As things start to seriously cool down in the northern hemisphere, temperatures around the equator also drop a few degrees but only just enough to wave goodbye to the scorching summer months and make it feel like a warm springtime, far warmer than the springs we’re used to here in the UK.
November is a great time to be in Cuba, not only because the slightly lower temperatures make it more pleasant to walk around and tour cities during the day, whilst still being warm enough to enjoy the beach, but because the calendar gets filled with seasonal events like Havana Fashion Week, Classical Music Week, and of course, Havana's 499th birthday!
From ceremonial inaugurations of buildings of great architectural value to celebrating the city´s photography with exhibitions all around the city, there couldn’t be a better time to be in Cuba’s capital.
Top Picks - November Highlights
Classical Music Week in Havana (11 to 25 November)
Cultural institutions in Havana’s historic centre have teamed up to stage a series of classical music concerts throughout the city for two weeks. The music festival, named “Havana Classic” will celebrate great classics in the world of music at a variety of venues, namely the centric Basilica Menor del Convento de San Francisco de Asis on the picture-perfect San Francisco de Asis Square, the Teatro Marti, Havana’s Cathedral and the Centro Cultural Antigua Liceo Artistico y Literaro de La Habana.
The festival is a great chance to get acquainted or re-acquainted with some of the world’s most talented musicians, with the participation of Grammy-winning clarinet player and producer Michael Fine, U.S. violinist Tai Murray and Italian pianist Alessandro Stella, performing alongside their Cuban counterparts, Aldo Lopez-Gavilan, Elis Regina Ramos and Niurka Gonzalez.
Also for the first time in history, a violin made by luthier Alexander Schetina will display the Habana Clasica logo. The instrument will make its first debut on the festival alongside two donated clarinets and the first De Munk violoncello to be made in Cuba.
As part of the festival’s programme, there will be chamber music and vocal performances, with the participation of sopranos Barbara Llanes from Cuba and Ann Liebeck from the UK. Beyond daily concerts, the festival will also comprise master classes, art exhibits and free public performances in Old Havana’s squares.
Photography Month in Havana - Noviembre Fotografico
All of November has been declared photography month in Havana as part of an initiative by Fototeca de Cuba to group the city’s most talented photographers and have them exhibit their work in public spaces, galleries and art constitution. Organised in collaboration with the "Consejo Naciona de Artes Plasticas" (National Council of Plastic Arts), the event is now in its 11th edition and seeks to showcase the freshest, most compelling works of contemporary Cuban artists whilst promoting the art of photography among aspiring young artists and the wider population.
This year “Noviembre Fotografico” kicked off with the debut of “Silencios, Secretos y Testimonios” by Cuban artists Flor Mayoral and Spanish photographers Amparo Alepuz and Rocio Villalongas at Fototeca de Cuba.
Photography fans will be able to feast their eyes on the talent of contemporary Cuban photographers and see the island’s capital through their lens. For photography enthusiasts lucky enough to be in Cuba, this is the month to browse as many galleries as you can in Havana.
Havana’s 499th Birthday celebrations (16 November)
Gearing up to its 499th birthday, the week starting 11th November will see a series of special lectures taking place around the city to announce the cultural events to mark the city’s 499th birthday on 16th November. But beyond this year’s anniversary celebrations, Havana is looking further ahead and building up to its grand 500th anniversary next year, with plenty of events being organised for this.
To celebrate Havana this month, November sees the re-opening of El Capitolio de La Habana, a magnificent building of unique cultural, historical and heritage value that had been closed off to the public for years due to extensive refurbishment works. On 16th November there will be concerts, public performances and pop-up events throughout the capital as the birthday celebrations get underway.
During a press conference held at the recently-reopened Capitolio Nacional, Eusebio Leal, the City’s Historian unveiled the logo of next year’s campaign to commemorate Havana’s upcoming 500th birthday with the slogan “Ciudad Bella, La Habana”. Leal also said that the Capitol’s famous lamp would be switched one once again, while a series of other monuments are being worked on to bring back their original splendour.
Danzones para La Habana on Tour (16 to 23 November)
Celebrating Havana’s 499th birthday this 16th November a very special dance event launches as it prepares to tour around the capital. “Danzones para La Habana” an event celebrating a music style endemic to Havana, will stop at various of the city’s concert venues to offer live “danzon” performances, and treat local “habaneros” and visitors alike to the sweet melodies of this autonomics music genre and dance style born in the Cuban capital in the mid 1800s and popular until around 1920s. Despite being considered somewhat out of fashion, danzones are kept alive as part of the island’s rich music heritage and a popular danzon song is always present in Cuban celebrations.
The tour’s dates and venues are as follows:
16 November - Convento de Belen
17 November - 11 a.m. Casa de Cultura de Arroyo Arenas
4 p.m. Casa de Cultura de Arroyo Naranjo
18 November - Calle Galiano
23 November - Palacio de la Rumba
Havana Fashion Week (20 to 24 November)
Ever since Karl Lagerfeld descended on the Cuban capital for the first time to make history with the very public catwalk show presentation of Chanel’s Cruise 16/17 collection in Paseo del Prado celebrating fashion in Havana has never been the same.
