The first time I went to Havana for a full day, on my own, I made it a point to visit the Partagas factory store. There was a certain allure, an attraction I couldn't explain. I saw pictures of it on many of the travel sites showing pictures of Old Havana. Located behind the Capitolio building, it's a perfect starting point for a tour of Old Havana.
From the first visit, I was made to feel at home. It wasn't until several visits later when I met Abel that I became one of the family. Abel is the store manager & has been for many years. A great host who always remembers your name & greets you with a hug & smile. That's quite an amazing feat considering the extended family consists of several hundred people from all over the world who may visit only once or twice a year in some cases.
Partagas throws an event called "Encuentro Amigos de Partagas" every november & april. At that time, hundreds of aficionados, men & women, from around the world, show up to partake in the best Partagas & Havana have to offer. If you are a cigar smoker, then this is the maximum of enjoyment. Four days of events & activities revolving around smoking Cuban cigars. Heaven.
The rest of the staff at Partagas work as a team to provide the best service but with a family-like feel to it. Rey, who greets you at the door with a bear hug. La China, the wonderful lady who rolls some of the best cigars in the city & who I call a friend. Jose & Kiki always ready to recommend the perfect box of cigars for you. Let's not forget Odalys who makes the best espresso in the country behind the Partagas bar. All these people I consider friends & make my visit to Partagas feel like a visit to a friends house.
For me, Partagas is the best place to buy cigars. You may not always find what you're looking for & there are better stocked stores but at any given time the selection of cigars at Partagas is quite good. If you know Abel & give enough notice he can probably get you anything you want. Otherwise there's always something for everyones tastes. What makes Partagas the best for me is that it's the most personal. The location is perfect, in the middle of my favorite part of the city. It's become a meeting place for us smokers who come to Havana every year. The VIP lounge in the back of the store is perfect for relaxing with a cigar, espresso and rum. Someone always shows up.
If you ever make it to Havana & are going to do one factory tour, go to Partagas. They do tours daily & in several languages. Pop into the store & tell them Matteo from Canada says hello. I'm sure you'll get a smile. Enjoy the pics