Havana, Cuba

A|S Boutique Residence

Price per night from$125.97

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (EUR130.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Living work of art

Setting

Haunt in old Havana

You’ve gotta hand it to Havana – even centuries of tumult, beautiful decay and a little-country-that-could feud with the US can’t hold it back. There’s light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel sparks everywhere, and an especially bright one is A|S Boutique Residence, the first hideaway of its kind in the city; more personalised, intimate and authentic than state-approved stays and more luxurious than bunking in a Habanero home. Set amid the intoxicating bustle of Old Havana, it’s awash with vintage romance, with an alluring European accent in its designer furnishings and finishing touches. Run by an accomplished creative twosome, artistry runs deep in its DNA, and its café, salon, gallery and roof terrace set the scene for cultural happenings of all kinds. Altogether, it’s an auspicious sign of things to come for Cuba’s dizzying capital.

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A welcome cocktail upon arrival

Facilities

Photos A|S Boutique Residence facilities

Need to know

Rooms

Six, including two suites.

Check–Out

11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.

Prices

Double rooms from £116.01 (€130).

More details

Rates usually include breakfast with rich Cuban coffee, fresh bread, fruit, juices, plus vegetarian and vegan or à la carte options. Guests also get a welcome drink and a free daily mojito or fruit rum shot at HAV or the Rooftop from 5 pm till 7 pm.

Also

The hotel has a stash of local Sim cards, if needed. And, if you’re joining the rooftop dance parties, you can choose from salsa or Rumba. Before you descend to your room after class, take a moment to look down from the top and appreciate the incredible restoration job the owners have carried out: notably the spiral staircase boxed in glass and elegant tiled walkways.

Please note

Despite political restrictions due to the American embargo on Cuba, it is fairly easy to travel to the country as an American providing there is an educational reason for travelling (an art tour, for example) or, when you are’ supporting the people’. Simply put, this means staying in privately owned hotels rather than those that are state owned. A|S Boutique Residence can organise all one day or multiple day tours with Old Timer cars and a driver, so no specialised travel agent is needed. 

At the hotel

Roof terrace with a plunge pool, salon, bikes to hire, 24-hour laundry service (€5 a piece), free WiFi. In rooms: Flatscreen TV; Bose Bluetooth speaker dock; fresh WiFi; minibar with a selection of organic treats, local and international wines, Cuban rum, replenished water with mint; Nespresso coffee machine and a selection of herbal teas; bathrobes; bespoke bath products made in Cuba; air-conditioning.

Our favourite rooms

The artist-and-fashion-designer and dancer-musician owners’ collective pedigree means rooms are immaculately styled, bringing together the Euro heritage of André Visser and Cuban flair from native Sandy Solano Diaz. Each room has a custom painting, Venetian glassware, industrial lighting and Mies Van Der Rohe Barcelona chairs; tasteful foils for the weathered wooden doors, Baroque detailing and patterned tiles of the original building. Rooms are similarly styled with lofty ceilings and mezzanine beds reached by a staircase, but the Royal Suite adds an extra layer of luxury with a separate lounge and private balcony.

Poolside

The sliver of rooftop pool is more of a stone tub in which two would be a crowd, but under the shade of a small palm, it still beckons coolly in the sultry heat.

Spa

Your hosts will happily oblige if you'd like a sun-kissed massage on the roof terrace (you'll have it all to yourself, obviously).

Packing tips

Havana’s streets are notoriously uneven, and it’s wise to do a quick scan for potholes while you’re strolling along, so bring comfortable shoes for pounding the – treacherous – pavements. And, bring some uncomfortable shoes for dancing in – flip-flops make even the most pelvic of movements look unsexily awkward.

Also

Most rooms aren't suitable for guests with mobility issues.The hotel has a stash of local Sim cards, if needed. And, if you’re joining the rooftop dance parties, you can choose from salsa or rumba.

Children

Art is welcome here, but finger-painting is frowned upon – this ravishingly romantic hideaway is for over-18s only.

Sustainability efforts

Ingredients in the café are locally sourced and the menu supports Cuban brands. Eco-friendly efforts include, turning lights and air-conditioning off when guests aren't in rooms, using LED lighting, sun-drying linens, controlling water waste and using energy-efficient boilers. And, the owners are strongly community minded, arranging the guest donation of an e-bike to their tour guide, giving clothing to a local convent and showcasing the work of native artists.

