Print Friendly version of Wild Bill's Pub Crawl through Habana Vieja

This pub-crawl has been used several times and is totally reliable in obtaining the desired result – a moderate state of inebriation. One crawl included my sister’s family, two of her friends’ families (including one Canadian Provincial supreme court judge and a couple of teenagers) and still yielded satisfactory results.
This can be either an evening, or an afternoon (this write-up assumes an afternoon).

We usually start in the bar at the Inglaterra Hotel – ideal because everyone knows where it is, the architecture is great (Arabian tiles), and it simply is a good bar. Plus the wimps can have a coffee first to line their stomach.

Then head out directly across the street, through the Parque Centrale through the groups of shouting men. These fellows act like they are about to kill each other – what is actually happening is they are debating baseball….who has the best pitcher etc.

Continue straight ahead past the Art museum and you see a busy street and a pedestrian mall (simply a street where traffic has been banned). At that corner, is the famous Floridita bar/restaurant. This is where Hemingway actually spent a LOT of time and where tour buses now unload tourists to be fleeced. Wander in and take a look – interesting pictures on the wall –but outrageous prices …$6 for a daiquiri.

OK, now time for a drink – continue alone the busy street (Monserrate) one block south and you come to 2 good bars:
- One is open air – one of the best “people-watching” bars in the city (Castillo de Farnes)
- The other has an old-fashioned swinging bar door (I think this is called the Monserrate bar). Actually there are some good snacks here….I recommend the garlic shrimp. And there often is a band.

(* Exit Monserrate and turn right into the small street, first corner turn right and walk straight ahead 2 blocks)

One block east, at the corner of Brazil and Bernaza is the Hanoi Restaurant – this attracts both Cubans and budget travelers…..a complete meal for $3, and its very good for the price. Plus one of the cheapest places for mojitos in Havana Vieja.

Now back a couple of blocks north to Obispo and take a right turn. Several bars but the most activity is probably in the Lluvia de Oro….lots of tourists, but usually a good band.

Then continue on Obispo to the Café de Paris ….similar….usually music and decent pizzas.

Now head south (right) 5 blocks to a big square (I think this is the Plaza Vieja) which has recently been totally renovated with E.U. money. Very nice. At the south-west corner is a fairly large bar/restaurant (La Muralla). Good BBQ and other food, and interesting atmosphere (they have a beer drinking contraption that is about a yard/meter high – you have to be in a REAL beer drinking mood.

Now head back north, one block PAST Obispo to Calle O’Reilly (a good Cuban name). Turn left and there is O’Reilly’s on O’Reilly. Downstairs is nothing special, but head up the winding metal staircase. A moment of peace in the noise of Havana. Unique.

Now we’re getting our second wind so time for something serious. Continue west on O’Reilly and you come to a dump named Bar Bilbao. This is the only true Cuban bar left in centeral old Havana. It’s fun to watch tourists stop at the door, look in, and then decide "nope". Actually the “décor” is interesting – this bar has been discovered by the professional soccer club in Bilbao Spain and they have left all kinds of stuff all over the walls.

They don’t particularly encourage tourists but once you’re there, its great. This is where I bought the adults in my sister’s group of 7 adults a round of double rums and a cigar – total bill was $1.75. AND THOSE WERE REAL DOUBLES. A single rum is 5 pesos and a cigar is 1 peso (that’s non-convertible pesos). A peso is equal to a nickel.
The trick here is to have some “nationale” money….non-convertible. So when he brings your order you have those pesos out. Otherwise they might try to ding you tourist prices in convertible pesos – just act like you know what you’re doing.

About this point, the organized tour tends to kind of fall apart. You can find your own way from here.

One restaurant recommendation however. Head back over to “the Prado”, that the street that runs in from of the Inglaterra (where you started) and runs north up to the ocean. The real name of the street is Paseo Marti, but everyone calls it Prado. Anyway there is an Italian restaurant (not the one at the corner of Neptuno)….it’s farther north….I think the number is #168, its on a corner. Anyway it has VERY good pasta and pizza for about $3.50 each. Highly recommended.