The Best of Havana’s Nightlife

This story was inspired by: The Best of Cuba in 10 Days

Sunset signals something completely different in Havana than the rest of the world. If you were anywhere else, it would be time to finish up dinner and turn in for a good night’s sleep before the next day’s adventure. But this is Havana, and while Old Havana might be shutting down for the day, the rest of the city transforms into something totally new at night. Its everchanging nightlife scene means that every night different than the last. In Havana, there’s no rest for the weary – get ready to see a whole other side of the city when the sun goes down.

Food and drink in Havana

Get your night started with some food and drink at the best bars and paladars in Havana. You’ll need to know where to look for the best places, however – they’re often expertly hidden amongst crumbling façades and dilapidated exteriors. La Guarida is one of the most famous examples of this. Its name meaning “the hideout” in Spanish, this gem of Cuban cuisine is located on the top floor of a crumbling mansion and found fame from the Oscar-nominated film Fresa y Chocolate that used it as a setting. Enjoy the view of the sunset from its rooftop with your dinner. Another option is San Cristóbal, where the Obamas had their meal during their historical visit to Cuba. If you’re looking for a good cocktail to go with your meal, El Floridita might be the place for you to sip a daiquiri in what was one of Ernest Hemingway’s favourite hangouts. If a mojito is more to your tastes, La Bodeguita del Medio is the place to start your night, and it also has Hemingway’s seal of approval.

The outisde of El Floridita, Havana
El Floridita was a favourite spot for Ernest Hemingway | © Dan Lundberg/Flickr

Local experiences in Havana

There is no better way to get a feel of Havana’s pulse than an evening stroll along the Malecón. This scenic sea drive gets even more ethereal at night – it has the best views of the sunset along the harbour, and is a common rendezvous point for all of Havana. Along the way, you’ll feel the beat of the music being played by street musicians. People flock here to meet, chat, and dance, and the carefree vibe is an infectious backdrop to the crashing waves against the seawall.

Imagine strolling down the Malecón at sunset!

Shows and events

At night in Havana, its art scene comes to life. Whether it’s music, dance, or the performing arts, it’s incredibly rich and impossible to ignore. You could spend a night at the theatre at Teatro Karl Marx or the Gran Teatro de la Habana, but the best example of this is the cabaret at the Tropicana Club. Well-known and well-loved in Havana, it puts on colourful and extravagant nightly shows in open-air, and is a must-see for anyone looking for a quintessential taste of Havana’s nightlife. With impeccable choreography and over-the-top costumes, the shows they put on will blow your mind. Another destination for impressive cabaret is the Cabaret Parisien, which is less mythologized than Tropicana but just as good, and with less tourists. Havana is home to a thriving LGBTQ scene, and the drag shows in Havana are leaps and bounds better than ones you’d find anywhere else. You can find amazing drag performances every night at Cabaret Las Vegas. Café Cantante Mi Habana’s weekly drag show is Havana’s most popular gay party, and there’s always a long line to get in – get here early to make sure you snag a spot close to the front.

The Gran Teatro de La Habana opened in 1838

Havana’s nightlife scene

You can’t spend a night in Havana without getting up to dance, and it’s the best place to learn some moves. Havana has no shortage of bars, cafés, and clubs, so you’ll have no problem finding a place to spend the night listening to salsa, reggaetón, jazz, and songs played by the most well-known local musicians. Visit Casa de la Musica in Havana or Miramar, or dance all night at Jardines de 1830 overlooking the ocean and the Malecón. Don’t be shy to break out some moves – you’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you aren’t moving your hips.

A blue and yellow sign in Havana that says "Habana Casa De La Musica"
Hit the town at Casa de la Música | © Marco Zanferrari

Take in some art

A lot of the cafés in Havana will have great décor that will give you a taste of the city’s incredible art scene. During the day, you might have seen the colourful mosaics of Fusterlandia, or visited some of the small galleries scattered around the city, but at night is when Havana’s monolith for art, the Fábrica de Arte Cubano, comes to life. The FAC combines all the best of Havana’s nightlife – dancing, art, music, food, and drinks – under one gigantic roof. Founded by one of Cuba’s most well-loved musicians in a space that used to be a cooking oil factory, it has quickly become Havana’s largest art gallery and greatest stage. What you can do there is truly endless – you can navigate its endless corridors of art and photography, watch a film or concert, or learn to salsa dance accompanied by a live band, all with delicious mojito in hand. If you only have one night in Havana, spend it here – this is a place you shouldn’t miss.

A woman stands and looks at art in Havana
Fábrica de Arte Cubano is a bustling museum, perfect for visitors to check out the city’s art scene | © Secretaría de Cultura de la Nación/Flickr

There’s no shortage of fun things to do after hours in Cuba’s colourful capital. Its nightlife is a reflection of the country itself, ever-changing with a sense of closely-guarded mystery. If you’re planning on travelling to Havana, remember to bring cash – you won’t be able to use any foreign currencies, or any debit or credit cards. Your phone won’t be much use to you here, as internet connections are rare and roaming charges are through the roof. Have a printed map on hand, and don’t rely on your phone for anything more than great photos. Read up on what to expect before you go in order to avoid complications and have the best trip ever!