Food and Drink

Photos A|S Boutique Residence food and drink

Top Table

Sit by the windows. When the world goes by here, it goes all out. Or, get up on your feet and mingle – when events are held here revellers spill into the street outside.

Dress Code

The artist is present.

Hotel restaurant

Sway to soulful Cuban tunes, watch vintage Chevrolets and Chryslers – and ricketty horses and carts – rumble by, and befriend local creatives at HAV Coffee & Art café. Set on the ground floor of the hotel, it’s the place to be seen in the old town and follows the vintage-new, rough-smooth aesthetic, with a wall that acts as a stone canvas for coloured Venetian-glass vases and sprays of greenery; pretty colonial shutters and window guards; a glossy white-tiled bar; and stools that seem to be a few decades old. They’re very serious about their coffee here – largely because it’s strong enough to revive the dead, and if that doesn’t do the trick, a couple rum-heavy mojitos will – each cup comes with a double shot from single-origin beans. And to offset the jitters, they serve hearty, healthy and organic breakfasts, brunches and lunches (and dinners on demand), say granola with tropical fruits, chia crêpes, sandwiches stacked with hummus and veggies, refreshing gazpacho, citrusy ceviche, salads piled with jumbo prawns, pastas and Cuban flan made with condensed milk for dessert. Get creative with the hotel's exclusive art dinner concept, a guest-only dining experience in the gallery for two to 12 people (must be booked at least two days in advance). For €75 to 95​ a person, chefs will prepare a tasting menu of up to eight courses including avocado mousse, ceviche, gazpacho, seafood pasta, lobster, langoustines or tropical fish with coconut ice cream dessert – for a little extra they'll arrange live music for the occasion, too. As for the art: owner André Visser’s large-format paintings bring colourful arabesques to the walls, and there are revolving exhibitions by local and international artists who give boundaries a good nudge. And, it’s a crucible for all of the country’s creative passions, hosting dance performances, live music and fashion shows too.  

Hotel bar

Drinks both soft and hard are served in HAV Coffee & Art, but really, you want to be on the roof terrace, especially between 5pm and 7pm when the free mojitos and tropical fruit and rum shots do the rounds just in time for sunset. When you’ve drained your freebie, order up a signature Canchanchara, made with aguardiente (a strong anise-flavoured spirit), honey and lime. If coffee's your thing, the local Cuban beans are a must-try, but if it's spirits you're after, HAV also offers a rum-tasting experience; for €18​ a person, you can work your way through up to seven different varieties straight from a local wooden shot cup. It feels like a secretive spot in the city; sheltered by a neighbouring wall (which artist owner André Visser has given a colourful abstract makeover) and scattered with deckchairs, palms and cacti, it has a view out over the rooftops and relics of the old town.

Last orders

Breakfast is 8am till 11am, brunch from 11am till 2pm, lunch from 12 noon to 3pm, and afternoon tea from 3pm till 6pm. Dinner is only available on demand. On the roof terrace cocktails are mixed from 5pm to 9pm.

Room service

Dine in-room from the HAV café menu between 9am and 6pm, with an edited menu available from 6pm to 8am.

Location

Photos A|S Boutique Residence location
Address
A|S Boutique Residence
Jesus Maria, 258
Havana
Cuba

A|S Boutique Residence is in one of the oldest parts of Havana, on Jesús María Street, a backdrop of faded glamour where still noble houses painted in various hues are trussed up with decorative balconies.

Planes

José Martí international airport is just a 30-minute drive from the hotel. Flights arrive direct here from major cities in Europe and both Americas. The hotel offers an 'Old Timer' transfer service from the airport for €70 per person (maximum two people) and €40 per person on the way back. Alternatively, the hotel can help with hiring a yellow cab (which will cost around €30 one-way). Or, you can take the leisurely route with a two-hour tour of Havana (€80 a person for up to two guests).

Trains

There’s no Metro in Havana, but trains run the length of the island and terminate at the capital’s Grand Central Station, whose plateresque architecture lives up to its name, just a five-minute walk away from the hotel.

Automobiles

You’re at the heart of old Havana, where each turn reveals more Unesco-protected art deco and nouveau houses in varying states of decay; you’ll make more scenic discoveries on foot. For adventures further afield, taxis are easily hailed (although agree a price before you set off), and rickshaws and the cheery yellow Cocotaxis may not be the safest option, but they are fun for short jaunts. The hotel can even provide a private, two-hour Havana tour by car for €70 per driver. If you picture yourself riding around in one of Cuba’s classic vintage cars, think again – hire cars will be modern and it’s largely resident Habaneros who’ve put the time in restoring their beloved motors that you’ll see riding around in these beauties unless you have a tour booked. Driving is fairly safe and there’s free street parking outside the hotel, but be mindful that police can be overzealous in fining tourists for sometimes minor driving transgressions.

