You’ve got 18 waking hours in Hanoi – what do you do?
Here’s our ideal day.
There’s only one acceptable option for breakfast in Hanoi: phở. Head to a local place in the French Quarter. Along with the rest of Hanoi, we like Pho Thin. As one of the city’s most famous phở dealers, it’s so popular it has copycats. Be wary of imitations. Their signature broth, beef, rice noodles, a side of fried dough and fresh veg all for around USD 2. They only do one type of phở, too, so no decision-making required.
Location: 13 Lò Đúc, Hà Nội
11am: Where’s the coffee?
We’ve already had two coffees by now, but mid-morning is a good time to refuel. We need something cold at this point, so a cà phê sữa đá is on the cards. Vietnamese iced coffee – sweet, cold, caffeine-y – hits the spot.
Cộng Cà Phê by the Old Quarter drips rich dark local coffee down over condensed milk, which is then whisked and poured over ice – it’s the local way.
Sit on the balcony, sip coffee and watch the city go by.
Location: 116 Cầu Gỗ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
12pm: Shop up an appetite.
Heed the siren call of the Old Quarter’s shopping – the ‘Paris of Vietnam’. Browse through the shophouses and get a feel for local history while you’re admiring the work of local designers.
Did you know that the 36 streets of the Old Quarter were each originally named after the product it sold?
2pm: Lazy lunch
Time to refuel at the Quán Ngon, a beautiful open-air food market. Modern Vietnam in a nutshell.
Lots of stalls to choose from, with traditional Vietnamese cuisine sitting side by side with modern contemporary cuisine. We’re in Hanoi, so we order bún bò huế spicy beef noodle soup, or a bánh xèo crepe – a crispy, savory Vietnamese-style ‘pancake’.
Location: 18 Phan Bội Châu
4pm: Afternoon culture
Not napping? Check out the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. Here, you can learn about the 54 different ethnic minorities of Vietnam.
6pm: Pre-party prep
After shopping and seeing museums (or napping), a massage is a must. Tadi Spa does tailored ‘combination massages’, so you can mix up different styles. A 60-minute massage is around USD 12. It’s cheaper if you take at least one friend.
Location: 44 Tây Hồ Street, Hanoi
8pm: Dinner time
On vacation, we like pre-dinner cocktails with views at 88 Lounge. Views of the West Lake, creative concoctions and a great vibe.
Location: 88 Xuân Diệu
9pm: Who’s hungry?
We are, it’s 9 o’clock already. Head back to the Old Quarter for atmospheric street-side dining. We usually end up at Tạ Hiện Street – with restaurants and bars that sprawl out onto the pavement.
11pm: Night cap/s
Ride the wave of new bars and clubs if you’re not ready for bed yet. Mad Botanist Gin Bar, for a pretty view onto St Joseph’s Cathedral. Opera Nightclub for DJ sets and general EDM revelry. Live jazz at Binh Minh’s. Or Dragonfly Bar, which always seems to be packed.
Got tips? What’s your favorite thing to do in Hanoi?