Music is a Cuban passion rivaled only by baseball and the Revolution itself. Everyone here knows who El Médico de la Salsa (The Salsa Doctor) is and what type of music he plays. Los Van Van, Beny Moré, and Compay Segundo are all celebrities on the order of Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, or Elvis. Caribbean, Spanish, African, and American rhythms have been combined to create more than three-dozen musical styles, which are themselves evolving into still more varieties. To experience the music of Cuba is to learn about it, and Havana offers plenty of opportunities for both. The city also has splashy cabaret revues as well as jazz haunts and cafés that offer quieter entertainment.

Dance performances—from traditional ballet to traditional Afro-Cuban—are also options. If your Spanish is good, you'll appreciate the active film, theater, and literary scenes. You don't need any Spanish to enjoy the art exhibited in Havana's many galleries. Attire at theaters and other venues ranges from cocktail dresses and jackets and ties to blue jeans and shorts. Tickets are nearly always available (check with your hotel concierge) at box offices and are very inexpensive by European or North American standards.

Cartelera, a Spanish-English weekly published by the Instituto Cubano del Libro and usually available free at major hotels, lists concerts, plays, and other artistic events. Opciones is another bilingual weekly publication with cultural listings. The Programación Cultural, published monthly in Spanish by the Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad (Office of the City Historian), has what is probably the most complete schedule of events. Ask for a copy at Museo de la Ciudad in the Plaza de Armas.

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  • 1. El Floridita

    La Habana Vieja | Bars/Pubs

    This time warp of a restaurant was known to have been a hangout of Ernest Hemingway and prides itself as being the "cradle of the daiquiri....Read More

  • 2. O'Reilly 304

    La Habana Vieja | Tapas Bars

    For somewhere that's set firmly in the modern day (and to see what Havana's future is all about), head to O'Reilly 304, a funky gin and tapas...Read More

  • 3. Cabaret Parisién

    Vedado | Cabaret

    The ever-popular and always hopping Hotel Nacional, offers up another winning performance with its wild cabaret show. The lively show is followed...Read More

  • 4. Café Cantante "Mi Habana"

    Vedado | Live Music

    On the upper edge of Vedado near the Plaza de la Revolución, this lively disco-bar often has musical performances and dance or comedy shows...Read More

  • 5. Café Madrigal Bar

    Vedado | Bars/Pubs

    Housed upstairs in a stunning peach-color mansion in leafy Vedado, this quirky bohemian cocktail bar is something very different from the usual...Read More

  • 6. Café Paris

    La Habana Vieja | Bars/Pubs

    This 24-hour standby usually offers entertainment by one of the city's excellent trios. No matter how many times you have heard "Guantanamera...Read More

  • 7. Café Taberna

    La Habana Vieja | Live Music

    Named after its one-time owner Juan Bautista Taberna, this was Havana's first café when it opened at the very same spot in 1772. The rhythms...Read More

  • 8. Casa de la Música

    Centro Habana | Live Music

    Havana's best known and most popular night club and live-music venue is not to be missed. The club has two locations, one in Centro and one...Read More

  • 9. Casa de la Música Miramar

    Playa | Live Music

    The Miramar branch of the famous Casa de la Música, also has excellent live bands. ...Read More

  • 10. Dos Hermanos

    La Habana Vieja | Bars/Pubs

    Located next to the Museo del Ron, you'll step back in time when you walk through the door, and get the feel for life along the wharf. This...Read More

  • 11. El Gato Tuerto

    Vedado | Live Music

    Just steps from the Hotel Nacional, this dark and smoky bar offers live boleros-style music downstairs and a less than average restaurant upstairs...Read More

  • 12. Fabrica de Arte Cubano

    Vedado | Gathering Places

    Located in the same old oil factory as the restaurant El Cocinero, this place has quickly become one of Havana's hippest night spots. Open Thursday...Read More

  • 13. Factoría Cerveza Plaza Vieja

    La Habana Vieja | Brewpubs/Beer Gardens

    Situated right on the atmospheric Plaza Vieja, this place is always full (day or night), and there's usually some excellent live music. As the...Read More

  • 14. Habana Café

    Vedado | Cabaret

    In the downstairs lobby of the Hotel Meliá Cohiba, this nightclub and cabaret offers a show with a torrid mix of live music and red-hot dance...Read More

  • 15. Jazz Café

    Vedado | Live Music

    Situated in a shopping complex across the road from the Meliá Cohiba hotel is Havana's other jazz place, and a good one it is. The many jam...Read More

  • 16. Jazz Club La Zorra y el Cuervo

    Vedado | Live Music

    Don't be alarmed. You must enter through an old English red phone box, before you descend into the city's premier jazz venue. Unlike most of...Read More

  • 17. La Bodeguita del Medio

    La Habana Vieja | Bars/Pubs

    Havana's best-known bar is a great place to hoist one for Hemingway. It's always packed with tourists looking expectantly toward the door as...Read More

  • 18. La Cecilia

    Miramar | Cabaret

    This dinner and show spectacle has a feather-clad chorus, who dance to incandescent salsa. The place goes disco between and after performances...Read More

  • 19. La Lluvia de Oro

    La Habana Vieja | Live Music

    This is one of your best bets for late-night entertainment in Havana Vieja, even though these days it's mostly full of tourists. It's also always...Read More

  • 20. Monserrate

    La Habana Vieja | Bars/Pubs

    This place hops all evening long, usually to the tune of a hot trio. Just across the road from here you'll see the Castillo del Farnés, where...Read More

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