Worth getting out of bed for

If you pictured a Caribbean getaway where you lay on a beach and don't do a whole lot else, then think again. There are sublime stretches of shore out to the east of the island (Varadero is close enough for a day trip), but Havana is a dynamic cosmopolitan hub, where you should strap on your walking shoes and wander the streets. Old Havana is a beguiling temptress with a maze of gracefully ageing colonial, Baroque and Neoclassical townhouses  – that they still stand is a testament to the city’s fortitude – and arcade-ringed plazas (Plaza Vieja is one of the most recognisable for its rainbow edifices and Plaza de Armas is the oldest in the city). Amid shabbiness and splendour, spectacular historic monuments abound, say lavishly outfitted Havana Cathedral, the domed El Capitolio and the exceedingly grand former governor’s residence Palacio de los Capitanes Generales. Perhaps it's due to such an arresting backdrop, but the creative energy here is palpable – the Gran Teatro de La Habana has moving ballet showcases, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes will give you a good grounding in the country’s art scene with its entirely Cuban collection. Then head to Factoria Habana to see what’s inching towards the cutting edge these days and Raúl Corrales Galería for striking black-and-white revolutionary photography. And, Havana’s oldest building (built 1720) houses the Colonial Art Museum, which is small but engaging with furniture, carriages and decorative objets. Salsa bands get hips wiggling on smoky nights crowded into old-school mansion the Miramar Casas de la Música, and along the coast, the indoor Almacenes San José Artisans' Market verges on the touristy, but is worth exploring for vibrant artworks at reasonable prices (with some haggling). To the western side of the coast, you may need a taxi to reach it, but Fusterlandia, a daydreamy folk art installation that runs through a whole Jaimanitas neighbourhood (the work of artist José Fuster) is worth the 30-minute trip. The island’s dramatic past is very present too: the Granma Memorial honours the ship in which Fidel, Che and their band of revolutionaries infiltrated the island from Mexico, and the Museo de la Revolucion (1 Refugio Street) doesn’t sugarcoat the struggle, displaying bullet-riddled and blood-stained uniforms, weaponry, and more, which sit at odds in the jewellery box of an interior, designed by Tiffany & Co. To get a snap with the famous Che relief in the background, you’ll need to head further inland to Plaza de la Revolucion. After, you could swing by art deco landmark, the Bacardi Building, designed to be headquarters for the rum purveyors (a plan abandoned after the guerilla insurgency); or, go straight to the source: the Havana Club Rum Museum. The tour will guide you through the production process, and then you get to the good part: tastings and learning how to make a mojito, and even a quick dance lesson. As the daytime dwindles, head west to the Vedado neighbourhood for drinks at Fábrica de Arte Cubano, a neon-flecked gallery and club set in a former cooking-oil factory, or stock up on rum planchaos (a sort of rum juice box) and hang out with the locals singing, dancing and drinking along the coastal road the Malecón. If you want to get the lay of the land before you explore, the hotel hosts can help arrange a tour in a vintage Cabrio car. There’s plenty to do onsite too: admire the artwork in the gallery; join in sunrise and sunset yoga sessions and dance classes or dive into the hotel's movie programme in your room (after all, private businesses have no access to international TV satellites); and see what’s going on in HAV ​​café.

Local restaurants

Cuba’s dining scene hasn’t always had the best reputation – there was a time when what was available barely reflected the menu and what arrived might be barely edible, with the best food being served up in paladares (eateries set up in Cuban homes). But, as the country has opened up, its dining scene has had a glow up, and Havana’s become something of a culinary hub, with delights to be found from holes in the wall to haute cuisine. And, dining in Cuba is an exuberant experience – music pours forth from every doorway and terrace, and patrons provide animated chatter. Yarini Habana has a somewhat unlikely inspiration in turn-of-the-century pimp and Robin Hood figure Alberto Yarini. We’re not entirely sure what he has to do with the cuisine, but we can overlook that for zingy fish tartares, black-bean croquettes in a sweet potato sauce, pork-and-cheese empanadas and traditional Cuban stew tamal en cazuela. It’s set above Gorría art gallery, so attracts a creative crowd. Spread over a rooftop adorned with bold graffiti art, Jesús María 20 (just east of the hotel) is casually cool with a lengthy cocktail list and tacos and tapas to mop them up with, plus grilled lobster and fresh fish for the hungrier diner. Be sure to double down on the daiquiris. O’Reilly 304 also excels at seafood, especially its punchily flavoured ceviche. These are dishes to get dirty for, such as the ‘black pasta of the Caribbean’, a tangle of noodles from which emerge claws filled with delicate flesh, or the ‘pa, suck your fingers’: a tumble of saucy crustacea.

