Travel Tuesday; out and about in Hanoi

We’ve only had one chance to visit Hanoi while we lived in Vietnam, but we had an amazing time. I loved visiting this city, but I was very happy to be living in HCMC instead of Hanoi. In my opinion HCMC is a bit more western and further developed, which made it easy to settle in. I am not sure how I would have been able to settle down in this city, but it was great to visit it.

01. Overview

During this trip we stayed in Hanoi for a couple of days before we went off to Sapa. Upon our return we were supposed to stay a day in Hanoi and then continue our trip to Halong Bay. Unfortunately our boat was cancelled, on the positive side, this gave us plenty of time to really discover Hanoi.

Hotels:
There are plenty of hotels in Hanoi, and anyone who visits I recommend to stay in the old quarter. As the main tourist activities are in this part of the city, it’s just a short walk away from your hotel.

We stayed in two totally different hotels during our visit to Hanoi:

  • 6 on Sixteen:
    6 on Sixteen is a contemporary hotel located between the bustling Old Quarter and the Stylish French Quarter in downtown Hanoi within a 5min walk from the Hoan Kiem Lake. The hotel is super cute, and offers only 6 rooms. Besides that, it gives back to the local community it operates in and therefore they give underprivileged youth and Ethnic minority people  a chance and encourage them to give them and their family a better life. This organization (Tet Lifestyle Collection) has several initiatives throughout North and Central Vietnam – take a look on their website for more information.
    The hotel rooms at 6 on Sixteen are fairly basic, but the rooms are beautifully decorated. With only 6 rooms it’s a fairly small hotel, but it offers a lot of shared areas and space. Besides that they have a great restaurant on the group floor, with delicious breakfast options.
    Depending on the season, rates go from US$39 – US$90 per night.
    16 Bảo Khánh, Hàng Trống, Hoan Kiem District, Hà Nội | Tel: +84466736279 | Web: http://tet-lifestyle-collection.com/6-on-sixteen/
  • Hotel Metropole Hanoi – Sofitel Legend
    Working in the hospitality industry has its advantages, and one of these advantages is that you receive hospitality discounts when staying in other properties such as Hotel Metropole in Hanoi. This hotel is an award-winning French colonial-style hotel, situated close to the Opera House in Hanoi. The hotel is divided in two wings – the Opera Wing and the Metropole Wing – and we stayed in a Luxury Room at the Metropole Wing. The room has hardwood floors, the most amazing bed and mahogany furnishings.
    The hotel is one of the best hotels in town, so it was an absolute pleasure to stay here. If you ever have the chance to stay in this hotel; do it!
    Rooms go from US$162++ per night for a standard room.
    15 Ngo Quyen Street, Hoan Kiem District, 1000 Hanoi | Tel: +84438266919 | Web: http://www.sofitel-legend.com/hanoi/en/

Restaurants:
Vietnam is known for it’s amazing fresh food, and like other cities we’ve been, Hanoi did not disappoint us on this point either. We’ve eaten in small eateries all around town, but I have to say that restaurant Ngon was one of our favorites.

