Sabado de la Rumba
The sound of Havana - Havana, Cuba
Hedonistic Havana is a music capital and entertainment haven for musos, dancers and hipsters.
During sunlight hours, head for Sábado de la Rumba, a mixed flourish of rumba, dance, and nattily dressed old soloists; on Sundays, squeeze into the colourful alley at Callejón de Hamel between noon and three for some fast moving, thumping alfresco rumba in the painted surrounds of a Centro street.
After a mojito on the terrace of the iconic Hotel Nacional overlooking the sea, or a Cuba Libre eyeing the bat symbol in the art-deco stylised interior of the Edificio Bacardí, sashay out into the humid afternoon for a matinee concert.
Head to the Casas de la Música in Centro or Miramar for sizzling salsa in these long-standing venues. Like the location? Return for the After Party on Fridays and Saturday nights at 3am in the Casa de la Música in Centro. It's organised by promoters extraordinaire PMM, who also stage music nights at Le Cecilia in Miramar. Look out for hip hop, reggaeton and other musical treats at El Sauce, an en vogue hangout for Cubans (with the entrance in national pesos). Big Reggaeton names Gente d'Zona play all over town (at prices ordinary Cubans can't afford) so watch for flyers in hotels.
For a spot of bolero head to boho hangout El Gato Tuerto close to the Hotel Nacional. The unlikely Don Cangrejo fish restaurant is now popular with Cuban youth who crowd around its tiny seafront swimming pool to listen to Nueva Trova after dining hours.
Old time traditional crooners can be heard all over La Habana Vieja. But for sheer atmosphere and spontaneous moves, perch yourself at the bar of the Café Paris in the heart of the old city. If you fancy a classic infusion of the Buena Vista Social Club, female star Omara Portuondo often performs at the Hotel Nacional's Salon 1930 and occasionally at the glorious art-deco Teatro América. For an alternative mood, dive underground at Café TV beneath Cuba's TV station in the landmark Focsa building. On Tuesday nights a transexual entertains the crowds. But before you slip into the monochrome surrounds of this venue's homage to TV, take the lift to the top of the building to the bar/restaurant La Torre. While sipping cocktails, admire what is probably the best panoramic view of Havana - the entire Hotel Nacional complex, the broad curvature of the seaside promenade, the Malecón and the El Morro lighthouse across the bay of Havana.
Sábado de la Rumba (Saturday, 3pm, El Gran Palenque, Calle 4 between Calzada and Avenida, Vedado, Tel 7-830 3060)
Callejón de Hamel (Callejón de Hamel between Calles Espada and Aramburu, Centro)
Hotel Nacional (Calle O corner of Calle 2, Vedado, Tel 7-873 3564)
Edificio Bacardi (Calle Monserrate 261 corner of San Juan de Dios, La Habana Vieja, Tel 7-862 9310, ext 131)
Casa de la Música Centro (Calle Galiano corner of Neptuno, Centro, Tel 7-862 4165)
Casa de la Música Miramar (Avenida 35 corner of Calle 20, Miramar, Tel 7-204 0447)
Le Cecilia (5th Avenida between Calles 110 and 112, Tel 7-204 1562)
El Sauce (9th Avenida between Calles 120 and 130, Playa, Tel 7-204 7061)
El Gato Tuerto (Calle O between Calles 17 and 19, Vedado, Tel 7-838 2696)
Don Cangrejo (Avenida 1 between Calles 16 and 18, Miramar, Tel 7-204 4169)
Café de Paris (Calle Obispo 202 corner of Calle San Ignacio, La Habana Vieja)
Teatro América (Calle Galiano 253 corner of Calle Concordia, Centro)
Café TV (Edificio Focsa, Corner of Calle 17 and N, Vedado, Tel 7-834 4499)
La Torre (Top floor, Edificio Focsa, Calle 17 between M and N, Vedado, Tel 7-838 3088)