There is always so much to see an do in Cuba. If you're planning a trip to Cuba and want to know the best must-see events and celebrations, use our handy Cuba calendar below. Simply click on the month to find out what is happening and where. Get inspired for your Cuba holiday by the numerous festivals and events all around Cuba.
Our top recommendations
Click on appropriate month to see the listings...
Casa de las Americas calls in its LIV edition to one of the most prestigious literary awards in the continent. This year the categories are poetry, novel, essay, testimony, Brazilian literature and original cultures in America
The 2nd National Concert Music Festival La-Mi-Si-Fa, for small-scale ensembles will celebrate the 160th anniversary of the premiere of La bayamesa, which is considered the first popular song written in Cuba. Participants will include around 20 duets, trios, quintets and other instrumental groups from the provinces of Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, Camagüey, Ciego de Ávila, Matanzas, Pinar del Río, Havana and the festival´s venue, the city of Bayamo. Also participating will be the string quartet Ictus, from Peru, which cosponsors the festival. The municipalities of Manzanillo and Jiguaní will be sub-venues and the festival is open to the general public.
Festival de Música Antigua Esteban Salas (Esteban Salas Early Music Festival) is dedicated to commemorate the anniversary of the death of the first Cuban musician of whom there is record of printed scores, every year the Esteban Salas Early Music Festival gathers outstanding performers of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music who perform in Old Havana headed by the Ars Longa Music Ensemble.
FEBRUARY 2018 (HAVANA)
End of FEB – 1MARCH (OTHER PROVINCES)
What began as a modest book fair founded by the famous Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier, eventually became the most important literary event on the island. Every year tens of thousands of people pack the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress in Havana, attracted by book launchings of all genres and topics from Cuban and foreign publishing houses, along with panel discussions, poetry readings, concerts, children´s events, and a crafts fair. After Havana (10-20 February), the fair travels to other Cuban cities.
End of FEBRUARY 2018
Sponsored by the Tomas Terry Theatre in Cienfuegos, this Monologue Festival was launched in 2003 with the aim of validating a genre, which by nature demands intense commitment of playwrights as well as actors. Despite being one of the newer events in the domestic cultural scene, this festival has already achieved a standing in the Cuban stage, and at present the most renowned Cuban playwrights, directors, actors and actresses compete in the beautiful Terry Theatre.
END OF FEBRUARY
An event for stimulating awareness and consideration of new video/filmmakers and getting into contact with daring and inquisitive works usually produced outside official production. The event includes the screening of films by young filmmakers as well as international contemporary cinema; theoretical meetings; discussions and seminars; a competition of unpublished scripts; workshops with the participation of important film directors; and an exhibition/competition of posters
In February 2018, Cuba, once more, will be the venue of the largest international gathering of enthusiasts of the best cigar in the world: the Habano. In this occasion, the event will pay special tribute to the Cohiba and Romeo y Julieta, two of the most prestigious Habanos brands.
In this occasion the Welcoming Evening includes an exclusive concert at the Karl Marx Theater.
Early MARCH 2018
Created in 2000, the International Documentary Festival Santiago Álvarez In Memoriam aims at highlighting the prominent role of the documentary, a film genre that has been somewhat consigned to oblivion by the promotional mechanisms of the larger movie festivals, yet with a tradition of significant quality and acknowledgement in Cuba, among other factors, thanks to the work of the late prize-winning Cuban film-maker, Santiago Alvarez. Although the festival began as a national event dedicated to the memory of the most relevant Cuban documentary maker of all time, throughout the years it has attracted the attention of a number of filmmakers from Latin America, Europe and the United States. With films in competition, parallel screenings and theoretical discussions, the Festival constitutes a space for exchanging opinions and experiences among filmmakers and lovers of this genre. Chile as Guest Country. More info: http://www.cubacine.cult.cu/boletin/convocatoriasantiago2013ingles.html
Mid MARCH 2018
Organized by composer Juan Blanco, a pioneer of electroacoustic music in Cuba, the Varadero Spring Festival-as it was first called-gathered important figures which included Jon Appelton, Max Matthew, Leo Kupper, Ahmed Malek, Nicola Sani, Lejaren Hiller, Manuel Enríquez, Ricardo Dal Farra and Andrew Schloss. In 1998, the event moved its venue to Havana’s Historical Centre. It is now the Havana Spring International Electroacoustic Music Festival.