  • Quan An Ngon
    When you translate Quan An Ngon into English, it literally means Restaurant Delicious; and this place definitely lives up to it’s name. Ngon has grown out to be a local chain with 4 branches in Hanoi. However we prefer the original location on Phan Boi Chau Street. The restaurant is set up in a beautiful courtyard, surrounded by all different types of stalls. You can wonder around and look at all the different dishes they have to offer, or you can order directly from the menu. The food is based on the famous Vietnamese street food. The menu is overwhelming, but once you looked through it offers the most amazing Vietnamese dishes you can imagine.
    To note: to make sure there is availability in the restaurant and you don’t have to wait too long for a seat, make a reservation in advance.
    18 Phan Bội Châu, Cửa Nam, Hoan Kiem District, Hà Nội | Tel: +84 4 3942 8162 | Web: http://ngonhanoi.com.vn/index.php/en/
  • KOTO Restaurant
    Close to The Temple of Literature you will find KOTO Hanoi Restaurant. KOTO stands for “Know One, Teach One”, which is an initiative by KOTO’s owner Jimmy Pham. He opened a training centre in hospitality in Hanoi over 10 years ago, giving disadvantaged youth the possibility to learn and strive in their lives.
    At the Hanoi restaurant, you will find trainees who are fine tuning their skills in the hospitality service and culinary arts, and at the same time learning English and providing a warm welcome to their guests. It’s a great experience seeing these kids working hard to learn the skills.
    Café KOTO is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7:30am to 10:00pm. On the menu you can find a wide range of local and international dishes.
    To note: for lunch time it’s recommended to make a reservation in advance. 59 Van Mieu Street, Hanoi | Tel: +84437470337 | Web: http://www.koto.com.au/about-koto/koto-enterprise/koto-hanoi-restaurant

Things to do:
Most of our time in Hanoi was spend wandering the streets of the Old Quarter around the Hoàn Kiếm Lake. This area originally had about 36 streets, with each street having merchants and households specialised in a particular trade. Today the streets are still named after these trades such as silk or jewellery, however the streets no longer hold only shops that only offer this one kind of trade. It is now mixed in with souvenir shops, restaurants and road side bars.

Besides wandering the streets of Hanoi, we also visited several other tourist hot spots:

02. To do

  • Water Puppet Show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
    The water puppet show is a show that lasts for about 30 minutes. As Water Puppetry is famous in Northern Vietnam, we wanted to take this opportunity to visit the show. While the show is set-up nicely in a proper theater, it’s all in Vietnamese. Due to this we could not really follow the show that properly, but if you can tune this out, it’s worth a visit.
    Admission fee around US$5 {depending on your location in the theatre) | 57b Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội | Tel: +84439364335
  • Temple of Literature
    The Temple of Literature is the 1st National University of Vietnam and a temple of Confucius. The temple has a huge garden to walk around in and it gives you the opportunity to take the time and enjoy the beautiful Vietnamese architecture. If you do visit this temple, see whether you can squeeze in a visit to the flagship restaurant of KOTO {more information above}.
    Admission is around US$1 | Văn Miếu, Đống Đa, Hà Nội | Tel: +844438452917
  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
    This large memorial site, which is situated on the Ba Dinh Square is important in many ways. In September 1945 Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence on this square. Now more then 65 years later, the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh is the central hall of the mausoleum which was inspired by Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow.
    As we were living in Vietnam, we thought it was important to visit the mausoleum where the last resting place of Uncle Ho was. Be careful when you visit though, that you will need to be here very early as you can only visit until 12 noon {recommend to be there around 7-7:30am}, and that the lines are long. I think we were in line for 1.5-2hrs, and in the central hall for about 3 minutes before the guards urge you to move on.
    It’s quite an experience, and if you’re lucky you’ll see the changing of the guards which is pretty impressive.  Also there are rules regarding dress and behaviour which is strictly enforced by staff and guards. Which means amongst others that no shorts or miniskirts are allowed, and smoking, drinking, eating, photo/videography are not permitted inside the mausoleum.
    To note: the Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum is closed for about two months each year while Ho Chi Minh’s body goes to Russia for maintenance and touch up in autumn.
    Admission is free | Enter at corner of Hung Vuong and Le Hong Phong Street | Ba Dinh Square, Hà Nội
  • Hoàn Kiếm Lake
    Hoàn Kiếm Lake is considered the centre of Hanoi and situated in the old quarter. There is a beautiful story about this lake about Le Loi King and a talking tortoise. However the main reason for coming to the lake is to escape the busy city and just watch people wander around the area. It also makes a great place for a photo op.
    Admission is free | Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Hoàn Kiếm District, Hanoi.

Hope you’ll have a great time visiting Hanoi, and that the above tips came in handy. And don’t forget to let me know any good recommendations below.

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