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Guide to Havana – Music Venues
Salsa/Dancing

Jazz

Cabaret Shows Rumba

Notes: All prices listed are in Cuban convertible pesos (CUC). $1CUC is about $1.20USD. A “Peña” is regular weekly event or show.

Salsa/Dancing
*Our favorite spots

*Casa de la Musica “Havana”
Galiano and Neptuno, Central Havana. Tel: 860-8296
This is Havana’s most popular nightclub. It features top of the line bands at a cover of $10–$20 (except Los Van Van is $25) from 10:00pm to 2:00am nightly. There’s a “matinee” every afternoon from about 5:00 to 9:00pm with a cover between $5 and $10 for foreigners, depending on the band. The afternoon shows have a special price in pesos Cubanos so Cubans can get in much cheaper. This makes the matinee really fun! Recently (March/April 2008), you could almost always catch Manolito y Su Trabuco on Mondays at the matinee and Maikel Blanco y su Salsa Mayor at the Friday matinee. Both highly suggested bands to see in Havana.

*Casa de la Musica “Miramar”
Calle 20 and Avenida 35, Miramar. Tel: 202-6147
Predecessor to Casa de la Musica, Galiano, Miramar maintains its reputation as a quality spot to catch Cuba’s most famous groups, as well as up and coming talent. It’s smaller than Galiano and has a less touristy feel. Adalberto Alvarez plays the nighttime show frequently and Pupi y los Que Son Son is often featured on the Tuesday matinee. Although you can’t quite call it Pupi’s Peña, it happens pretty frequently. Bamboleo is also often featured at the matinee at Miramar, two bands that are on fire right now and for Cuban salsa (“timba) fans, can’t be missed. On the downside, both Casas de la Música, like some other venues in Cuba, tend to have sound engineers that like to kick up the volume to uncomfortable levels. Also, it can get a little smoky.

*Cafe Cantante
Paseo and 39, below Teatro Nacional, Plaza de la Revolution. Tel: 879-0710
The ambiance of this basement club with its black walls and lack of décor screams dungeon, but don’t let that stop you from putting it at the top of your list of hot spots in Havana to catch the most popular bands. They have almost daily matinees (5:00–9:00pm) and nighttime shows (11:00pm–3:00am). Los Van Van played a “Matinee Larga” in February (2008) and Manolito Simonet has had a weekly Peña on Thursday afternoon for over a year. The big name bands will run around $10 to $15 per person for foreigners and $5 for Cubans.

*Café del Hotel Florida
Calle Egido, corner of Obispo, Old Havana)
The small lobby venue of this hotel attracts a mixed crowd of Cubans and foreigners, all intent on dancing salsa non-stop until closing. The band is usually a solid, talented (but unknown) salsa group with a good “timba” DJ in between sets. It is a favorite spot among local amateur and professional dancers. The problem is that it runs hot and cold. It’s usually better Thursday through Saturday, but you never know. It could be closed for capacity by 11:00pm or totally empty all night long. Show up early with a “Plan B” in case it’s not happening. 10:00pm–1:00am nightly. $5 cover includes a mixed drink.

*Casa de la Amistad
Avenida Paseo between Calles 17 and 19, Vedado.
This has always been a great venue to see traditional music. Tuesday night features a Son group and there are usually a lot of good dancers. Recently, they extended their tacky floorshow in an attempt to cater to a growing foreign audience, moving this venue into a tenuous spot on our “top picks” list. The band plays a short set from about 10:30 to 11:30 with recorded music after. We’re hoping they get back to their old programming which was a nice, short floor show of Cuban dancers, going straight into two one-hour sets with a slamming Son band. $5 cover includes 2 mixed drinks.

*La Cecilia
Quinta Avenida (5th Ave) and 110, Miramar. Tel: 204-1562
Boasts a beautiful outdoor setting with tropical plants and a giant dance floor. Many of Cuba’s premiere salsa groups have performed here including Paulito FG, Pupi and Manolito Simonet. There was an amazing period early in 2006 when Isaac Delgado had a Peña every Sunday afternoon for $8. Heaven! They are inconsistent with performances and were recently closed for remodeling so you do have to call to see if there is anything going on.

