As a visitor, I’d first get myself checked into a nice hotel in Havana.
My current favourite is probably Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Haban, carved out of a handsome neoclassical turn-of-the-century shopping arcade, opposite the Gran Teatro de Habana and sitting side-by- side with the gorgeous Cuban wing of the National Fine Arts Museum – which is unmissable, by the way. It has the biggest rooms with high, vaulted ceilings, the best breakfast, the best spa, and a panoramic rooftop pool.
If I wanted privacy and a sense of place though, I'd gravitate towards Havana's boutique collection of mid-century villas, colonial homes, pretty penthouses and old town pied-à-terres.
Of the latter, my current crush is Casa Plaza Vieja: looking straight out onto the famous square, it has a lovely rooftop and stunning interiors by two French interior design doyennes who also happen to own it.
Alternatively, I’d check into Malecon 663 (another icon of French taste), created by local Habanera Sandra, who comes by way of Marseilles. Sandra does a lovely sunset experience with cocktails, DJs and jazz musicians on her chic rooftop; and also supports local Cuban artisans by selling their hand-made jewellery and soaps.
I’m drawn to
hoteliers outside of Havana who support other local businesses as well – like
atmospheric guesthouse Mogotearte in Viñales, run by Luis, a local politician
(who recently had fragments of a meteorite land on his front patio!); and Santa
Clara's Suite Florencia, a Cuban/Italian-run private vintage-styled guesthouse
which also sells local pieces.