As Vietnam’s capital, it’s easy to get caught up in seeing Hanoi’s typical sights and museums, but away from the whirlwind of motorbikes are a few hidden gems that few know about, and are entirely worth your time.
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Tranquil Book Cafe
5 Nguyễn Quang Bích, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
When my sweet tooth caved and I sought out WannaWaffle?, I had a little breakfast read of Word – Vietnam’s What’s On Guide – and found the fantastic article ‘Hanoi’s Books Cafes’. I’d always wanted to visit a book cafe, so when I saw that Tranquil Book Cafe was in the Old Quarter I knew I had to visit! Fortunately, Typhoon Damrey allowed an extra day in Hanoi so I could potter and drink English tea.
Tranquil Book Cafe is in fact made up of two cafes, the first and smallest of the two is noticeable for its on-street location, however turn to the alleyway opposite and you’ll find a larger cafe with a balcony seating overlooking the warming decor below.
Why you should visit. If you’re missing home and in need a good brew, you’re curious about what exactly a book cafe is or you’re a bibliophile needing a quick fix.
Observation Deck at Lotte Centre
54 Lieu Giai, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
From first look, the Lotte Centre appears as your run-of-the-mill shopping complex. But hidden on the lower floor is the lift that ascends you to 830ft in just 50 seconds. Featuring South East Asia’s first ever built Sky Walk, the Observation Deck is not to be missed and can be visited day or night. At just 230,000 VND (Approximately £8), you’ll be treated to 360 panoramic views of Vietnam’s capital, with a few interactive modules for the added experience.
Why you should visit. Because it offers panoramic views of the city of under a tenner – duh!
39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Egg coffee was founded by Mr. Nguyen Giang in 1946, where he used egg yolks as a substitute to the scarcely available milk. Remaining in the family, this infamous mix of chicken egg yolk, Vietnamese coffee powder, sweetened condensed milk, butter and cheese can be tried at the inconspicuous family cafe for just 25,000 VND (approx 0.80p). The coffee is brewed in a small cup with a filter before the addition of a well-whisked mixture, before being placed in a bowl of hot water to keep its temperature.
Why you should visit. To live like a local whilst tasting the traditional egg coffee in the place in which it was invented.
64 Lương Văn Can, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Serving up a sweeter, less authentic version of the Egg Coffee at 38,000 VND, The Note Coffee is a perfect hangout spot for good WiFi and a great view of the Hoan Kiem Lake. Whilst a selection of beverages are on offer such as Coconut Coffee and Iced Lattes, it’s the scrappiness of the notes adorning the walls that really brings this little gem alive. Reading notes of passers by whilst leaving your own messages is a fantastic past time.
Why you should visit. For good WiFi, sweet coffee and lots and lots of notes.
Ngo 224 Le Duan – Between Kham Tien and Le Duan
Experience the most harrowing 30 seconds of your life at Hanoi’s Train Street as a high speed train whizzes by inches from your face. As the train makes its approach at 15:30 and 19:30 daily, local residents retreat indoors leaving us tourists to find a little nook and avoid being squashed. There are a number of train streets in Hanoi, but I can vouch for this one with thanks to bloggers So The Adventure Begins for providing the exact location.
Why you should visit. It’s unlikely you’ll ever get this close to a train again.
What are your Hanoi Hot Spots? Let us know in the comments.