Hotel Nacional de Cuba Bursting with Cuban history
By Cubaplus / Photos: José Tito Meriño
Crossing the threshold of the majestic Hotel Nacional de Cuba is like taking a trip back in time. Enclosed within the walls of this imposing edifice are almost ninety years of quintessentially Cuban stories.
The hotel opened in 1930 and sits regally atop a small hill just meters from the sea. Its location lends an additional layer of grandeur to its spectacular and eclectic architecture, which blends art deco with neocolonial, classical and Spanish Morisco influences.
Designed by New York architecture studio McKim, Mead and White, and erected in only fourteen months by US construction firm Purdy and Henderson, the hotel was built from genuinely Cuban materials including marble, hardwood and piedras de Jaimanitas (Cuban limestone). In the gardens on top of the hill, there are two cannons from the Santa Clara battery that made up the second and third fortifications of the city of Havana in colonial times. Havana’s old town and its system of fortifications were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
The walls of this hotel have born witness to many an historic event, and its rooms have hosted myriad famous names from around the world. The notorious Havana Conference of 1946 was one such event that brought together the American mafia, the Jewish criminal syndicate and leaders of Cosa Nostra in Havana. Allegedly organized by Charles “Lucky” Luciano to discuss political issues, rules of conduct and business interests, the conference was attended by delegations of mafioso families from the US.
Among the Hotel Nacional’s most celebrated guests have been figures from the worlds of art and literature such as Johnny Weissmüller, Buster Keaton, José Mojica, Jorge Negrete, Agustín Lara, Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra, María Félix, Tyrone Power, Rómulo Gallegos, Errol Flynn, Marlon Brando and Nobel Literature Prize winner Ernest Hemingway.
Considered a national symbol of Cuba for its architectural, historic and cultural importance, the hotel was declared a national monument in 1998. In 2010 it was registered with UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme by the Cuban National UNESCO Commission.
The hotel has also received numerous national and international awards for the proven quality of its services, the most recent being the 2017 World Travel Award, known as the global hotel industry’s “Oscar”.
Executive service A personalized service, with a private reception desk and breakfast room on the sixth floor for guests requesting the service. Tailored service and two dedicated meeting rooms. All hotel suites include executive service.
La Barraca In the gardens of the hotel with genuinely Cuban decor and atmosphere, La Barraca is an open-air grill offering delicious authentic Cuban cuisine.
Bar Churchill Former British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill stayed at the hotel in 1946 and this bar was named in his honour. Here guests can enjoy Cuban cigars alongside a wide national and international drinks selection.
Salón 1930 The hotel’s largest function room with a 400-person capacity is sometimes also known as the Salón Compay Segundo, since the quintessential Cuban musician used to perform here regularly alongside other members of the Buena Vista Social Club. Several times a week the Salón 1930 hosts dinner concerts with the best of traditional Cuban music performed by authentic groups and special guests from the Buena Vista Social Club.
Cabaret Parisién Considered one of Havana’s most select and elegant venues, the cabaret’s nightly Cuban show blends the nation’s cultural roots fusing Spanish and African dance and music with Latin and Caribbean rhythms.
Other services The hotel boasts ten elegant and multifunctional meeting rooms which can be set up as theatres or lecture rooms as well as to host gala dinners, cocktail parties and more, to meet the client’s needs. Capacities from 12 to 400 people.