Dedicated to one of the greatest Cuban composers of the 20th century, Alejandro García Caturla, representative of the first musical avant-garde in the Island, Performances by young composers and singers from all over Cuba.
This festivity of percussion pays tribute to one of the cult figures of Cuban percussion: Guillermo Barreto, star of the Tropicana orchestra in the 1950s and founding member of the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna. While young talents measure their skills during the competition, experts disclose the secrets of the complex Cuban percussion at theoretical meetings, lectures and guest speeches and the evenings are dedicated to the performances of popular national and international bands and soloists.
The International Pepe Sánchez Trova Festival began in 1962 in homage to local Santiago de Cuba composer José (Pepe) Sánchez (1856-1918), considered the father of Cuban trova (the troubador genre of voice, song and poetry that is usually accompanied by a guitar). Several generations of musicians from different musical trends within trova participate in this event, including exponents of more traditional trova, of filin (an evolution of bolero and trova), and of nueva trova (the very Cuban genre of personal commentary influenced by British, US and Brazilian popular music). Santiago de Cuba—the cradle of trova—hosts this festival which takes the city´s streets and parks by storm in a celebration where musicians and singers from abroad join their Cuban counterparts. The closing of the festival on Troubador Day, March 19th, commemorates the anniversary of the birth of Pepe Sanchez.
GRAN TEATRO DE LA HABANA, HAVANA
Organized for the first time in 1993, this International Meeting of Ballet Academies has made it possible for dancers, teachers and students to become familiar with the technical and stylistic peculiarities of the Cuban School of Ballet through workshops, courses, and methodological and master lessons. Similarly, dancers and pedagogues from other countries have conveyed their experiences in a fruitful exchange with their Cuban colleagues. In addition, since 1995, an international competition for students is held in different categories (13-14, 15-16 and 17-18 years old) and four prizes are awarded: revelation, best partners, best individual performance and the Grand Prix.
The colloquium/festival has organized lectures, panels and discussions on the literary legacy of the great Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén; music recitals; poetry readings; popular, symphonic and coral music concerts; and art exhibitions. The focus of the scientific event will be “Inequality and Diversity” (race, gender, generations, education, etc.) and will be dedicated to the 80th anniversary of book of poems Motivos de son.
The Composition Prize Competition is aimed at Latin American concert music composers. Recitals and concerts, plus lectures and workshops dealing with the most recent music made in the region will also be held during the event.
6th – 10th of April, 2018
This unique International Urban Dance Festival : “Old Havana, City in Motion” was first held in 1996 in two or three small museums located in Havana“s Historical Centre, eventually bringing into play most of the institutions, plazas and streets of Old Havana.
Aiming to link dance choreography with the visual and expressive nature of the old city, as well as seeking to interact with passers—by, the event, organized by the Retazos Dance Company directed by dancer and choreographer Isabel Bustos, is attended by hundreds of foreign and Cuban guests.
Continuing a tradition that dates back to colonial times, in 1993 a group of young artists decided to organize these romerías with the arrival of Spring. This festival, which was held for the first time at the foot of the cross which Father Antonio Alegría placed on 3 May, 1790 at the top of a hill, 275 metres above sea level, is presided over by the Hacha Taína (the Taino Axe) and the Cruz de Madera (the Wooden Cross), symbols of the mixture of elements that constitute the Cuban culture. Following this spirit, every year musicians, actors, researchers, artists, writers and dancers come together to share their artistic endeavour during intense days and nights in which the diversity of their propositions is exhibited, and Cuban and foreign artists join the locals to enjoy a marathon-like programme in various parts of the city.
Since 2003, the International Low-Budget Film Festival has been held in the small town of Gibara close to the eastern city of Holguín. Besides the competition itself, which awards prizes for fiction and documentary films, there are also meetings, concerts, recitals and art exhibitions. The festival guarantees a broad range of approach and topics, aspiring to become an alternative to commercial filmmaking – promoting artistic quality with production costs kept to a minimum.
Considered the only prize of its kind in Latin America, the La Joven Estampa Award brings together engravers under 35 years of age, which have been born or naturalized in the continent, and seeks to encourage young creators of this art. The event includes exhibitions of works made by the members of the jury and winners of previous competitions, lectures, workshops and theoretical discussions on engraving, from traditional techniques to the most modern forms of this art.
