This is the question on (almost) everyone's mind when they go to Havana: Where are the best places to dance? It's not that easy to figure out once you get there - especially as a first-time visitor.
Don't worry! I've just come back from two extended dance trips to Havana and figured out the new schedule (a lot has changed, even in just the past year so it's always good to ask even if you've been to Cuba before).
Here's the general schedule. I've included the name of the venue, whether there is a DJ or live music, the location or neighborhood, and the cover charge. Most venues get going between 10 and 11 pm, unless I state otherwise.
Mondays and Wednesdays: Bulebar 66 (DJ), on San Rafael right near El Prado, this popular salsa night is run by my favorite dance school Casa del Son at a bar conveniently located on a busy pedestrian boulevard. 5 cuc cover.
Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays: 1830 AKA Mil Ocho (DJ + dance performances), on Malecon in Vedado, this iconic outdoor venue closed for over 6 months and is just now reopening! This is a must-see/must-dance :) Good to arrive closer to 9:30/10 to make the most of the night. 5 cuc cover.
Friday: Industria 8 (DJ), in Centro at Industria and San Lazaro, another salsa night organized by Casa del Son in a basement bar with a nice dance floor. 5 cuc cover.
Any night: Hotel Inglaterra rooftop, on El Prado. Live bands every night and no cover attract a mixed crowd of tourists and local dancers enjoying the view of Parque Central in Vieja. It starts and ends early, around 9-midnight, so get there a bit earlier if you want a table to park your bags (keep an eye on them!) and take a seat to rest. Great place to start the night! No cover.
Any night: Salsahabana (DJ), in Vieja on Villegas and Muralla. This is a somewhat new addition to the nightly salsa route, so I'm not as familiar with which nights are best, but it seems to be the go-to early-after-party spot, especially after Inglaterra which ends around midnight.
If you've been dancing in Havana before, you'll notice that there are some spots missing, notably:
Hotel Florida (closed permanently) - this salon was one of my favorite places to dance in Havana for years, but it's closed now (not the hotel, but the salsa nights).
Cafe Cantante (closed for renovations) - another one of my favorites for live music and dancing (I used to see El Noro there weekly before he got really big!). Closed for renovations right now.
Now, of course, there's more dancing to be had! I would definitely recommend mixing it up with some live concerts as well. Check out the schedules at the following venues each week. Note that it's best to call or stop by the day of to confirm if possible.
Casa de la Musica (Miramar) - this legendary location offers matinee and evening shows every day. When they're not on tour, beloved acts like Maykel Blanco and Havana d' Primera play regular weekly concerts - these are don't-miss shows for sure! Note that it is usually crowded and there is no real dance floor, so go early for a table or mueve la cintura up near the stage.
Casa de la Musica (Galiano) - even BETTER than Miramar because of its convenient location in Centro AND its gorgeous dancefloor. The last time I was in Havana, Pupy y Los Que Son Son had a standing matinee gig on Wednesdays. Agua!!!
Habana Cafe at Meliá Cohíba Hoteland Salon Rojo at Hotel Capri - these live music venues tend to be a bit more touristy because of the prices, but I've seen some great shows here. Best to go with other dance students or teachers to see a favorite act to get the best vibe.
Mil Ocho (Fridays and Saturdays) - I believe with the reopening that they will continue live bands here. I saw Los Van Van and Pupy at this venue and they were some of the best, most memorable concerts of my time in Havana!
Salón Rosado de la Tropical Benny Moré - outdoor venue popular with music and dance festivals.
Don Cangrejo - outdoor venue
You can find the exact addresses in your offline map or in your guidebook, and you can also ask your casa host, the concierge at a hotel, or taxi drivers – these are all well-known spots that people can direct you to easily. Casa de la Musica posts their weekly schedules on the door on Mondays.
Bonus tip: New events are always popping up, so the longer you stay, the more you'll hear about - but definitely be pro-active and ask your salsa teachers and other dancers for the latest news! There are a TON of other venues and you'll need to depend on word of mouth to find about who's playing where and when.
Rest assured, if you're only in Havana for a week to dance, you can follow the schedule above and you will have a blast!
PS: If you're still in the dreaming and planning stages for your trip, check out my other posts on (travel tips for Americans) + (salsa dancing essentials in Havana) + (how to dance your way through Havana).