“Old Asia, with a French accent”.
Exploring Vietnam’s capital, it’s not too difficult to imagine life in 19th century Hanoi. Street traders, pedestrians and the city’s scores of mopeds all mingle in Hanoi’s narrow streets, mimicking the same hustle and bustle you’d expect from a turn-of-the-century trade hub. Look up, and the city’s fading French-influence still surrounds you today.
Hanoi’s Old Quarter is, perhaps, the best way to immerse yourself it’s rich history. Weave through the traffic on foot as you nip from one thoroughfare to another (my advice, walk alongside a local!) or pull up at one of the Quarter’s many street vendors for some of the most delicious pho in town. The streets here, arranged by trade, is still somewhat true today. Bát Đàn (literal translation “Wooden Bowl Street”) for example, is where we were directed for some of the more locally-acclaimed soup noodles – all for, roughly, £1.50.
Further south of the city is where you’ll find some of Hanoi’s original French architecture, still in use and meticulously maintained. Most famous of these is the Metropole Hotel. Dating back to 1901, the Metropole offers a quiet sanctuary, lush with palm and sheltered from the outside hustle and bustle. As you sip on cocktails and people-watch its glamorous residents (a friend of mine recently checked-in alongside David Beckham!), it is easy to momentarily forget where you are in time…
If you’re not staying, then definitely book dinner at one of the hotel’s three restaurants for some of the city’s most elegant French-influenced local cuisine. The Bamboo Bar also shakes up some exotic drinks for you to enjoy, poolside.
Just around the corner from the Metropole is the Lý Club. Housed in a beautifully restored colonial building, the restaurant dishes up an impeccable fusion of French and Vietnamese, all to the sound of it’s resident pianist. Book in advance for weekend reservations.
At night, Hanoi’s entertainment centres around the glistening Hoàn Kiếm Lake. The humidity still lingers in the evening, so grab yourself an ice cream, take a wander, or listen in on the many pop-up karaoke stalls that appear after sun set!
Where to stay
The Five Star:
For the most luxurious of stays, check in at Hanoi’s oldest hotel, The Metropole.
Hanoi Moment hotel is a good option if you want to stay in the heart of the city’s bustling Old Quarter.
The Luxe on a Budget:
If home comforts on a shoestring is more your style, Nexy Hostel has just opened in the old town.
For more adventures in Vietnam, see: Travel Edit | Vietnam and Cambodia.
© All photography and views expressed in this blog are my own. For more information, and for details of my editorial policy, please see my blog disclaimer.