Hotel Santa Isabel, a Firstborn Hotel in Havana

The attractions of the Historic Center of Havana, with a legend that is about five centuries old, are a true complement to the many options that make up the offer of the leisure industry in the largest of the Antilles.

Tens of thousands of colonial buildings that each meet countless stories grouped by several centuries of existence, makes the area a wonderful place for visitors who like to know specific aspects of the past.

The wide range of facilities is the property of Santa Isabel. This property with palatial and elegant dimensions enjoys what is the best location of all hotels in the area as it is positioned opposite the lovely Plaza de Armas, possibly the oldest in the city.

The building, three stories high, is located in the heart of Old Havana, near the main sights, a few feet from where the first mass and the first chapter were held, all tied to the founding of the then town of San Cristobal de La Habana. From the balcony you can observe the Palace of the Captains General and the magnificence of the thick walls that make up the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the oldest of the forts built by the Spanish in the days of domination. This visual panorama appears today as one of the main factors in attracting visitors to the Hotel Santa Isabel.

The splendor of the facade blends well with the huge air-conditioned lobby, where crystal chandeliers, epoque furniture and a lavish collection of photographs of the nineteenth century allow the visitor to travel back in time, to the time in which the property was owned by the Count of Santovenia. Don Nicolas Gonzalez Martinez de Campos and Gonzalez del Alamo, was a Cuban whose family origins date back to the Seville town of Villa de Coria and to what, for his many services to the Spanish crown, was awarded, by royal office in 1824, the title of Count of Santovenia. The building was in the hands of the noble family in Havana until the late 60's of the nineteenth century when it passed into the hands of a clever American who used the property to expand its facilities making it the first of Havana hotels.

Until that time the city was using small hotels to accommodate visitors but still had no facility that would provide a real hotel service. It was the mentioned American, known at the time as "Colonel Lay, who saw the need of the colonial city, took the advantage and opened the Hotel Santa Isabel in the very distant 1867. The hotel operated as such only for 20 years after its foundation, but at the time was considered the best in town for its large and airy rooms. The hotel also provided food service and staff spoke the English language well. Other innovative services were introduced: Ladies who were staying there were attended by persons of their same sex, which is the same as saying that it began implementing, for the first time in the island, the maid service.

Well into the twenty century its facilities were used for other purposes; it is still remembered by many habaneros that for many years the ground floor served as the restaurant-bar known as "El Mesón de la flota" (The Inn of the fleet). In the 90's of the last century, the Office of the Historian of the city wanted to highlight the importance of the property in the Cuban hotel industry and the hotel was remodeled once again to be the Santa Isabel Hotel that it is today, a luxury inn operated by the Habaguanex SA group and offering the comforts of a five-star accommodation, and a hotel environment consistent with the colonial environment where it is located.

If we discuss some of its current attractions it is a must to refer to the Restaurante El Condado. Located near the lobby of the hotel is a posh restaurant with antique furniture that accentuates the elegant atmosphere that permeates the entire facility.

The rooms of the establishment, 27 in total, of which 10 are junior suites, have the additional attraction of their colonial-style furnishings, while trying to maintain the facilities currently required by a 5 star hotel.

A less formal and more relaxed ambience is the one found under the shadow of the Spanish courtyard near the lobby, where you can enjoy a cocktail or read quietly in one of the tables surrounding the central fountain.

Of course, like its college hotels, the hotel Seville, the Plaza Hotel and the Hotel Inglaterra, among others, the Hotel Santa Isabel has the support of celebrities who have opted for its comfortable rooms and excellent service. The hotel suite has received a number of famous guests, including former US President Jimmy Carter, the world famous American actors Jack Nicholson and Bruce Willis, and icons of the music world like Sting.

With all these merits, the Santa Isabel is proudly displayed as one of the jewels in the old part of Havana, able to bring that touch of home and distinction that many visitors expect.