Cuba’s most famous hotel took advantage of the COVID pandemic to mount a major facelift. After 20 months of lockdown, the Hotel Nacional resurfaced in November with a restored facade, new floors, new windows and new attributes to its rich history.
Constructed in 1930 in art deco and neoclassical style, the eight-story, five-star hotel sits on a privileged location in the center of Havana. It offers a great view of Havana Harbor, the Malecon and the city. The Hotel stands out due to its refined elegance and its ancient splendor, now outfitted with brand new English china, clocks imported from Germany and chandeliers hanging from the ceilings.
As reported by Daily Mail, The Nacional has hosted Mafia dons, Hollywood celebrities and heads of state worldwide. This writer has stayed there on several occasions, met friends on the terrace, and enjoyed the best mojitos in Havana.
“A lot of work was done so that when the tourists returned, they would find the 1930s hotel, although with greater comfort… reliving the past,” said Arleen Ortiz, a specialist in the hotel’s history told to the Daily Mail.
In its 91 years, Havana’s majestic Hotel Nacional de Cuba has borne witness to some of the most significant events of Cuban history. During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, soldiers dug trenches and tunnels underneath the hotel grounds. It was once bombed as part of a conflict between rival units of Cuba’s military and was an important site of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In the days before the 1959 Cuban revolution, Havana was a major playground for Americans on vacation and Mafia dons. “Las Vegas didn’t exist, and Cuba was the perfect place for gambling due to its proximity to the United States, the climate, the beaches, the rum,” said Ortiz. Havana was ideally placed to become the gambling capital of the world. That era was captured in 1974 in Francis Ford Coppola’s film The Godfather II.
The hotel is taking reservations, and some guests request rooms where the rich and famous have stayed. The Hotel Nacional de Cuba has been declared a National Monument inscribed in the World Memory Register.