HOT SPOT

Inside Paseo 206, the Boutique Hotel Where You Must Stay in Havana

In a city with a long history of premier hotels, a new boutique property has opened in a restored 1930s Vedado mansion that has the international jet set talking.


Tucked away on the most famous street in Havana, near Plaza de la Revolución, sits Paseo 206, a restored colonial mansion and Havana’s first luxury boutique hotel. The eight-room hotel is the brainchild of Italian economist Andrea Gallina, and his Cuban wife Diana Sainz.

“We aimed to bring the charm of the époque houses back to life, and give guests the comfort of a luxury hotel while staying in a Vedado mansion,” Sainz explained recently.

The manor was built in 1934 by a senator who worked in the administration of then president Gerardo Machado. Family lore has it that the senator gave the house to his mistress in the 1940s, and then lost it a few years later in a grueling poker game to a friend of Sainz’s grandfather.

The lobby of Paseo 206 in Havana, Cuba.

While the couple had no intention of owning a hotel, when they saw the house for the first time in 2015, shortly after current president Raúl Castro restarted diplomatic relations with the United States and opened Cuba to American tourism, they knew they had to give it a shot. “It was love at first sight—we saw it and bought it right away,” continued Sainz, who relocated her family to Havana from Hanoi and spent the next eleven months restoring the house to its original, old world grandeur by refinishing intricate wooden moldings and replacing glass on original cabinetry. It is a truism of spending time in Havana, but walking through the hotel you do feel as if you are stepping through time, which is especially true of the library room, where guests can enjoy an aperitif before heading out for the evening. “We looked to the colors of 1940s Havana,” Sainz said of the brightly hued custom Italian-designed furniture they used to modernize the space.

The library inside the hotel Paseo 206 in Havana, Cuba.

The hotel is equipped with four junior and master suites, accentuated with velvet furniture reminiscent of the time when Havana was America’s most luxurious playground. The grand room on the rooftop has its own entrance and hot tub as well as a view overlooking the Malecón, the famous promenade along the Havana Harbor.

Even if you can’t get a room, make sure to visit their lobby restaurant, Eclectico, which in six short months has become a top-rated restaurant in the city under the watch of chef Vincenzo Frassanito, who serves Italian so scrumptious, you may think you’re in Italy not Cuba. Their unique, homemade dishes are prepared using locally sourced ingredients, with highlights including pumpkin truffle ravioli, octopus carpaccio, and rum tobacco gelato for dessert (yes, it’s a good).

Chef Vincenzo Frassanito’s fresh caught hamachi crudo appetizer at Paseo 206.

While there are suggestions that luxury hotel groups like Starwood may soon move to get a slice of the Cuban hospitality market, private couples like Sainz and Gallina, with firmly-set roots, are the forefront of the country’s booming hotel business. And, they have plans to expand this year. “Thirty years ago, no Cuban was even thinking about renting a house or a room to a tourist,” Sainz said “But the landscape of Cuba is changing, so we seized this opportunity. And we’re so lucky we did.”

Behind the Scenes: Adriana Lima and Joan Smalls in Havana

Joan Smalls in Havana. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Inside the famed La Bodeguita del Medio. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Adriana Lima. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Adriana Lima. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Adriana Lima. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Riding around Havana in style. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Twinning in Havana. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Transportation, the Cuban way. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Adriana Lima. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Joan Smalls. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Old Havana. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Around Havana. Photo by Dena Giannini.

The vivid colors of Havana. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Colonial architecture dominates the section of the city known as Old Havana. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Inside a home in Old Havana. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Havana at night. Photo by Ryann Foulke.

The Ministry of the Interior in Havana. Photo by Dena Giannini.

Sunset overlooking Old Havana. Photo by Dena Giannini.

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Calling Card A white colonial style mansion on Paseo Avenue.

Why Now? Havana is in a major transition period, so now is the time to go. While its mid-century retro charm is alive and well, the influx of tourism and American dollars might turn it into another overcrowded touristic mecca.

Tribes Expect guests from around the globe, from Australia and Brazil to Europe and, now, the U.S. But it’s not without local appeal. If you’re staying for dinner and drinks, you’ll run into Cuban movie stars.

The Basics Paseo 206 Hotel, Avenida Paseo, 206. 10400 Havana, Cuba. For reservations, call 53 7 8313423 or email info@paseo206.com. Open year-round.

A Look Back at Havana in All Its Glory

Inside Teatro América, the Caribbean’s best preserved art deco movie theatre. Photo from “Havana Modern: 20th-Century Architecture and Interiors” by Michael Connors, Rizzoli New York, 2014.

A building on the art nouveau-filled Cárdenas Street. Photo by Michael Connors.

The indoor pool at the Casa de Pablo Gonzalez de Mendoza, built in 1916 and now the home of the British Ambassador. Photo by Brent Winebrenner, “The Splendor of Cuba: 450 Years of Architecture and Interiors,” Rizzoli New York, 2011.

The Salomon Kalmanowitz residence, built in 1936, in the Marianao district. Photo by Michael Connors.

A classic art deco gas station and 1950s Chevy in Havana. Photo by Michael Connors.

The Palacio del Centro Asturiano, which now houses Cuba’s European art collection in the Museo de Bellas Artes. Photo by Michael Connors.

The Hall of Mirrors in the Presidential Palace, with ceiling frescoes by Cuban artists Armando Menocal and Antonio Rodriguez Morey. Photo from “The Splendor of Cuba: 450 Years of Architecture and Interiors,” Rizzoli New York, 2011.

Built in the early 18th century, the Casa del Conde de Casa Bayona now houses a collection of 18th- and 19th-century Cuban furniture and decorative arts. Photo by Brent Winebrenner.

Inside the Hotel Riviera. Photo by Michael Connors.

The Palacio de las Ursulinas in Havana Vieja’s decorative façade showcases the centuries-long Spanish Arab influence on Cuban architecture. Photo from “The Splendor of Cuba: 450 Years of Architecture and Interiors,” Rizzoli New York, 2011.

A 20th-century building on the Malecón Drive overlooking the Caribbean. Photo by Brent Winebrenner.

A home overlooking the Viñales valley. Photo by Brent Winebrenner.

“The Splendor of Cuba: 450 Years of Architecture and Interiors,” Rizzoli New York, 2011.

“Havana Modern: 20th-Century Architecture and Interiors” by Michael Connors, Rizzoli New York, 2014.

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New York’s Best Street Style Gets a Technicolor, Electrified, Animated Treatment

New York’s Best Street Style Gets a Technicolor, Electrified, Animated Treatment