Sala Atril
Teatro Karl Marx, Avenida Primera (1st Ave) between 8 and 10, Miramar. Tel: 203-0801–0805
This upscale venue is fairly new, mainly catering to a Cuban audience. Since the opening in 2005, it has consistently attracted the young, attractive “it crowd” of Havana, who come out to do a little “especulando” (showing off). Recorded music is usually a mix of salsa, reggaetón and techno but they also feature some great rock, pop and jazz entertainment, like electric guitarist Elmer Ferrer and Latin pop band, Buena Fé, It’s definitely one of Havana’s trendy spots right now.

Chan Chan
Marina Hemingway,Calle 248 & 5th Ave, Santa Fe, Playa. Tel: 204-4698
This is a nice place to go with some Cuban friends who may enjoy getting out of their neighborhood for a night of dinner and dancing. The restaurant overlooks the water on the Marina Hemingway and features a variety of tasty seafood dishes. There is always a band and a fun crowd of mostly Cubans dancing and partying until closing (at around 2:00am). It’s a good place to stop for a Cuba Libre and to dance some salsa, especially if you’re already in Playa.

Delirio Habanero
Paseo # 39, above Teatro Nacional
This bar has a great view of the entire Plaza de la Revolución, including the statue of Jose Martí and monument of Ché. They have salsa bands almost every night and rumba on Sunday afternoons. (See Rumba section for details.)  It has a long narrow shape and carpeted floor, so it can be a little hard to dance salsa especially if it’s crowded. But if there’s a good band, with the view and inexpensive drinks, it can be a great night out.

Diablo Tun Tun
Calle 20 and 35, Miramar (upstairs from Casa de la Musica)
This is one of Havana’s only true “after hours” bars, staying open until 6:00am.  It’s much smaller than the Casa de la Música downstairs and is usually reasonably full It attracts a wide variety of people who leave different types of clubs all over town and end up at Diablo Tun Tun. They almost always have live music, including some solid talented salsa bands and local reggaetón groups.

Jardines de 1830
Malecón and 20, Vedado. Tel: 273-0568–9
This outdoor club has a garden setting facing the ocean, right on the Malecón. It’s open nightly 10:00pm to 2:00am, but it’s not always salsa. Friday night is a “House Party.” Sunday afternoon is a great day to go. There’s a matinee with a DJ and live band, mostly playing salsa and reggaetón. It’s inexpensive so there are a lot of Cubans, making it a good place to dance on a Sunday afternoon.

Sala Macumba
Calle 222 at 37, la Coronela, La Lisa. Tel: 833 0538
This huge venue used to present more big name salsa bands, but now attracts mostly groups of young emerging artists and their followers. They play a lot of techno and house music between sets, so it’s not usually the place to get your salsa fix on unless there is a salsa band featured. It’s also really far so from the center of town so if you’re not staying out that way, it’s not a recommended spot. The cover is  $10 and drinks are pretty expensive.

Río Club(Johnny’s Dream)
Calle A, between Tercera and Quinta (1st and 3rd) Miramar. Tel: 209-3389
This club’s popularity has been up and down over the years, but it seems to be gaining momentum right now among Cubans and tourists alike. There’s usually a lively crowd and a reasonable band, but this would not be the place to catch some traditional Cuban music. They do have some salsa and dance bands, but the recorded music, like in a lot of other disco type clubs in Havana, is usually techno and reggaetón. $5 cover.

Salón Rojo
Hotel Capri, Calle 21 corner of N, Vedado Tel: 833-3571–72, 833-3747
This club reopened in 2003 and since then has presented a variety of entertainment, including cabaret, comedy, disco and some bands. If you hear that Los Van Van is playing at the Salón Rojo, don’t brush it off as rumor. They have appeared at this venue a few times over the last 6 months for a $25 cover. The intimate atmosphere makes it a good place to see a big name group, but otherwise might not be worth the $10 cover for the regular show (even though $5 of that goes towards drinks). It is open late with dancing until 4:00 in the morning.


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MUSIC VENUES – Jazz

El Gato Tuerto (“One-eyed Cat”)
Calle O between 19 and 21, Vedado, Phone: 855-2696
This cool bohemian club features different styles of traditional Cuban music from sultry Boleros to Trova. It’s not really a jazz venue, but occasionally features some jazz fusion and has an intimate jazz club feeling. It attracts a more mature crowd of both Cubans and foreigners that are interested in seeing some good Cuban music and can do without the techno and reggaetón that has invaded a lot of the other venues in Havana. They serve great cocktails and there is a nice restaurant upstairs.

