Havana has something for every taste: food, dancing, visiting marvellous museums and plazas, the warmth of the people or the rich culture are some of the highlights of this nearly 500 year old city. Amongst Havana neighbourhoods, Vedado stand out for its beautiful architecture, the busy ambience and the nocturnal activity of this area that never sleeps. This area houses some of the most lively bars of downtown, many of them with a special twist.
La Casa de la Bombilla Verde
Address: 905, 11 Street, % 6 and 8, Vedado, Havana
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, from 5:00 pm to 1:00 am
La Casa de la Bombilla Verde (“the house of the green lightbulb”) is a space to share with old and new friends. Other than green lightbulbs, it also houses painting and photographic expositions, music recitals, books, and a multicultural cuisine. A song, a coffee, a drink or some pintxos may be the perfect excuse for a visit. The owner is a Spaniard from the Basque Country, and his cooking is one of the highlights of the bar. We can highly recommend to try the speciality of the house: the delicious Potato Omelette. The txistorra with chips is also amongst the favourite plates in the menu, which also includes different sandwiches, burgers, salads and some appetizers. The footprint of the Basques is also in the cocktails, with the kalimotxo and the Kendal as two examples, although the obliging barman is always willing to prepare many other popular drinks like the mojito, Ron Collins, Caipirissima and Caipiroska.
What really distinguishes La Bombilla is the bohemian ambience, different from other local bars. Almost every day they have live concerts with the very best of the Cuban trova. In a mix of young and veteran musicians, Frank Delgado, Roly Berrío, Leonardo García, Yaíma Orozco, Lien & Rey and Inti Santana are regular to the night recitals. After 10 o’clock is the time to become imbued in the magic of the songs, sung in chorus by all and sundry. You can choose to sit whether in a tire filled with a mesh of ropes, a table of untreated wood lined with old comic books or in one made of a big reel.
Address: 604, 5th Street, % 4 and 6, Vedado, Havana
Opening hours: Everyday, from 12:00 pm to 3:00 am
When you enter to PaZillo, you immediately notice that it is different to most Cuban bars. It is a lively place for having fun or relaxing after the long workday, sharing with friends and new acquaintances. The name is a pun from the owner’s last name (Paz) and the lateral pasillo (corridor) of this bar, when you can sit and enjoy your drinks outdoors. Different types of tapas and burgers can be tasted here. On Tuesdays you can get your hamburger by half of its price. What about cocktails? Well, PaZillo serves the traditional mojito, for a special price (1 CUC) on Thursdays. Moreover, they have different cocktails from the house like the “Sangría PaZillo”, “Pancho Seco” (based on tequila), “Ron Arreglado” (fruits, aromatic herbs or hot spices soaked in aged white rum), the “Mojito de Aquí” and the “Ebbó Leri” (based on eau-de-vie), amongst others. The Happy Hour (6 pm to 8 pm) runs every day, with a discount of 50 percent for the rum-based cocktails.
This is also a place for enjoying some of the chicest bands of Havana. On Saturdays and Sundays, PaZillo is the venue for live presentations of artists and groups like Ray Fernández, Teamglao, Magui Blue, Mauricio Figueiral, Isis Flores, Patricio Amaro and many more. A singular feature here is the realization of several thematic events like the “PaZillo Pride” (Gay Pride) on Wednesdays, the “Barra Temática” on Thursdays and the “After Work” on Fridays, this latter hosted by DJ Bolo. “Thematic Nights” is a special occasion held on the last Wednesday of every month, where different topics such as Oscar Awards, beach time and others come out.
Address: 809, 17 Street, % 2 and 4, Vedado, Havana
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, from 6:00 pm to 2:00 am.
