A Havana landmark has become the first Kempinski hotel in Cuba.
The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana has opened its doors within a UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of Old Havana.
The building opened in 1917 was the first European style shopping arcade in Cuba and a landmark at five stories tall. Covering an entire block, the hotel is bounded by pedestrian streets. Neptuno, San Rafael, Zulueta and Monserrate.
Guests at the completely renovated hotel can choose from 246 rooms and suites with soaring ceilings and luxury furnishings. The rooftop terrace and swimming pool, has views over the old town. There will be a spa managed by Resense, a choice of three restaurants, a lobby bar, cigar lounge, and a business center.
“The opening is a continuation of our pioneering spirit as the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana will be Cuba’s first modern luxury five-star hotel. And its location within a famous historic building currently makes it the most exclusive hotel project in Old Havana,” said Markus Semer, Chairman of the Management Board and CEO of Kempinski Hotels.
Cigar sommeliers and rooftop pools over Old Havana? Count us in.
When President Obama eased travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba in 2014, everybody and their mother wanted a direct flight to Havana. Then Trump happened, revived restrictions and it became one giant headache all over again.
One reason to fight through the red tape, when there are simpler Caribbean islands to jet off too? Six words: Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana.
The capital city accommodations have the distinct honor of being the country’s first five-star luxury hotel to open since the U.S. re-opened the border.
For those interested in an authentic Cuban experience, the hotel is located in Old Havana “in a 100-year old European-style shopping arcade,” writes Uncrate. Five stars? Check. UNESCO World Heritage Site? Check.
The new Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana takes Cuba’s first European style shopping arcade (originally built between 1894 and 1917) and turns it into a luxurious 5-star modern hotel experience with all the modern conveniences.
In 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced the beginning of a process of normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States. On 20 July 2015, after 54 years of sanctions, diplomatic relations have resumed and with it, the slow revival of international commercial relationships with the exotic Caribbean island nation; thus, while the US does not have direct dealings with the island state, Europe appears to be among the first, getting into Cuba in grand style with the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana.
Founded in Berlin in 1897 but headquartered in Geneva, Kempinski Hotels S.A. is Europe’s oldest luxury hotel group with a history of more than 119 years, operating 75 five-star hotels and residences, across 30 countries and now, they have finally added Cuba into their portfolio of hotels with the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana.
There’s a reason UNESCO rewarded the atmospheric Cuban town of Trinidad with a world heritage site listing. This delightful colonial era gem stands out as one of the most charming places in the country to stay and explore. Here are our suggestions for top 5 must see Trinidad Cuba attractions to help you make the most of your stay.
Walk the cobbled streets of Trinidad’s old town
The pedestrianised streets at the heart of Trinidad are lined with colonial era properties. Former mansions have been converted into shops and restaurants while museums abound. Climb the bell tower of the Convent of San Francisco for the best views across the town. At ground level, the place houses the Museo Nacional de Lucha Contra Bandidos (National Museum of the Struggle against Bandits). It offers a fascinating insight into the Cuban revolution from a Cuban perspective. Stroll back to the Plaza Mayor and sit on the steps of the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad – there’s no better place in Trinidad for the pastime of people-watching.
The Viñales Valley, National Monument since 1979, was the first cultural landscape recognized by UNESCO throughout the Americas, declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 and National Park in 2001.
“Timeworn but magnificent, dilapidated but dignified, fun yet maddeningly frustrating – Cuba is a country of indefinable magic.” Lonely Planet Travel Guide.
Charlie and I took a 3 and a half hour horse ride through Viñales National Park for a fee of 25 CUC ($25) each which included being picked up at our casa particulare in a horse-drawn taxi. The tour was arranged by our hostess the day we arrived in Viñales.
Our tour started at William’s stables. He assigned a horse to each of us — we were 4 plus William who was our guide and wrangler.
Our first stop was a tobacco plantation where we saw men cutting the plant in preparation for drying. It was explained to us how the tobacco grows and is readied to become the famed Cuban cigars — Cohibas, Monte Cristos, or Romeo y Juliets.
It is dried in barns then rehydrated in an herbal bath to make it pliable enough to roll.
