Cuba Series #2: Hanging out in Old Havana
“My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita.” – Hemingway
What’s a visit to Old Havana if you don’t check out the Hemingway Hangouts? The 2 most famous Hemingway bars are definitely worth a visit – although don’t expect to get a seat, because these bars are packed with people visiting these well-known spots. The daiquiris in Floridita were great (I went a few times), and really interesting to see the bartenders making about 20 daiquiris at a time. The mojitos at the Bodeguita del Medio were ok (I liked the mojitos at the National Hotel better). Both places offer good live Cuban music all day. The Floridita is more of an ‘upscale’ place, while the Bodeguita del Medio has more of a relaxed feel. Hotel Ambos Mundos is where Hemingway hung his hat, and there is a dedicated museum space (his room) with everything like he left it, complete with manuscripts, photos, his fishing poles, bed and typewriter. This is where Hemingway began his manuscript For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Old Havana was listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. The Cathedral de San Cristobal is located in Cathedral Plaza was began in 1748 and finished in 1777. The old streets, complete with old cannons serving to block the roads from cars for the pedestrian only Obispo Street. The old crumbling buildings next to the refurbished buildings, gives you a feel of what Havana would have been like in the 50s.
Of course I also did some souvenir shopping in Old Havana; there is a great artisan market on the Obispo Street between the Floridita and the Hotel Ambos Mundos. Most of the items here are handmade and range from wood carvings, to clothes, to jewelry and paintings. Take note though, this market is closed every Wednesday. I did visit other markets around the city, but I found this market to have the most authentic souvenirs (that were not made in China) and was able to have conversations (in Spanish) with many of the Cuban artisans making the items.
Everywhere on the Obispo Street you can take a break in the numerous cafes and do some people watching, street performer watching (Micheal Jackson made an appearance), mojito drinking and cigar smoking. Just about every café offers live Cuban music, which was perfect for drinking my mojitos. I loved the vibe in Old Havana and spent a good amount of my week checking out all the nooks and crannies on the side streets off the main street.