Hanoi – knows how to lure you back! If you’ve been bitten by the Hanoi bug, you know the symptoms: Vivid memories of sun-dappled sidewalks, happy thoughts about the graceful colonial villas, sentimental emotions when remembering evenings around misty Hoan Kiem Lake, sudden cravings for steaming bowls of pho ga, and the list goes on.
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Here are 20 experiences that will make you fall in love with Hanoi too:
Coffee break at the Metropole’s La Terrasse.
This wrap-around café facing a park is one of Hanoi’s most iconic treasures. Stop by in the late afternoon for a leisurely cup of coffee served with a slice of history (and those little Metropole chocolates.)
Listen to the bells toll at St. Joseph Cathedral.
Step inside to admire the beautiful neo-gothic design that is reminiscent of the majestic Paris Cathedral in France.
Join early morning exercises around Hoan Kiem Lake, or cycling around West Lake.
Watching the Vietnamese capital wake up and go through an inventive routine of stretches right along the water’s edge is a memorable “only-in-Hanoi” experience.
“Egg-Milk Coffee” with a view.
On 11 Hang Gai street, duck down a small alley and into a courtyard and find your way up to the rooftop of Café Pho Co for a warm cup of their unique “egg-milk coffee” and along with unobstructed views of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Cocktails in the sky at Sofitel Plaza Hanoi.
Summit Lounge’s 20th-floor rooftop bar is the ideal spot to enjoy the skyline of the city and reflect on your travels with a glass of chardonnay in hand.
Soaking up history at the Temple of Literature.
Right in the middle of the city, this ancient Confucian temple brings Vietnamese history to life in full color.
Experience noodle nirvana.
Pho, with its delicate aroma and flavorful broth, is a must-try. The authentic beef pho shop on Bat Dat street boasts a long queue from morning to night. Bun, a type of soft rice noodle, is especially popular in fantastic dishes such a bun ca, bun thang, bun bo and bun cha.
Get lost in the Old Quarter.
With 36 streets each named after a different trade, Hanoi’s crowded Old Quarter is overflowing with interesting sights and smells. You can dine, drink, shop and stay here for days without ever leaving.
Stop and smell the flowers on Au Co St.
This early morning flower market sells the best blossoms from all over the north of Vietnam. It’s best to visit around 3-4 AM.
Tuck in for a lazy afternoon at the Hanoi Social Club.
This laid-back but charming café is stocked with books, low loungers, and a surprisingly healthy menu of everything you need for a relaxed afternoon by yourself or for an impromptu meet-up with friends.
Enrich your mind at the city’s top museums.
Hanoi has several excellent museums for those with a few hours to spare. Spend a day at the Women’s Museum, the Museum of Ethnology, or the Museum of Fine Arts and come away with a deeper appreciation of the country.
Cha Ca La Vong at the original restaurant in the Old Quarter.
We won’t say too much about this mind-blowing dish, except that it’s made with a 100-year-old recipe, so you know they’re doing something right.
Café-hopping in the French districts.
The whole of Hanoi seems to be sprinkled with amazing cafes of every type. Find one and make it your own. We like Cong Caphe for its unmatchable atmosphere.
Dine in a colonial villa.
Hanoi is full of amazing restaurants, yet a meal at the romantic Madame Hien’s never disappoints.
Explore a wartime bunker below the Metropole’s Bamboo Bar.
History enthusiasts may enjoy this excursion to a wartime bunker below the surface. View the preserved writings etched onto the wall and learn how Joan Baez wrote her famous Vietnam War song album “Where Are You Now, My Son?” while staying at the hotel.
Dance your stress away with a good live band.
Loosen up those limbs at Polygon Musik, Swing or Minh’s Jazz Club.
Dive into the street food.
Where do we begin with this one? Don’t leave without trying the banh cuon (steamed rice cake) at 14 Hang Ga St. Follow your nose and try everything!
Down a few draft beers on Ta Hien St.
Pull up a seat, or a stool, in the Old Quarter on a weekend, and watch the evening disappear into an endless stream of exotic chit chat and cheers.
Evening meanders around the lake.
Why stay in when Hanoi is so lovely outside? Enjoy the sparkling reflections off Hoan Kiem, warm yourself with a cup of tea, or join the couples walking to dinner arm-in-arm.
Explore the city on two wheels.
Hop on a motorcycle to experience Hanoi just like the locals. There’s nothing between you and thousands of other motorists enjoying life in one of the world’s most fascinating cities.
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Melissa is a passionate foodie, travel writer, and editor working in media internationally and in the USA. She has lived in Bangkok since 2004 and has a background in the travel industry. Melissa’s writing has been published globally in many prestigious online and print magazines for over a decade. Her motto for life is “You cannot live or love well if you have not wined and dined well!”