Food Spots that you have to Try in Havana

Wandering the streets of Vedado, it seems that there is a food joint almost around every corner. A student who had been to Cuba a couple of years earlier said that back then there was nothing and that all the eating was done at the Casa’s that you stayed at. However, this is no longer the case.

New food joints have been popping up like mushrooms  in Havana in the past two years. This is my Top list of places that you have to try:

1.  EL Biki

This place is a restaurant, bar, cafe and bakery all in one. I am usually skeptic of 2 for 1  offers, however this place is Legit. It looks kinda fancy but the prices are okay and they have great seafood. This is also the first place where i found multigrain bread and wholewheat buns, they also have great coffee, amazing cake creations and pastries.

Great place for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, coffee+ tea and drinks

Address: 

Calle San Lazaro | San Lazaro y Infanta, Havanna, Kuba
Friends Tip: Try out their lobster
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2. La Pachanga

This is a place that has great snacks and fast food.  Delicious cheesy filled Quesadilla and from what i have heard the burgers are bangin too. Great place to cure that hangover 🙂 Also this the is the place where i saw a döner grill, no they do not have döner but they make tacos with the slow grilled meat. The gucamole is the BOMB.

Address:

Calle 28 | btween Calle 21 & Avenida 23, Havanna 10400

3.  Cafe El Escorial: Coffee Junkie haven

How about a coffee mojito? yes that exists. This place has all kinds of coffee creations. Their coffee is also very strong and they have small snacks, however this is more of a place where you go to drink coffee and not so much go for the food. It is located directly at the plaza havana vieja.

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4. Museo de chocolate

Chocolate lovers this is a place that has been dedicated to you. Its a little like willy wonka’s factory only its not somewhere in cold Britain. There is a endless choice of handmade chocolate and chocolate drinks hot and cold. This is really chocolate heaven. The hot chocolate is very thick and creamy and is not sickening sweet,  is is served in small  cute porcelain teacups. The whole Chocolate house has a nice design to it and gives one the feeling of a long lost magical time.

Address: Mercaderes Street and Amargura | Old Havana, Havanna, Kuba

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5.El Monguito

Best Sweet potato fries in town! This is is a very small reaturant right opposite the Habana Libre Hotel so it is a great spot to grab some lunch at. It is so small that it sadly overseen often but this place is really worth going to they offer simple and delicious cuban food and serve their rice and beans with avocado and the best sweet potato fries that i have ever eaten. Great place for vegetarians as well as the rice and beans are made without meat. Portions are big and prices are small. Its a real good place to grab a bite to eat.

Address:

Calle L e/Calle23 y 25 | Vedado, Havanna, Kuba

 

6. Best Juice Joint in town

The Juice place in town is close to melia cohiba calle 1 and calle 6. If you take the bike tour you might have the luck to make a stop here for a vitamin kick. This place also offers veggie juices and such as orange beetroot or carrot ginger. They also make green juices with superfoods such as moringa. They also do not add any sugar into their juices which is a major plus point. Ask for what fruits are in season when making a choice 🙂 Also prices are in CUP and they fill your empty water bottles -even the 1,5 liter ones  with juices for you upon request this usually does not cost much either and is so worth it.

Address:

Close to Hotel Melia cohiba between calle 1 and calle 6

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7. Creperie Oasis Nelva

I went to this place on one of my last days in Cuba, and am i glad that i did they serve delicious crepes here. The cafe is also located above a flower shop and is designed in a very artsy way giving one the impression as if they were lost in a green jungle with chairs made out of tires with hanging sisal ropes and colorful diamond shaped art hangs on the walls. The people who run the place are also very nice and this place is overall a very nice place to have a delicious crepe and a large homemade limonada. They also have salads made with organic vegetables. This place is a real Gem and is worth checking out!

Address:

la calle Muralla esquina Habana, La Habana Vieja, Cuba

 

 

P.S

There is one more place worth checking out, sadly i do not have the exact address of the place.

Cafe Toscana

I sadly do not have the exact address of this place but all i know is that it is located behind the coppelia and that it serves good and simple pasta. The place is run by an Italian who is quiet the character. They also have spicy vegetarian pasta with aubergine, which was delicious!

If you guys have any other recommendations please leave a comment and let us know 🙂

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Tips for vegans and vegetarians

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Cuba is not really that popular for its culinary creations. However, this is changing a lot. As it is with all things in life you have to go far, wide and deep to find the things that you want. I am someone who eats mostly vegan and living in Berlin has given me the opportunity to nourish myself this way with no problems whatsoever. However, in Cuba that was not always the case and i had to adapt and switch up my nutrition while i was there.