Jazz Café
Gallerias del Paseo, Avenida Primera (First) and Paseo, second floor, Vedado Tel: 855-3475
Irakere (Chucho Valdez’ group) often plays here, along with other famous Cuban groups. There are two sets nightly at 8:00 and 11:00pm. There’s no cover but there is a $10CUC “consumo minimo,” which is pretty easy to accomplish, especially if you go for dinner and stay for the show. The food is reasonable and there are also snacks and drinks are just $2. The atmosphere is more sophisticated that La Zorra y El Cuervo and it has a more open spacious feel.

Quinta y 16 (Casa del Habano – “Cigar House”)
5th Avenue at 16th Street, Miramar
This is one of the hottest spots in Havana to hear a variety of non-traditional music – mainly jazz-based, but with other influences like rock and trova.  There’s no salsa or reggaetón here! Instead, you’ll find a slew of young musicians, who are mainly interested in alternative music and fusion, getting together and creating new sounds. Live music Thursday through Sunday features the likes of singer/songwriter, David Torrens, with his own blend of rock, pop and trova, as well as piano player and jazz fusion master, Harold López Nussa, descargando (jamming) with his trio and some of Havana’s rising jazz stars. Also on Saturdays, you can often catch Elmer Ferrer, the amazing young rock/fusion guitarist who is sometimes called the Cuban Jimi Hendrix. Well-known jazz trumpet player, Yasek Manzano also plays at Quinta y 16 with his band. It’s kind of a musician’s club – a place where they can meet and jam without the restraints of playing to a house of tourists out for the “Cuban experience.” One thing to keep in mind is that the music doesn’t start until around 1:00am (whenever they feel like starting) and is wrapping up at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning (whenever they feel like stopping).

La Zorra y el Cuervo (“The Fox and the Crow”)
Calle 23 #156, between O andrising N Vedado. Tel: 866-2402
This is the most well known jazz club in Havana and the place to hit if you want to catch some of Cuba’s A-list jazz performers. This smoky basement club has a laid back, unpretentious vibe. Cover is usually $10 and drinks are inexpensive. This club has a long history in Havana’s Latin jazz scene and a reputation of featuring virtuoso musicians on any given night. There‘s always has a mixed crowd of foreigners, Cubans and other musicians. It’s in a great location in Vedado and since the club is so compact, it makes for an intimate experience.

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Cabaret Shows

Cabaret Parisién - Hotel Nacional
Calle O corner of 21, Vedado. Tel: 873 4701
This is a great Cabaret show. It’s just as spectacular as the Tropicana, but on a smaller scale, making it more intimate and easier to see the dancers up-close. They have beautiful costumes and choreography and a wealth of talented dancers. The show starts at 9:00pm. After the Cabaret act at about midnight, there’s usually some kind of comedian and then a DJ, playing mostly techno. No need to hang around for that. The cover ranges between $20 and $60 depending on if you do the full dinner show or just a few drinks. The show right now is called, “Sabor Cubano” (Cuban Flavor).

Cabaret Tropicana
Calle72 # 4504 between 41 y 45, Marianao. Tel: 267-1717, 267-1010.
This is the original and still reigning Cabaret show in Cuba. The Tropicana, also known as “Paraíso Bajo las Estrellas” (Paradise under the Stars), opened in 1931 and continues to please audiences daily with its 200 musicians and dancers performing under the stars, in the shadow of a lush tropical backdrop. As you may expect, with its Las Vegas Show reputation, the costumes are mind-bogglingly extravagant, dancers writhing down tiers and dropping magically from the sky, the choreography flawlessly executed. The show starts around 10:00pm. You can order tickets by phone from 10:00am to 6:00pm or make a reservation with a travel agency in the lobby of one of the bigger hotels. It’s pricey at $70–90 per person, but includes a bottle of rum and snacks or dinner.

Copa Room
Lobby of Hotel Riviera, Calle Paseo and Malecón, Vedado. Tel: 833-4051
Formerly known as the Palacio de la Salsa, this club had its high point in the 90s as the most popular venue for big name salsa bands like Los Van Van, Issac Delgado and Paulito F.G. The decor dated back to the 50s with its tiers of overstuft red booths and roomy dance floor below. After closing down for remodeling, it reopened as the Copa Room, still presenting some famous bands. Now the programming is mainly Cabaret shows, alternating with some bands and DJs playing recorded dance music. Thursday through Sunday they have a Cabaret Show with girls in glitzy, vibrant costumes with a  DJ following. The late show (with a techno/house feel) starts at midnight and has a $5 cover that attracts a youthful Cuban crowd.

