The capital of Vietnam is overflowing with coffee, culture and commotion. There’s no better place to dodge motorbikes and try stellar street food than this vibrant northern city. Journalist Katie Lockhart shares her Hanoi, Vietnam, Destination Guide.
WHERE TO STAY IN HANOI:
Bill Bensley’s latest hotel is a glorious and glamorous nod to 1920s opera. Flashing bulbs welcome guests to the velvet-clad breakfast area, and as the sun sets, a “diva” pours the first happy hour cocktail. Each floor has a different opera-related theme, complete with pink-hued marble, hand-painted murals, tasseled lampshades and gold touches galore.
On the Old Quarter’s fringe, this elegant hotel has a variety of rooms and suites with parquet wood floors, vibrant blues, coffered ceilings and large marble-clad bathrooms. Its rooftop infinity pool is the perfect cool down after a day of exploring, followed by a cocktail at its Ignite Sky Bar.
WHERE TO EAT IN HANOI:
On the top floor of Capella Hanoi, the Hudson Rooms is like stepping into a rooftop version of the Grand Central Oyster Bar. Vaulted ceilings, a piled-high raw bar and whiskey luge, as well as a classic New York-inspired menu make this the most exciting place to drink and dine in Hanoi.
Pull up a tiny plastic stool for some bún chả. Dip your heaping bowl of rice noodles into the savory umami broth filled with chunks of charcoal-grilled pork. Assembled on the sidewalk of Cửa Đông street, it’s hard to miss the flaming meats and buzz of locals sitting down for this iconic Hanoi dish.
WHERE TO DRINK IN HANOI:
You can’t go to Hanoi without trying its coffee. The area’s signature is egg coffee with a thick layer of whipped egg whites, condensed milk and sugar on top of an electrifyingly strong Vietnamese brew. This second-floor cafe with antique charm and friendly service makes a great one, as well as a must-try coconut coffee.
Hanoi loves a good speakeasy, and none is more romantic than Bee’Znees. Pull the right book, and a door pops open, revealing a set of stairs to this second-story bar. Dry martinis and Aviations complement the 1920s jazz vibe. And every Wednesday, a live band serenades the crowd.
WHERE TO VISIT IN HANOI:
The Old Quarter is Hanoi’s heartbeat. Colorful French colonial architecture crawling with vines and a switchboard spaghetti of wires color the streets. Here, stores selling local crafts like TiredCity Creative Store reside next to motorbike repair shops and street food-filled alleyways. Wander these winding streets and take in its atmosphere stopping at cafes like Loading T and The Note Coffee.
Known locally as Văn Miếu, this temple is dedicated to Confucius. Built in 1070, it became a university for the elite, staying intact throughout centuries of conflict. Made up of a series of courtyards, spend the afternoon exploring the peaceful gardens, pools and stone carvings.
This popular museum is dedicated to Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups. It’s expertly curated with full-size replicas of various styles of homes found in different regions throughout the country. There’s no better museum for learning about Vietnam’s staggering cultural diversity.
Hanoi’s Hilton isn’t a hotel. The famous prison held POWs from the Vietnam War, including former senator John McCain. Today, tourists can visit a remaining portion of the prison-turned-museum for a startling reminder of the human cost of war.