Roma: Very Cool, Very Pretentious

Sitting atop a six story building in Old Havana is one of the cities hippest bars. To get to in, you first have to get past the bouncer (combination of ducking and juking is recommended) and hop in the elevator, where a bell-hop will take up up a turn-of-the-century, open-cage lift to the very top floor. Think, like, Tower of Terror.

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Bar Roma is easily one of the coolest spots in Havana. In a city so visually interesting and full of beautiful old buildings, you think they’re being more rooftop bars, but the few that exist are only in expensive hotels largely off-limit to Cubans. Bar Roma definitely outdoes the places on the cool factor, although the it seems to be keeping the same prices and exclusivity. The bar draws an international hipster crowd–though it’s much more foreign than Cuban. And much of these people are simply on their way through the city—college students on a weeklong trip or backpackers looking for a interesting spot to get a drink.

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Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The bar brings in some great DJs and has a really cool vibe—if you can get in. It’s a small bar, and it’s already difficult to get a spot unless you come early. The bouncer probably won’t even let you in the elevator if you get there after 10. Or if you don’t look cool enough. Or if you’re, like, black and Cuban.

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The drinks are, as you would expect, expensive. Most nights, they have a chef making paninis behind the bar–an acknowledgement of the fact that there aren’t any licenses for bars, only restaurants, so every place is legally required to serve food. That being said, this place is clearly skirting the line of what’s tolerated, so we’ll see how long it sticks around.

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We recommend visiting the bathroom. It’s literally in someone’s apartment, and the tenant is usually there watching TV in the living room.