The Hotel Nacional de Cuba, with over seven decades of history, is regarded as a classic of tourism in the largest Antillean Island, thanks to its privileged location, overlooking Havana's Malecón (seawall).
Own by Grupo Gran Caribe, Cuba's flag hotel and a National Monument was declared Humankind's Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1982.
In addition, the Hotel Nacional is among the world's top ten Palace Hotels, and it was the only five-star hotel from the 1930s to the 1950s in the Caribbean.
Located in the coastal area of Punta Brava, on Taganana hill, near the end of San Lazaro's cove, the hotel sits on the area where the Santa Clara Battery, which was part of the city's defense system and of which some vestiges remain today, stood in the 18th century.
Guests are captivated by the garden's galleries, which are reminiscent of monastic cloisters with Spanish-Moorish arches, while the ground floor resembles three parallel naves of a medieval church.
Painstaking restoration works in the 1990s brought back details that had been lost with the passage of time, respecting the peculiarities of the building's eclectic architecture, which includes art deco, Roman traditions and styles brought to Cuba by Spanish artisans during colonial times.
However, the hotel's major attraction is the history inside its walls, silent witnesses during the past seven decades of visits by the most diverse personalities, from political leaders to artists, athletes and ill-famous bosses of the US mafia.
Many personalities of Mexican cinema, such as Mario Moreno (Cantinflas), Pedro Vargas, Tin Tan and María Félix, left their imprint in the hotel's 457 rooms, including 15 suites and a presidential suite, and evidence of their stay can be seen today in a photo exhibit at the "Gallery of the Gulf".
Among the divas who once walked along the halls of the Hotel Nacional were Libertad Lamarque, Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner, and more recently the super models Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.
The still active presidential suite has welcomed political leaders such as Sir Winston Churchill, then prime minister of Great Britain, the kings of Belgium and several heads of state who have visited the largest Antillean Island.
An obliged point of reference for international tourism and show business until the 1950s, the Hotel Nacional also welcomed famous US swimmer Johnny Weismuller, professional boxing legend Rocky Marciano and eminent scientists like Alexander Fleming, who discovered the penicillin.
The creation of the "Cinema Nook", coinciding with the annual holding of Havana's International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, provides additional attractions to the majestic hotel, since it allows guests and visitors to enjoy major movies, along with a varied gastronomical offer.