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. 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

  • 2. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. 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

  • 7. 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

  • 8. 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

  • 9. Azotea de Dulce Maria

    La Habana Vieja | Live Music

    is a good music club in La Habana Vieja. If it's Monday night, don't miss the descarga (jam session) from 9:30 on at this 2nd-floor hideaway...Read More

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