Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Havana's flagship hotel celebrates turning 86

Posted: 02-Jan-17 09:28

Inching ever closer to the century-old mark, Hotel Nacional de Cuba is celebrating an important milestone today as it turns 86-years-old. This year the Nacional has more to celebrate than ever, after having welcomed a wide array of celebrities, artists and high-ranking government officials from across the globe and being the recipient of the prestigious World Travel Awards after being recognised Cuba’s best hotel. We take a look at its history, achievements and day-to-day present.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Havana's flagship hotel celebrates turning 86

A day like today, 86 years ago, on 30th December 1930, the most legendary and historically prestigious hotel in Cuba opened its doors for the first time, to the awe of the hospitality world and the pride of the country. We can picture its first guests as elegant ladies shining like the diamonds and expensive jewellery they wore and tuxedo-clad gentlemen smoking a cigar on its ample lobby.

The place has changed very little since then. Exterior and interior-wise everything has been kept as it was to retain its vintage glory. The huge glass lamps still hang from the ceiling, the mahogany beams, Moorish arches, marble floors and intricate ceilings all tell a tale of the grandeur and opulence of a bygone era.

On the occasion of celebrating its 86th anniversary, Susana Tesoro and Ladyrene Perez wrote an article on Cubadebate, for which they interviewed some of the hotel’s personnel. Speaking about its Mirador bar, once called the Horizontes and which will be reopened shortly, Yamila Fuster, a representative from the hotel’s Public Relations tells us:

“From the 30s to the 70s this was a solarium, where clients liked to suntan in the morning. The visual angle this huge terrace offers can tell you a lot, not only about the hotel, but about this side of Havana itself – El Morro, El Malecon and the city’s western area. From this point the visitor will be able to take in the city’s architecture with all of its different styles”

After closing another year with awards, the visits from dozens of prime ministers, presidents and prominent political figures from around the world, as well as sportspeople and numerous artists, and important figures from the science and culture world, its General Director, Antonio Martinez, reflects on the hotel’s unique appeal and what sets it apart from the rest.

“If you asked me if the best food, the best room, the best bathrooms and the best restaurants in all of Cuba, are to be found in the Nacional, I’d have to answer no. But it’s about the time travel experience, that Cuban atmosphere that you breath here, that envelops everything and everyone truly interested in Cuba (…)” 

The prestigious World Travel Awards agreed with Martinez this year as they bestowed the Nacional de Cuba hotel with the title of Best in Cuba, a recognition that put it above all others in the island, beating more modern luxury installations such as the Iberostar Parque Central, Melia Cohiba, Florida and Melia Cayo Coco, all of which were also nominated for the award.

But it isn’t the first time the Nacional walks away with such prized recognition, it is the twelfth time in fact that it receives such an award. How have they been able to maintain such an accolade? Martinez has an answer:

“The cultural and historical elements of this hotel, compete against, and often beat, other hotels that may boast better technological fixtures and more modern facilities and comforts. But in the opinion of experts and specialists, as well as many clients, staying in the Nacional is like travelling back in time.”

Considered the Oscars of the travel industry, the World Travel Awards are voted for by experts and travellers alike, with past guests’ votes amounting to one point, and experts’ votes’ counting for two. In its most recent, 26th edition the Hotel Nacional was crowned unbeatable leader in Cuba for the 12th time, along with the Cuban spa resort of Paradisus Princesa del Mar in Varadero and Paradisus Rios de Oro in Holguin, awarded in different categories.

Hotel Nacional’s rich history is evident across all of its spaces, from its rooms, to its hall of fame (where you’ll find photographs of all the illustrious guests that have stayed here from Frank Sinatra to Ava Gardner), and the 400-year-old canyons on the gardens that once defended Havana from intruders, as well as its Aguiar restaurant, preserving intact the glamour of the times. At its Ranchon exquisite typical Cuban food continues to be served with the same country furniture and rustic crockery from Cuba’s countryside.

Today, thanks to the thawing process between Cuba and U.S. promoted by the Obama administration since last year, over 60 per cent of the guests choosing to stay here are Americans, curious and eager to get to know a country that had remained forbidden to them for over half-a-century – so near yet so far. Flanking the Malecon, guests are able to take in the city, much as it was perceived by the Hollywood elite of the 30s, 40s and 50s that used to frequent it. Happy 86th Nacional de Cuba! 


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