Havana's sultry evenings deserve a good plan for going out and having a good time, especially when it's Friday night and your body and soul are aching for relaxation.
Today I will let you in on my favourite hangout spots in Havana; where I go with my friends and meet my boyfriend after a long five-day working week. I'd like to recommend a couple of places I've been visiting over and over for the last few months with the same result: Bye-bye stress!
They are Bar Bohemio and Siá Kará Cafe, each with a completely different style, but both complementing each other well to create a perfect pub crawl journey. Both are examples of successful new establishments created after the opening of the private small-business sector in Cuba.
Bar Bohemio is a quiet place with casual music that I prefer to start off with before I go partying. It's roomy and with a good service so that nothing takes away from the relaxing experience. After I've been there for a while and feel relaxed enough, I like to liven up the spirits by heading to Siá Kará, a party bar in Centro Habana.
The places where I can engage into a nice and casual conversation whilst also enjoying myself will always be at the top of my list and the Sia Kara fits the bill perfectly. It's ideal for groups and my friends and I love it because you can mix intimacy and livelihood.
These two are the kind of places in Havana where people go to unwind and mellow out. Personally, I consider them the best choices you can have for a fun and relaxed Friday night in Havana.
Get on the wagon with some Dutch courage and throw three sheets in the wind
Bar Bohemio, located in a small building from the 1940s, which was built by the grandfather of the actual owner, is a romantic place managed by ex-ballerinas from the Cuba's National Ballet company, so to this you can attribute the bar's artistic decor and flair. You'll find it on 21st and 14th Streets in the residential neighbourhood of Vedado. On the ground floor it has a big L-shaped terrace and a wide room with a mixture of casual and fifties-style decoration.
In the relaxed atmosphere of this bar, I have either spent hours trying to decipher the most intricate dilemmas of humankind or simply enjoyed some office gossip with the same passion.
Although they do offer some food, that is not the point to Bar Bohemio. To snack on, I suggest the malanga (cassava) fritters with honey, probably the best in Havana. Go easy on them though, you can easily become an addict!
Even when the waiters are not always the same, the barman always is, and this goes on the positive column of my list. It is great to have a Martini that always tastes exactly the same way it did the first time.
I've been tempted to try the Moscow by Tang, a sort of Mojito which contains, instead of rum and mint, vodka and basil. I'm not good at trying new alcoholic drinks, so I'll keep waiting for someone to ask for one and offer me a sip. If any of you tries it, don't hesitate in telling me about it.
The menu is listed on small handmade pamphlets, all of which are different, some feature a combination of dry flowers while others use snail shells or bottle corks. A real beauty.
The drink mats are small reused phonograph records. This is good for playing "who/what did you get?" or even trading it with your friends. The last time we were there, we disputed over a single by Juan Formell. Luckily, I won it!
For a romantic evening nothings compare to Bar Bohemio. I've been there more than once with my boyfriend and we've never been disappointed. The terrace is a great ally for this purpose: its indirect lights shine on you and the privacy of the corners adds to the romantic atmosphere.
If the horizon lights up, and the road...let a scenic stroll take you to your next destination
When the evening gives way to the night and you have already shaken yourself awake after a long working day, you can go for a livelier entertainment pursuit. I recommend heading to the Siá Kará next, and doing it on foot via the Malecon promenade for many reasons. First, the sea view. Second, the view to a city that wriggles along its beautiful timeless coastline. Thirdly, watching a moving portrait of the life of habaneros at night as they move along the city's seaside boulevard to romance, chat or sing.
The tour ends when you go up Prado Promenade and you feel how Havana opens up to you in a show of lights and shades, facades and corners that are hard to forget.
The Siá Kará Cafe, behind the "Capitolio" building, is one of the most unusual bars in Havana. You'll be invited to try the best Mojito this side of Havana and the best 'mariquitas', fried chips made from plantains with garlic. Simply superb!
I strongly recommend trying the Caipiroska, for it has the exact proportions of sugar, lemon and vodka; and also the Piña Colada, neither strong nor mild, that invites you to have another.
I've never been there to eat (my visits are for drinking and chatting), so I cannot tell you about what they offer, but I've seen nice-looking plates of fish, meat and salads.
Nothing is impossible at the Siá Kará
What isn't possible here? I cannot yet define the kind of people that go there, but I like it: varied, different, alive!
Its greatest success is the piano and the gate it opens to music. Anyone can sing and everyone does, huge chorus singing well-known songs. I plead guilty for having been carried away.
It seems that everyone in Havana agrees that it is one of the best places to have a nighttime adventure. Last Friday we met several actors, musicians, singers, designers... a lot of celebrities who didn't want to miss the prevalent bar. The best thing is its sitting arrangement: sofas around the walls creating private spaces. One ends up striking up a conversation or singing with renowned musicians as Robertico Carcases, or leading Cuban actresses such as Laura de la Uz.
It's not exactly a place for dancing, but it is magic. I had the privilege of having a short salsa dance with Jose Manuel Carreno, YES. The famous ballet dancer! This is a place for meeting the Cuba's showbiz people and a good stack of celebrities from all corners. You'll be surprised by their warmth, candidness and spontaneity, why, they don't act like celebrities at all!
There are many treasures hidden in this city, and two of these are El Bohemio and the Siá Kará - they're my call for a Friday night everytme. For a Saturday night... well, you'll have to visit my blog again to find my suggestions.
|Addresses:||Bar Bohemio: 1065 21st Street between 12 y 14 Streets, Vedado
Sia Kara: 502 Barcelona st. and Industria st, Centro Habana
|Phone:||Bar Bohemio: (+537) 833 6918
Sia Kara: (+537) 867 4084
|Opening hours:||Bar Bohemio: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 6:00pm to 11:59pm. Friday and Saturday from 6:00pm to 4:00am. Closed on Monday
Sia Kara: Everyday from 1:00pm to 2:00am
|Prices:||Drinks start at $2.00 CUC. EUR and USD also accepted|
|Reservations:||Only required for booking large groups|
|Dress Code:||Smart casual|