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Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana

Explorer Lucas Raven on Havana’s best hotel

Occupying an entire city block (a manzana in Spanish) the white, columned Kempinski competes with a quartet of architectural beauties on Havana’s skyline. It’s directly opposite the towering 1927 Museum of Fine Arts hanging a collection of Canaletto, Gainsborough, and classical world sculptures, whose facade of carved coats of arms, cherubs and scrolls can be ogled in the golden light of the afternoon sun from the rooftop pool.

Also facing the adjacent Central Park are the baroque trumpet-holding angels of the marble-and-frescoed Grand Theater; the Hotel Inglaterra, due to open as a Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel in 2019; and the neoclassical Capitol building, soon to reopen as Cuba’s seat of parliament. Billed as Havana’s ‘first true five-star luxury hotel’, there’s certainly plenty of sparkle, from chandeliers and mirror-tiled columns in the lobby right up to the rooftop infinity pool’s glittery tiles that catch the sun. Interiors are elegant, with whites, silvers and greys livened up with touches of colour, mainly pink. Given Havana’s famous imagery and architecture, it would have been good to see more of a local influence and personality. There’s a cigar lounge, of course, and a few pictures featuring Havana iconography (cars, cigars…) but, otherwise, you could easily be in Hollywood movie scene.

The entrance diagonally faces Hemingway’s haunt, El Floridita, a short walk from the museums, galleries, and shops of lively Unesco-blessed Old Havana. There are eight room categories across four middle floors ranging from the Patio room with interior views of the new shopping mall, right up to the price-on-application Presidential suite.

The 6.5m-high ceilings of the majority of rooms creates a luxury feel beyond the fabrics and accents in bright palettes of pop-pink, silver and white, Caribbean sea-blue and dove grey. Rooms feature a mix of Swiss, German and Cuban furniture, flat screen TVs, master lighting controls, top-notch lightproof curtains, smart marble bathrooms with mod-cons, Bose speakers, and a bathroom speaker to ensure no TV or music is missed while you bathe.

Confluencias restaurant, where breakfast is served, has window tables looking out over Parque Central and an extensive buffet, including legs of Serrano ham, Parmesan wheels, hot dishes, pastries and bottles of champagne.

Up on the top floor, there’s casual food, like pizzas, at El Surtidor Pool Terrace and Bar and a more refined, seafood-heavy menu at San Cristóbal Panoramic Restaurant, from lobster ceviche to sizeable chunks of snapper and corvina – elegantly plated and delicious, it’s a match for one of the finest views in the city.

Their glorious suites will take your breath away. Spacious. High-ceilings, well-lit and views designed for movie stars. Sip your breakfast tea while looking at the vastness of the Cuban capital as the colorful vintage Cadillacs and Chevys play eye candy with your morning rituals. The sheets were crisp, the bathrooms are fabulous—you can dance in them—and tubs are top notch. I enjoyed several more louvred windows (with maximum sound-proofing) than less expensive rooms and come with balconies with fantastic views, walk-in closets, Jacuzzi baths and British-based Elemental Herbology products.

A sanctuary where you can invest some quality time after a long day of sun and sightseeing. I highly recommend this property. Not a single visitor will forget the amazing view from the rooftop terrace. Do Not miss the sunsets, when the city becomes an immense garden of lights.

You can thank me later.

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