From Issue Three of the Gear Patrol Magazine.
Discounted domestic shipping + 15% off in the GP store for new subscribers.

Finding your way around this notoriously un-Google-able city is tough. Habana Vieja, a.k.a. “Old Havana,” is full of museums and historic plazas and is the main focus of most guidebooks. But the “new Cuba” of culinary revolutions and cultural renaissance lies elsewhere. In search of those gems on the frontlines of change in Havana, we consulted with Hannah Berkeley Cohen, a young Ohioan who lives in Havana and coordinates personalized tours for American businesspeople and journalists through her private company, Cuba Rising. Here are her suggestions for finding the real Havana.

Where to Eat & Drink

La Cocina Cubana
la-guarida-gear-patrol-970

Café Bohemia
Centrally located on the famous Plaza Vieja, it’s best visited in the morning for good coffee and people-watching before the plaza heats up.

Location: San Ignacio | Learn More: havanabohemia.com

El Del Frente
This is the hippest rooftop bar in Old Havana — if you can find a seat. Don’t miss the passion fruit and watermelon mojitos, served strong and in oversized glasses.

Location: O’Reilly #304 | Learn More: visitcuba.com

La Guarida
A stalwart of Cuban romanticism, this employee-owned restaurant rose to fame in 1993 after being featured in Strawberry and Chocolate, the only Cuban film ever nominated for an Oscar. The menu rotates based on what’s available, but the marlin tacos are a must.

Location: Concordia #418 | Learn More: laguarida.com

Rio Mar
Overlooking where the Rio Almendares meets the Florida Strait, this restaurant has the best view in Miramar. Enjoy the surf-and-turf with a great wine selection, but expect to pay for it.

Location: 3ra y Final #11, La Puntilla | Learn More: tripadvisor.com

El Cocinero
This bar and restaurant has multiple rooftops packed with the cultured youth of Havana. Walk inside the smokestack and look up. You’ll see its interior lit up like Rockefeller Center at Christmas.

Location: Calle 26 | Learn More: tripadvisor.com

Sarao
If you want to see how the nouveau riche of Cuba spend their money, head to this nightclub. It’s Miami seen through a 17-year-old’s eyes.

Location: Calle E | Learn More: tripadvisor.com

What to Do

Art and Salsa
PHOTO BY DAN HALLMAN FOR GETTY IMAGES

PHOTO BY DAN HALLMAN FOR GETTY IMAGES

Fábrica de Arte Cubano
After dinner at El Cocinero, go next door to this huge Brooklyn-esque industrial space and enjoy its art galleries, concerts, and films projected on the walls.

Location: Calle 26 | Learn More: fac.cu

Malecón
This is where an average Habanero will end up at some point during the night. Expect three-piece bands, pushcarts with mojitos and a much-needed breeze as you make your way along the seawall.

Location: NA | Learn More: tripadvisor.com

Playas de Este
Blue water and white sand, a fifteen minute drive east of downtown Havana, make for an especially nice spot to view the sunset once the sand cools down. For those looking for a more local beach, check Guanabo, or, if you’re willing to drive farther, Varadero, considered the best beach in the world by some.

Location: NA | Learn More: tripadvisor.com

La Casa de la Música
There are two versions of this music hall; the one in Miramar is the more upscale version for live music and salsa dancing.

Location: Ave. 20 #3308 | Learn More: tripadvisor.com

Where to Stay

The New Wave of Hotels
hotel-saratoga-gear-patrol-970

Hotel Saratoga
While most will want to avoid hotels altogether and instead rent a house, the Saratoga is Cuba’s best hotel; after all, it is where Jay Z and Beyoncé stayed when they visited. In Vedado, to the west, check out the newly renovated NH Capri La Habana.

Location: Paseo de Martí | Learn More: hotel-saratoga.com

Tropicana Penthouse
For groups looking to skip the hotels but not splurge on renting a villa, a casa particular (bed-and-breakfast) is the best third option in Havana. This one, for $149+ per night, offers the best private rooftop in the entire city, and a flawlessly renovated interior.

Location: Galiano #60 | Learn More: tropicanapenthouse.com
Read More in Our Magazine

gear-patrol-issue-three

A version of this story appears in Issue Three of the Gear Patrol Magazine, 320 pages of stories, reports, interviews and original photography from five distinct locations around the world. Subscribe Now: $39