Let’s all agree that Hanoi is a pretty amazing city, with traditions and modernization co-exist harmoniously. That being said, this lovely city offers visitors tons of unique and interesting adventures to embark on. Here are 10 of the most exotic, memorable and even eyebrow – raising.
In many foreigners’ eyes, Phở is the embodiment of Vietnamese cuisine. Whether it is true or not, it is undeniable that this dish is so famous worldwide, to the point that “Phở” has been acknowledged as a legitimate word in the Cambridge dictionary. Besides the traditional version that everyone knows and loves, there are other ways to savor this delightful noodles and the flavor is by no means less sublime. For each of the following “Phở” dish, we will include our all-time favorite places to have them:
- “Phở trộn” – the dry version of Phở where both is served separately and noodles are mixed with herbs, meat (mostly chicken) and a dressing sauce. You can find this delicacy at “Phở Nguyệt”, 5 Phủ Doãn Street, or the street vendor at 65A Lãn Ông Street.
- “Phở chiên phồng” – deep-fried “Phở” is crunchy on the outside and kind of chewy on the inside and is normally served with stir-fried beef and bok choy. My number-one spot to eat this dish is at Phở Cuốn Chinh Thắng, 7 Mạc Đĩnh Chi Street.
- “Phở sốt vang” is very similar to the traditional version however, it is more like a beef stew with noodles. We suggest that you should have this comfort food at “Tư Lùn” restaurant, 68 Hàng Mã Street or “Phở Đường Tàu”, 3 Trần Phú Street. Personally, “Phở Thật” at 48 Tran Nhat Duat Street is my favorite vendor.
Go for a leisure stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake or West Lake
Besides the more famous Hoan Kiem Lake and West Lake, there are roughly a few lesser known lakes for each district of the city where daily activities of the locals happen. From morning exercise, children playground to dating spots, these are just a few things that people do at the lakes. Hence, if you want to see the real Hanoi, definitely go for a relaxing walk around any lake nearby, or sit down at a lakeside café or ice tea vendor and do some people-watching. Since Hoan Kiem Lake area becomes a pedestrian only during weekends plus the night market nearby, there is so much to take in from street performances and arts to stalls of street food everywhere. If this sounds too overwhelming, lake strolling is at its best early in the morning when you can really slow down and enjoy a moment of tranquility.
The four “guardians” of Hanoi’s coffee culture.
Hanoi has a very vibrant coffee scene, with new café popping up every day, adding various flairs and colors to the already diverse drinking culture. However, for the most authentic experience, visit either one of these four time-honored spots: Nhân – Nhĩ – Dĩ – Giảng café, all of which are considered the embodiment of how Hanoian have been savoring coffee.
Despite the differences in their backstories as well as the way they prepare their coffee beans, all the above mentioned institutions carries a similar Hanoi old-school and nostalgic vibe, with items from the last centuries carefully cherished. Do try the infamous egg coffee whenever you have a chance to drop by Giảng café and its descendant – Đinh café.
Additionally, there are other household names that have been serving splendid coffee for years such as Lâm Café on Nguyen Huu Huan Street, Thai Café and Tho Café on Trieu Viet Vuong Street. Go there and be won over by their “Bac Xiu” – a creamier, sweeter version of “Nau Da”.
Café Nhân: 39 Ngõ Hàng Hành, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm.
Café Nhĩ: 2 Hàng Cá
Café Giảng: 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân
Café Lâm: 60 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm
Savor some authentic really-late-night snacks
Despite not having such a buzzing nightlife like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi still has some scrumptious late-night eats to soak up the booze or just to satisfy your sudden hunger at odd hours when most vendors in town have closed their door. Note down some of our favorite late-night food joints in the city:
- For some delish pork rib congee with crunchy crullers, go to Huyền Anh, 14 Đồng Xuân Street (18 p.m. – 2 a.m.)
- Feel like eating something a bit more filling – sticky rice with savory toppings, Xôi Lộc at 68 Tạ Quang Bửu Street got you covered (18 p.m. – 4 a.m.) or Xôi Quỳnh Lan at 23 Trần Hưng Đạo (15 p.m. – 10 a.m.)
- Have a bowl of Phở sốt vang (beef stew Phở) at the street side vendor at the intersection between Hàng Đường – Hàng Chiếu Street (3 a.m. – 7 a.m.)
- Or some sweet and sour Bún cá – Fish noodles at 10 Hồng Phúc Street (open 24/7)
Consider your hunger at, say 2 a.m., solved!
Admire the artifacts of the colonial era
Regardless of the tragedies the French has done to this country and the city, it cannot be denied that they have left behind some pretty spectacular structures, with architectural features distinct from any traditional Vietnamese buildings. Furthermore, they carry bits and pieces of the city’s turbulent past and witness how our brave and proud city has managed to rise from the ashes of wars.
Some of the most worthwhile colonial attractions in Hanoi include:
- Cua Bac Church (No. 56 Phan Dinh Phung Street): built in 1932
- National Museum of Vietnam History (No. 1 Trang Tien Street): the building itself was built in 1926.
- Hanoi Opera House (No. 1 Trang Tien Street): built in 1901
- Dong Xuan Market (Dong Xuan Street): built in 1889
- Joseph’s Cathedral (Nó. 40 Nhà Chung Street): built in 1886
A visit to the capital of Vietnam shall not be completed without venturing out into the lovely outskirts of the city, with various recreational destinations for you to discover.
If nature is your thing, do check out two of the most renowned National Park nationwide: Ba Vi and Cuc Phuong, of which the latter is much larger and also further away from Hanoi. Still, it is a suitable destination for a day trip. The former, Ba Vi National Park, is much closer to the capital and can be easily reached by motorbikes.
Should you be interested in old cultures, we suggest stopping by some traditional handicraft villages in the suburbs of Hanoi, where traditions and customs are mostly preserved. Visit Bat Trang ceramic village to grasp a better understanding of the hundred-year-old pottery crafts. Duong Lam ancient village is also a must as this site has been acknowledged in 2006 as a Cultural and Historic Heritage of Vietnam. Even better is that both villages are roughly around 50 km away from the centre of Hanoi. How convenient is that!
There are also a number of camping sites and luxury resorts around the city for whenever you feel in need of fresh air or just want to escape the hustle and bustle city life.