Cuban people found it a bit hard to understand what i meant by vegan “No meat, not even chicken?” is a question that i got asked often when i ordered rice and beans with no pollo “sin carne”.

I talked to a Cuban student and he had told me that he would love to nourish himself in a vegetarian way. However, he said that in Cuba there is not much food choice so it would make it very difficult for him to get all the proteins and vitamins that he would need to stay healthy. So vegetarianism or veganism is not necessarily shunned upon, it is  just very hard to do given the limited availability of variety of food.

I think it is doable to be vegan in Cuba if you have your own kitchen and are ready to spend some time cooking. So maybe this would be something to consider when you are looking for housing. Luckily, during my time in Cuba it was Avocado season so i got to eat tons of those. Also, guava was in season and baby bananas.

Ask the locals what fruit and vegetables are currently in season. Also go to the local market and buy fresh and cheap produce. All agricultural products at the local markets should be paid in CUP as these are national products, at the front of the market there is usually a big blackboard that shows the prices of the day, make sure to check that out before you start shopping.

I would also advice to take some Vitamins with you and to maybe take some peanut butter and some rye bread with you, most casa’s have fridges where you can store it all. Also maybe some nuts and seeds would be good to take with you.

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Internet in Cuba

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Internet, yes it does exist in Cuba! It may not be as fast as you are used to, but patience is key! All the internet spots are usually located in parks so you can always turn over, and have a chat with your neighbor while your page loads up.

I had my doubts starting a blog in Cuba, but in truth it actually went quiet well and i am glad that it all worked out for the best.

When accessing WIFI you have two choices:

1.Many hotels have internet connection. The Habana Libre hotel does too. However this is a very pricy option as one hour of browsing costs 5 CUC ( at the Habana Libre), and is not necessarily faster then the internet that you can access in the park.

2. ETECSA internet cards. These are recharge cards that you can buy for 2 CUC per hour. You can either buy a 1 hour card  or a 5 hour card. Once you have a card you can use Internet in the various hotspot parks that are spread out across Cuba.  Cards are available at official ETECSA outlets ( make sure to go with your passport when buying a card), or you can buy it around hotspot parks from people who are selling cards for 3 CUC per hour. Usually you will need to ask someone, if he knows who is selling the cards at the park. Or the seller may just approach you when you are at the hotspot.

Some students during the summer school were actually happy about the lack of internet. To them this was more of a internet detox.

Internet in Cuba is seen more of a meditation( as you can see a woman meditating on the recharge card), in the western world disconnecting is seen as meditating and connecting with the inner and outer realness and beauty that is all around us.

However, the Internet card image of a woman meditating and connecting to the world could also just mean that you need to practice gratitude and patience with the speed of the internet, and to keep the mantra inner peace while clicking that reload button over and over again.

http://deutsch.havanamyway.com/wifi-hotspots-karte-havanna/– here they have a map with all the ETECSA hotspots in Havana.

Where to Stay in Havana.

Staying in Cuba can be as cheap as you make it, or as expensive. Usually,  the best choice for summer school participants is a casa particulares ( private homes). A casa particulares is the cuban equivalent of a bed and breakfast. It was established in 1997 when the Cuban government allowed Cubans to rent out their rooms to tourists and visitors, as an extra source of income.

Casas (as they are often shortened) are usually equipped with a en suite bathroom, air conditioning, fan, clean towels, fresh bed sheets and the rooms get cleaned almost everyday.  Some Casas usually run like mini hotels, and are equipped with more services and luxuries for their guests such as swimming pools, meals three times a day cooked by chefs or your own kitchen. Whatever  you prefer you can find,  just watch out for the official sign which is a  blue arrow facing up (or two blue triangles) and down on a white background -which means that the household pays a tax and possess a license.

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official casa sign

Havana is divided into 6 neighbourhoods; Centro Havana, El Barrio Chino,Miramar &Sibonay, Malecon, Havana Vieja, and Vedado. During the Summer school, it is best to stay in Vedado as it is the students neighborhood, and it is in this area that the university is located at. Also, the Habana Libre hotel which is the main host of the summer school is located in Vedado, so living close to it is advised. Spending money on a taxi everyday in Havana can be costly over time and is also not very time efficient.

