Hanoi city guide: Where to stay, eat, drink and shop in Vietnam’s buzzy capital

A lovely metropolis stuffed with parks, lakes and pagodas and formed by intervals of occupation by each the Chinese language and the French, Vietnam’s fast-paced, frenetic capital has a wealthy historical past, a implausible meals scene and loads of inexperienced house for when the honking scooters get an excessive amount of.

Whether or not you’re eager to realize a deeper perception into Vietnam, with visits to Hanoi’s historic websites – such because the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the ultimate resting place of the person known as “Uncle Ho” – or fancy tantalising your tastebuds by delving into its implausible meals scene (a banh mi sandwich is a good place to begin), no journey to Vietnam is full with no go to to this vibrant metropolis.

Listed below are the stops to place on the high of your listing.

What to do

Take within the temples

You (actually) can’t go to Hanoi with out trying out its temples – there are tons of of them, in all sizes and styles. The Ngoc Son Temple, on a tiny island on the northern finish of Hoan Kiem Lake, is without doubt one of the most photographed. It’s linked to the lakeside by a brilliant pink bridge. The Trấn Quốc Pagoda, on the southern shore of Hanoi’s West Lake, dates again to the sixth century and is without doubt one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Vietnam.

Considered one of Trấn Quốc’s USPs is its assortment of bonsai bushes, lovingly maintained by the resident monks. However don’t miss the show boards explaining the idea of karma, with no-holds-barred depictions of the implications related to sure actions. For instance, the karmic payback for “considering unwell of others” – “a stroke or lack of reminiscence” – is illustrated by a picture of a lady who seems to have became a zombie.

A road meals vendor in Hanoi

(Getty Photos)

Dip a toe into the lake

A wander round Truc Bach Lake is a implausible approach to get a really feel for town. That is the place locals come to loosen up. Fancy taking to the water? Hop in one in every of close by West Lake’s swan-shaped pleasure boats – the pick-up level is subsequent to the Highlands Espresso store on the lake’s jap shore.

Museums and mausoleums

The sheer opulence of former chief Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum is staggering. You’ll be able to even see the person himself, albeit encased in a glass sarcophagus and surrounded by guards. Each September his physique is shipped to Russia for a month to have his embalming fluid topped up. Along with the mausoleum, there’s the fascinating Ho Chi Minh Museum – one of many largest museums in Vietnam. Displays embody every part from propaganda posters to struggle relics, akin to elements of a B52 fighter aircraft shot down throughout the struggle (and a comb made by troopers utilizing elements of stated B52 aircraft). Don’t miss the gathering of things as soon as owned by Ho Chi Minh – akin to his typewriter and the pen he used to signal the Paris treaty.

Lastly, don’t neglect to soak up a water puppetry present (a standard Vietnamese artwork type) on the Thang Lengthy Water Puppet Theatre. We gained’t spoil the shock, but it surely’s wonderful – the stage is a big pool of water and there are water-spitting dragons, fireworks and a soundtrack of conventional Vietnamese music, performed by a band to the aspect of the stage.

A standard water puppetry present in Hanoi

(Thang Lengthy Water Puppet Theatre)

The place to remain

One of many metropolis’s grandest lodges is the Pan Pacific Hanoi, a five-star property metres from Hanoi’s West Lake (therefore the beautiful views). Its lakeside place means easy accessibility to the Tran Quoc Pagoda and Thanh Nien Avenue, a tree-lined boulevard which divides West Lake and Truc Bach lake. Be sure you squeeze in a sundowner on the Summit, the resort’s beautiful rooftop bar. Doubles from £127, B&B. panpacific.com

One other nice choice is the antique-filled La Siesta Premium Dangle Be, which opened in 2019 within the metropolis’s Previous Quarter, on a road the place wood boats have been as soon as traded. This beautiful boutique resort has a implausible spa and a sky bar, too. Doubles from £115, B&B. lasiestahotels.vn

The place to eat

Prime of your listing ought to be 4Ps Pizza on Hoan Kiem District’s Bao Khanh Alley. Sure, it’s a pizzeria, however its doughy delights are considered the perfect in Hanoi – and with good cause. You’ll be able to select to high your pizza with a variety of cheeses, all of that are made on the restaurant’s very personal cheese manufacturing facility, in Dalat. If doable nab a seat upstairs (orders are positioned by iPad so that you gained’t be forgotten), the place you’ll get an excellent view of the kitchen and its military of cooks, who accessorise their compulsory face masks with slightly funky flat caps.

