The Scoop on Coppelia, Cuba’s Famous Ice Cream “Cathedral”

Passing by the corner of 23 and L in the heart of Vedado in Havana, you see throngs of people waiting in line. If it’s your first time in the neighborhood, you’re undoubtedly asking yourself: what in the world are all of these people doing here, and what could they be lined up for?

The answer may be the last thing that comes to mind: ice cream. Those sprawling crowds of people are waiting to eat ice cream at Havana’s Coppelia, one of the world’s largest ice cream parlors.

Ice Cream Inspiration

It is said that Coppelia began as a way for Fidel Castro to share his love of ice cream with the people of Cuba. So in 1966, spearheaded by Castro’s comrade Cecilia Sanchez, “the cathedral of ice cream” project began. A team of architects and structural engineers worked to create the unique and beautiful spider-like structure designed to hold one thousand people. After six months of round-the-clock construction, Coppelia finally opened its doors in June of 1966.  

A Long Standing and Social Tradition

Coppelia quickly became an institution in Cuba for visitors and locals alike. People started showing up for scoops of ice cream from the get-go, and to this day they have not stopped coming. You’d be hard pressed to find a single Cuban person who has not spent time waiting in line for scoops of Coppelia ice cream, especially since a version of Coppelia now exists in almost every Cuban city.

The original Coppelia menu boasted 26 different flavors, from mango to malted cream. Today, there are usually only a few different flavors to choose from on any given day. However, that does not deter people from waiting for over an hour to indulge in mountains of ice cream scoops. The most common order is an ensalada of ice cream, which is five scoops. People will often eat multiple ensaladas on the spot or order extra to take home in containers.

At the equivalent of about .20 US cents for five scoops of ice cream, Coppelia is affordable and accessible to the majority of Cubans (unlike many restaurants and bars). Because of this, Coppelia is not just a way to indulge in a delicious treat. It’s a traditional place to socialize with friends, family or first-dates, which explains why people have stuck out the long line for so many years.

Go See For Yourself

Let The Educational Adventures Company take you to Coppelia and all of the other history-rich hot spots that define Cuban culture. The Adventures Company’s top-notch team exists to help you achieve a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Cuba. Click here to enquire into custom and group tours now.

Julia Nass

Julia is an avid traveler and has lived in Oaxaca, Mexico and Havana, Cuba. She balances her constant pursuit of adventure with her love of sharing it with others.

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