Famed for its colourful capital, Havana, unspoilt sandy beaches and lush rainforests, it is easy to see why Cuba is one of the world’s top destinations. However, there is so much more to this Caribbean island…
Being driven around the bustling, cobbled streets of Havana in an ancient, but beautifully preserved 1950s Cadillac, Chevrolet or Oldsmobile, you feel like you have entered a different era.
It’s not just the unusual combination of grey Soviet-era brutalist architecture juxtaposed with gems such as the Gran Teatro (lit up at night it is a marvel).
Nor is it the contrast between the seemingly endless and wide Malecon waterfront, with the blank canvas of the ocean beyond, and warren of sheltered and shady old town streets where crumbling facades defy gravity thanks to the ingenuity of the population and plenty of wooden props.
No, what really makes you feel that you are in a different time to the rest of the world — and certainly the shoving and pushing grim-faced commuters of London — are the people.
“Andale, andale,” farmer Ramon Rodriguez commands his oxen as I hold onto their reins and worry whether the enormous beasts of burden will bolt. I might not know much Spanish but I can recognize cartoon character Speedy Gonzales’ command for “hurry up.”
Later I learn a speeding ox team is unlikely since the males are castrated, which makes them easier to control. I was also clueless to the conversation happening around me as Rodriguez asked a fellow journalist if he, too, was castrated.
I missed that machismo moment while concentrating on keeping the oxen on their muddy, well-beaten path, and being caught on video saying it’s “just a typical day in Cuba.”
But for Cuba’s 4.7 million annual visitors (one-third of them Canadians) leading an ox team through a sugar cane plantation is anything but typical. Most tourists come for the sandy beaches and remain secluded in all-inclusive resorts, ignoring the local culture.
This has been the norm since Cuba began welcoming tourists again almost 30 years ago.
The tourism industry in Cuba has come a long way in the last couple of decades and currently draws more than a million visitors each year. As the largest island within the Caribbean, a visit offers a wide array of destinations, historic locations and UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Cubans themselves have been described as ‘the friendliest people in the world’.
If you need any more reasons to visit, the differences between the Caribbean’s largest island and those of nearby Jamaica or Trinidad & Tobago are immediately apparent; visiting Cuba is like taking a step back in time. Beautifully preserved buildings set the scene for days of exploration and nights of live music and dancing in the cafes, restaurants and bars, while colourful classic cars drive along the streets.
Spend your afternoon fishing among the cays or Scuba diving at one of the remarkable, biodiverse dive sites. Take part in exclusive events and festivals, then host your own party on board your charter yacht at Hemmingway Marina in Havana.
Read on to find out more what Cuba has to offer on a luxury charter.
Backroads’ new bike trip in Cuba takes cyclists on a two-wheeled tour through the rural countryside and into Cubans’ homes for an up-close look at this fascinating island, simultaneously stuck in time and in the midst of unprecedented change.
In Cuba, the plan is that few things will go according to plan.
It’s essential that you arrive with an open heart, a curious mind and a supreme level of flexibility.
Expect the unexpected … it’s all part of the adventure!
These nuggets of wisdom — skeptics might call them warnings — were in the pre-departure packet that arrived in the mail a few weeks before my December bike trip in Cuba.
My husband and I, both avid fans of two-wheel travel, signed up for our cycling vacation before the Cuba situation started taking telenovela-like twists involving so-called sonic attacks, a State Department warning, confusing new travel restrictions and a hurricane named Irma.
“Are you sure you want to go?” my mom asked on more than one occasion.
Havana is a treat for any tourist that’s lucky enough to get the chance to visit here. It’s filled with all sorts of fascinating landmarks, buildings and museums. Travelers often find that they have a great time while they are in this city, but are often overwhelmed as to what to see. Here are the top 5 places that you should make a point to visit if you are in Havana, Cuba.
Old Havana Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, if tourists can only visit one area, they must make it a point to head over to Old Havana. It has cobbled squares, Baroque and Neoclassical buildings and many different sights. These include the military fortress of Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the cathedral Catedral de San Cristobal, the city museum Museo de la Ciudad and the public squares of Plaza de Armas and Plaza Vieja. You can easily spend several days in Old Havana just exploring and taking it all in.
The Malecon This seafront boulevard provides some of the most amazing views in Havana.