Situated on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Malecón, this neoclassical, neocolonial art deco hotel is splendid and described by most as Havana’s most majestic and elegant hotel. Built in 1930, Hotel Nacional has international class and plenty of character. It immediately became the choice among the Hollywood stars and Mafiosi that in December 1946, it hosted the world’s largest Mafia conference disguised as Frank Sinatra concert!
In 1933, this hotel is a scene of heavy fighting and one unusual feature of the hotel garden is the anti aircraft defences constructed during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a strategic place in the defence of the city.
I stayed in Room 543 (easy number to remember) and was given a document to certify it! Immediately during the first day, at 10:00 in the morning, I asked the reception for the hotel tour that is given without charge to the hotel guests. My guide was Stella, a retired history professor from the Universidad de la Habana. Not only is she so knowledgeable in her area of expertise, she is also a friend of Fidel Castro and met Che Guevara in person, who told her that he didn’t have any coffee to offer her. So Che asked her if tea would be fine and she answered, as she described it, with the most idiotic face! But nevertheless, Che made her tea.
The garden bar is my most favourite spot. I enjoyed sitting lazily on the comfortable sofas for coffee in the afternoons and sitting by The Compass Card facing the Malecón during the late nights for a cold Mojito or icy Daiquri.
In addition, the ghosts of Winston Churchill, John Weissmuller, Fred Alistair, Nat King Cole, Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner and many others make it a more fascinating and unforgettable place to experience Havana.
(The featured photo was taken at around 1 am at the hotel lobby. Otherwise, the hotel would be full of tourists wanting to see the hotel’s history.)