The grand dame of Cuban hotels, the Nacional, might once have been the place to stay in Havana, but it is now largely the preserve of tour groups. Those in the know looking for a bit of old-world glamour mixed with modern-day luxury head instead to the Hotel Saratoga.
A gracious neo-classical building on the edge of Old Havana, in its 1930s heyday the Saratoga was the realm of visiting celebrities and socialites. They appreciated its gastronomic reputation, and the entertainment from its women-only orchestra.
The Saratoga was originally only three-storeys high. But after a period of decline it received a complete revamp in 2005. This included the addition of a further two storeys which blend seamlessly with the original facade. There is also an airy atrium, sleek bars, the Moorish-designed Anacaona restaurant (with folding wooden screens, tiled walls and wrought-iron grills), and a glamorous rooftop pool and bar.
The elegant new interiors are a mix of contemporary and classic design: the Mezzanine Bar, for instance, has a black-and-white tiled floor with rattan and mahogany furniture.
Today, the Saratoga is the only real five-star hotel in the Cuban capital in terms of the facilities an international clientele would expect: internet that works, state-of-the-art gym, spa, business centre, concierge and a choice of bars and restaurants.
I splashed out after a few nights staying in Old Havana at the Hotel del Tejadillo. The guesthouse is one of a handful of state-run historic properties; but only nine of the 32 rooms had windows.
From my Junior Suite on the top floor of the Saratoga I could see the sea in the distance. Later, as I sipped a mojito on the rooftop bar, the dome of the Capitol building was at eye level.
The hotel is on the edge of the historic quarter (La Habana Vieja) overlooking the lawns and palm trees of Fraternity Park and diagonally opposite the elegant Capitol building. On the other side of the park is the Partagas cigar factory.
There are 96 rooms and suites, from deluxe patio rooms facing the inner courtyard, to Junior, Prado, Capitolio and Habana Suites. Prado Suites have a canopied bed in the colonial style looking down onto a seating area below, floor-to-ceiling windows and a balcony. The Capitolio suites overlook the Capitol building and have a colonial style tub in the bathroom. The corner Habana Suites have wrought-iron balconies.
In my Junior Suite the bed was romantically canopied and marshmallow soft, with crisp white sheets. The room was light, airy and contemporary with a cream tiled floor and accented with splashes of colour – a textured apple green valance and raspberry linen headboard. And from the padded window seats there were those panoramic views out of the arched attic-style windows.
Hotel Saratoga, Prado 603, Dragones, La Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba (00 53 7 868 1000; hotel-saratoga.com).
Doubles start at 340CUC (£227), room only. I paid £125 through Hotelopia (hotelopia.co.uk) but upgraded at reception to a junior suite for an additional 55CUC (£37).Reuse content