The capital of Hanoi is a city that’s always busy and bursting with energy. The city works to preserve its history from Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum to historical temples and other structures. With Hoan Kiem Lake being the pretty little sparkle in the centre of the city. And then is its modern day night-life and streets full of eateries, Hanoi is a city that offers a lot.
How to reach: There are direct flight from Kolkata and Delhi to Hanoi but these are on selected days, so, make sure to book in advance. Otherwise you can catch a flight hopping via Bangkok.
Best time to visit: October to April
If you’re visiting the heart of Vietnam, there’s lots for you to explore even within the food. From local delicacies to lively pubs and good old street food, here are recommendations for places to head to in Hanoi for a bite:
This is one of my absolute favourite places in Hanoi! Located a short walking distance from the Hoan Kiem Lake is this gorgeous colourful café. Notice how in the picture how each and every corner of the walls are covered with colourful post-its? Well, imagine that for 3 whole floors! Yes, the three-storeyed café has these colourful bits of paper plastered on every inch of every wall and the ceilings as well. So, who writes these notes? You and me. They have pens and paper around for all visitors, so, you can leave a little message yourself. We spent hours here just reading notes from people from across the globe here. This experience is made better with their sinfully delicious Vietnamese coffee and deserts.
Okay okay, since you’ll hear a lot about Vietnamese coffee, let’s talk about why is it popular? The frothy and creamy coffees brewed in Vietnam are popular across the world. And they come with varieties that have originated in the country itself such as coconut coffee and egg coffee. I know, you’re thinking that that sounds weird, so did I. But after that first cup I was happily sipping away on egg coffee for 2 whole weeks. One of the best places to explore your relationship with the country’s coffee as your own pace and stage is the Hanoi House. This little hidden gem is scarcely visible from the main street but once you make your way through the narrow lane and staircase, you find yourself perched on the wooden benches of a rustic and cosy café. This is for when you’re looking to sip on a cup in no rush, to have a day or an evening of the laidback life.
Red Bean Restaurant
Before you get impatient about knowing where to head for food, let’s grab our forks and spoons and dig right into it! If you are visiting a country, you have to try the local cuisine. Vietnamese food is a delight for non-vegetarian lovers. Soupy noodles, meal bowls, with herbs or slight spices and a whole load of fresh vegetables have you eating delicious dishes without feeling overdone. Hanoi is typically a very busy city, so, if you want your experience of indulging in the local must-haves with ease, the Hanoi Home Restaurant lets you have that. Tastefully done interiors lend further to its charm. My favourite pick from here is the pho, a kind of soupy noodles with green leafy veggies and chunks of meat. As for vegetarians, the options in Vietnam are pretty limited but you can request the restaurant to convert some dish into a vegetarian version for you. Throw in a smile and hopefully get that chance!
The Railway Hanoi (Choo Choo Cafe)
A popular attraction or activity in Hanoi is heading to its train track streets where the train speeds off on a track in between with shops and cafes on either side. But since this is a popular pick the street can often be very crowded. If you’re looking for a lesser crowded or quieter option for witnessing this, then you can head to the Railway or Choo Choo Café. It is a cute little corner. The small place allows you to interact with locals or just quietly observe the surroundings of the city you are visiting. Grab a drink and a banh mi which is a Vietnamese style subway sandwich. Get your little munchies and perch on the small stools outside to have a taste of the place along with the eatables.
Speaking of looking for quieter corners, we have another option! The incredibly charming Old Quarter can be overwhelming at times, so, if you want a quieter space you can head to the West Lake side. Over there you will find the Mystic Coffee, an establishment overlooking the beautiful lake. Give a break to the coffee if you feel like and try one of their yummy fruity smoothies. You can also try their small bites and baked goodies to treat your belly during your visit. An ideal time to visit this one is during the sunset hour as you can sit lazily having food with the view unfurling above a lake and the skyline right in front of you.
Hanoi Social Club
As the name suggests this is a friendly place where people often end up mingling with each other. The café has a haphazardly done décor and its that abstract approach which actually gives it the warmer vibe. It welcomes you to a colourful space with cheerful art work, old chairs, soft couches and what not. While its open for all 3 meals, the must haves here include goulash and mango curry with brown rice. The added bonus of this one is that their menu is also accommodating of vegetarians and vegans! Its time to let your inner foodie out. Further, they even host live music nights on some evenings, so, you can check their page and visit accordingly as well.
Cha Ca Thang Long
This one is for the meat lovers, the ones who are looking to be smitten by the simply delicious dishes Hanoi has to offer. The simple restaurant of Cha Ca Thang Long does not have an extensive menu. They have kept their menu sweet and simple ensuring that the dishes they prepare are cooked masterfully. Have you ever tried hot pot? It’s a fun dish and also an activity in a way! You are handed a pot on an electric stove with a nice and spicy gravy in which you can keep dipping vegetables and meat chunks and nibbling away for as long as you like. They serve a number of other local delicacies too. Also, for beer lovers the local beers are dirt cheap!
When in Hanoi, do some happy hogging!
Click here to check out some of the best cafes in Hoi An!
Also, here are five dishes you must try in Vietnam!