48 Hours in Hanoi.

Day 1

1)Vườn hoa Hàng Trống (Hang Trong garden)

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If you’re taking a stroll around Hoan Kiem lake and you feel like you need a little zen corner away from the crowd, then this is where you need to be. People drive past it all the time, but get discouraged to stop by when they see the unfriendly ‘no parking’ sign or maybe they are just in a rush to get somewhere and hence miss its charm. If you wandering around that area, you have a higher chance of stumbling into this charming, secluded little garden. It is just 10 minutes away from Hoan Kiem lake by foot hence a perfect meeting spot to kick-start your Hanoian adventure.

On the premises of the garden rests the national library of Hoan Kiem district, a French colonial building with a magnificent old tree guarding its peacefulness and freshening the air from the exhaust fumes. It is quite a compact little area surrounded by rugged molded walls, which to me has become a very iconic image of Hanoi. Surprisingly, it never gets crowded and you can always spot a few ‘true locals’ going for a jog or meditating under a tree. It just naturally evokes an oozing sense of intimacy and romance, and is perfect for a date or for some private “me” time.

Unfortunately, you can’t walk or sit on the grass. But I do it anyways when there are no guards lurking around. Since there is no parking, you can grab a wrap or a salad across from a place called Cela Salad and leave your bikes there. Go further down the Nha Chung street and you will come across the famous St. Joseph’s cathedral where you can grab a coffee at nearby cafe and enjoy the local atmosphere. In other words, you can never go the wrong direction from this wonderful garden :)

*I should only mention that it should be visited in the off peak hours, when you could actually enjoy every breath while let your mind go wild with inspiration.

Address: 42 Nha Chung

2) Hanoi House Cafe

Courtesy of Hanoi Hideaway

Hanoi is a vibrant coffee capital, which brings us to Hanoi Coffee House. Hard to find and harder to forget, Hanoi House is an architectural gem in the form of a cafe.Unusual art illuminates the faded walls just as comfy cushions grace the otherwise hard wooden seats. Stylish Art Deco tiles blanket the floor and a small collection of antiques and art pieces have been delicately placed throughout.

Go outside through the French wooden door and you’ll find one of Hanoi’s most intimate outdoor spaces. This tiny balcony isn’t fancy or clean or even that comfortable- but it is a lovely space from which to look across at St Joseph’s church or peer down at the square in front.

If you thought that this place just couldn’t be any better, you were wrong. The coffee is superb, the teas are inventive, and the lemon juices are deliciously sharp. The sophisticated French classics that play from the speakers are perfect- one couldn’t propose a more fitting playlist for this colonial building of over a hundred years.

Basically, we wouldn’t change a thing and nor should anyone else.

Address: 47A Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

3) Manzi

If you want to check out a contemporary Hanoi art scene, look no further than Manzi. You will probably find this renowned art-cafe in every guide and for a good reason. With every new visit you get a new look and feel, as there is an abundance of artists’ works being rotated on a regular basis. Before taking a seat, be sure to have a good look around, you might find something that catches your eye that you might want to purchase or just sit by and contemplate. The staff are aware of this and will not pester you with excessive attention and will wait patiently until you find a place to settle. The drinks are excellent and reasonably priced taking into account the quality. I would recommend getting a refreshing pineapple and mint juice, fresh fruit with yogurt and the distinct Vietnamese coffee. Also, keep an eye on their Facebook calendar, you might find cool events ranging from cozy short film nights to larger-scale week-long photography exhibitions that might take place during your visit.

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Address: 14 Phan Huy Ích, Nguyễn Trung Trực, Ba Đình, Hà Nội

3) DeN

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DeN is one of the grooviest bars in Hanoi. An eclectic blend of music and a variety of art and culture — from community yoga classes to film screenings forums to open jams, dj nights, well-presented, quality local original music etc. You can truly come here find something for yourself.

The highlights of this place are great cocktails and a solid ever-changing seasonal menu that includes a more obscure dishes of the world cuisine such as shakshouka (VND 95,000), a mezze platter (VND 95,000) and the Touch of India (VND 75,000). a curried capsicum and zucchini pizza with yoghurt and coriander.

There are a variety of teas, such as Nepali chai (VND 50,000) and ginger (VND 40,000), a selection of coffees, and a few smoothies starting at VND50,000, such as the Makeba, which mixes blueberry, beetroot, flaxseed and coconut cakes.

Address: 49 Lang Yen Phu, Tay Ho, Hanoi. Open daily from 10am until midnight, except Thursdays (closes at midday).

Day 2

Morning in Hanoi starts off with a good breakfast. For Hanoians it typically involves a good bowl of noodle soup usually pho, but for a change we like to it mix up with a banh mi. Check out my food blog posts for my top places to get that deliciousness. Next my morning ritual would not be complete without getting a cup of coffee. I would either settle for a quiet coffee shop for a good workplace atmosphere, but still not compromise on the taste and quality, or if I didn’t have anything to get done that day, I would treat myself with an egg coffee. Here would be my choices for both of these options.

