For those who are searching for a traditional Cuban bar like the ones you see in films, Monserrate is about as close as you will get in Havana today. Dark-wood panelling and elegantly dressed bartenders make for an atmospheric place to sink a mojito or two, and the bar is frequented by friendly locals. Most of the time there is a live band playing, too, which adds to the atmosphere.
In the heart of Vedado lies this incredibly cheap state-run bar where you will be charged in Cuban pesos. That means shots of rum for around 0.15 CUC (US$0.15) and beers for 0.75 CUC(US$0.75). The bar has a curious triangular shape, which makes it great for watching people on the busy street outside.
At the bottom of the FOCSA building in Vedado is this small bar, which has been open for around 70 years. FOCSA is the tallest building in Havana, so you should have no trouble finding it and dropping in for a cocktail.
The FOCSA is home to another bar, this one at the top of the building, and it also serves food. While the food and drink is never going to win any prizes, the view over Havana most certainly will. Make the trip up for a quick beer and take some photos looking down over the Malecon.
Another Vedado spot, El Sophia is famous for its drinks, food and daily live music. It’s a perfect combination. Sink some beers while you listen to a son cubano or changüí band, order some snacks when you get peckish and chat away to the locals who have frequented this place for years.
Found just behind the imposing edifice of El Capitolio in Centro Habana, Sia Kara is an understated jewel in the crown of Havana’s bar scene. Its unlikely location means that it flies under the radar, but it’s interestingly decorated (with a huge collection of ties), the cocktails cost just $2.50 each, and you’ll often find live music. If you don’t want to sit at the bar, you can retire to the lounge area where there are plentiful cushions and sofas.
Believe it or not, the Beatles were banned by the Cuban revolutionaries during their heyday, but they’ve since undergone something of a miraculous rehabilitation. Across the island you will find Beatles-themed bars, which often have bronze statues of the musicians on display. Submarino Amarillo (‘Yellow Submarine’) is Vedado’s very own Beatles bar, and it’s a good place to see some live rock music when you want a break from salsa.