For one thing extra conventional, head to Cau Go Restaurant, which you’ll discover on the highest ground of a historic constructing within the Previous Quarter. The menus are printed on Vietnamese do paper, created from the tree of the identical identify and related to folks artwork, whereas the elegant inside has the texture of a standard Vietnamese residence, full with wood shutters and chic Delft-like ground tiles. Request a desk on the balcony for panoramic views over Hoàn Kiem Lake. Highlights embody the large wine listing and the seafood – we suggest the pan-fried pork and mushroom-stuffed calamari.

The rooftop on the La Siesta Premium Dangle Be resort

(La Siesta Premium Dangle Be)

The place to drink

Hanoi’s residence to a number of speakeasies, and probably the greatest is Kumquat Tree at 1 Nguyễn Khắc Cần, close to town’s opera home. You’ll want a password to get inside (contact the bar utilizing the main points on its Fb web page to get one), however the implausible cocktails and beautiful décor make it definitely worth the effort. Inside, discover a fantastic mash-up of artfully uncovered brickwork and Ming dynasty-style vases.

There’s additionally Practice Avenue, a bar-lined stretch of railway within the Previous Quarter. As soon as a slightly uncared for neighbourhood, ultimately this space’s residents capitalised on vacationers’ amazement at passing trains – opening bars, cafés and eating places inside their track-side properties. When the trains go, tables and chairs are moved apart and patrons should stand in opposition to the wall.

Even the native laundry now has a bar. Or had – in late September 2019 a handful of near-misses involving unscrupulous selfie-takers led to the closure of those companies. However it’s nonetheless worthy of a point out – hopefully these venues will reopen quickly, and regardless of its touristy nature, there are some good bars right here.

Hanoi’s ‘Practice Avenue’

(Getty Photos)

The place to buy

The award for Hanoi’s most lovely retailer goes to Hoàn Kiếm District’s Vui Studio, a fantastic boutique well-known for its vary of residence perfume merchandise, all of that are impressed by Hanoi’s seasons.

A few of different bargains will be discovered on streets devoted to sure industries, akin to Dangle Gai Avenue (“silk road”) and Dangle Bac Avenue (“silver road”).

Out there for some artwork? Thang Lengthy Artwork Gallery on Dangle Gai Avenue specialises in work by Vietnamese artists, whereas Previous Propaganda Posters on Dangle Bac Avenue gives precisely what it says on the tin.

Nuts and bolts

What forex do I would like?

Vietnamese Dong (VND).

What language do they converse?

Vietnamese.

Ought to I tip?

Between 5 and 10 per cent for meals.

What’s the time distinction?

Hanoi is seven hours forward of the UK.

How ought to I get round?

Uber is the most affordable mode of transport right here, except you fancy braving the xe om (bike taxis). Drivers converse little English, so be ready to make use of Google translate, or have identify of your resort or vacation spot written out in Vietnamese.

Meals at Cau Go restaurant, Hanoi

(Cau Go Vietnamese Delicacies)

Insider tip

The town’s parks are nice locations to hang around round nightfall. They’re the place many staff (primarily businessmen) head for post-work video games of badminton, which is extremely common right here. Many parks have designated courts however the recreation is usually performed on makeshift ones, full with hastily-erected nets. It’s unattainable to not be drawn in, and also you would possibly even be invited to have a go your self.

Getting there

Making an attempt to fly much less?

Moving into France by prepare, you might journey by cargo ship from Le Havre in France to Singapore, then take the prepare on to Bangkok (through Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia), adopted by a prepare and a bus northeast to Hanoi. Western Europe is about to be linked by rail to Southeast Asia due to a current new Chinese language-built prepare hyperlink via Laos – however the route entails going via Russia (which the Overseas Workplace is advising in opposition to all journey to) for the Trans-Siberian railway to China (not at present open to Brits).

High quality with flying?

Vietnam Airways and Bamboo Airways fly direct to Hanoi from London; or strive connecting flights with the likes of British Airways, Qatar or Thai Airways.

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