Nothing to do with discotheques, the International Cubadisco Fair was begun in 1997 as a way to bring to national and international attention what the Cuban recording industry has been up to. It includes concerts, recitals, symposia and exhibits.
A meeting ground for poets from every continent, the International Poetry Festival includes a number of activities, such as seminars, readings and exhibitions. The World Meeting of Poets in Defence of Humanity is also celebrated during the festival.
Complete program of last year event (in Spanish) here.
Founded in 1984 and initially conceived as a competition, this event was reformulated to focus on key issues concerning contemporary art, embracing artists from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, with the gradual incorporation of European, US and Japanese artists. Every two years, Havana swarms with activity with the attendance not only of artists, but critics, curators, dealers, collectors, and art lovers in general. A wide-ranging presentation takes over all the city´s principal galleries and spills out into numerous public arenas. Havana, which during the Biennial is transformed into the largest gallery in the world, becomes a place for debate and reflection on essential problems of our contemporary world.
Founded in 1989 by Cuba´s prima ballerina, Alicia Alonso, this festival (literally, “Spanish Imprint Festival”), while acknowledging both traditional and contemporary Spanish cultural influence on the island, is nonetheless very Cuban. Cuban and Spanish soloists, theatre companies, dance ensembles and music groups perform at the Gran Teatro de La Habana as well as in the Plaza de Armas and the Castillo de la Real Fuerza—, itself an enduring testimony of previous Hispanic presence in the city.
Bolero, a musical genre which emerged in Cuba in the second half of the 19th century is what the International Golden Boleros Festival is all about. This genre has had a marked influence in other countries of the area, including places as far away as Spain and Japan, and its first festival, held in Havana in 1987, is considered the oldest of its kind in Latin America. A Havana celebration in its beginnings, other provinces would become venues in later years given that Bolero is one of the most loved and performed genres in the Island.
This ceramics event opened in 1989 with the exhibition of small-scale works, and with the creation of the Museo Nacional de la Cerámica Contemporánea Cubana, it became a regular event as of 1991 with the inclusion of other formats, focusing on vessels and installations in alternate years. The diversity of techniques, themes and aesthetics has characterized the Ceramics Biennial and contributed to revitalize the interest in this art. This year, the event will focus on ceramic vessels, utilitarian and ornamental. In addition to the competition, exhibitions by important artists will be organized.
Hot Cuban rock groups, like Rice and Beans and Dead Point, drive the crowds wild at the annual Atenas National Rock Festival in Matanzas’ Canímar River Campsite. See open-air theatre, tattoo exhibitions, audiovisual projections and other fun fringe events too.
The International Colloquium Ernest Hemingway takes place at Hemingway—s home in Havana where he resided for 21 years and where he wrote one of his most famous novels: The Old Man and the Sea. A number of topics will be discussed, including Hemingway—s love for Cuba, mirrored in his life and work; Hemingway—s social relationships; Hemingway associations and institutions worldwide preserving and promoting his legacy.
In commemoration of the birth of Las Tunas-born poet Juan Cristóbal Nápoles Fajardo (El Cucalambé), the most important Cuban decimista—country—ballad poet—of the 19th century, musicians, poets, repentistas (improvisers), researchers and folklorists get together in this unique festival to enjoy the songs and dances of Cuban country people. The event is presided over by the décima, a Spanish stanza of ten octosyllabic lines, created by the Spaniard Vicente Martínez Espinel (1551-1634).
As is customary every summer since the year 2000, the Art at La Rampa Crafts Fair opens its door at the Pabellón Cuba, emblematic building of the architecture of the 1960s, with an attractive offer that includes the sale of serigraphs, engravings, handicrafts, household goods, furniture, footwear, clothing, ornaments… all made by national handicraft artists. Fashion shows, concerts and activities for the kiddies will also take place during the Fair.
The National Humour Festival takes place once again during one of the hottest months of the year to ease the hot summer days with the refreshing performance of the best comedians in the country.
