When Hemingway’s Heart Was in Havana

Visit the writer's home and make tipsy memories in his favourite bars in the Cuban capital.  
Ernest Hemingway 1
Hemingway’s Havana home ‘Finca Vigia’ is now open to travellers who wish to see his bookshelves, eye his vinyl records—and his gin collection. Photo by: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.P./Dinodia Photo Library (Ernest Hemingway), Noriokanisawa/iStock /Getty Images Plus/Getty Images (background)

Once you’ve grooved to all the salsa tunes the city croons; when the old town’s plazas and cathedrals have been visited; when you’ve watched lovers and fishermen at the Malecón, turn your eye to Ernest Hemingway’s Havana.

After moving to Cuba in 1939, he and his wife set up home 13 kilometres southeast of Havana’s old town, and called it Finca Vigia. It was here that Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream. Today, travellers who wish to see his bookshelves, eye his vinyl records—and his gin collection—can take a tour of the home. His boat, El Pilar, too stands in the grounds.

Ernest Hemingway

The walls of La Bodeguita del Medio, Ernest Hemingway’s beloved haunt in Havana, carry autographs of Fidel Castro, Nat King Cole, and Harry Belafonte. Photo by: Lucas Vallecillos/agefotostock/dinodia photo library

Back in Havana, there’s no better homage to the writer than to make your days and nights as boozy as you can. Start with La Bodeguita del Medio, and watch the bartenders mix rows and rows of mojitos. Hemingway’s motto—“My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita”—lie lovingly framed above the bar. The latter has set its love for the man in bronze. Enter El Floridita bar and you’ll see Hemingway’s life-size statue standing in his favourite corner, looking approvingly at crowds downing daiquiris.

Lastly, pop by at Hotel Ambos Mundos, the art deco structure at the heart of Habana Vieja (old town). Room 511 is left the way Hemingway last left it, his typewriter and Louis Vuitton case untouched. His size 11 shoes are in there too, along with artworks gifted to him by Pablo Picasso.

  • Kareena Gianani is Senior Associate Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She loves stumbling upon hole-in-the-wall bookshops, old towns and collecting owl souvenirs in all shapes and sizes.

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