Things To Do
LGBTQ+ Nightlife: Six Gay-Friendly Venues to Visit in Havana
LGBTQ+ Pride Parade, Havana
Check out these 6 gay-friendly venues in Havana that offers great music, drinks and an inclusive atmosphere.
The LGBTQ+ community in Cuba has undoubtedly gone through harsh times, especially during the 1960s and 1970s. However, things have changed radically since the times of overt persecution and repression.
Perhaps a driver of this change was “Fresa y Chocolate” (Strawberry and Chocolate), the 1993 Oscar-nominated movie which brought international attention to the island’s prevailing homophobia.
Perhaps it was the ruling party that softened its official position or the ease with which we could come into contact with changing mentalities overseas – but fortunately, LGBTQ+ visibility and acceptance have advanced in long strides around Cuba, and specifically in Havana.
Granted, there is still much room to cover for LGBTQ+ rights: marriage equality is still pending, there is no legal recognition for non-cisgender identities, and many locals still experience discrimination in the workplace. Yet, LGBTQ+ visitors can now find places to relax, party, and express themselves safely in an inclusive and diverse atmosphere.
But why waste time hunting for these places? In this guide, we've rounded up the six hottest LGBTQ-friendly venues around the city. Make sure to visit them!
01. Malecón 663 Boutique Hotel
The Malecón 663 Boutique Hotel has fully embraced its title as one of Havana's most inclusive and pro-LGBTQ+ lodgings. Every other Tuesday, “Sunset Rainbow” parties offer an unmatched opportunity for queer youth to showcase their artistic side and let loose. At these parties, Drag shows, exotic dancers, impromptu catwalks, and live music combine to create a tantalizing atmosphere that remains hard to find in regular bars.
With that said, the hotel’s bar is open every day of the week, and you can always find a safe space here. They offer the full gamut of traditional mojitos and daiquiris, alongside a signature menu with bolder alcoholic experiments. The venue’s alt and rebellious spirit can also be seen in its musical choices.
While the occasional salsa hit will still make its way into the playlist, the ambiance will be dominated by more daring alt-rock hits. They merge surprisingly well with the beautiful view, as the bar’s main balconies all open into Havana’s sea-front boardwalk – you will probably want a few pictures, so make sure you pack a club-worthy outfit.
Where? At 663 Malecón Avenue, between Gervasio and Belascoin streets
02. PaZillo Bar
This famous El Vedado bar hosts LGBTQ+-themed parties regularly. Every Wednesday, they host glam for “PaZillo Pride” events. Each one celebrates a different subgroup of Cuba’s queer community – from ladies-only dating events to drag queen parties.
No matter when you go, you will run into a welcoming and trendy atmosphere. The food menu is relatively basic and limited to burgers and standard appetizers that will help you prolong the night.
Meanwhile, the drinks menu is constantly changing as they come up with new signature blends. Still, their specialty remains creamy, rum-infused blends with unorthodox fruit juices – from tropical berries to coconut milk or guava extract.
This is a boisterous, dance-oriented place, so expect the music to include the years’ Billboard hits, and to gravitate strongly towards salsa, reggaeton, and other tropical rhythms. The dress code is flexible, but comfy shoes are recommended.
One last pro tip: The door fee for any of their parties doubles as an entry for a nightly raffle. You’ll be given a numbered sticker, which you should immediately stick to your clothes or purse. At the end of the party, one lucky number will win something (usually drinks or tickets for a future event), but during it, the sticker will help you score a few extra phone numbers. Just write down a provocative message on a piece of paper, and ask the bar staff to pass the note to your chosen number.
Where? 5th Street, between 4th and 6th Streets
03. Cabaret Las Vegas
Known for its drag queen shows, the Cabaret Las Vegas is also a historical landmark for Cuba’s LGBTQ+ movement. This was once the only place where queer Cubans could party in peace, even when facing overt persecution.
Nowadays, it is frequented by people of all ages, although the crowd is undoubtedly slightly older than at PaZillo. They prefer live music, but they don’t shy away from any top English and Spanish language queer anthems.
An old-school, slightly nostalgic vibe is augmented by their menu, which features all the Cuban cocktail classics. The mojitos don’t try to reinvent the wheel but are always blended to perfection. Finally, their dress code can be best described as formal kitsch: nicer pants and dressy accessories sprinkled with glitter and shiny beads.
04. The Singing Café at the National Theatre
Granted, an established and mainstream place such as the National Theatre rarely pops into our minds when we think of the city’s queer scene. However, every Saturday, the Theatre’s singing café is taken over by the El Divino (The Divine) LGBTQ+ project, turning it into one of the most widely-attended queer parties in the city.
Action usually begins at around 11 PM and lasts until the first few rays of dawn. The DJ’s selection will include an eclectic mixture of international hits, reggaeton, salsa, and merengue – but keep in mind that the audience will be expected to sing along as much as possible.
However, the drinks and food selection is a bit limited. This is mainly a café, so when it comes to cocktails, they stick to the classics. After eating somewhere else, show up to enjoy the show, wearing something fancy but comfortable enough to last until the following day.
Where? 104 Calzada de la Infanta Street, near the corner with 25th Street
05. XY Bar
The XY Bar is a relatively new place, and one of the latest additions to the city’s LGBTQ+ scene. Unlike most of the other names on this list, the XY’s goal was to cater to queer folk from the very beginning, and any day of the week – no need to wait for a special event here. As it is still new, it is also less crowded than many other places, making it an ideal venue for a quieter date on a weekday.
Their music list and cocktail menu are equally varied, and they usually carry a wide array of beers. The dress code is relatively relaxed: while they prefer patrons to make an effort, you won’t need to raid your hosts’ closet or think too much about it.
Where? Corner of Marina and Jovelar streets, Cayo Hueso
06. Rylac Bar
The Rylac Bar is likely the latest hotspot for Havana’s younger LGBTQ+ crowd. During the week, they rotate between different themed parties – from “bridal showers” to costume contests.
Head to the terrace if you’re looking for a place to hang out or catch up with friends. It has comfy puff seats, fairy lights, and overall less noise. The nearby garden is a terrific option to relax during a warm early evening.
The dress code and music are equally casual. The staff will easily switch between Louis Armstrong and Rihanna, and are quick to accommodate requests. Cocktails are tasty and strong, but don’t expect anything unique.
Where? 358 17th Street, between G and H streets, El Vedado
Written by Neus Pechero.
Published October 2022.
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