We had a flight from Singapore to Hanoi early Monday morning as we wanted to maximize our time in the Vietnamese city we’d heard so much about. We checked into the beautiful Intercontinental Westlake, which is the perfect escape from hectic Hanoi. They gave us a wonderful room and club access so we dropped off our luggage and went to get our welcome drink in the club. Vanessa, the InterContinental Club Manager was phenomenal and crafted an amazing list of recommendations based on our interests. We left the hotel excited to check out as many of her recommendations as possible.
Our first stop was getting caffeinated on coffee street (Nguyễn Hữu Huân). We tried our first egg coffee, which was created back in the 1940s and has become a Vietnamese staple since then. It was originally created because milk was scarce and the Vietnamese needed an affordable way to use dairy in their coffee, so they replaced milk with an egg yolk (not the egg white as you’d expect). Shortly after creating egg coffee, the original creator opened his own cafe, Cafe Giang. Egg coffee is delicious and almost dessert-like — I would highly recommend trying it (preferably somewhere on coffee street!) if you ever find yourself in Hanoi!
After enjoying a coffee overlooking the busy street, we headed out to explore the Old Quarter. A combination of zig-zag streets that’s full of shops, street vendors and restaurants. We stopped into quite a few stores – purchased some Hanoi posters from a propaganda shop and popped into Hanoia House, a high-end boutique that incorporates lacquer into jewellery and home decor. After a few hours of walking around, we needed a bit of a break from the honking scooters and avoiding being run over. We headed to Maison Marou, a gourmet chocolate cafe which was started by one French gentleman who visited Vietnam and tasted the delicious bitter chocolate in its original form, which convinced to open up a “bean to bar” gourmet coffee shop. He joined forces with a local Vietnamese guy and the two now have locations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. The cafe was adorable and we really enjoyed the coffee and chocolate. We even bought a couple goodies to bring home for our friends and family.
We then made our way back into Old Quarter to meet up with Sam (Phuong) our wonderful food tour guide for the evening! Our good friends Melissa and Bill connected us with their food tour guide they had when they visited Hanoi last year. We were excited to be in good hands to explore the adventurous and a bit daunting food scene of Hanoi!
Sam took us to so many amazing hole in the wall places as well as one proper sit down restaurant. I thought I’d include a few of our favorite dishes from the evening, although if I am being honest, they were all delicious. Since the stalls and restaurants all look so similar, it’s hard to know which are legitimate and follow health/safety standards, so I would highly recommend doing a food tour if you’re ever in Hanoi!
Banh cuon ( Vietnamese steam cake)
Bun bo Hue ( Beef noodle in Hue style) – probably our favorite & very similar to pho
Bun cha ( grill pork vermicelli)
Vietnamese pan cake
Pho cuon ( roll noodle)
Despite countless cups of egg and Vietnamese coffee, we still managed to crash early that night as we’d only gotten a couple hours of sleep the night before thanks to jet lag and an early flight.
Tuesday morning we slept in to try to catch up on sleep. We then decided to adventure around the Westlake and Tay Hao area since it was such a nice day. We walked along the lake enjoying the bit slower pace of this area versus the old quarter. We grabbed juices from an adorable shop and walked past the Chinese temples that sit next to the lake. We also stumbled upon some cute boutique shops on the main street right near our hotel. Afterwards, we cooled off with a swim in the hotel’s beautiful pool and then got ready for the evening.
We stopped in the lounge for some evening cocktails before making our way into town. We started at Bahn Mi 25, the “best bahn mi in Hanoi” according to our favorite travel vloggers Kara and Nate . The sandwiches were delicious and the restaurant itself was also adorable. Afterwards, we walked around checking out some of the shops and even bought ourselves a painting to take back home.
We then headed over to Grandma’s, a restaurant recommended by my new friend, Vanessa, from the Intercontinental. The food was fantastic and the ambience was equally as wonderful. We shared a couple of grandmas signature dishes and enjoyed their Vietnamese coffee (a decision we later regretted that evening when we couldn’t fall asleep 😂). Afterwards, we walked to Ne Cocktail bar and enjoyed a pho cocktail (it really does taste just like pho!) and a Mai, another Hanoi style cocktail.
While our time in Hanoi was brief, we had a great time exploring both the Old Quarter and Westlake. We especially enjoyed the delicious food – we can’t wait to bring back some of our newfound Vietnamese foodie knowledge to restaurants back home!