Hanoi, the capital city of of Vietnam, is pulsing, vibrant, colorful and at times, a bit crazy. There’s no shortage of things to do here, but rather the contrary. You’ll almost be overwhelmed by the amount of sights there are to see, hidden cafes to find and venues where standup comedians and musicians gather around to showcase their talent. It’s a city full of contrasts and perhaps that’s what makes it so interesting. I had one day and one night in Hanoi, and it turned out to be one of the most eventful days so far in Vietnam. If you’re planning on staying in Hanoi, even if it’s just for one night, make sure you visit at least one of these recommended places. I guarantee you’ll have just of a good day as I had in Hanoi.
Where to stay
Little Charm Hostel
I can’t recommend this hostel enough! I’m not even sure if I can call it a hostel, it’s more like a hotel, but with a really nice vibe. When you enter the building, you’ll be mesmerized by the beauty of this place and how much it resembles a hotel. They also have a restaurant where you can eat and in the morning get your free breakfast (which is also very good). What really blew me away was the incredibly friendly staff who made you feel like home. Not only were they very warm and welcoming, they are so eager to help you with everything. The dorms are really clean, spacious and all the beds have a curtain so you’ll get some privacy (hostels – take note!) and it was probably one of my best showers I had since arriving to Asia. A big bonus is that the hostel has a little pool where you can go for a morning swim before your breakfast or when the heat becomes too much and you want to cool down. You can get all of this for approximately 6€ (for a dorm). Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?
What to do during the day
It’s always nice to walk around the old quarter, but during the day you should spend your time walking around West Lake instead. The area is especially charming during the day and is a good introduction to the city of Hanoi. If you want to learn about the history, visit the notorious “Hoa Lo Prison”, also famously known as “Hanoi Hilton”. It used to serve as a prison for the Vietnamese during the French colonialism. It also served as a prison for American soldiers during the war. It’s an incredibly interesting museum. When you’re feeling hungry, don’t forget to grab a Banh Mi or a bowl of Pho. Whether or not you’re vegan, “Minh Chay Restaurant” serves a kick ass vegan pho, full of flavors and delicate spices.
What to do during the evening
As the sun goes down, stroll around in the old quarter and buy some souvenirs back home. If there’s a place to get good souvenirs, it’s probably there. Make sure that you make a stop at “Cafe Nola’s”, which is a bit of a hidden place. There’s only a little sign which points you to the cafe. Once inside, you’ll be able to choose to sit in either the rooftop or in one of the cozy rooms inside. The cafe itself is fantastic, especially at night. You can order Vietnamese local food here with coconut coffee on the side.
When you’re ready, take a taxi to “Hanoi Rock City”, a venue a bit outside of the old quarter, but that is easily accessible with a taxi. The bar/venue have daily events such as swing dancing, open mic nights and more. Make sure to check their Facebook page the night you’re heading there to see what the event is. Hanoi Rock City is mostly a place for expats, but you’ll also be able to meet some locals who are just as eager to sing and play guitar on the open mic nights. It’s a different side of Hanoi but a very good one, away from the busy touristic crowd in the old quarter. Dance the night away and grab a Bia Hanoi – or why not make it two!
Do you love Hanoi just as much as we do? Then don’t hesitate to join us in Vietnam! All you need to do is book your ticket and apply for a visa in good time. You can either get an online visa (Visa on Arrival and E-Visa), which is the most preferred option amongst travelers because if its simplicity and affordability, but you can also go to your closest Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate and apply with them. This is a good choice if you’re not planning on arriving to Vietnam by air, since the Visa on Arrival is only valid if you’re flying to the country.