An authentic tapas bar, where music, exquisite drinks and art converge in the pleasant night of the neighbourhood of Vedado. The owner is himself an artist, producer and direction assistant from the Cuban film industry. Actually, Madrigal owes its name to a movie he was involved in. Madrigal is also a historical location: it was the first private bar in Cuba. The cocktails selection covers all the renowned traditional drinks, from mojito and daiquiri to Bloody Mary and screwdriver. Enjoy some nibbles like the Empanaditas del Madrigal (pasties), falafels, omelettes, skewers, and the famous tostones rellenos (filled smashed fried plantains).
This site is located in a second floor. After climbing the long stairs, you will find an ample house with a beautifully decorated set. The vintage style, ornamented with old-fashioned film cameras, old objects and the paintings of Javier Guerra, will make you feel at ease. An interesting feature is the terrace, where there are some tables for those who prefer the fresh air. Nice music makes the night more enjoyable, with live presentations of young jazz musicians on Saturdays and Sundays. Some foreigner movie celebrities have visited Madrigal, like other popular bars in Havana, but their identity remains secret (according to the wishes of the owner). Refinement and good taste is the formula here. What else can you expect from a place that was once ranked by Lonely Planet amongst the 10 best bars in the world?
Address: 667, 23 Street, % D and E, Vedado, Havana
Opening hours: Everyday, from 7:00 pm to 4:00 am. The restaurant closes at 12:00 am
King Bar is perhaps the most centric bar in our list. Located in the popular 23 Street, their premises flaunt an alternative space designed to please all tastes. The name comes from a clever little word joke that is made clear by the logo. When you walk in through the corridor, you immediately leave behind the crowded downtown and begin to perceive a bucolic scenery, covered by the shadow of a mango tree and a soft music. You can always find someone you know, between singers, models and above all actors and actresses. The menu includes local and international plates, based in beef, pork, chicken and vegetables. They also have Italian pennes, desserts and varied tapas to accompany your drinks. These include traditional cocktails such as mojito, Cubalibre, Caipiriña, Caipiroska, Gintonic, screwdriver and sangrias.
Every night is special because the employees put their own effort in creating new initiatives. Saint Valentine’s Day is celebrated in a big way, with a dinner and a recital of the popular Cuban singer Osdalgia. King Bar doesn’t hold live music presentations currently, but in the past it was a usual spot for notable artists like local flamenco guitarist Reynier Mariño. In a few words, it is a place for any kind of public, to share with friends and dance the night away to the beat of diverse rhythms. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, say many, it is a location like no other, where fun and great ambience is guaranteed. It is also highly popular with the LGBT community.
Address: 153, B Street, % Calzada (7th) and Línea (9th), Vedado, Havana
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday, Saturday to Sunday from 6:00 pm to 3:00 am, Friday from 5:00 pm to 3:00 am
La Esencia is placed inside a house built in the Cuban Republican period, more precisely in a former music lounge. The decoration resembles the classic ambience of the decade of 1930. This restaurant-bar specialises in international cuisine, tapas and cocktails. Skewers and dishes based on chicken, pork and shrimps are some of the principal delights in the menu. If you are covering the coastal zone of Vedado, maybe that is the exact place to relax for some minutes and try a Cappuccino or a Café Mamá Inés (coffee with rum and honey). There are drinks for the most demanding tastes, including all the cubatas and rum-based drinks. Others made with gin, vodka, tequila, whiskey, brandy or non-alcoholic drinks can be found here, not to mention the cocktail “Esencia Habana”, the house’s speciality.
A different show is held every night. On Mondays, they have the “Noche Diversa” (Diverse Night). On Wednesday, the Karaoke Night is a great chance to test your talent for singing and win a cocktail. Stand-up comedy has also its space here, with local funny guys like Cabo Pantera. On Friday some cocktails at half of the price. There is a dress code you need to comply with. A singular feature here is the outdoors service, really appealing for those who prefer stay in the wide garden. La Esencia bears a different style, where time stops. Surrounded by the eclectic scenery of Havana, this is a good opportunity to become imbued in this wonderful city.