Conde de Villanueva Hostal: A haven for cigar lovers
By Madelin Murguía Delgado Photos: Prensa Latina and courtesy of the Conde de Villanueva Hostal
Amongst the narrow streets of Old Havana near the Plaza de la Catedral sits the Conde de Villanueva Hostal. Located at the corner of Lamparilla and Mercaderes, there are many characteristics that make this boutique hotel unique. Many clients have a particular preference for its worship of the Habano cigar and return every year.
The Habano cigar is present in each step one takes at the Conde de Villanueva. Names of major tobacco producing zones in Cuba identify the nine rooms of the guesthouse, as well as its restaurant and halls. The latter includes facilities for conferences, cocktails parties, and private dinners.
You can stay in refined and well equipped rooms with names referring to vegas, or tobacco plantations, in Trinidad, Hoyo de Monterrey, Robaina, de San Juan y Martinez, de San Luis and Remedios.
You can also taste the fine Cuban cuisine of the 19th century at the Vue Ita Abajo Restaurant and other specialities at EI Corojo cafeteria.
The Conde de Villanueva is located in the historic centre of Havana City which the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has declared a World Heritage Site. It is on the exclusive list of guesthouses being operated by the Habanaguex Tourist Company attached to the Office of the Historian of Old Havana.
Its manager Humberto Broches Reyes said that the guesthouse r s mainstay is a comfortable tobacco shop called Casa del Habano or "Habano House" where clients can buy their preferred cigar, enjoy a drink at the Tasting Bar, and even reserve storage space for their cigars. This is an excellent place to relax with an attractive decor and the earthy scent of cigars and Spanish cedar.
Since the guesthouse is small, they mainly host individual clients who are aficionados of the Cuban cigar world. The repeat visit rate is high with England, Spain, Italy and the u.S. accounting for the most visitors.
The guesthouse was opened in February 1999, during the 2nd Habano Festival, but it dates back to 1712 and faithfully resembles the architecture of the time. Its large, open interior courtyard is full of plants and marvellous stained glass windows and colonial arches. The courtyard also holds the Julio Larramendi Gallery which is currently hosting the "Historias" exhibition from this famous Cuban photographer's international trips and the promising talent of Canadian Karin Reinecke.
The Guesthouse is named after the former owner of the mansion, Claudio Martinez de Pinillo, who was the Count of Villanueva and was very involved in the growth of tobacco and the use of the railroad system in Cuba.
During the Habano Cigar Festival, the Conde de Villanueva Hostal puts on a wide program of related activities including cigar rolling contests between the five cigar factories in Havana, specialized cigar tastings and a presentation of the Habaguanex Tourist Company.
Whether you stay in the guesthouse during the cigar festival or just drop by for a cigar in the courtyard, the Conde de Villanueva will provide you with a memorable respite from the bustling streets of Old Havana.