The 3 best areas to stay
in Hanoi

The 3 best areas to stay
in Hanoi

Let's put it like that: Hanoi, Vietnam is not the perfect place for travel rookies, Asia first-timers or the average western city neurotic. It can be challenging first, because it's so different. But if you find the right spot for you, wanting to come back is only a question of time.

Here are the 3 best areas to stay in Hanoi:

  • Favourhood N° 1 Hanoi French Quarter

    Generous, elegant
    & colonial

    Hanoi French Quarter
  • Favourhood N° 2 Hanoi Old Quarter

    Intense, chaotic
    & colourful

    Hanoi Old Quarter
  • Favourhood N° 3 Hanoi West Lake

    Chill, zen
    & international

    Hanoi West Lake
  • OH NO! Maybe not

    Life's too short to stay here

    Maybe not

The 3 best areas in Hanoi.

  • 1 Hanoi French Quarter
  • 2 Hanoi Old Quarter
  • 3 Hanoi West Lake
  • Maybe not

The French Quarter – generous, elegant & colonial


XXX Think of Rome. What comes up first? Probably the Vatican (yes, let's just say it is a part of Rome!), some seven hills story and the historic center, even if there are thousands of definitions what the "Centro Storico" actually is. Let's agree on: everything 500 yards around Piazza Navona – deal?

A little lower than other parts of the city, Centro Storico seems to duck into a turn of the Tiber river – although it has absolutely nothing to hide. It feels like THE Rome, cradle of western culture. Narrow alleys here, markets and baroque fountains on big squares there, and a building of historic importance at every corner.

With all the visitors, all the incredible sights and everything that comes with it, Centro Storico can be a bit overwhelming, no doubt about it. But if you want to explore Rome by foot, there is no better area to stay!

You will get:

  • more architcture and art than you can handle
  • narrow streets, lively during the day, empty by night
  • the possibility reach everything by foot
  • guys trying to sell you umbrellas and fake LVs

XXX That's due to the central location, exactly between the Vatican and the seven hills of Rome. You basically stay in the middle of everything which means you can – actually you must! – walk the whole area. There are so many columns and sculptures still buried in the ancient grounds below the historic center of Rome that nobody ever dared to build a metro here.

Speaking of old stones: The Romans live with and in between their ruins, especially at Centro Storico. You will drink coffee next to the remains of temples that are there for 2,000 years and should try not to damage anything that is on the UNESCO World Heritage list when illegally parking your car on the sidewalk.

Apart from all the sights like

  • the Pantheon,
  • Piazza Navona with
  • Bernini's Four Streams Fountain,
  • „Il Gesú“, the mother baroque church architecture,
  • Campo de' Fiori and its markets ...


... for me it's more about the less famous spots, like:

  • Via Guilia behind Palazzo Farnese,
  • the stairs up to Santa Maria in Aracoeli,
  • Piazza di Sant'Ignazio
  • and the quarter of craftsmen and antiquarians in the northwest of Centro Storico.


God, I have to get back to Rome again.

Don't damage anything that's on the UNESCO world heritage list!

That's the motto when illegally parking on a sidewalk here.

Practical tip for Centro Storico

It's never a very good idea to bring your car in Rome (that's why everybody uses scooters), even more so in Centro Storico. Sure, you can rent one of the nimble Car2Gos, but even the smallest car becomes a liabilty when it comes to finding parking space. Sometimes it is virtually impossible to solve that problem in under 30 minutes in a legal way. And who wants to spend that time. That's three espressi you couldn't drink!

And, as much as it hurts to write that: High heels are probably no good idea for the cobbled streets of ancient roman streets.

The Old Quarter – Intense, chaotic & colourful


There is a good chance you won’t like it here on first sight.

It is loud.
It is intense.
It is full of smells you never smelt before and full of people you’ve never met before. Nevertheless you will find yourself right in the middle of their lives, right in the streets.

A guy straps two dinner tables to his scooter while the woman next to him keeps a charcoal fire alive. Her mother ties flowers and has an eye on the little boy waving at you while brushing teeth in his pyjamas.

Hanoi Old Town is a crash course in dense Vietnamese city life. If you can deal with that, it might be just the area for you to stay in!

