Havana has a very large indoor craft market in an old warehouse. There were aisles and aisles of paintings, jewelry and other local handicrafts.
What to buy: I found a nice little Nativity set and some beautiful earrings.
What to pay: It varies, but prices were reasonable--and negotiable
What to buy:
If you have a chance be sure to purchase your Havana Club rum. Buy the silver(clear) kind if you plan on making your own mojitos when you get home. If you are buying the dark rum splurge and buy the 7 year one.
What to pay: Cheap, cheap, cheap! Anywhere from 3 U.S. dollars for a small bottle to 15.00 U.S. for the 7 year rum.
The Cohíba cigars of Cuba are known to be one of the finest in the world. It is carefully produced using a unique fermentation technique that is only known by the original makers in Cuba. The Cohíba brand is well-regarded in elite global circles and the international jet-set crowd. It is the preferred cigar of Fidel Castro & his inner political circle. It seems like Fidel Castro made this brand of cigar famous among many global political players (e.g., presidents, etc.). This particular cigar developed some type of international following and a special "cult" status among elite power brokers.
Definitely buy some if you are ever in Cuba. They make GREAT gifts, and the person you give it to will most certainly be pleased. It's an honor to be given a Cuban Cohíba. Although I don't smoke, I'm glad I kept one for myself as part of my souvenir collection and gave the rest away to happy recipients. :-) By the way, Cohíbas are available exclusively at select government-sponsored retailers and at government-approved boutiques/shops of upscale hotels in Cuba.
The picture I've taken is from the La Línea 1492 Series: Siglo II - 5 1/8" x 42 (130 x 16.67 mm), Mareva, a petit corona
[Technical info of Cohíba product line from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cohiba_(cigar_brand)]
Note: Don't go for those pseudo Dominican ones--taste and quality are most definitely NOT the same.
The world-renowned rums of Cuba cannot be bypassed. The rums have a distinct taste and rich flavor to it, and therefore make a great drink on its own or an essential ingredient of cocktail drinks such as a Cuba Libre or a mojito, among others. The most well regarded Cuban rum happens to be the Havana Club brand, and they are truly smooth/fine & clean tasting. Definitely buy a few to take home for your own use or for gifts. They are available at fine Cuban hotel shops/boutiques.
This old-world style perfume boutique and aromatherapy shop in the heart of old Havana is an excellent shopping destination for those one-of-a-kind gift for yourself, your loved ones and friends back home. It personalizes scents according to body type and chemistry as well as according to your own preferences. The packaging is elaborate and can be in bottles and ceramics encased in their organic cloth wrap. Some of the scents offered are: violet, lavender, jasmine, patchouli, etc. The store has a wonderful museum and old-world feel. Definitely visit this truly unique shop when you are in the area.
What to buy: Custom-made perfumes
One of the stops on our tour was to a cigar store ROMEO Y JULIETA. After most of us piled into the small store it got pretty crowded. They did quite a nice business from our group as some bought boxes of cigars and some bought many bottles of Havana Rum.
Romeo Y Julieta is a premium brand of cigar and is produced on the island of Cuba for Habanos SA, the Cuban state-owned tobacco company. The brand is exceptionally popular around the world. Sir Winston Churchill was perhaps its most famous devotee.
Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday - Friday
What to buy: Premium brand cigars and Havana rum
An outdoor arts and crafts market FERIA DE LOS ARTESANOS is located close to the Plaza de la Catedral. After we had lunch, our tour guide gave us about an hour of free time, so many of us snooped at the market.
Some beautiful original paintings depicting Havana images and old American cars, were on display here, for a very reasonable price - from small paintings which is easy to bring home to some very large ones.
Also some beautifully made cigar boxes could be bought here as well as the popular Che Guevara t-shirts.
What to pay: Don't always pay what they first ask for. Haggle for a better price
The local Artesian MArkets near the Plaza De Armeas sell an assortment of local crafts, hand painted canvas's cuban cigars (probably fakes). A good place to pick up a bargain but be prepared to haggle.
What to buy: handmade crafts, clothing, canvases, jewellry
What to pay: bargain prices
What to buy:
when buying rum it's best to buy in Havana itself, not at the airport. It's also worth shopping around, prices vary slightly between shops. In the historic centre try the bottle shop within the Arab House, green building. It is also a great place to eat something different from pork and chicken, if you like arab food.
What to pay: rum costs between 5 and 10 cuban convertible pesos depending on the age of the rum. 3 to 5 year old rums for mixing with soft drinks and the 7 year old for sipping on its own.
Sun screen in the shops is oil..which is not strong enought to protect you from the scoarching summer sun..we had major problems trying to get sun tan lotion of a high factor in the shops there.
