Over the past few years I’ve had multiple engaged couple friends ask me if they should have their wedding in Cuba. My answer is invariably yes. I always give my enthusiastic speech about how unique and fun it will be and how you can make it a super casual weekend trip if you want. No big deal. But none of these proposals has materialized and I can’t help but think that this is a reflection on me, and my inability to convey how great the Cuban wedding can be. So in light of the last couple with whom this topic has arose (and who are still dragging their feet) I wrote a 3-part blog with an example itinerary for a weekend wedding in Havana. The owner of Cuba’s leading event curator, Havana Reverie, is my good friend from grad school and she does amazing weddings, retreats, educational trips, parties, and any other event you can think of - so I talked to her and got the latest on the best venues, up-to-date pricing, and seasonal considerations, for anyone and everyone that is trying to think of an awesome wedding idea (or just a trip).
Old Havana: Assuming that you maximize your time in Cuba with a redeye on Thursday, you will arrive to Havana early in the afternoon, and should commence the Cuban introduction in Old Havana. This is most often the part of Havana that you see in the magazines – an energetic, classically mid-century part of town, with live music, bars and restaurants on every corner.
Floridita: Take a break from the heat in the 200-year-old (air-conditioned) Floridita venue – inducted into the Havana hall of fame as Ernest Hemmingway’s favorite bar, and where the daiquiri was invented. Although this story may have gotten carried away over the years, famed Floridita bartender and “Cocktail King of Cuba” Constantino Ribalaigua Vert did alter the daiquiri to Hemmingway’s taste – “less sugar, more rum” - entertaining the writer on a daily basis through the American Prohibition and after. With $6 daiquiris, dishes from $8 to $16, and complementary (incredible) live music just feet from your table, its no surprise that Floridita is the spot where notable expats, vacationing celebrities, and even US federal agents often intersect.
Welcome Reception at El Cocinero: “The chef” in Spanish – this venue is situated thoughtfully on the balcony terrace of an old vegetable oil factory. Climb the 3 flights of stairs in the chimney and you will be rewarded with a patio lit with market lights and shaded with sails and plants, giving way to a totally authentic industrial chic vibe. The cosmopolitan crowds at Cocinero tend to learn toward affluent Cubans and expats, here to enjoy Chef Ramon Manuel Lopez Alarcon’s famous tuna dishes: tatar and tataki over the uninhibited sky views. Dishes range from $8-$10 for appetizers, and upwards of $15 for mains; vacationing couples often leaving with a $60 tab. The seafood is sourced directly from local fishers, and the chicken from local farmers. Look down through the windows near the floor to get a sneak peak of your next destination: El Fabrica de Arte.
La Fabrica de Arte: Without leaving the vegetable oil plant, you can arrive at one of the most interesting and unique places in Havana. Describe by New York Times as a “mix of CBGB, Art Basel Miami, a community center, a coffee shop, a bar, and a bomb shelter…” La Fabirca is all of these, plus an art museum, a theater, and a concert hall. The majority of the venue is made up of meandering corridors, each space with a completely different feel from the next. Walking from room to room, visitors can go from from a theater prodction to a fashion show to a DJ set in a matter of minutes.
Cuban rock star X-Alfonso founded La Fabrica in 2013 to promote local Cuban artists, writers, photographers, intellectuals, filmmakers and performers. Classified as a “community project,” the venue has an advantageous scenario in which, despite its occupation of government property, its management maintains a notable degree of expressive autonomy. While the warehouse scene is by no means unique to Havana, it is inarguably impressive to see such individualist art displayed in one of the most tightly kept societies today. Exhibits have included politically taunting displays, and the venue is no stranger to the scrutiny of Cuba’s state run media – perhaps reminding old timers of the capitalistic hedonism that was pre-revolution Havana under names like Frank Sinatra and Lucy Luciano.
If you’re in Havana you have to go to Fabrica. If nothing else, go for the $10 40-oz mojito.