You get:

  • a crash course in Vietnamese city life
  • noise, colours and excitement
  • street food at every corner
  • probably bumped into by a scooter at some point

Nowhere else will you be exposed so quickly to so many facettes of what it means to live in Hanoi.

The historic center of the city kept up surprisingly well throughout the centuries, therefore life is now condensed to whatever space there is between the walls of the past. If you thought scooter-traffic was crazy in the wide boulevards of the French Quarter, imagine it happen right around you in narrow alleys without sidewalks. It is madness. A madness you can get addicted to.

Sure, there are some beer bars that are clearly targeting western visitors. Some vendor ladies in the streets might sell stuff that is not 100% authentic and wear traditional stuff not to uphold Vietnamese culture. But compared to other cities of the world, even the Old Town of Hanoi still seems relatively untouched by tourism. It is amazing how much of what you see, smell and experience is not aimed at you as a visitor at all. Visit a food market after dawn and you will know what I mean.

The Old Quarter is madness.

A madness you can get addicted to.

Practical tip for Hanoi Old Quarter

The nice ladies with the cone shaped hats, balancing a bamboo stick on their sholders to carry around fruit in two baskets? Yeah, it looks amazing and sure, it seems nice & genuie when they ask you to try balancing this thing on your sholder. And why not take a picture then? Because it is a little scam and you might end up paying 150k VND for a couple of pineapple slices out of guilt for having taken a pic. In the worst case she might point at the 500k bills in your hands and just take them before you notice it weren't the 50s.

(I only heared about that and it totally never ever happened to me ...)

West Lake – Chill, zen & international


In almost every major city around the world, open water is a focal point. Be it the Seine in Paris, the Thames in London, the beaches of Barcelona or the harbors of Hong Kong. In Hanoi, the West Lake though seems to take off focus from all the hustle & bustle of an otherwise very, very intense city.

The West Lake area, a long strip of land surrounding Tay Ho Lake, does two things better than any other neighborhood of Hanoi: reflecting light and reflecting thoughts. Try both of them at the same time by bouncing around thoughts in the evening sun and you get magic moments of Zen.

You get:

  • all the luxury Rome provides
  • Fellini feeling
    (Via Veneto)
  • stressed out if you are not into big crowds (Tridente)
  • afraid of opening your credit card bill when back home

Locals know that. That’s why they bring their birdcages to the water front, play board games and fish there. Expats know it as well. That’s why they rent overpriced apartments in this district from Vietnamese people that bankroll their children’s education abroad with it. So it all comes full circle: people move here, so that other people can move elsewhere.

You, on the other hand, should stay in the West Lake area if you are in search of quietness and open space – two rare goods in Hanoi over all. For western travelers it might also be the district most easy to adjust to. So if you feel like you are not ready yet to be thrown right in the middle of all the madness, West Lake will be your ideal base camp.

Hurly-Burly, shopping and Luxury.

A day in Tridente can be exhausting. Relaxation is around the corner at Villa Borghese.

Practical tip for Hanoi West Lake

Try to get up onto one of the rooftop terraces of a highrise building at West Lake as soon as you can. Ideally for Sunset. Not only is it gorgeous but it gives you an overview of the city that I think is very important for your stay.

Summit Lounge of the Pan Pacific Hotel is one of them. It is expensive though, so if money is a topic, just order one drink and overstay your welcome untile sun has set ;-)

There are no dodgy areas in the city; you will find these located well out of the way. Traffic police is considered corrupt and normal police is being called corrupt from time to time.

Hanoi in under 1 minute

How Hanoi is structured:

The city of Hanoi is divided into four main sectors: Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh, Hai Ba Trung, and Dong Da.

  • Hoan Kiem District is in the heart of Hanoi and typically very lively especially for tourists.
  • Ba Dinh District is northwest and completely packed with various museums.
  • Hai Ba Trung District in the south where Thong Nhat Park is located
  • Dong Da District is historically important given that the Chinese were defeated there. This event is immortalised in the Tet holiday!

Hanoi is greatly influenced by the French when they ruled over them. You will find some areas to be more planned rather than chaotic given that the French brought over their urban planning which was used in Paris when reorganising the city.

