hotels and B&B are sold out for the next six months. The “Cuban boom” has arrived; European, Americans, Asians…all of them are filling Old Havana’s narrow streets, taking hundreds of pictures of “almendrones” (classic American old cars) and enjoying an undiscovered “socialist island”.

El Templete

Some experts claimed that Cuba has it all to attract foreign visitors: culture, history, music, weather, people, beaches, cigars and even the government. True or false, what no-one can deny is that Havana is probably one of the busiest cities of Latin America nowadays.

Local hotel companies are anxious for more rooms, but this turns out to be quite complicated though. However, new projects starting promises to relieve the current lack of availability. One of them is the opening of a new boutique hotel in the Malecon (the seaside wall), in front of the spectacular views from the harbour and just above one of the finest seafood restaurants in Havana: El Templete.  Habaguanex, the leading hotel company in Old Havana and directed by Dr. Eusebio Leal, the city historian, is executing this project. It will add approximately 25 rooms and promises to be one of the exclusive boutique hotels in Old Havana. In a small building in the core of the old city, this stylish and pleasant location will also bring you the opportunity to enjoy finest food just underneath.

Monument "El Templete"

Monument El Templete

El Templete is a nautical themed restaurant, it derives its name from its proximity (less than 100 meters) to a monument which, erected in 1828, evokes the founding of St. Christopher of Havana town in 1519. The restaurant was originally opened in 1931, when it was one of the most popular in Havana to delight a lobster course.

Blessed by the 2004 foundation celebrations, when the town turned 485 years old, this establishment reopened its doors to bring back the seafood tradition in the same atmosphere of decades ago.  Delicious fish and shellfish-based dishes prepared by Spanish chef José Carlos Castillo make up the exclusive menu in El Templete, famous for its high-quality service. The restaurant was also turned into a peculiar gallery in 2006, exhibiting art works by important Cuban artists who have joined a project devised by Basque chef Arkaitz Echarte and Cuban visual artist Alexis Leyva (Kcho).

Seafood tradition

Camarones la ajillo at El Templete

New feelings to experience in Old Havana…

Today the restaurant revives maritime traditions in a seductive environment offering delicious food, where past and present are harmoniously melted to bring us a high quality service with an unforgettable experience. 


The idea of having a new boutique hotel above “El Templete” is just making it more exciting…not only good food, but a warm and pleasant place to rest and enjoy the daybreak in front of the sea, surrounded by history and Cuban people’s warmth. You won’t want to miss such an exclusive experience…do you?

Carlos Acosta, from the Royal Ballet to Havana

Carlos Acosta, from the Royal Ballet to Havana

Born in Havana in June 1973, Carlos Acosta has performed in some of the world’s greatest companies including England's Royal Ballet, Paris Opera and the Bolshoi. Known as one of the best male dancers of his generation; according to the British critics, Carlos has received as much applause as anyone could dream at the Royal Albert Hall. From a humble home, this young boy had a big dream, fought for it and make it come true. Today he’s after a new goal: opening his own ballet academy in Cuba.

Carlos Acosta at The Royal Albert Hall

Internationally known for his grace and athleticism as a dancer, after many years of brilliant performances he’s currently one of the main choreographers of the Royal Ballet and still sharing his magnificence with the audience. Carlos has danced almost every classical role from Macmillan to Balanchine right through to his more recent contemporary roles and never fails to bring a unique quality and magnetism to every movement. Acosta has also written his very honest and genuine autobiography: 'No Way Home', which was a UK bestseller and it’s been published in several other countries including North America, Australia and Germany.

After announced his retirement from the European scenes, he still performing and also stages several masterpieces; “Carmen”, the latest one, has been a resounding success, and will be shown on BBC 4 national television in Christmas Day. But now Carlos has new goals in mind; he’s looking to the future with a series of ambitious new projects in Cuba. He wants to create a revolutionary ballet company under his management; bringing to life undiscovered dancers and choreographers in the island while working with international figures.

Carlos Acosta ballet dancer

Auditions already started; Carlos seems to be looking for young talented dancers wanting to work with him, developing new skills and contemporary techniques. Initially Acosta aims to establish a small company of sixteen dancers: eight boys and also eight girls, plus choreographers. Those artists willing to join the company must complete the auditions to go through: a classic technique and a contemporary dance lesson.

According to Carlos, the strength in both techniques will be crucial for those foreign choreographers cooperating with the company, so they can be limitless and feel free to try and discover a new dimension with native Cuban dancers. So, Acosta will fill his classes with his chosen artists with elements of every dance modality, including folklore and contact dance (this last a very modern technique barely taught in Cuba).