What to buy: remember to bring high sun tan oil factors 20 -30 factor as you may struggle to find the lotion over there in the shops.
What to pay: expensive
What to buy: You'll find this brand all at the shops in different flavours and sizes. This 1 litre box was purchased at an international shop in Japan, and was quite inexpensive considering that imported foods are usually expensive! I was so surprised to see that Cuban-exported goods!
Paintings are for sale all around Havana. Some of them are the typical touristic souvenir. But you also find serious places which offer nice painting at affordable prices. We got in love with a picture, but havent enough money with us and we couldnt get time to buy it next day... and we regreted to have missed the opportunity. Here is a list of galleries, although I am sure there are more:
Centro Wilfredo Lam: S Ignacio 22 esq. Empedrado; Mon-Sat 10am-5pm. Temporary exhibits with contemporary art from the 3rd World.
Galeria UNEAC: C/17 esq. H, Vedado; Mon.-Fri. 9am-5pm. Exhibits by the best contemporary Cuban artists.
Galeria Forma: C/Obispo #255 e/ Cuba y Aguiar; Mon-Sat 10 am-4 pm. Small-format sculptures by prominent Cuban artists. Also painting.
Galeria Habana: C/Linea e/ E y F, Vedado; Mon.-Sat. 10am-4 pm. Paintings, silkscreen prints, and drawings by young Cuban artists.
Galeria La Acacia:C/San Jose 114 esq. Consulado y Industria, Centro; Mon.-Sat. 10am-4 pm. Fine collection of antiques and works by great masters of Cuban plastic arts.
Galeria Victor Manuel:Pza Catedral; Mon-Sat 10am-4 pm. Cuban landscapes, pottery, and applied arts.
Galeria Pza Vieja: C/Muralla No.t07, esq. San Ignacio, Habana Vieja; Mon-Fr 10am-4 pm Specializes in Afro-Cuban influences in the works of celebrities like Manuel Mnedive, Zaida del Rio, and Armando Laminaga.
Taller Experimental de la Grafica: Callejon del Chorro, Plaza de la Catedral; Mon-Sat 10am-4 pm. Traces the history of engraving. Exclusive pieces for sale.
Galeria Horacio Ruiz: C/Tacon No.4, esq. Empedrado; Mon-Sat 10am-4 pm. Leather, metal, glass, papier-mache...
Galeria Haydee Santamaria: 3ra y 5ta, Vedado; Mon-Sat 10am-5 pm. Graphics, prints, drawings, and photography from throughout the Americas.
Galeria Francisco Javier Baez: Pza de la Catedral; Mon-Sat 10 am-4 pm.
Galeria Roberto Diago: Muralla 107 esq. San Ignacio. Habana Vieja; Mon-Sat 10am-4 pm. Permanent exhibits of primitive artists.
What to buy: Fine Caribbean paintings
Preciosos cuadros caribenhos
What to pay: Touristic souvenir-like stuff, from 20$, more serious paintings from 80$
Cuadros en plan souvenir, desde 20$, pintura mas seria desde 80$
Cuban rum, cigars and coffee probably are some of the most attractive items for visitors and you can get them all in one place, at la Casa del ron y del tabaco cubano. Just to give you an idea, a bottle of 7-year-old Havana Club sells for about 11 CUC (you'd have to pay about $30 in Canada). Cigars are pretty expensive but apparently that's the price to pay to get the real deal. And if, like me, you can't get enough of the strong, sugary taste of Cuban coffee, you won't want to leave the country without a couple pounds of the good stuff!
What to buy: Rum and coffee for sure, and cigars make nice gifts for folks back home
What to pay: Cigars: quite expensive
Coffee: about average
Rum: very cheap
No matter what kind of souvenir you're looking for, from original paintings to hand-made cigar cases and Che Guevara t-shirts, chances are you'll find it at this huge outdoor arts & crafts display located just a few steps away from the Plaza de la Catedral. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were far from trying to rip off tourists - everything sells at a pretty good price and there's no need to bargain, a simple hesitation is usually sufficient to make the original price drop down to a couple CUC. And even if you're not planning on buying anything, it's still fun to walk around the crowded stands!
What to buy: I got a lovely hand-painted sketch of La Bodeguita del Medio for only 1 CUC
What to pay: Not too much, less than in any other souvenir shop
If you are going to Varadero after Havana, exchange your money in Havana! In Havana we found the same rate at the exchange in Old Havana as what the hotel was offering, which was much better than we got anywhere in Varadero!
What to pay: in Dec 2005 we got 76 CUC for $1Cdn in Havana.