Some would say Havana only really gets going after dark, when the slow pace and heat-induced stupor of the day finally wears off. This is a vibrant and truly cosmopolitan city with scores of bars, dance clubs, and theaters to choose from. If your footwork is not so fancy, show up at the Museo del Ron (www.havanaclubfoundation.com; CUC$10 for 2-hour classes) for dance classes between Monday and Friday from 10am to 4pm.
The Performing Arts
Cuba has a strong tradition in the performing arts. Cuban musicians, playing in a range of styles, are world renowned. The Cuban National Ballet (tel. 7/866-0142; www.balletcuba.cult.cu) has been garnering international accolades for decades, under the direction of Alicia Alonso. There's an active theater scene (and plenty of movie theaters), both of which are popular with locals, given the scant offerings of Cuban television. The major venues for the classical performing arts are the Teatro Nacional de Cuba, Paseo and Calle 39, Vedado (tel. 7/879-3558), which specializes in theater performances by local and visiting companies; the Gran Teatro de La Habana, Paseo de Martí and Calle San Rafael, Centro Habana (tel. 7/861-3077, ext. 115), which is home to the Cuban National Ballet, as well as a prime venue for concerts and dance performances; and the Teatro Amadeo Roldán, Calle Calzada, between Calles D and E, Vedado (tel. 7/832-1168), which is home to the National Symphony Orchestra. Other important and working theaters include the Teatro Mella (tel. 7/833-5651), Teatro Karl Marx (tel. 7/203-0801), and the Café Teatro Brecht (tel. 7/832-9359).
Visit www.cubaescena.cult.cu and www.paradiso.cu for a rundown of annual festivals and events. Paradiso (tel. 7/832-9538), the tourism arm of the Ministry of Culture, publishes the highly elusive Cartelera magazine (tel. 7/836-4931), a free periodic bilingual magazine with listings for movies, theaters, bars, and live music, which is sometimes available at the front desk of hotels in Havana. For good up to date information in English, consult Cuba Absolutely (www.cubaabsolutely.com).
Your best bet for any advance planning is to go online or call the venue when you are in Havana. You can call any of the theaters listed above directly for performance schedules and ticket information.
Feel the Beat -- The Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba (Cuban National Folklore Group) hosts the weekly Sábado de la Rumba, a mesmerizing show of Afro-Cuban religious and secular dance and drumming. The 2-hour shows (CUC$5) are presented every Saturday at 3pm, at El Gran Palenque, Calle 4, between Calzada and Avenida 5 in Vedado. Call tel. 7/830-3060 or 7/830-3939 for more information.
Similar shows are offered Thursday through Sunday at 10pm by the group Obbara at the Palacio de la Artesanía, Calle Cuba 64, between Calles Peña Pobre and Cuarteles, La Habana Vieja.
The Cabaret, Club & Dance Scene
I'll bet Havana has more floor shows per capita than Las Vegas. There are nightly and entirely respectable cabaret shows at the Habana Riviera's Copa Room, Paseo and Malecón, Vedado (tel. 7/836-4051); ARTex's Patio de la Casa 18, Calle 18, between Avenidas 5 and 7, Miramar (tel. 7/204-1212); and the Cabaret Nacional, Calle San Rafael and Paseo de Martí, La Habana Vieja (tel. 7/863-2361).
There's also a vibrant flamenco show at Hotel Mesón de la Flota, Mercaderes 257 between Amargura and Teniente Rey, La Habana Vieja (tel. 7/863-3838; shows at 12:30pm and 8:30pm).
Habaneros love to dance and party, and you'll find a wild dance and club scene here. In fact, dance aficionados come to Havana from all over to learn the basic steps, fine-tune their moves, and watch the locals strut their stuff. Most clubs don't get going until after 10pm, and most stay pretty vibrant until the wee hours of the morning. While salsa is king in Cuba, most of the popular dance clubs catering to travelers have been putting some house, techno, Reggaeton, and other modern dance tunes into the mix. Dress codes are somewhat casual, but locals still like to put on the ritz as much as possible before a night of dancing, so bring some finery if you plan to hit any of the more popular clubs.
For a schedule of events at Havana's Casas de la Música, visit http://promociones.egrem.co.cu or www.pmmfiesta.com.
A Way In -- Cuban women (and to a lesser extent Cuban men) tend to hang out at the entrance to popular clubs looking for an unattached foreigner to pay their admission. Their pleadings can be quite earnest. You are by no means obligated, but they really have no other means of being able to enter. Remember that you'll also be liable for paying for the drinks.
The Bar Scene
In addition to the bars listed, La Bodeguita del Medio and El Floridita are two famous watering holes. I also enjoy the rooftop bar at the Hotel Ambos Mundos.
The gay scene is concentrated around Calle 22 at the corner of Infanta in Vedado, and at Casa Balear on Sunday nights (after 11pm) at Calle 23 at the corner of G in Vedado.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.