Only a block away from Plaza Vieja and very close to Plaza San Francisco de Asís, the elegant Hotel Raquel captivates guests and visitors with its sublime architecture, the beauty and sensuality of its romantic ambiance and its many intriguing Jewish references: A star of David at the entrance, mezuzahs on each doorframe, Hebrew biblical names for each room, and paintings with biblical themes on the walls. The restaurant also offers typical Jewish dishes like borscht and latkes.
The reason for this tribute is that Havana's historic Jewish community was located in the nearby streets from Muralla to Acosta.
Built in 1905 to house offices and a storage warehouse for textiles, it was expanded to its present dimensions and structure in 1908. Later it housed the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation.
Totally refurbished by the Office of the City Historian, Hotel Raquel now features 25 carefully designed rooms with high ceilings and original paintings by contemporary Cuban artists. Not all offer a view, though, and the ones that do can be a bit noisy at times since this is the core of Old Havana…but isn’t this part of its interest?
The communal areas are quite impressive: the lobby's beautiful columns, old cage lift, amazing stained glass roof and decorative folding screens, plus the roof-top garden/ terrace which offers stunning views of the city.
The area around the hotel is not as sparkling, because restoration work has not yet reached this part of the street. There’s still a lot to be accomplished in Old Havana but it is a delight to compare the areas that show how everything was a few years ago, with the large area that has already been refurbished today.
It is also a very safe area to walk in, day and night. Being so close to all the Old Havana tourist sites and to many of its restaurants and bars, this is a very convenient hotel for discovering the wonders of the oldest part of the city.
Breakfast is basic, staff friendly and helpful, no Wi-fi...Issues with hot water or missing butter in breakfast have been known to happen, but one can always ask the staff for help and they will usually go above and beyond to do so.