This annual popular festivity of Caribbean cultures, initiated in 1980, aims at harmonizing the identities of the peoples of the region beyond geographic and linguistic diversity. Considered Cuba´s most Caribbean city, Santiago de Cuba is the natural venue for this colourful and joyful celebration—dedicated to fire and its genesis symbolism—which combines dances, rhythms and rituals of strong African centuries—old presence syncretized into the national identity. The “El Caribe que nos une” (The Caribbean which Unites Us All) international colloquium focuses on issues related to the preservation, development and dissemination of Caribbean cultural diversity, as well as actions which could contribute to the unity of the region and promote a cultural exchange with the rest of America and the world
Carnival festivities in Santiago de Cuba go back to the late 17th century with the annual procession on the feast of Santiago Apóstol, the patron saint of the town. During colonial times, slaves were granted permission by the Spanish authorities to celebrate the Epiphany with their own music and dance. By the end of the 19th century, these festivities were also held in June and July in celebration of various patron saints days. At the beginning of the 20th century, comparsas (neighbourhood dance groups) and processions of decorated floats began to parade down the streets—a tradition that is still observed. Although many Cuban towns hold their own carnival festivities, none attracts a greater crowd than the Santiago carnival: the whole city seems to move to the rhythm of conga lines, the sound of the Chinese trumpet and dozens of percussion instruments, both traditional and unconventional — bass drums, congas, pots and pans, and spoons — which lead dancing crowds down the steep roads of the city.
Hip hop became a sensation in Cuba during the 1990s when this festival was born. Since then, the event has attracted an increasing number of hip hop artists from other countries, as well as featuring many important local groups. There are more than 1,000 rap groups in Cuba today. More recently, the festival has also included rap dancing, graffiti artists, a series of films, and a colloquium with discussion of hip hop culture and issues regarding this type of music which has delved into controversial aspects of Cuban life, such as racism and emerging economic inequalities.
Workshops on the techniques by the Danza Contemporanea de Cuba. More info at http://www.dccuba.com/index.php/en/home.html
The event seeks to recover and promote the Spanish roots and background of the Cuban nation by way of a program composed of concerts, exhibitions, workshops and popular festivities, with the participation of important Cuban artists and guests from all over Ibero-America.
All trends of the contemporary stage converge in this event which will present a selection of the most outstanding present-day Cuban theatre, along with international theatre companies. Workshops, seminars and lectures complete the program of the festival.
International Ballet Festival of Havana, one of the oldest and most prestigious events of world dance, with more than 40 years of history.
This biannual Festival will have as main sites the Havana Grand Theater, the Mella Theater, and the Karl Marx Theater.
The programming of this event will include, as unique moments, two galas dedicated to the birthday centennials of Igor Youskevitch, one of the great dancers of the 20th century who was partenaire, during several years, of Alicia Alonso; and to the poet and Cuban playwright Virgilio Piñera.
A group of important activities will take place along with the Festival, which this year will offer as an interesting option a special course of ballet technique for professionals, teachers and advanced level students. Also, relevant visual artists will have the opportunity to exhibit their work at important galleries of our country. Conferences, book presentations, film and video cycles of most interest for the public will be held.
Founded in 1984 and presided by the composer and conductor Guido López Gavilán, the Havana Contemporary Music Festival has been honoured with the participation of important musicians, including Luigi Nono, Krystof Penderecki, Hans Werner Henze, Luis de Pablo, Marlos Nobre, Alfredo del Mónaco and Xavier Montsalvatge, just to name a few. This is a good opportunity to catch up with the latest trends in current Cuban and international classical music.
It was in the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba where the first known choir pieces in the Island were composed by Havana-born composer Esteban Salas (1725-1803), who for years was chapel master. Honouring this tradition, in 1961 Electo Silva, who has been for decades director of Orfeón Santiago, organized the First Choir Festival. Throughout the years, choral groups from different countries have also participated in the festival together with their Cuban counterparts, winners at prestigious international competitions. An intensive programme of concerts in theatres, schools, factories, hospitals and public squares characterizes these days in which audiences can enjoy the best of the repertoires of choral music.
Continuing a tradition that began more than 40 years ago, Casa de las Américas will organize this annual meeting focusing on a prominent figure of Latin American letters, as has been the case of Argentinean Ricardo Piglia, Nicaraguan Ernesto Cardenal, Brazilian Rubem Fonseca and Chilean Pedro Lemebel.
