Hidden Gems of Havana - 3/5 series

This is part three of five in my "do not miss" recommendation series of hidden gems of Havana for when you are ready to experience the magic of my city.   

Barrio Colon

Colon is the last of the areas of Centro Habana that I am inviting you to explore.  

Also, anchored by the Malecon on its northern boundary, it goes south to Zanja where it turns into Barrio Chino.  In years past this was the biggest "red light district" in Havana. The housing stock in the area is not as grand as in Cayo Hueso, and it is difficult to navigate at times because it does not follow a perfect grid pattern. BUT, this is the most iconic stretch of the Malecon.  The buildings facing the Malecon are under renovation both by the government and local entrepreneurs, and a luxury hotel will be opening at some point in 2018(most likely 2019), on the corner of San Lazaro and Paseo Marti - commonly known as Paseo del Prado.  

One thing that I particularly like about the area is an intangible, that in Cuba, you cannot take for granted.  For the most part, the area does not have any issues with water shortages or the power supply.  Which, is a good thing for the patrons and owners of the B&Bs and paladars in this area.  

One of those places is Casa Abel, (San Lazaro # 319).  Casa Abel is both a restaurant and a cigar lounge.  Probably the best private cigar lounge in the country.  But most people go for the food. In fact, I would say that most people stumble into the place by chance.  Located on the second floor of a building, on a route that most take just to get to El Prado when the Malecon is rough or congested.  The restaurant is beautiful, and the prices are pocket-friendly.  I don't think it is a stretch to say that as the area develops this will be a hard-to-get-into place. So try it while you can.

Lastly, also on San Lazaro Street, you will find the gallery & workshop Babalu-Aye (the name in Santeria of Saint Lazarus).  It represents several artists and has the studio of artist Ludmila Lopez, who focuses primarily on printmaking and engraving.  Hers is serious art that at times takes a fun twist. For example, Liudmila's work uses women shoes as a recurrent theme and years ago produced a "bicy-taxi" in the shape of a red slipper.  But make no mistakes, she is no Cinderella.   Her work has been exhibited at galleries in Cuba, Spain, Austria and the United States among others.  Enjoy exploring this eclectic area of Havana.