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The Cuban spring blossoms

Thanks to recent reforms, Cubans have gained many newfound freedoms: they can go on holidays abroad, buy a new car or... start their own company. Many are taking full advantage of the latter: recently overhauled private restaurants, hip cocktail bars and creative boutique hotels are blossoming in Havana.

Life was very predictable in communist Cuba: everyone was employed by the state and received a meagre monthly salary. Those days are gone and many Cubans now have permission to start their business. They drive tourists around in their vintage cars, organise tours or open up cafés or restaurants. Visitors benefit most from this new economic buzz in the capital. A brief overview: the 3 top new attractions in Havana.

One of the many ‘paladares’ in Havana

Dining in a revamped paladar

Cuban cuisine is not that celebrated: meals often consist of little more than rice and beans. But a new generation of paladares, the typical Cuban private restaurants, is showing that Cuban cuisine has a lot more to offer. A great choice is Le Chansonnier. Set in a beautiful colonial house with a modern interior, the restaurant is headed by Chef Enrique who treats his guests to nouvelle cuisine a lo Cubano. Start with the octopus carpaccio, followed by a duck breast and caramel flan for dessert. Arguably Havana’s best paladar.

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Le Chansonnier, Calle J No 257, Vedado, Havana, www.lechansonnierhabana.com 

Drinking and dancing in an art factory

Havana’s hip locals gather in this former olive oil factory transformed into a gallery, eatery, cocktail bar, cinema and a nightclub. Inaugurated by Cuban musician X Alfonso, this art centre offers a host of activities: there are exhibits, fashion shows, dance performances and pop concerts, but guests can also just sip a mojito at the bar. On weekends, artsy Cubans and tourists dance way into the night. And whether it is opening night or not, there is always a lengthy line outside.

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X Alfonso

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Fabrica de Arte Cubano, corner of Calle 11 & Calle 26, Vedado, Havana, www.fac.cu/ 
The stylish interior of Casa Vitrales

Spend the night in a Cuban boutique hotel

Casa Vitrales, in the historic centre of Havana, is a modern and comfortable version of the typical Cuban casa particular (accommodations in a private home). While preserving the old details of this colonial house, the 9 rooms have been equipped with modern conveniences such as box-spring beds and air conditioning. The rooftop terrace is perfect for breakfast or a drink, with wonderful views of the old city. The price is also pretty sweet: a double room starts at 25 euro. For 375 euro you can rent the entire house - with room for 18 people.

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Casa Vitrales, Calle Habana 106, Habana Vieja, Havana, www.cvitrales.com 