This may be the best hotel in Havana to really experience the Old Havana flavour. Yes, the breakfast was poor, the plumbing bad and the service "different" from what I expect from top hotels around the world, but the same can be said for the other 20 plus hotels I've stayed in all over Cuba. One year ago we stayed in a "modern Hotel" out in Vedado and guess what? Poor breakfast, plumbing and "different" service was there as well. If you want everything to be like home, stay home!! If you want to experience old Havana, stay at the Raquel and wander the exotic streets of the old town. Rant over, back to the review.
The location of this hotel is among the best in Havana. Just two blocks from the Plaza San Francisco, one block from Plaza Vieja and an easy stroll to the Plaza des Armes to watch the tours come in from Veradero to gawk at the buildings and try not to touch anything (the CIA says you can catch anything from mild socialist idealism to full blown terrorist fanaticism just from sniffing the air here!!) I highly recommend a walk through the nieghbourhood at night. The lighting on the hotel and on the buildings in the plazas just has to be seen. Also the restoration work on the buildings (sponsored by UNESCO) is proceeding at a great rate. We were surprised by the changes in just one year.
If you are a light sleeper, try one of the rooms on the back of the hotel. They have no outside windows and are very quiet (and dark). Rooms on the front are slightly noisier, but you are within the pedestrian area, so there's not much noise other than the odd motorcycle and rooster. Don't miss the rooftop patio. You can enjoy the sun, a drink and a nice view of the old Havana skyline.
I should try to explain the Cuban concept of service. There's no bowing or scraping that seems to be expected at most high end hotels these days, but if they can provide a service to you, they go out of their way to help. The night before our departure I asked our doorman to arrange a taxi for 4:30 AM as we had an early flight. He confirmed that he had done this when we got back from dinner, no problem. When we came downstairs the next morning, there he was (now off duty is his street clothes) just waiting to help us. Yes, he was hoping for (and got) a tip, but more than that he wanted to be sure that we got what we had asked him for and that we were happy with the arrangements.
There were four of us in our party and we all agreed that the Hotel Raquel was a great Havana experience. The staff, the rooms and the location are all great. The food is even good for Cuba. If you want to experience Cuba as it was 60 years ago, this is about as close as you can get. Don't miss it, it won't last forever.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- I would emphasize that the services offered are FREE gym and sauna for guests staying at our hotel It is also good to note that hotel guests are entitled to free parking ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Raquel Hotel Havana