The casa costs can range from 25-60 CUC ( breakfast usually costs 5 CUC extra) per night. Rooms can be shared, and therefore the costs for a room can be split up. It is best to find some people that you want to live with beforehand, and then book with them. You can either book an accommodation before you leave for Cuba or you can book an accommodation upon arrival ( take note that this could be more stressful). If you are booking beforehand, make sure that you book 2 weeks to 1 week before arriving (or  as early as possible). This is advised because of Internet access problems of the hosts.

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You can book casas via Airbnb or the links that i have listed below.

http://www.casaparticular.com/ – This is a directory of all Casas in Cuba. ( good for when travelling as well)

https://www.airbnb.de/rooms/5880038– This where i stayed, Aymee has been hosting ISSEM participants for years now. She is a very sweet host, her casa is well equipped and it has a beautiful rooftop terrace as well. It is located right opposite the university building, it takes around 15 minutes to reach havana vieja ( via local taxi aka machina) and 3 minutes to the hotel habana libre.

http://www.havanacasaparticular.com/– Directory only for casas in Havana.

 

 

Morning tunes in Havana 

In the morning the cars zoom through the streets, and cough up a dark cloud of smoke into the air. Like a heavy smoker with a good morning cough, life goes on and the colorful aged cars continue to wheeze in the streets, collecting school children in uniform, with slick gel backed hair.

In a park under the tree a group of people join in on a communal activity, more like a meditation to open their minds to a world beyond Cuba that is projected through a third external eye. 

The old strech themselves and greet the day with some Tai Chi, balancing out the Ying and Yang of the city. 

Amongst these daily scenes university students with name tags walk around their neck. We have casa’s here and families that take care of us. It may not be a family in the traditional sense as we pay them, but nonetheless we are living together. It is a little like a WG I suppose.

We have classes that we attend, and we have a routine now. I think that it is not such a bad thing that we had classses in the economic faculty,  as it gave us an insight into what daily lectures look like for Cuban students. Yes, it was very warm, however it was not only hot for some of us but for all of us. 

In 2 weeks one half will leave, and the other half will stay and go on with their daily life here in Cuba. However, i think that maybe we should not segregate ourselves during the course of the summer school, because we have so much in common, for one we are all summer school participants. Secondly, we all attend classes together. 

Therefore, maybe we should look beyond stereotypes that make us different and instead start to learn from our similarities. Think about what you want to to take personally with you once you are back home? What do you want to remember? The rusted taxis that practised price discrimination? The mistrust that everybody is after your money? That everybody wants to sleep with you? That everybody flirted with you? 

Or you can choose to to focus on the things that reminded you that there are places and people that have fears, dreams and rich histories just like you. That try to find a sense of fulfilment just like you? How they go about finding it could be different but it could also be inspiring.

The choice is up to you on what you choose to focus on.

Cold Feet

Bags are all packed, finally. and it all fit in!

I have had nightmares about packing for the last few days. I am just glad that it is over now!

So tomorrow at 12 i leave for Cuba, i am excited. A few days back i had cold feet about the whole thing. I mean yes at first you get the acceptance letter then you book your flight and get even more excited. However, the closer the date comes the more it starts to sink in. I am going to Cuba. I am going to Cuba. I-AM-GOING-TO-CUBA!!! suddenly i am no longer excited but scared, what if this happens? what if that happens etc etc. I went out to a cafe yesterday and sat myself down to have a small moment of peace. A woman was sitting beside me and was really digging into her sandwich. She had her laptop wide open and did not take her eyes off her screen.She was just reaching for a tomato on her sandwich, when i started talking to her. I dont know, there was something sympathetic about her, maybe the way she ate her sandwich, reminded me of myself.

I told her that i was starting to have cold feet,  going to Cuba and that i didnt really speak spanish…etc etc. She then went on to tell me that she moved to Berlin 2 weeks ago from Italy and that she does not speak a word of german. She told me that she was excited at first too, and that as the days dawned closer she was starting to get cold feet as well. She even recalled another similar incidence. So, what i am trying to say is that it is totally normal. Its ok to get cold feet, and there is no point in trying to act cool about it ( no pun intended).

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However, we are all going to Cuba as a group, and the ISSEM team is  also always there to support you. So there is nothing to be worried about. This will be a great experience! Dont stress about it all, even if you do not get to see everything on this trip. Be happy, because that means that you will have a reason to return sometime in the future to Cuba, and see the bits that you didnt see this time. 

So, see you all soon and till then have a safe trip and enjoy this experience and adventure!

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