How Hanoi is structured:

The city of Hanoi is divided into four main sectors: Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh, Hai Ba Trung, and Dong Da.

  • Hoan Kiem District is in the heart of Hanoi and typically very lively especially for tourists.
  • Ba Dinh District is northwest and completely packed with various museums.
  • Hai Ba Trung District in the south where Thong Nhat Park is located
  • Dong Da District is historically important given that the Chinese were defeated there. This event is immortalised in the Tet holiday!

Hanoi is greatly influenced by the French when they ruled over them. You will find some areas to be more planned rather than chaotic given that the French brought over their urban planning which was used in Paris when reorganising the city.

Fast Facts

Getting around

  • In the area around Old Quarter and French Quarter it is possible to just walk. This can be a bit stressful though because often sidewalks do not exist or they are blocked by something.
  • For you as a visitor the taxi might be the prime mode of transportation in Hanoi. It is cheap (the average ride might cost 1-5 $/€), reliable (taxi drivers tend to find their destinations), safe (4 wheels and metal around you) and mostly airconditioned. They all drive with a meter and usually are very correct.
  • Renting a scooter is a possibility if you are brave, stress resistant and looking for a lifetime experience. If not all three factors apply to you: are you crazy even considering this?!
  • Safer, less stressful and also an experience: riding with a scooter taxi. Whenever you see a guy at a corner with two helmets, watching people while laying on his moped: that is a scooter taxi driver. If you want to avoid the negotiation about prices (you might get taken advantage of), you can also use one of the (scooter) taxi apps like Grab or Uber. But be careful about possible roaming charges!
  • Forget public transport in Hanoi. There is no metro (yet!) and you will most likely not understand the bus system.

 

 

ODER

 

Hanoi provides with almost endless option regarding getting around the city.

  • Taxis are the most convenient one given that they are fairly cheap compared to other major cities. Make sure to have the meter running and keep and eye on it.
  • Cyclos are more suitable for shorter distances and especially visiting the Old Quarter.
  • Xe Om (scooter taxis) are not metered so agree on a price prior your arrival.
  • Two different metro lines should be available at the end of 18
  • Buses are scam free and cheap but hard to understand at first. Huge network, more information here: http://www.tramoc.com.vn/modules.php?name=Content&opcase=Details&id=299&mcid=136
  • Renting motorbike or car - careful huge traffic, international driver’s license not valid
  • Metro will bill available at the end of 2018.
  • Uber not available in Hanoi as Grab is the prefered service operating there but due to complains from the side of normal taxi drivers the situation regarding taxi apps is not clearly defined yet, as once banned Uber already started working on a solution. Do not count on having apps like Grab be available during your visit.

Rookie mistakes you should avoid

  • Crossing the street the wrong way (e.g. starting to run or stopping in the middle of the street).
  • Not having cash on you when taking a taxi (or only having big bills of cash).
  • Getting pressured into paying way too much for some fruit by one of the traditionally dressed vendor ladies that first let you carry their baskets and hats for a pic.
  • Thinking getting honked at by a car or scooter means you did something wrong or mistaking it for some kind of aggression by the driver. It is just their way to tell you "I'm here!".
  • Trying streetfood the first time on your last day before you fly back home. There are methods for eating streetfood without getting sick, but taking your chances right before a 8 or 12 hour flight ... not the best plan!

Tipping

Who to tip: Tipping is not really expected in Vietnam, but common and appreciated in upscale restaurants, bars and hotels. Tipping spa employees and tourguides is expected though, while giving tips to street food vendors or taxi drivers is not common.

How much? 5% to 10% for waiters; round up to the next ten-thousand if you want to tip a taxi driver; 20% to 30% for spa employees and bar keepers because they get paid very little often and rely on tips; the equivalent of 1-2 $/€ for room maids or doormen carrying your luggage in hotels; 3-5 $/€ for tour guides.

The mode: Since service charges added to your restaurant bill rarely end up at the waiter that served you, give them your (additional) tip directly. The same goes with employees in high end spas that have a service charge. As an alternative, you can also just leave the tip on the table or at the bar after getting your change.

Watch this video if you want to hear it from a local.

Best areas to stay on Instagram

insta
insta
insta
insta
insta
insta
Top