Hotel Sevilla

Havana, Cuba | C.1908

Photo Credit: Kenny Gunawan

Throughout its history, the Hotel Sevilla has provided guests with a taste of the old-world romance of Havana. Architects Arrellano y Mendozoan designed the 4-story Moorish Revival structure, inspired by the Alhambra palace in Spain, to include ornate details such as tile mosaics and intricately carved ceilings. It first opened on March 22, 1908, and became Havana’s leading luxury hotel.

American hoteliers, John McEntee Bowman and Charles Francis Flynn, bought the hotel in 1919 and renamed it the Hotel-Sevilla Biltmore. They added a huge ten-story tower wing with a rooftop ballroom designed by New York architects, Schultze & Weaver.

The hotel changed hands again in 1939, when Italian-Uruguayan mobster, Amleto Battisti y Lora, purchased the building. Over the next two decades, its casino became closely associated with Havana’s mafia network and eventually became part-owned by one of the most powerful mobsters in America, Santo Trafficante Jr.

However, the Sevilla-Biltmore’s days of criminal opulence temporarily came to an end on New Year’s Day, 1959. Fidel Castro’s rebel army descended on Havana, causing then-President Fulgencio Batista to flee the country and mobs to destroy much of the city, including the hotel’s famed casino. Amleto Battisti would end up taking refuge in the Uruguayan embassy.

Today, the hotel is owned by the Cuban state-run Gran Caribe hotel group, and is a landmark of Old Havana’s social and cultural scene. Guests can explore nearby restaurants and cafes, enjoy the hotel’s pool, or take in weekly Cuban operas hosted on the rooftop terrace.

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