Habana Café
Hotel Melia Cohiba, Avenida Paseo and 3rd, Vedado. Tel: 833-3636
This venue mainly attracts foreigners and features a nightly variety-type show that includes Cabaret dancers combined with comedy, music and skits. The place has a 1950s décor and for good reason is often said to be the Hard Rock Café of Havana. The ambiance of the club and the show itself cater to the tourist sensibility of what a Cuban show might be like, but still manages to have some authenticity. There are two Cabaret shows running now, the more contemporary of which is Rakatan. There is sometimes a good salsa band after the show and people stay and dance it up.  Cover is $10 to $15.

Turquino
Havana Libre Hotel, top floor. Vedado. Tel: 838-4011
The Cabaret Turquino has mixed programming, sometimes featuring bands, but mainly Cabaret shows with a bit of a disco vibe. The club sits on top of the Habana Libre Hotel and with glass windows all around, it has some great views of the city that make it well worth a visit. The roof retracts and you can dance under the stars and this also makes it less smoky than some other venues. There’s a great bar but drinks are on the expensive side. The cover is $10 and it’s open for dancing until 4:00am.

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Rumba

Cabaret Nacional
(Address coming soon)
Well-known rumba group Yoruba Andabo has thier weekly “peña” here at 5:00pm on Saturdays. This is one of the most talented rumba groups in Cuba. They perform a set folkloric music and choreography with full costumes and then a slamming rumba set. There’s recorded music in between, usually salsa and reggaetón. $5 cover for foreigners, $2 for Cubans. These smaller venues can tend to get pretty crowded and smoky.

Callejon de Hamel
Calle Hamel between Aramburu and Hospital, Central Havana.
Free outdoor rumba on Sundays at noon, featuring different local groups every week. This alley is covered with murals and installations focusing on African religion and culture in Cuba, mostly dedicated to Yoruba-based Orishas. The artist, Salvador Gonzalez sells his work in a small gallery. Expect a crowded intense scene.

Delirio Habanero
Paseo # 39, top floor of Teatro Nacional
This bar has a great view of the entire Plaza de la Revolución. They have salsa bands at night but every Sunday at 4:00pm, there’s a different rumba group, usually alternating between Clave y Guaguanco, Yoruba Andabo and Los Rumberos de Cuba.  Salsa dancing with a DJ between sets. $5 cover for foreigners, $1 for Cubans. Cheap drinks and snacks.

El Gran Palenque (Sabado de la Rumba)
Calle 4 between Calzada & Quinta, Vedado. Tel:  831-3467
This outdoor rumba/folklore event every Saturday at 3:00pm attracts an interesting mix of Cubans and foreigners. It’s usually a good show and there is a wealth of dancers in the audience that step out to “ripearse” (tear it up). $5 cover for foreigners with $1 beers and rum. Super fun!

El Palermo
(Address coming soon)
Starting at the Hotel Inglaterra, go down the side street (passing the cabaret Nacional on your left) and turn right at the 3rd block. El Palermo is on your left 2 blocks down. Grupo Ibeji, the original group of the famous female rumba singer Merceditas Valdez, performs every Sunday at 4:00pm. The atmosphere is dark and smoky, gritty street vibe with virtually no tourists. There are usually some well-known rumberos there. Cover is $2.

Trastevere
Galiano y Neptuno (across the street from the Casa de la Música).
Hosting rumba on Fridays at 5:00pm featuring the group, Los Rumberos de Cuba, one of the best rumba groups in Cuba right now. They have a fresh style and some great singers. This venue attracts mostly Cubans and some good dancers usually come out. $5 for foreigners, $2 for Cubans. This bar/club also has salsa bands nightly for a $5 cover.

UNEAC
Calle 17 # 354, corner of H, Vedado. Tel: 832-4551–4553
La Peña del Ambia (famous Cuban poet and rumbero), is every other Wednesday from 5:00 to 8:00pm at Hurón Azul, the home of the UNEAC (National Union of Writers and Artists). It is quite the scene with an interesting mix of foreigners and Cubans, artists, musicians and local riff raff. Rumba groups alternate, but no matter who is featured, it’s usually pretty fun! $5 for foreigners, 20 pesos for Cubans. Alternate Wednesdays feature traditional music, mostly trova, and some son.

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