When the sirens went off at Hanoi’s historic Metropole hotel in December 1972, American folk singer Joan Baez and other guests scampered across a garden and down into an underground bunker that would only be unearthed in 2011–nearly 40 years later. It’s tidbits like those that make Hanoi an incredibly compelling city.
Though starkly different to the more lively Ho Chi Min in the south, what Hanoi lacks in outrageous nightlife, it makes up for in memorable street food and a subtle French elegance. Given the city is a little sleepier than others, it’s best to gorge yourself on local eats like the ones we tried out here:
To read more of Mac's Hanoi adventure click here.
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Arrive 3pm to Hanoi Noi Bai - International Airport.
Travel via airport transfer to Metropole Hotel Hanoi, member of Sofitel Hotels, located in the city centre near Grand Place.
The best way to learn about a culture is through its cuisine, so gear up for a leisurely street food tour in the old quarter of Hanoi. A 20 minute walk from the hotel will see you to the first step of Vietnamese spring rolls and homemade fish sauce. Carry on to try wedding cake, bap xao tom kho (Vietnamese stir-fry corn and dried shrimp), some doughnuts that taste like they’ve been cooked in seaweed oil (avoid) and then take a pit stop from all the strenuous eating at the “International Beer Corner” to grab a cold one and a plate of Vietnamese sausage. Next on the tour is pho ga (chicken soup). This is the real deal–deeply savoury soup, tender noodles and punchy chilli sauce. Bun cha was the absolute hero of the night, however; this Hanoi dish consists of grilled pork meatballs served with fresh lettuce and herbs, vermicelli and dipping sauces. It’s one of the tastiest things you might ever put in your mouth.
Street Food Tour
Meet at Metropole Hotel Lobby at 5:30pm. Tour ends around 8:30pm.
Details through Travolor
Breakfast at the Metropole’s Spice Garden
Breakfast at the Metropole’s Spice Garden is an anxiety-inducing affair if you like good food. A steady stream of piping hot coffee comes to the table as you pick your way through outstanding pastries, made-to-order eggs and enough exotic fruits to start a tiki-lounge.
Metropole Hotel Hanoi, 15 Ngô Quyen, Hoàn Kiem, 010000
+84 4 3826 6919
Explore three foundational landmarks of Vietnam’s capital, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda, and the Presidential Palace. All sit on the same property so catching a taxi from the hotel to the site is the best bet.
Hùng Vuong, Đien Biên, Ba Đình
+84 4 3845 5128
Banh Mi with paté, cucumbers, carrots, and a touch of chilli via Mac Ling
Of the many spots to grab a banh mi, Bánh Mì 25 has the reputation as the best. Mac says:
Order the chicken and the pork special. Both sandwiches come with paté, cucumbers, carrots, and a touch of chilli. The chicken was a chopped up honey grilled thigh while the second offering was three different kinds of pork, both served on a fresh baguette.
Banh Mi 25
36 Hàng Cá, Hàng Đào
Once the banh mi fuel is coursing through the veins, continue on to the Temple of Literature; a half hour walk or eight minute drive from Banh Mi 25. This is in the Temple of Confucius and hosts the “Imperial Academy”, Vietnam’s first national university. The temple was built in 1070 and inside you will stumble upon (and hopefully not into) a pond known as the ‘Well of Heavenly Clarity’ as well as a low-slung pagoda and statues of Confucius and his disciples.
Temple of Literature
P Quoc Tu Giam
+84 4 4 3845 2917
Cong Caphe does the best coconut iced coffee
A ten minute stroll away is Cong Caphe, a hipster coffee joint that makes a decidedly addictive coconut iced coffee, which is precisely as delicious as it sounds.
32 Đien Biên Phu, Hoàn Kiem
For dinner, grab a dish called xôi thap cam. Mac says:
It’s a bowl of sticky rice, covered with shaved mung beans, fried onions, and chicken fat drizzled over top. Order smaller dishes like stewed pork, sauteed paté, fried eggs, braised eggs and Chinese sausage to accompany. The crunchy vinegar pickles that come complimentary are the perfect balance to the rich flavour of the rice/meat combination. No one speaks English here, so there’s a lot of pointing and gesturing.
Warning: You will feel very full afterwards. #riceexpands
35 Nguyen Huu Huân, Lý Thái To, Hoàn Kiem
Xôi thap cam: sticky rice, shaved mung beans, fried onions, chicken fat via Mac Ling
Wander around the lake and do a bit of people watching as runners, children, cart pushers and the elderly all make the shuffle around the landmark pond in the middle of the Old Quarter. Meander over to the Cho Đong Xuân markets where Hanoi culture is seen at its most authentic. The ladies eat together, the men gamble and the children wear chicken suits as they amble down the crowded side lanes on scooters. This is a great place to buy coffee mugs, lacquer goods and a lot of sneakers. Stop by for egg coffee at Cà Phê Giang. Yes, egg coffee. Mac says:
It’s as weird as it sounds but oh so delicious. Think Vietnamese coffee, with an egg stirred inside. A creamy, eggy, sweet treat; if you are into coffee, custard, or both, this is that, together, in one cup.
39 Nguyen Heu Huân, Lý Thái To, Hoàn Kiem
Egg coffee at Cà Phê Giang
Massage time! ‘When in Rome, get a massage’ we’re pretty sure is how the saying goes and the same is applied here. The best massage in Hanoi is said to come from Mido Spa which is on the north-west side of the lake in the middle of Old Quarter. Selling points are great prices for the quality and friendly service.
26 Hang Manh Str | Hoan Kiem Dist, Old Quarter
+84 4 3828 5588
If ‘chocolate buffet’ isn’t the most formidable afternoon activity we’re not sure what else would cut it. The Metropole puts on a delicious spread everyday from 3pm using high-quality artisan products from Europe. Hop between a mousse to a financier, an opera cake and then over to the sinfully thick hot chocolate to finish your tour.
15 Ngô Quyen, Hoàn Kiem
+84 4 3826 6919