Cuba’s famous cabarets
If there is one thing that made Cuba famous all over the world (besides the rum, cigars and revolutions), it is the cabaret. It is true that the cabaret wasn’t invented in Cuba (that honor goes to the French). However, the cabaret that made the whole world turn its head towards the Caribbean is Tropicana, the famous venue opened in 1939 in a lush tropical garden in Havana’s Marianao quarter. When the rest of the world plunged head first into the horrors of WWII, Cuba’s Tropicana was becoming a glittering jewel on the entertainment scene. But Tropicana was just the start, and many other cabarets continued the trend of sustaining the Cuban taste for music, dance and revelry. Here are some of Cuba’s famous cabarets that you absolutely must visit if you want a taste of authentic Cuban fun.
Salon Rojo, Havana
Salon Rojo cabaret in Hotel Capri is a must-see for those who like mobster stories – in fact, scenes from the Godfather II were shot at Capri. Real life mobsters Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky were involved with the hotel in the past, so there are plenty of noir-ish stories to tell about this place. Salon Rojo is one of best among Cuba’s famous cabarets, and open as a disco until 4 in the morning.
Cueva del Pirata, Varadero
Cueva del Pirata is a natural cave that has been converted into a cabaret – it is one of the most unusual cabaret settings you will see anywhere in the world. Of course, most of the shows are pirate themed, and dancers in costumes perform elaborate routines. Once the performers with eye-patches and pirate boots leave the floor, the venue turns into a great discoteque.
Tropicana has changed quite a bit over the years, but not so much as to be unrecognizable. Interestingly enough, this is the only cabaret that has survived the Castro Revolution, despite its more promiscuous shows. Like in the past, talented dancers in extravagant costumes and plumed headdresses do their routines of song and dance, while the audience is feel to smoke, drink, chat and take in the display of light and color.
Tropicana Cabaret, Matanzas
Riding on the tailcoats of its sibling cabarets in Havana and Santiago de Cuba, Tropicana Matanzas caters to the tourist crowds just off a ship, or relaxing in the luxury resorts of nearby Varadero. Tropicana Matanzas is no cheap copy of the Havana Tropicana, and it features a thoroughly enjoyable show of colored feathers and glittery dresses in the open air.
Cabaret Parisien, Havana
Cabaret Parisien is worth visiting even if you’ve already spent an evening at the Tropicana, because no two cabarets are alike in Cuba. Cabaret Parisien in the Hotel Nacional is open to non-guests too, and it is extravagant enough to make you dress your best. You can have a lovely dinner and watch the show, or just lounge about with a drink in your hand, enjoying the performance.