Opportunities for shopping in Santiago, despite the city's cultural traditions, aren't that much better than in many smaller cities in Cuba. Your best bets, as elsewhere in Cuba, are handicrafts, music and musical instruments, and the always-dependable rum and cigars.
Art, Books & Handicrafts
Sellers and craftspeople line both sides of Calle Heredia from Parque Céspedes on up to Calle Porfirio Valiente. The informal daily market features a range of handicrafts and souvenirs, including sculptures of shapely (as well as rail-thin) women carved from ebony and other precious woods, paintings, masks, papier-mâché dolls, musical instruments, and jewelry. Señor Aldo sells books, postcards, records, and magazines inspired by the Revolution. A number of state-owned crafts and souvenir shops with similar merchandise, but inflexible pricing, occupy the storefronts at the base of the cathedral on Parque Céspedes. New crafts and souvenir shops line the road leading to the El Morro fortress (across from the El Morro restaurant).
Locally produced abstract and figurative art is available at a handful of galleries, including the Galería de Arte Oriente on Calle General Lacret 653, between Aguilera and Heredia.
Cigars & Rum
The Barra de Ron Caney, at the rum factory that used to be the original Bacardí plant before the Revolution (when the owners fled to the Bahamas and the U.S.), is a gift shop selling an array of types and vintages of Cuban-produced rum, as well as cigars, nice silver jewelry, and other souvenirs. You can taste before you buy. The factory and shop are on Av. Jesús Menéndez 703 between San Antonio and San Ricardo (tel. 22/62-5576), across from the train station. The shop is open daily from 9am to 5:30pm. Alternately, you can check out the Museo de Ron (tel. 22/62-8818), at San Basilio 358, which offers a brief illustrated guide to the history and process of rum production, with a pleasant bar next-door. (The museum was undergoing major renovation in 2010, and at press time, there was no slated reopening date.) When it does reopen, it will be worth visiting for the chandeliers -- -with delicately carved bronze flowers and cascading crystals.
Cigars can be purchased at hotel shops or Casa del Habano, next-door to the Caney rum factory (tel. 22/62-2366), which even has a smokers' lounge and bar. Note: I'd be especially wary of the quality of cigars you are offered by jineteros on the street.
Santiago is the capital of son and other indigenous forms of Cuban music, and there are a few good spots to pick up CDs and tapes of Santiaguero musicians (though overall, Havana has a much better selection of music stores). The EGREM music label has shops at the Antonio Maceo airport. The Casa de la Trova has an ARTex store, and there's a small record shop attached to the Casa de la Música, Corona (Mariano) 564, between Aguilera and José Antonio Saco. Of the artists you may have an opportunity to see perform live, most sell CDs at their performances.
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.