The best gay-friendly places in Havana

Humboldt 52
Opened in May 2013, the hot staff, comfortable setting, and welcoming vibe at this, Havana’s first full-time, openly-gay bar, make for a fun night out, regardless of orientation. There’s plenty of seating, big screen TVs showing music videos (Cuban artists are well-represented), and don’t be surprised if you find the decent-sized dance floor swirling with men dancing some serious salsa. Of course, like most gay bars globally, there’s also a disco ball and ‘back room’—though this one is for smoking, not other, more libidinous, activities. A talented opera duo perform Wednesdays; other days you’ll find karaoke and drag performances.
Humboldt #52, e/ Infanta y Hospital, Centro Habana. Tel: (+53) 5-330-2989; open daily 8pm-4am.

Cabaret Las Vegas
This state-run joint is a bit scrappy, but has long been a gay hangout and the stomping grounds of Divino, one of Cuba’s most accomplished drag acts. In the great tradition of queer dives everywhere, this place is dark and smoky, which keeps many people away. However, the show (11pm) is worth catching and it’s just a hop, skip from Humboldt 52, so you can shuttle between the two easily.
Infanta #104, e/ 25 y 27, Vedado. Tel: (+53) 7-870-7939; open daily 10pm-4am.

Cine Club Diferente
A monthly happening at Cine 23 y 12, this is one of the biggest regular gatherings of LGBTI Cubans and friends. Hosted by noted film critic Frank Padrón, the cinema packs in folks eager to see movies tackling themes of sexual diversity—some quite polemic. Past screenings have included Outrage, Harvey Milk, and Verde Verde, the 2011 Cuban film which shows how far things have come since Fresa y Chocolate (and how far we still have to go). Stick around for the lively audience debate following.
Calle 23 e/ 10 y 12, Vedado; 2nd Tuesday of the month at 8pm.

Fashion Bar Havana
Cuba’s first (and only, to my knowledge) drag supper club/bar, the setting here is a superb example of queer class meets camp, accompanied by a fantastic floor show. The owner, known as Luisito, spent many years in Holland before returning to the island and knows how to show clients a frolicking good time. The staff are nothing short of gorgeous, especially when performing scantily clad, which happens after the 11pm drag show in a rare homoerotic dance spectacle.
Reservations recommended. San Juan de Dios, esq. a Aguacate, Habana Vieja; Tel: (+53) 7-867-1676; open Saturdays (hours to be extended soon) 9pm-4am.

Escaleras al Cielo
This disco is transformed into a hopping hot spot every Friday night when LGBTI Cuban youth and friends hit the big dance floor to get their groove on to a live DJ. There’s a disco ball, naturally, and a surprisingly sophisticated (for Cuba) laser light system. This is one of the few places I know of with pole dancing, replete with provocatively dressed performers—both men and women. Stairway to Heaven indeed.
Zulueta #660 e/ Apodaca y Gloria, Habana Vieja; Tel: (+53) 7-861-9198; open Fridays 10pm-3am.

Café Bar Madrigal
Feeling more like San Francisco than Havana thanks to its pop décor, fancy cocktails, and the staff’s (occasional) supercilious attitude, this second-floor hangout is a gathering spot for all types of folks, including gay men and women in the 25-45 range. What this place has going for it are the comfortable seating areas—I’m especially partial to the terrace balcony and the living room in the back—cool music, arty atmosphere, and yummy desserts. On the downside, the entire interior is brick so can be deafening when there’s a crowd.
Calle 17 #809, e/ 2 y 4, Vedado; Tel: (+53) 7-831-2433; open Tues-Sun 6pm-2am.

Café Fortuna
This wonderful, off-the-beaten path find is as cozy as a West Village flat, with the interior décor to match. There are ancient typewriters, radios, and other curios hanging from the walls, a bathtub for two (they lay a board across it for easy access to your cocktails), and an old American car for kicking back with a cappuccino. The seamless combination of comfortable and funky works well here, where you’ll find a very mixed, welcoming crowd. This is one of the few places in Havana where you can still smoke; there’s a full bar in addition to a wide variety of coffee specials well-made.
Avenida 3ra, esq. a 28, Miramar; open daily 8am-10pm.

Bar Bohemio
If there’s a more laidback, chill and tropical chic atmosphere in Havana, I’ve yet to find it. Owned by a pair of retired Danza Contemporánea de Cuba dancers, this bar/restaurant housed in a Vedado mansion epitomizes sophisticated casual, with its plant-filled wraparound terrace, warm lighting, and individual couches and seating areas. It is as comfortable for a first date as a regular tryst meet-up, testifying to its welcoming, inclusive feel.
Calle 21 #1065, e/ 12 y 14, Vedado; Tel: (+53) 7-833-6918; closed Mondays.


  • Starbien

    Starbien  LH 5+

    Located in a sleepy residential neighbourhood of Vedado in a two storey colonial house, Starbien has an update and modern feel, which seems a little out of sync with the neighbourhood. Upstairs there …

    Humboldt 52

    Humboldt 52  LH 5

    Opened in May 2013, the hot staff, comfortable setting, and welcoming vibe at this, Havana’s first full-time, openly-gay bar, make for a fun night out, regardless of orientation. There’s plenty of sea …

    TaBARish

    TaBARish  LH 5

    Best for:  A comfortable place to chat / hang out with your friends. Great service. Don’t Miss: The homemade Russian soup – just like Matushka makes it.

    La Zorra y el Cuervo

    La Zorra y el Cuervo  LH 5

    Probably the most well known venue for jazz in Havana, the ‘Fox & Crow’ offers an intimate environment in this basement venue notably marked by a red English telephone box at its entrance. Top jaz …

    El Cocinero

    El Cocinero  LH 5+

    El Cocinero opened in February 2013 and has instantly become a smash hit. Located underneath the imposing brick chimney of the same name (which used to be a vegetable oil factory), this bar/restaurant …

    Bertolt Brecht Café Teatro

    Bertolt Brecht Café Teatro  LH 5

    The Teatro Bertolt Brecht has a number of attractions including No Se Lo Digas a Nadie (Don’t tell anyone!) nights which features some of the best contemporary Cuban musicians in an MTV’s unplugged sc …

    Sangri-la

    Sangri-la  LH 5

    Sangri-La was the first in the new wave of bars to open in the summer of 2012 and is still going strong. This is located in the basement of a Miramar mansion up on 21st Avenue (&42nd street) which …

    La Fontana

    La Fontana  LH 5

    The basement bar at La Fontana used to offer a comfortable (albeit invariably smoky) place to drink the night away. In early 2012 ago this bar was closed and a major renovation undertaken, which has r …

    Casa Miglis

    Casa Miglis  LH 5

    Little is given away by the regular entrance, but as soon as you walk into the restaurant you get an idea why this took Mr Miglis over a year to renovate this building to fit his dream of opening Cuba …

    Parisién Cabaret

    Parisién Cabaret  LH 4

    The Parisién is located within the Hotel Nacional and benefits from the same rich history. The show is on a much smaller scale than the Tropicana with much fewer dancers, which makes it more intimate …

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