Fabrica de Arte Cubano
My first trip to Cuba was in late July 2015 soon after President Obama improved relations with Cuba and made it easier for U.S. citizens to travel there. That trip became the first of many as ROW and Sea Kayak Adventures learned how to navigate the challenges of conducting tours in Cuba. In anticipation of the strong demand for trips to Cuba, we took our 40 years of experience in the active travel business and started a new division, Cuba Unbound. In November 2015, just three months after my first visit, we launched our first sea kayaking trip with resounding success. Americans were eager to come to Cuba and discover its history, culture and outdoor activities. Since then, we’ve taken hundreds of U.S. citizens on tours designed to meet the legal requirements of the U.S. government. Originally our tours were run under the auspices of the “People-to-People” category of educational travel. Starting in June 2019 and currently, our trips are operated under the requirements of the “Support for the Cuban People” category of travel.
I was in Cuba twice in the spring of 2022 and there were few other travelers around. The economy is suffering and our many friends in the travel business need our support so badly. I was so happy that we were able to operate about 6 tours during the spring timeframe and we’re eager to continue during the rest of 2022.
Havana is included in most of our itineraries that visit Cuba and it’s one of the most fascinating and culturally rich cities in the world. I was introduced to one of our now-favorite places in all of Cuba, in November of 2015. On our very first tour, one of our Cuban guides took our group to the Fabrica de Arte Cubano (locally known as FAC) in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.
This energizing place was started by a group of artists, including Cuban musician X Alfonso, who restored an old cooking oil factory originally built in 1910. After a few years of work, it opened in February 2014, as the incredible art venue that it is today. It has since gained notoriety as Havana’s hippest art gallery, music performance space and night club. In 2019 it won a place on Time Magazine’s list of 100 Best Places in the World, based on factors such as originality, sustainability, quality, innovation and influence. With a very reasonable entrance fee (currently about $2 USD) it is a popular place among Cubans as well as visiting travelers.
The FAC is at the west end of Vedado not far from the Rio Almendares that separates Vedado from the neighborhood of Miramar. Both these neighborhoods are the more upscale areas of Havana and in the days before the Revolution of 1959, they would have looked like some of the finer suburbs of Los Angeles or Miami. Today they are very worn around the edges, yet it isn’t hard to imagine their former grandeur.
The Fabrica de Arte Cubano, like many event venues in Cuba, closed during the pandemic, from April 2022 until February 2022. It’s open now every Thursday to Sunday and is a must-go place on any visit to Havana. On all the tours that Cuba Unbound operates, that include time in Havana, we visit the FAC for a look into contemporary Cuban culture and to support the artists that have made this bold space come alive.
Within the sprawling ex-factory, the space is divided into many salons, or entertainment areas and there are also rotating art exhibits. One any given evening there, they might be a quartet performing in one space, an avant-garde movie in another, a poetry reading in another and later at night, a featured act in the main dance room, likely to be a popular Havana band or performance group. Recent performances included a Polish Jazz group, a folkloric dance company and a variety of Cuban performing artists. Often, dance lessons are offered early in the evening and these are a great way to get ready for the night ahead as you practice your rumba or salsa moves!
In addition, there are 4-5 places to sit down and eat or get a drink. You can go to the tea/smoothie bar, the pina colada bar or any number of other delicious choices.
The hours of the FAC are from 7:00 PM to 2:00 AM and while it’s normally open from Thursday to Sunday, always check when you get to Havana as this could change. Their Facebook page is a good place to find current information. Also, it’s wise to get there at least an hour ahead of time as the lines get very long as the evenings go on.
In the spring of 2022 Havana had very few travelers present in the city. Cuba was counting on tourism from Russia to help them reach their visitor goals, but alas, the war in Ukraine put an end to that. Now is a fantastic time to visit this Caribbean Island and the people of Cuba need our support. For ideas on the many possible tour ideas for Cuba, please take a look at our full selection of Cuba Trips.
If you decide to go:
Fabrica de Arte Cubano
Address: Calle 26 Esq 11
Phone: +53 7838-2256