  1. Tranquil Books and coffee
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Doing exactly what it claims, this space offers a tranquil atmosphere with soothing jazz playing in the background and the sounds of page turning and people typing on their laptops. It offers a good selection of drinks, the most obvious one being fantastic coffee, but also an assortment of teas, fruit shakes and hot chocolate to die for. Tranquil Books has 2 locations: 5 and 8 Nguyễn Quang Bích. Number 5 is the main space that’s hidden down an alley, while the smaller Number 8 is right along the street and that’s where I ended up first time. It’s always full on the weekends with people either working, studying or enjoying a book. The unspoken rule of the place is that you have to respect others’ rights not to be disturbed, so all the noise is kept down.

Address: 5 Nguyễn Quang Bích, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

2) Giang Cafe

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When it comes to egg coffee in Hanoi, Giang Cafe is the first place that comes to mind. Giang Cafe serve arguably the best egg coffee in Hanoi. Giang Cafe was founded in 1946 by Mr Nguyen Giang, who created egg coffee when milk was scarce, replacing the milk with the egg yolk. Having egg coffee at Giang Cafe is an experience in itself. You will only see a sign above a small alleyway, which you need to walk down to the end where the cafe will open up.

Address: 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

Hanoi is a culturally rich and vibrant city which offers travellers a great selection of galleries and museums, which provide a glimpse into the country’s complex, turbulent history, and at the same time beautiful culture.

3) CUC Gallery

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CUC Gallery is the leading contemporary art gallery of Vietnam, which ranges from paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, installation, video and prints. The artist selection ranges from very emerging, mid-career to established Vietnamese artists. The gallery selectively produces high quality and all highly reviewed with research-in -depth exhibitions and programs in order to present to the public great experiences with contemporary art. To get the most of your visit, I would suggest getting in contact with them in advance on Facebook in order to book a curator.

For more information about exhibitions, you can check out their website :

http://www.cucgallery.vn/

Address: Keangnam Tower A, A4703 (Floor 47), Keangnam Palace, Dương Đình Nghệ, St, Từ Liêm, Hà Nội 129408

4) Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

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This fabulous collection relating to Vietnam’s ethnic minorities features well-presented tribal art, artefacts and everyday objects gathered from across the nation, and examples of traditional village houses. Displays are well labelled in Vietnamese, French and English. If you’re into anthropology, it’s well worth the approximately 200,000d-each-way taxi fares to the Cau Giay district, about 7km from the city centre, where the museum is located.

Courtesy of the Lonely Planet.

Address: Vietnam Museum Of Ethnology, Nguyễn Văn Huyên, Quan Hoa, Cầu Giấy, Hà Nội 100000

5) Museum Garden

Courtesy of hanoihideaway

This unimaginatively named hideaway is set in a lush and shady garden corner of one of Hanoi’s most striking colonial buildings- perfect for a bright and sunny day.

The aforementioned colonial building is Hanoi’s History Museum, a well arranged reflection of pre-45 Vietnamese history. Externally, this is Vietnam’s most spectacular museum and a fine example of the French fancy to blend Eastern and Western architectural styles and then coat the mongrel in yellow.

The cafe itself would be nothing special were it not for it’s incredible location and seats affording great views of the building as well as the interesting artifacts that decorate the museum garden. Powerful fans and shade from from the greenery keep you cool so even when outside is an oven, it’s still comfortable enough.

Unfortunately, the cafe suffers from many of the same problems that most past-generation Hanoi cafes do- moody service, messy floors and a mediocre drinks menu. But the prices are standard, the coffee is adequate and the smoothie list is extensive, so the drinks still do the job. Regardless, the reason to come is all in the name.

Address: Address: 1b Pham Ngu Lao, Hoan Kiem

6) Binh Minh’s Jazz club

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This list would not be completed without mentioning Binh Minh. The heart and soul of Hanoian jazz scene, the owner of Binh Minh, Quyen Van Minh is known as the Godfather of Jazz in Vietnam. Minh has performed in jazz festivals throughout Asia and Europe. Visiting jazz musicians in Vietnam also frequently play with Minh’s Song Hong (Red River) Jazz Bands and at the jazz club. Quyen Van Minh has the only big band in Vietnam and frequently holds concerts at the Hanoi Opera house and other event venues. He performs nearly every night at his jazz club with his students who are to become the next generation of jazz musicians in Vietnam.

In the heart of the Old Quarter, Mr. Quyen Van Minh has been churning out jazz just about as long as he’s been allowed. There is no cover charge and Minh showcases some of the best local talent

Address: 1 Tràng Tiền, Phan Chu Trinh, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội