Although the first homes were built in the mid-1800s, Vedado’s most robust development occurred between 1930 and 1960, when Havana was the main destination for American tourism.
New construction projects took advantage of the neighborhood’s prestigious location along the Malecón and the district quickly filled with sky-scraping hotels, casinos, restaurants, and commercial centers. An example is the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, one of Cuba’s most famous, exclusive hotels and a national landmark, sitting majestically on a hill overlooking the sea. The Hotel Habana Libre (built as the Habana Hilton), the Habana Riviera (with Ginger Rogers performing opening night) and the Hotel Presidente, are also vestiges of this period.
Vedado is much more than a commercial district, however: the homes here, set back from tree-lined streets, are majestic and encourage long strolls through the neighborhood. Moreover, Vedado’s nightlife in is electric, with clubs like La Zorra y el Cuervo (jazz), El Gato Tuerto (bar- restaurant with live bolero), the Yellow Submarine (Beatles-themed club with live rock ‘n roll), and the Cabaret Parisien providing quality entertainment.
There are many interesting attractions in Vedado including the Museo de Artes Decorativas, the Colon cemetery, John Lennon Park, and the Focsa (Cuba’s tallest building) – the bar-restaurant on the top floor has spectacular views. Vedado’s lively main avenue, Calle 23, is a sight in itself with Cubans lining up to dig into big bowls of ice cream at Coppelia, Cuba’s famous parlor. It was also the setting for a key scene in the film Fresa y Chocolate.