For the fashion set, Cuba is very in right now thanks to an ease in travel restrictions—you may recall it served as the backdrop for Chanel’s Cruise 2017 show. Havana in particular is the locale du jour, capturing hearts thanks to its old-world charm, colorful architecture and rich culture. Fresh off a trip to the storied city, Nicole Najafi of Industry Standard (one of our favorite under-the-radar denim lines) is a gold mine of intel for navigating the Cuban capital. Here, her recommendations for what to see, do and pack for a trip to Havana.
Where To Stay & Shop
"Stay at Hotel Florida for an upscale boutique hotel experience in the ultra charming Old Havana neighborhood (think: ceramic arches, tiled floors and palm fronds). There’s live Cuban music in the beautiful open-air lobby at night.
During your stay, shop for cigars (naturally), hand-painted fans and old books (especially Hemingway). The best way to shop for cigars is to visit a cigar factory, where you can also do a tour and buy them directly there. I recommend the Romeo y Julieta and/or Partagas factories. You can score a handmade fan from many different places, but Casa del Abanico is a great spot. Old bookstores are sprinkled all over Old Havana—pop in to any of them and be prepared to find a gem!"
Where To Eat & Drink
"Eat on the rooftop of O’Reilly’s. The food is the best we had in Havana (the drinks are quite good, too) and the setting is beautiful. We were sat at a communal table with a group of Cubans and ended up smoking cigars together and chatting cultural differences until the wee hours of the morning.
Drink at El Chanchullero, a hip, hole-in-the-wall bar off the beaten path."
What To Do
"Walk around Old Havana and take in the beautiful, crumbling architecture and vintage cars.
Drive down the Malecon, the main esplanade in Havana, in a vintage convertible taxi.
Take a taxi about 45 minutes outside the center of Havana to Finca Vigia, also known as Hemingway House—the former home of Ernest Hemingway in the 1940s-50s which is now a museum.
Take a ferry to La Regla, a small, tourist-free island about 20 minutes away from Havana. There’s a beautiful church where Santeria is practiced. The streets are much less crowded and the entire vibe is more authentic. (Warning: air conditioning is virtually non-existent on the island, so it’s best to go in the morning when it’s not peak heat)."
What Not To Do
"Skip El Floridita, the bar made famous for being Hemingway’s Havana watering hole, unless you go in the evening. It’s very touristy and crowded until about 6pm. Also, resist the urge to obsess over your phone—the emails can wait until you get back. Havana is so special, and part of what makes it amazing is that it’s so otherworldly. I set up my first ever out-of-office automatic reply email when I went so I could truly be off the grid."
Where To Take A Great Instagram
"Anywhere in Old Havana. The entire neighborhood is full of stunning architecture and vintage cars—very ‘gram-worthy.
Plaza de la Revolucion. This is where the massive steel murals of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos are located.
Paseo de Marti. Commonly referred to by its old name, 'Prado', it is a beautifully scenic, European-inspired boulevard where you’ll find rows of brightly colored buildings.
Look down. There are beautiful tiles all over Havana.
Trek to Cienfuegos, a French colonial town, or Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates all the way back to the 1500s. They’re both a long drive away, so you would need to budget a night or two at least while you’re out there, but it’s worth going if your trip is long enough."
What To Know Before You Go
"If you go before the restrictions are completely lifted, you won’t be able to pull out any cash once you’re there or pay for anything with an American debit card (American banks are blocked). You must take cash out before you go and change to CUC when you get there. Internet is hard to come by and your cell service won’t work there. Once you touch down in Havana, expect to be (almost entirely) disconnected until you get back. Lean into it, it’s refreshing."
"The majority of cars on the road are vintage cars from the 1950s, including the taxis. It's dreamy!"
What To Pack
"Industry Standard Remy boyfriend jeans. These jeans were a lifesaver in the hot, hot heat. They’re a cool, laid-back jean that go with just about any top or shoe. These were the only bottoms I packed, so my outfit was easily set for every day.
Dôen Market Carry-All Basket. This bag is perfect for tossing in all your essentials and was big enough to fit my SLR camera. It’s also inconspicuous and transitions easily between the beach and city.
Zara Black Bodysuit. I’m super into bodysuits right now—they’re just so easy. I bought multiples in this one from Zara. They’re the perfect thing to wear with our Remys or any slouchy, non-skinny jean.
Marais Jane Mule. I’m not normally a big wearer of color, but when in Havana ... and these are so cute with our Remys and a white blouse. I love all white and a pop of color on the shoe.
Maison Louis Marie No.04 Bois de Balincourt Perfume Oil. I was never into perfume until Maison Louis Marie came along and now I won’t travel without this chic little bottle. It’s easy to pack and is such a little delight in your cosmetic bag when you’re away from home.
Janessa Leone Aisley Panama Hat. A straw hat is essential to protect your skin and keep cool. I love this one for its wide brim. You can also buy a straw hat from a multitude of shops in Havana once you get there."