The Obama administration’s lifting of travel sanctions to Cuba made the city come abuzz with new life. From that initial stirring comes the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, the first five-star hotel the city has welcomed in a long while. The new luxury hotel had its soft opening on May 22 and an official opening on June 7; it hopes to cater to the new visitors and business people swarming to Cuba.
Developers renovated the Manzana de Gómez building, located in historic Old Havana, to create the luxury hotel. The Manzana de Gómez building was erected in the early 1900s. While it initially housed the first European-style shopping arcade in Cuba, it soon grew to include offices, theaters, and even a school. Once travel opened up between the U.S. and Cuba last year, the distinctive white building became the home of high-end shops like L’Occitane and Lacoste.
Today, the historic building contains 246 hotel rooms, three restaurants, and three bars. The rooftop infinity pool, top-floor gym, and huge spa complete the space. The high-end shopping mall remains below the hotel.
The hotel is heavily influenced by the neighborhood in which it is situated. Old Havana, which was founded 500 years ago and home from architecture from neoclassical to baroque, is a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage site. The area is famous for its distinctive buildings in a variety of colors and styles.
The hotel interior was designed by Vanessa and Arno Joubert, a married couple that works out of Archipolitan, a South African design firm. The Jouberts incorporated tropical accent colors into the hundreds of high-ceilinged hotel rooms, which start at rates of nearly $400 per night. Some rooms also include sleeping lofts and balconies accessible through double doors.
Meanwhile, the communal spaces make use of Cuban architecture and cuisine. The San Cristobal Panoramic Restaurant has both gorgeous views of Old Havana and a lovely interior, with latticed partition walls and a neutral and wooden color scheme; Caribbean sea food dominates the menu. Confluencias serves up a breakfast buffet with flair; the website explains that “The international restaurant has the essence of a summer pavilion using 3 different styles of furnishing creating spaces full of intimacy similar to the atmosphere in Cuban Paladars, which have become the paradigms of Cuban gastronomy.”
Both Confluencias and the Cristobal Panoramic Restaurant seat 198 indoors and an additional 20 outdoors. The hotel also contains one more restaurant and three bars, including the Evocación Tobacco lounge, which pairs famous Cuban cigars with Cuban rums and other spirits.
The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana is the first luxury hotel to open in Havana since the travel restrictions were lifted, but it certainly won’t be the last. Marriott has plans to build another one soon, which, like the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, will cater to business travelers, convention goers, and other visitors to Cuba. The injection of new currency is much needed in Old Havana, which has struggled with poverty for decades.
Source: 6.30.17 Kempinski