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Line Up For Ice Cream At Coppelia, Havana

Coppelia Heladeria, Havana, Cuba
The giant open-air ice cream parlor, Coppelia, in Havana, Cuba

Coppelia is a massive open-air ice cream dispensary in the Vedado district of Havana, Cuba. I was told the ice cream is amazing, that I had to go to Coppelia to get a taste of Cuba. I wouldn’t say that is partially accurate. The ice cream is good, and you will be eating it on a hot day, which makes it really good, but the real Cuban experience is wait.

The place where you get served ice cream, if you are lucky, is the interior of a small park at the intersection of Ave. 23 and Calle L in the Vedado District. It’s a two story concrete building shaped kind of like a saucer. The ice cream bars on the bottom floor have bar stools that are supposed to be the most coveted place to experience Cuba.

The last line at Coppelia
This is the last line at Coppelia where you get to see the flavor list

The process of trying to make it to the interior of Coppelia is long and confusing, but if you pair yourself up with a local who will advocate for you, you will make progress. You start by making a line outside of the complex on the sidewalk of Ave. 23, along the iron fence. This is not the only line, other lines will pop up and may go before you. When you go to line up, you are supposed to say, “Ultimo?” fairly loud. You are both asking who is the last person in line and also letting it be known that you are behind that person. You are then responsible for telling the next person who asks, “Ultimo?”, that you were the ‘ultimo’. After that, just remember who is in front of you and who is in back of you because it gets a little crazy. Hopefully you will have a vocal Cuban in your line advocating to go next. Lines will be consolidated as you move towards the ice cream. People will get in ahead of you who came after you, but you will slowly progress through a series of lines until you are told, because you don’t have any Nacionales , that you don’t get to sit in the coveted bar stool. You don’t get to eat ice cream with real Cubans, but you do get to pay 3 CUC to eat ice cream in the tourist section that is a couple of plastic chairs and umbrellas served by an ice cream truck.

The bottom line is be ready to wait, bring Nacionales, and stay next to someone who looks like a fighter, because they will be arguing for position on your behalf. The only reason I made it as far as I did was because I had a feisty Cuban woman letting my brother and me ride her coattails. Even if you don’t get to eat ice cream on the bar stools at Coppelia, it’s ok, because you got a real taste of Cuba, waiting in really long lines.

Cine Yara in the Vedado District
Cine Yara is right next to Coppelia in the Vedado District, Havana

Coppelia Map

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