Ernest Hemingway was all over Cuba — exploring the countryside, living in its hotels, fishing and patrolling its waters, and drinking in it’s bars. Eventually he bought a house there and spent winters living on the island for several decades, and he was there when it was announced that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 for The Old Man and the Sea. In his expansive wake, he left behind artifacts and stories that Cubans fondly remember to this day. Cuba has always taken pride in becoming the second home of one of the United States’ most famous and legendary writers, and continues to preserve his many haunts in and around Havana, which receive frequent visits from travelers from around the world. If you’re hoping to explore Papa Hemingway’s legacy in Cuba, here’s a look at places you might consider:
Hemingway’s winter residence, where he lived on and off from 1939-1960 with his third wife Martha Gellhorn, sits just outside of the capital to the southeast in a town called San Francisco de Paula. In coordination with Hemingway’s family estate, the Cuban government turned the house into a museum, and allows daily visitor tours. It’s been preserved just as it was the way he left it, which makes it more of a shrine than a proper museum, but it’s a great place to visit if you’re into the writer or writerly spaces in general.
Hotel Ambos Mundos
Right in the middle of Old Havana is the iconic pink-hued hotel that Hemingway called home for several years during the 1930s, and where he began his masterpiece For Whom the Bell Tolls. His room, #511, is preserved as a memorial to the great writer, and can be toured for a small fee. If you’re sneaky, you can avoid the fee by asking to visit the rooftop bar, and making your way down to the room from there.
Hemingway spent much of his time out on the sea — fishing, drinking, and for a brief time, hunting Nazis. He spent a great deal of time in the fishing village of Cojímar, just east of Havana, and it’s said that the central figure in The Old Man and the Sea was based on a fisherman from this little town. Hemingway’s favorite restaurant, La Terraza de Cojímar, is still there, serving up seafood and nostalgia for Hemingway enthusiasts.
Bar El Floridita
Just off of Parque Central is one of Hemingway’s two favorite bars, where he spent much of his time (perhaps too much). His drink of choice was the double daiquirí, and today the bar serves up delicious blended daiquirís to tourists at all hours of the day, for a slightly inflated price. There is a bronze statue of the writer in the corner of the bar where he always sat, and where today tourists incessantly snap selfies with the literary legend. At one point the bar must have had charm, but today El Floridita is ground zero for the endless march of tourists that invades the city, and one of the least pleasant places to be in Old Havana.
La Bodeguita del Medio
Hemingway’s other favorite bar was this whole in the wall right off of the Plaza de la Catedral. Today it’s infested with tourists day and night, hoping to snap a photo and check it off their list. It’s oppressively touristy, and I can’t imagine Hemingway going near it today.
El Cobre in Santiago de Cuba
When Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for literature, he wanted to gift it to the people of Cuba. Not trusting the Batista government with the gold medal, he donated it to the Catholic church of Cuba, which then put it on display at El Cobre church in Santiago de Cuba. It’s a long way to go just to see a gold medal, but Santiago has many more attributes that are worth exploring.