This November the city celebrates Havana Fashion Week with the biggest participation of foreign brands ever. French designers will make it to Havana’s Pabellon Cuba, this year’s hosting venue, to present their latest collections from 20th to 24th November. Most notably, Alex Rotin, famous for his work with Chanel, will be presenting his collection in the Cuban capital for the first time.
But it’s not just France that makes it to Havana this month to exhibit their designs in the Cuban capital as designers also include Paul-Herve Elisabeth from Martinique, Eliette Lesuperbe from Guadaloupe will also present their collections alongside 70 Cuban designers from all corners of the island.
The programme includes 45 catwalk shows, four of which will be dedicated to children’s fashion while four more will showcase swimwear, bridal fashion, caftans and menswear. The other 40 shows will focus on textile creations, jewellery and leather accessories.
Beyond the celebration of Havana Fashion Week there will be a special meeting held at the city’s Alliance Francaise to put a golden brooch to the fashion celebrations. Said meeting will include workshops, cultural exchanges between local and foreign designers and a photography exhibition by Cuban artist May Reguera titled #AMAR&YA displaying photos from previous editions of Havana Fashion Week.
Traditional Cuban Music Project “Hoy Como Ayer” in Havana´s La Tropical (29 November)
At the aptly named Benny More (the Cuban king of mambo) hall in La Tropical´s famous Salon Rosado, a project to promote traditional Cuban music will kick off on the afternoon of 29th November. From 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. the audience will be treated to 100 per cent Cuban melodies, including the so-called Cuban “filin” (feeling) genre. Prepare for a night of nostalgic tunes in a raw and real Cuban atmosphere.
La Tropical is a great place to mingle with the local crowds (you´ll hardly ever spot a tourist in sight) and enjoy Cuban music at its most authentic. The entry price is just 10 Cuban Pesos (less than $0.50 CUC or around 40 pence in British sterling), which is why this place can get crowded, if you don´t mind that, you´ll have a great time!
Acosta Danza presents “Destinos” at Havana´s Gran Teatro (30 November to 2 December)
To officially open the winter season, Acosta Danza, the ballet company founded and led by internationally-acclaimed Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta, will stage its latest production “Destinos” in Havana´s Gran Teatro "Alicia Alonso" over the last week of November. This new programme encompasses and illustrates this young dance company´s four years of history since its foundation in 2015.
The programme also includes the presentation of two productions, including a timeless classic like Carmen with music by Georges Bizet and Carlos Acosta´s unique touch. The piece will have a renewed choreography by Acosta but will still be based on the original love story from Prosper Merimee´s famous homonymous novel.
Another production that will be part of Acosta´s Destinos winter programme is Satori, an original by Raul Reinoso, part of Acosta Danza´s team of artists, and which tells the story of an inward journey towards spiritual enlightenment. Music for this piece is by young Cuban musician Pepe Gavilondo.
Tickets go on sale on 27 November at 9 a.m. so get there as soon as you can to avoid disappointment as all three scheduled performances are likely to sell out fast.
End of the month´s concert line-up
Over the last days of November Cuba´s music scene gets charged up as a series of concerts close off the month in style. The majority of these are in Havana, but if you happen to be in Villa Clara and you like experimental music from a young music crowd, head to El Mejunje for a very Cuban night.
Youth Music Project at El Mejunje in Santa Clara (28 November)
A night where a variety of young music projects are presented to the local audience, if you’re in Santa Clara on November’s last Wednesday, El Mejunje is the place to be for a memorable evening and a young party vibe. Groups like To’ Mezclao and Fiesta Electronica will take to the stage to fuse electro-acoustic beats with the latest boga rhythms. All this added to the special effects with vibrant imagery will make it a great night out whatever your age or music taste. It all starts at 10 p.m. and will go on until early morning.
Exclusive last-minute Orishas concert in Varadero (30 November)
At the end of the month and just days before its staging, legendary Grammy-winning Cuban hip-hop band Orishas announced a concert in Varadero´s Casa de la Musica. The impromptu announcement will have crowds rushing to see them but if you´re in Varadero around those days be sure not to miss it! The concert kicks off at 10:30 p.m. and this is a rare appearance by the group with very little notice in advance, which means if you´re in Varadero you´ll have the privilege to enjoy their performance with less crowds than usual. This is fusion Cuban music at its best. Make sure not to miss it!
FAC´s end of month line-up
Havana's hippest evening entertainment space, Fabrica de Arte Cubano (abbreviated FAC) presents a solid and varied line-up of performances to close off the month.
Havana’s Young Chamber Orchestra in concert (29 November)
A classical music orchestra made up of young musicians graduated from Cuba’s Instituto Superior de Arte (Superior Art Institute) will take to the stage at FAC’s Nave 3 hall to treat the audience to uplifting classical melodies. The concert starts at 9 p.m.
Jazz jamming with Eduardo Sandoval (29 November)
Enjoy the moving sounds of a young Cuban musician and talented jazzist who launched his first album “Caminos Abiertos” in 2015 alongside his group Habana Jazz. Be seduced by the sound of Sandoval’s trombone in a magical evening where he will introduce the audience to his new album with the participation of special guests.