The historic heart of Havana, Cuba's major tourist destination, holds an invaluable treasure that is an excellent complement to the local leisure industry, which attracts thousands of foreign visitors every year.
Hundreds of buildings of several architectural styles, which show the development of Cuban society, make up one-of-a-kind patrimony that has favored the historic evolution of the city.
More than 30,000 buildings with those characteristics, including Spanish fortresses, churches, museums, tourist facilities and even schools, medical centers and hotels, can be found in an area of 240 hectares.
Tourist authorities' policy in Old Havana is aimed at restoring emblematic buildings and turning them into small hotels, where guests can be in direct contact with the noisy environment of the centuries-old city.
The new element in those establishments, run by the company Habaguanex S.A., is that the buildings were restored without changing their architectural style, and were equipped with modern technologies to meet the demands from foreign guests.
One of those establishments is the Hotel Raquel, which offers 25 comfortable double rooms, air conditioning and a luxury design. Rooms are distributed in three beautifully decorated floors.
According to experts, the hotel's Biblical name and some of its facilities – the Lejaim lobby-bar, the Jardín del Edén (Garden of Eden) restaurant and the Bezalel boutique – are an allegoric evocation of Hebrew culture in Cuba.
Another such establishment, the Hotel Los Frailes, presents a winning formula for vacationers, combining historic, cultural and tourist elements.
Designed as a medieval monastery, the hotel offers 22 air-conditioned rooms (including four minisuites) and a small bar-cafeteria that resembles an old-style tavern.
The hotel benefits from its location, near the so-called Plaza Vieja (Old Square), one of the first five squares built in the city and the former venue of the famous Mercado de la Reina Cristina (Queen Christine's Market).
The four-star Hotel Palacio O'Farrill offers 38 rooms – including 35 standard rooms and three junior suites – and facilities for leisure distributed in three floors, each of which is decorated according to a different century: the 18th century for the ground floor, the 19th century for the second floor, and the 20th century for the third floor.
The smallest establishment is the Hotel El Comendador, which is housed in the former mansion of Don Pedro Regalado Pedroso y Pedroso, former prefect of the Carlos III Order in Cuba.
The hotel offers 14 comfortable rooms (suites, and single and double rooms), where the Spanish-colonial style is combined with modern amenities (air conditioning, safety deposit box).
Another select establishment is the Hotel Palacio de San Miguel, an attractive option for those looking for culture and intimacy.
The hotel is just a few meters from the sea, overlooking an urban landscape that includes the colonial fortresses that made up the city's former defense system and a crafts market.