Best things to do, see and eat in Hanoi

Come to Vietnam’s capital for its elegance and history, and stay for the cultural discoveries and amazing food.

Woman travelling with a bag, and a conical bamboo hat
  • Words: Natasha Dragun
  • June 2018

Breakfast

While many visit Café Pho Co after dark to watch the lights sparkle around Hoan Kiem Lake, it’s just as popular in the morning for its heart-starting brews. The Old Quarter space is no frills, but it has an addictively buzzy atmosphere, stellar views and excellent caphe trung da, coffee with a smooth beaten egg yolk on top.

Location: 11 Hang Gai, Hoan Kiem


Mid-morning

For a glimpse into Vietnam’s fascinating history through art, join Sophie’s Art Tour. You’ll visit private collections, museums and contemporary art spaces, from the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts to Manzi, a gallery-café showcasing modern paintings and photography in a restored French villa.


Lunch

A series of food stalls in a colonial villa, Quan An Ngon is like Vietnam on a plate. Get a taste for the country’s diverse street food – from northern specialty pho ga (chicken-noodle soup) to sweet southern favourite che ba ba (taro and cassava in coconut milk) – from the comfort of a restaurant.

Location: 18 Phan Boi Chau, Hoan Kiem


After lunch

Hanoi Design Center is part gallery, part shop and part education facility. The four-storey space is dedicated to high-quality arts and crafts, with an emphasis on sustainability and fair trade. Watch artists at work, then pick up a souvenir.


Mid-afternoon

On the north shore of West Lake you’ll find the Hanoi Bicycle Collective, a bike shop-cum-creative space where you can watch live performances, browse a gallery, grab a cocktail and rent a bicycle. For now, do the latter, and explore the banks of Hanoi’s largest body of fresh water, where pagodas sit alongside open-air food stalls and bijou boutiques.


The bustling streets of the Old Quarter in Hanoi
The bustling streets of the Old Quarter in Hanoi

Dinner

In the Old Quarter, Green Tangerine transports you to 1950s Indochina. Set in a French-colonial villa, replete with vine-laced courtyard, the restaurant serves inventive fare that unites French and Vietnamese flavours. The menu changes regularly but might include religieuse buns stuffed with local seafood or pumpkin-and-coriander crème brûlée.


Cocktails

An assemblage of owner Nguyen Qui Duc’s favourite things – from art and literature to music and wine – Tadioto has character to spare. Dimly lit, the intimate lounge is decorated with Duc’s personal collection of furniture and whimsical objects. There’s experimental music most evenings, but the venue also hosts exhibitions, readings and cultural collaborations.

Location: 24B Tong Dan, Hoan Kiem


Stay

Excellent location on the banks of Hoan Kiem Lake aside, Apricot Hotel gets points for its elegant rooms and stellar Vietnamese art collection. There are more than 600 pieces on display in the French-colonial building, including those by silk-painting master Mai Thu and Phan Ke An, a political painter active during the Vietnam War. Before you sink into bed, enjoy a nightcap at the rooftop bar, with views over the Old Quarter’s tangle of streets.