Havana is changing so fast it has become difficult to keep up with the latest bars and restaurants, which keep spring up like flowers throughout the city. The same couldn’t be said of the accommodation scene prior to the last few years, but now there are some interesting alternatives cropping up that are definitely worth considering.
Until recently private accommodation (known as casa particulares) had somewhat languished behind and the traditional image of renting a room in someone’s house appealed mostly to backpackers and those who looked for a more authentic Cuban experience where they would suffer basic food and a lack of privacy in exchange for long afternoons learning Spanish speaking to their host family.
No longer – the private rental market has not so much gone up market (there are still plenty of affordable family hosted casas) but an up-market segment has developed that competes with the best that the hotel segment has to offer. We feature below two of the very best.
Artedel Luxury Penthouse
Avenida Primera 26, between 15 and 17, Vedado, +53 7 830 8727, +53 5 295 5700
CUC $50-70 per night depending on the room
Stylish, modern, stunning, Ydalgo’s Artedel luxury penthouse could be a yuppie abode anywhere in the world except you would miss out on the beautiful 360-degree view over Havana. This is a is a super-shiny 1950s style home scattered with contemporary furniture, Murano glass pieces, bronze lamps, and vibrant art work. The bedrooms are spacious and decorated in a modern minimalist style.
Ydalgo is an impeccable host, discreet or gregarious, as you prefer. Once you rent three rooms you get the place to yourself (or rent one and share some of the conveniences), including a beautiful living room, outdoor terrace with tasteful glass table and chairs and even a small pool. This is VIP service come standard with airport pick-ups, salsa lessons, drivers, translators, laundry and massage all on tap. Forget using a Cuban coffee maker and rev up the Nespresso machine.
Calle 4 No 310 between Calles 13 and 15, Vedado;
+53 7 833 8670.
CUC$40 per room per night.
Villa Portería is not only a fine casa particular but also a repository of antiques, since your host Hernandez is also a dealer – a bonus if you’re interested in ceramics, glassware, sculpture and paintings. During the so-called Special Period (1991-4), as a young man he realized that it wasn’t a question of selling the family silver to stay afloat but of buying other people’s silver, ceramics, sculptures etc. Over the years this has become as much of a passion as a business with his collection of Cuban pharmacy jars taking pride of place. On a recent visit, I was enchanted by a lovely (1940´s) Italian ceramic dish, decorated with delicate orange and green leafs which at CUC 40 seemed a bargain.
The house itself is the only modern creation on a colonial Vedado street. There are several rooms for hire, which are grouped around a pretty courtyard garden. The house is light and spacious with tasteful decoration and paintings. This resonates with a calm feeling, a place to sit and have coffee out of the heat of the day – there are plenty of little areas to read and while away the time while Hernandez regales you with tales of his latest find.