Local cafés

While some bars ride their reputation on Hemingway’s patronage, El Chanchullero proudly bears posters stating that he never visited. This is a decidedly local eatery and bar, with no airs or graces (or air-con, for that matter), but for very little money you can get a huge kebab or enchilada and something very potent to sip, and marinade in a sizzling ambience.

Local bars

When it comes to nights out, Cubans don’t really have another mode from ‘out out’. Which is unsurprising when you see how heavy-handed the bartenders are pouring shots of rum. Evenings are measured in Afro-jazz rhythms and you may well strike up a few conversations with locals curious about life off the island. If you pre-gamed and lined your stomach at O’Reilly 304, you just need to cross the street to its fraternal bar El Del Frente (‘the one in front’) to carry on the night. The mojitos and piña coladas come out on top here, but any rum-based drink will get you good and merry, and there’s gin-based libations, too; whichever you choose, they all come in generously sized goblets. They’re so good that barkeep Wilson has acquired a following. If you’re hoping for a Buena Vista Social Club feel, Bar Monserrate, with its dark wood, bow tie’d bar staff and superlative soundtrack will scratch that itch. And, it may be clichéd, but it seems requisite for first-timers to haunt Hemingway’s watering holes. To do it right, follow his instructions: ‘My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita’. Out of the two our preferred is the Bodeguita, because it still has a compact authentic feel, and here they’ll still let you scrawl on the walls; and because the Floridita (at the corner of calles Obispo and Monserrate) has an eerie bronze statue of the wayward writer propping up the bar. 

Reviews

Photos A|S Boutique Residence reviews

Anonymous review

Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this ‘I wish this was my home’ hotel in Habana vieja and unpacked their fat, fragrant Cohibas and bottle of custom scent from heritage perfumers Habana 1791, a full account of their salsa-tempo sojourn will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside A|S Boutique Residence in Cuba’s capital…

Havana is a curiosity. It’s been repressed – first by colonialism, then pirates, again in its thrall to mobsters in the Fifties, and then by the US’s trade embargo – yet it remains irrepressible; it’s held in stasis yet thunders into the future; and its revolutionary spirit still burns yet Cubans are as easygoing as they come. You only need spend an afternoon soaking up rum and funky Afro beats in one of its shabbily chic bars to see why. But all these contradictions have swirled into a potent mythology that proves intoxicating to creative sorts, who in turn reinvigorate its neighbourhoods. Such is the story of Dutch painter and fashion designer André Visser and Cuban dancer and musician Sandy Solano Diaz. The two met and fell in love while on creative missions in Moscow, then settled in Cuba where they’ve created A|S Boutique Residence – a hotel that differs wildly from the state-mandated stays and home shares the Cuba-curious have had to settle for before the country allowed co-operative investment for foreigners. They breathed life back into the crumbling 19th-century mansion, restoring its decorative tiled floors, intricate capital mouldings and columns, and Art Nouveau ironwork, hauling in 1970s green marble from Antigua and calling on local craftsmen to make tables and chairs. And they added some Euro flair: Mies Van der Rohe Barcelona chairs, industrial lighting and coloured Venetian glassware. Plus Visser produced bold abstract paintings to hang in each room. The finished product is sumptuously bohemian, both sleek and artfully dishevelled, vintage yet forward-thinking – a feel that carries down to the coffee shop and gallery on the ground floor which has struck a chord with Havana’s hipsters, with its fresh and pure menu, teeth-jittering coffee, live music, dance performances and rotating exhibitions. There’s a can’t-fake-it charm to the place bolstered by the seductively animated streets of Old Havana all around. Wake before sunrise for yoga on the roof terrace, explore Unesco-approved monuments and high-proof bars by day, then return for a salsa lesson, free mojito at sundown and perhaps some scintillating creative discourse. So while Havana’s psyche might remain as muddled as a mojito, this kind of visionary stay shows that it’s found its footing for careening into the future.

Price per night from $125.97

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