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Finding Nightlife and Entertainment in Havana

Yes, the city has lost the Barbary Coast spirit of prerevolutionary days, but habaneros love to paint the town red as much as their budgets allow. Many venues are seedier than they were in the 1950s; in many the decor hasn’t changed! Pricey entrance fees dissuade Cubans from attending the hottest new venues. Cubans are even priced out of most bars (one beer can cost the equivalent of a week’s salary).

The great news is that private nightclubs have sprouted since being legalized in 2011. Havana now has some really chic scenes reminiscent of L.A. or Miami. And a gamut of 3-D theaters opened, only to be shuttered in a government crackdown in late 2013.

For theater, classical concerts, and other live performances it’s difficult to make a reservation by telephone. Instead, go to the venue and buy a ticket in advance or just before the performance. Call ahead to double-check dates, times, and venue.

A cup of coffee in front of a vintage radio, newspaper and eyeglasses.
Several newspapers and radio stations have information on local events to help you plan your time in Havana. Photo © Wolfgang Steiner/123rf.

Havana finally has two reliable, widely circulated forums for announcements of upcoming events. The Havana Reporter, an English-language weekly newspaper, features a center-page spread with upcoming gigs at key venues. It’s available in tourist hotel lobbies, as is Cartelera, a cultural magazine for tourists published monthly by Artex, with information on exhibitions, galleries, performances, and more. A fantastic Internet source is Cuba Absolutely, which maintains a monthly update of live concerts and other cultural events nationwide on its website.

Radio Taíno (1290 AM and 93.3 FM), serving tourists, offers information on cultural happenings with nightly broadcasts 5pm-7pm, as does Habana Radio (94.9 FM), which also broadcasts online. The TV program Hurón Azul (Cubavision) gives a preview of the next week’s top happenings every Thursday at 10:25pm.

Since so many young Cubans lack money for bars and clubs, thousands hang out on the Malecón (principally between Calle 23 and Calle 0) and along Avenida de los Presidentes (Calle G) on weekend nights. The latter chiefly draws frikis (Goths and punks), roqueros, and what Julia Cooke calls “a genealogical map of youth culture,” who mill around sharing beer or rum and listening to music played on cell phones.

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