New era in the Cuban ballet

Carlos Acosta

The biggest dream of the star of The Royal Ballet is to make this academy the basic platform to launch Cuban talent to international stages making a conscious bridge between Cuban ballet schools and the world’s biggest dance companies, something that until today, no one has achieved in Cuba. He’s trying to start a new era in the Cuban ballet, making a direct link with current tendencies and also collaborations with talented worldwide recognise dancers. Carlos Acosta’s academy will be for sure one to talk about in future, his talent is more than proven. We are already looking forward to the first performance, one that you won’t want to miss if you are in Cuba; nor me at San Cristobal UK in Havana & London…

Havana’s Yellow Submarine

Havana’s Yellow Submarine

Once I heard from a lovely British lady that Havana hides some secrets underneath. At first, it could sound a bit poetic, but if you take your time and think about it, she might be right. As tourists in a Caribbean country, you should expect go out in the night and dive into some mojitos while enjoying live salsa music and gorgeous “mulatas” dancing with an exorbitant rhythm that mesmerizes any audience. If that’s what you’re looking for, then certainly you are at the right place. However, if you want to go deeper and discover more than the typical tourist guide’s options, I can recommend a very unexpected and addictive place which is known as “The Beatles’ place in Havana”.

Yellow Subamarine in Havana

Many Cubans born during 1960s’ and the1970’s grew up in the most “extreme communist period” of Cuba’s Revolution; at that time listening to English music was forbidden by the government, it was regarded as disrespectful and against “socialist rules”. As a consequence, that generation learnt how to (secretly) listen foreign music, mainly British and American artists. Vinyl records of the glorious band born in Liverpool, singing such beautiful songs as “Hey Jude” or “Strawberry Fields” were one of the favourites to hide under the mattress of many…many young people in Cuba. My parents, my uncles, my parent’s friends, all of them did it, proudly and consciously that they were keeping a valuable asset.

But all of this changed in the next few decades, as it should be done from the very beginning, The Beatles occupied an important place in radio stations and John, Paul, Ringo and George were easily found singing in any Havana bar.
Today, at the 21st century, there is one place that won’t let them go: The Yellow Submarine! As the result the undeniable influence of the iconic British band in the Cuban musical memory, this enchanted bar honours them. Located in Vedado, the “most artistic zone” in the city, on 17th Avenue, is in front of John Lennon’s Park where a sculpture design by the Cuban artist Villa Soberon honours the author of “Imagine”.

John Lennon's sculpture

John Lennon statue

Situated in a basement, the beautiful design and decoration of The Yellow Submarine was led by Elizabeth Rojas Monzon; the idea was to fuse artistic pop concepts with modern styles. Decorated with chromatic and sparkling touches from the 60’s, the walls are covered with Beatles pictures and their lyrics all over the place, making it a friendly and unique environment to enjoy companionship with good quality music. It reminds me the magnificent “The Cavern” in Liverpool; not because the design but the atmosphere, the songs…the Beatles’ spirit.

This is a place where you can find young people, mostly university students, morphed with their previous generations. Is not touristic, but traditionally Cuban I must say. Good friends hanging out to share new histories or to recall those from the past or just young people looking for new experiences, something different from the salsa or “reggaeton”, easily found in the city, and go a step further. You can expect to hear songs like Penny Lane interpreted by mid-age Cuban bands or something much “stronger” like rock songs from The Rolling Stones or Deep Purple. I love going there. It’s a compulsory night out with friends from university every month. In fact, we got a couple of friends who play live music there; they are called Luz Verde (Green Light), who perform in this peculiar and original place a couple of months ago. 

Yellow Submarine

Yellow Submarine Bar

Beatles legacy

It is just a reminder of Beatles’ legacy within the Cuban culture; more than 50 years since they started playing unforgettable lyrics in England and young Cuban people still getting inspired by them…this is a little suggestion from San Cristobal UK if you are a Beatle lover travelling to Havana.

Royalton Plaza in Old Havana

Royalton Plaza in Old Havana

The classic Hotel Plaza, one of the oldest hotels in Cuba, is struggling with restoration and maintenance issues. Officially inaugurated in 1909, the latest renovation of this gorgeous building was in the beginnings of 1990’s. Blue Diamonds Resorts has claimed interest in this hotel; they are already discussing refurbishment projects and expect them to be completed in three years’ time.


Blue Diamonds Resorts, a Canadian hotel management established in 2011 has become the Caribbean’s fastest growing resort chain, with a 22 property portfolio now exceeding 10,000 rooms in 6 countries. Nowadays they manage 14 hotels in Cuba; but don’t want to miss the incredible opportunity to run a classic gem in Old Havana.

The hotel company has three main brands operating in Cuba: Starfish, Memories and Royalton; each one with its own characteristics, but all bringing an unforgettable experience to their guests. Royalton is the luxurious one of Blue Diamonds and it has two hotels running in the Cuban island: Royalton Cayo Santa Maria and Royalton Hicacos (this last one located in Varadero). The Royalton Cayo Santa Maria was honoured as the No. 1 All-Inclusive Resort in the World in 2014 TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Awards and it is also considered one of the best All-Inclusive hotels in the world by many specialists as well.

Hotel Plaza

Hotel Plaza in Old Havana

During the World Travel Market in London this last November, Blue Diamonds’ executives announced their next big project: the full restoration of Hotel Plaza, currently under Gran Caribe management. It is located in the west side of Old Havana: next to Parque Central Hotel, 3 minutes walk from the Capitol and just one block from El Paseo del Prado.

