Previously on the blog, I provided some reasons why Cuba should be considered as the perfect summer destination. This time around, the focus is on Cuba’s Art Deco region and why it’s worth exploring. If you are a fan of 1930s and 1940s architecture, look no further than Havana. It is one of the few cities in the world that houses a large concentration of Art Deco structures, and here are some attractions the city has to offer.
1. Stay at the Hotel Nacional
If you have the financial clout to stay in some fancy accommodation, a room at the Hotel Nacional is your best choice. Famous personalities such as Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra have stayed at this hotel. Not only is it a luxury hotel with 450 rooms, it has a good reputation, and idyllic views of the Cuban sea; its structure is also an Art Deco marvel. Its period design is easily identifiable by its clean, straight lines on the exterior. Remarkably, its interior influences are more on the contemporary side, making the hotel a perfect blend of the past and present.
2. See the towering Bacardi Building
The Bacardi Building may be the most notable Art Deco structure in Havana. Formerly the headquarters of the Bacardi Rum empire, this 12-storey building boasts geometric flourishes on balconies and shop facades, plus the iconic bronze bat motif of Bacardi at the top. It is located in Old Havana, on the west side of the historic city center.
The interiors are an amazing feat as well. Visitors can enjoy some of the best cocktails in town at the former Bacardi Café Bar, which was recently reopened to the public. You can also climb to the top of the building to witness scenic views of the city.
3. Ride vintage American cars
Visitors can find many vintage American cars on the streets of Havana: Buicks, Pontiacs, Dodges, Chevrolets, and more. They are perfectly restored and are usually seen near hotels and in major plazas like José Martí Revolution Square. If you want to go back in time for a short while, you can even rent a vintage car for an hour to cruise around the city.
4. Visit Art Deco theatres
Some of Havana’s theaters and cinemas are fine examples of the Art Deco movement. The Teatro America for instance, features symmetrical designs and elegant forms, while its interiors curve sharply as a contrast. While the building itself has slowly decayed since its opening in 1941, it still remains splendid in appearance.
The Teatro Sierra Maestra is also worth a visit. Its exteriors may feature typical Art Deco elements, but it’s the interiors that truly make the landmark one of a kind. Inside, you can find Mayan-inspired sculptures and tropical murals. There are also Mayan face masks lining the walls of the auditorium. The place is a testament to how two contrasting styles can exist harmoniously.
5. Enjoy everything with peace of mind
The best thing about Havana is that it is a beautiful and relatively safe city for a travel destination. You can go on solo tours safe in the knowledge that things like firearms are banned. Tourist centres are also heavily guarded by police and surveillance. This is not to say that Havana is devoid of crimes, but remember to take precautions such as not stumbling into suspicious areas.
As mentioned earlier, Havana is just one of the few areas with existing Art Deco architecture. If you want to appreciate more Art Deco pieces, you can visit Napier, New Zealand or Miami, Florida, USA.
After an earthquake wrecked the whole town and provided architects an opportunity to start over, Napier has become the Art Deco Capital of the world. The city was rebuilt in less than six years, and now, there are about 140 Art Deco buildings still intact. One of the noteworthy landmarks is the iconic T&G Building, with its cupola and clock tower that stand out in the city skyline.
Even with Napier’s many Art Deco buildings, however, Miami still holds the title as the city with the most number of Art Deco structures. South Beach, Miami is home to over 800 Art Deco structures, and the best ones are found in its Art Deco Historic District. They are all well-preserved thanks to the efforts of the Miami Design Preservation League.
If you’re a fan of the era and want to go on a world tour, these cities should be on your list. Havana, of course, is a decent city to start.