This world meeting of casino and salsa dancers and dance academies includes dance lessons, guest speeches, short courses and choreography workshops.
Jo Jazz-Joven Jazz or Young Jazz-takes place prior to the Havana International Jazz Festival as a competition for young musicians. Proposed by five-time Grammy winner Chucho Valdés in 1998, this competition for young jazz singers and composers from 16 to 30 years of age has had contestants who today rank among the most outstanding in the musical panorama of the Island. A special bonus for the winners is the chance to cut an album with Chucho.
Havana International Craft Fair
Held as a way of expressing the identity and cultural diversity of different countries, this fair has promoted arts and crafts attracting thousands of visitors each year. Lectures, exhibits, fashion shows, sales and the crafts themselves offer an opportunity for interaction and exchange between artists and the public. In its 11 previous editions, the original treatment of contemporary design in handicrafts has been remarkable, in pieces which, without losing their ancestral nature, exhibit an undisputable touch of modernity, whether applied to textiles, fibres, leather, precious and semiprecious stones, metals, clay, or any other material ready to be fashioned and beautified through the sensitivity of craft artists.
Since 3 December 1979, Havana has been the venue for the immensely popular New Latin American International Film Festival. Millions of film buffs across Cuba attend the event which has served as a launch pad for Latin American cinematography and become one of the leading film festivals of the region. The variety and creativity of films shown at the Havana Film Festival every year has attracted celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Pedro Almodóvar, Francis Ford Coppola, Carlos Saura, Oliver Stone, Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, Robert de Niro, Jack Lemmon, Gregory Peck, and Danny Glover, among many others.
One of Havana´s most famous music events, the Jazz Festival is a display of the link between Cuban rhythm and jazz, which goes back to the late 19th century when newly freed slaves emigrated to New Orleans. Started in 1979 pretty much as a local event at the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza, the festival has grown in size and scope with venues that include several large theatres and nightclubs. International stars such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Haden, Steve Coleman, Michel Legrand, Ivan Lins and Ronnie Scott are just a few names in the list of past participants, who, together with Cubans Chucho Valdés, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Bobby Carcassés and Ernán López-Nussa, to mention just a few, attract fans from all over the world.
Like many other festivals of this type in Cuba, the charangas (popular son-influenced Cuban music that began in the 1940s emphasizing flute, violin and piano orchestra) are related to Christmas celebrations, when white Catholics and black slaves would take to the streets with their musical instruments to pay tribute to their deities. Eventually, they divided into two groups: La Musicanga, which gathered the criollos (freed blacks and slaves); and Los Malayos (representing the Spaniards). Thanks to the fusion of cultures that characterizes Cuban identity, racial and class differences were lost with time, and belonging to one or another side was simply determined by each person´s preference. Rivalry between both sides today – now named La Ceiba de Plata and La Espina de Oro — consists in the ability to construct the most colourful and striking floats. The traditional music of the orchestra Los Tambores de Bejucal accompanies this festivity now attended not only by the inhabitants of the town, 20 km south of Havana, but by hundreds of visitors who enjoy the fantasy and creativity of designers, engineers, painters, musicians, choreographers, and dancers whose talent guarantees the vitality of one of the oldest popular celebrations in Cuba.
Legend has it that during the 1820s, a young priest officiating in Remedios—the eighth town founded by the Spaniards in Cuba—decided to have a group of children make a noise with whatever they had to hand in an effort to awaken lazy parishioners to attend mass in the chilly mornings of 24th December. From then on, neighbours would go out into the streets on the nights prior to Christmas for music and merrymaking. From 1871, a competition or parranda between two neighbourhoods—El Carmen and San Salvador—took place, each with its own hymn, colours, kites and lanterns. In 1875, complicated floats lit by flares and fireworks were paraded by each side at the town´s Plaza de Armas (town square). To this day, the two neighbourhoods continue with a rivalry characterized by the beauty and originality of these floats, as well as by the amazing pyrotechnics that from 9 pm on 24th December to dawn on 25th December illuminate the city sky. Both sides keep their floats secret from each other during the course of the year with even members of the same family on either side of the fence sworn to secrecy against each other. Although these festivities have spread to other nearby localities of Guayos and Camajuaní, the Parrandas de Remedios are the oldest and most well known on the island