Hotel Plaza was designed over 100 years ago; it has a peculiar conical triangle shape, adding to its allure. Early 20th century elements are still reflected in details such as the original floor in the lobby and the towering windows, sandblasted with the Hotel Plaza’s emblem.

Plaza bar

The lobby and nearby bar are lively and abuzz: the bubbling fountain, the chirping (caged) birds and live traditional Cuban music make it almost heavenly in the middle of a crowded Havana. Stained glass domes in the ceiling (with beautiful Art Nouveau images) filter the sunlight, and the first impression when you go into the reception is like being in a golden dome that has survived during the years. Great names of the world history can be linked to this hotel: Albert Einstein and Babe Ruth stayed here during their visit to the capital city.

Situated at No. 267 Ignacio Agramonte Street, Old Havana, the prime location and the history of this hotel cannot be obviated; plus adding 188 rooms to a fully booked Havana makes it a real deal. Even when the hotel doesn’t have very good reviews today, after a proper restoration process it will be certainly one of the finest in Cuba.

Old Havana seems to be reborn

The future Royalton Plaza will make Old Havana a more stylish town. It’ll be situated in front of the currently under-construction Manzana Hotel and the Bacardi building in the back of the hotel, next to Parque Central Hotel and barely 50 metres from one of the best bars in Cuban history: Sloppy Joe’s Bar. In the rooftop of the future luxurious Royalton Plaza, you will definitely enjoy a breath-taking view; one that I hardly doubt you could ever forget.

Bacardi building's view

View form Hotel Plaza


New hotel in Old Havana above the legendary Sloppy Joe’s Bar

New hotel in Old Havana above the legendary Sloppy Joe’s Bar

As part of the new refurbishment projects headed in Old Havana by Habaguanex, a new boutique hotel will be opening soon in one of the most mythical places in Havana. The first and second floor of the building where the historic and unique Sloppy Joe’s Bar is located will be revitalized and turned into a wonderful place to stay in the city.

Sloppy Joe's Bar Havana

During the World Travel Market 2015 in London early of November, new projects in Old Havana were exhibited. As a response to the increasing tourist arrivals in the island, new hotels (most of them in small and highly stylish locations) are currently under reconstruction. One of the most intriguing places for sure is going to be the one just over Sloppy Joe’s Bar. Habaguanex company, specializes in luxurious boutique hotels around Old Havana, being one of the most prestigious hotel brands in Cuba, is performing this adventure.

Sloppy Joe's was a Havana bar in the 1930’s owned by Jose Garcia who arrived in Cuba in 1904 from Spain, he worked as a barman during his early years there. He opened his own business and bought a grocery store along with a warehouse located in the corner of Zulueta and Animas Streets, just couple of minutes walk from the Capitol of Havana. One of the theories of the name is that during the first months after the opening, when the place was a total mess, there was a sandwich served made of ropa vieja (ripped beef) known as a Sloppy Joe, and later Mr Garcia created the name as a trademark which has a long legacy.

Sloppy Joe's Bar

Sloppy Joe's old picture

The bar was one of the most popular places in Havana. It wasn’t only fine cocktails and spirits what made it so trendy, it was the attractive environment and the perfect atmosphere to meet with friends or having an important business meetings, while enjoying the longest mahogany bar in Cuba (even some historians says it was the longest bar in the entire world with more than 18 meters of length). One of the regular clients of Jose Garcia was Ernest Hemingway, who use to visited the bar along with his friend Joe Russel who also owned a bar in Florida, USA which Hemingway suggested to Mr. Russel be named “Sloppy Joe’s”, in honour of Jose Garcia.

It was one of the most fashion bars in Havana which had a magnificent splendour during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Many Hollywood celebrities, musicians, writers and all kind of bohemian characters visited Sloppy Joe’s Bar. It was a must go place in those decades; relevant figures as John Wayne, Mario Moreno "Cantinflas", Jose Antonio Mendez "The King", Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Ignacio Jacinto Villa y Fernandez "Bola de Nieves" and many other personalities of the time enjoyed cocktails there.

Sloopy Joe's

After the triumph of Fidel Castro’s Revolution in 1959, the iconic Sloopy Joe’s Bar was closed. The building and its history were completely abandoned until April 12, 2013 when it was reopened after fifty years of obscurity. Eusebio Leal, Historian of Havana and head of Habaguanex said: “What interests me is to work to restore to my city, our city, a whole series of things that are part of its memory. To restore Sloppy Joe’s is to return to Havana the place where artists, baseball players, tourists all met. The final goal is not commercial, is not to exploit a name; it brings the opportunity to recover an important memory of Havana”.

Fame and history in a new boutique hotel

Restored Sloppy Joe's

Today the bar is one of the best in Cuba; full of fame and history, is now welcoming new clients to let them enjoy an unequal experience. Not only tourists but local people enjoy the pleasure of being seated behind such a magnificent bar and have great drinks in Havana’s heart. As announced by Habaguanex the upper floors will become soon a unique place to stay, adding nearly 20 rooms to an increasingly crowded Havana. A new hotel that we will keep an eye on…!