In 1930, the Bacardi rum company opened a new headquarters: a gorgeous Art Deco building on the edge of Old Havana. In 1960, Bacardi left Cuba after the newly installed revolutionary government confiscated their Cuban assets, including the aforementioned headquarters that by then was a prominent landmark in the capital city.
Bacardi was founded in Santiago de Cuba in 1862, taking advantage of Cuba’s status as largest producer of sugar in the Caribbean to launch what would eventually become perhaps the most recognizable brand of rum in the world. The early decades of the 20th century were boom times for Cuba and Bacardi alike, with World War I making the sugar trade particularly lucrative and Prohibition in the U.S. making Havana a popular party destination for American tourists.
These flush times led to a good deal of new construction in Havana, much of it in the Art Deco style that was wildly popular at the time. The Bacardi Building is regarded as a signature masterpiece of Havana Deco and is likewise considered to be one of the finest Art Deco buildings in Latin America.
At the time of its completion, the 12-story Bacardi Building was Havana’s first skyscraper and for decades thereafter continued to be the city’s tallest building and one of its principal landmarks. Characterized by a facade of red granite, golden glazed tiles, brass fixtures, and colorful terracotta reliefs of nude nymphs designed by Maxfield Parrish, the building terminates in a stepped, ziggurat-inspired tower topped with a bronze rendition of Bacardi’s bat logo. The bat motif can also be found throughout the building’s richly decorated interior, along with familiar Art Deco details such as geometric patterns, natural imagery, rich wood paneling, and mural paintings.
In 2003, the Office of the City Historian of Havana completed renovated the building to put some shine back in its Roaring 20s splendor. Although it is still used as an office building (primarily for tour operators) and thus not generally open to the public, visitors can see the lower floors as well as a little-known mezzanine bar that was once the private watering hole of the Bacardi family. You cannot, however, order a Bacardi at the Bacardi Building bar, as the company is still engaged in an intense trademark dispute (aka the “Rum Wars”) with the Cuban government involving intellectual property (particularly the “Havana Club” brand) confiscated after the revolution.
Know Before You Go
Café inside a lovely spot for a coffee or drink. After hours, the security guards will allow access to the roof decks for 1 CUC/person.