On Valentine night over two decades ago in the lovely romantic film “Sleepless in Seattle”, a lonely grieved widow man found his love, a young reporter who was then somehow confused in love. Just one sleepless night spent in the splendid New York city, one heart had been healed and the other found its beat again. No one knows if you would probably meet your destiny and write your own love story in one of a kind lovely night in Hanoi, but one thing to be sure is that you will fall for the city life by night at the very first sight. So, don’t waste any more seconds, let’s explore Hanoi under the street lights right now!
1. Chợ Đêm Hàng Đào – Đồng Xuân Night Market
According to the oriental culture, there is no better way of understanding a city rather than visiting its markets which is called “Chợ” in Vietnamese. “Chợ” is where people from all walks of life go shopping and earn a living. There are hundreds of things that are sold in the markets: from household things, clothes, foods to toys, and souvenirs. They even have some activities like making traditional paper pictures or listening to folk music performances. If traditional markets are often daylight ones, “Chợ đêm”- night market, lives up to its name. Dong Xuan – Hang Dao Night Market long set and opened at weekends from Fridays to Sundays between 18 pm and 23 pm. There are quite lots of night markets in Hanoi but Cho dem Hang Dao – Dong Xuan is one of the oldest and busiest. This 14-year-old market takes its name after “Hàng Đào” street, also where it is held. The word “Đào” in “Hàng Đào” means red in Vietnamese” and this street has this name because it was once where cloths dyed with red tone color were sold. Although nowadays they no longer sell cloth here, clothes in general instead, still keep this calling. Our night market starts at “Hàng Đào”, stretches over “Hàng Ngang – Hàng Đường” before finally ends at Đồng Xuân street. The market is most crowded and bustling from about 20:00 PM so do not come too early, just take your time!
2. Gam Cau Roast Food Street
“Gầm Cầu” is somewhat a quiet street running beneath the foot of Long Biên bridge for a century. It is such a narrow one that is just about 1.5 meters wide and has no pavement. The locals lay goods, mainly sets of cups, dishes and bowls, right on the street for selling in the morning, and when the night falls, it turns into a bustling alley with lots of street roast stores. This tiny street is divided into 3 parts and what I am mentioning here is the one facing Hàng Lược and Hàng Giấy. They start selling from about 6 pm but the busiest time is at 8 pm when dozens of groups of young people or families come and have dinner. Here you can order beef or cow’s organs, but if you do not feel like eating the organs, just have the roast beef which I highly recommend.
3. Phùng Hưng Hotpot Street
You definitely cannot miss this spot. Considered one of the oldest hotpot streets of Hanoi, Phung Hung hotpot street is always crowded, especially at weekends and in the winter. Running along this street are dozens of hotpot stores, offering all kinds of hotpot from Thai, beef, chicken to mixed ones. There are also some restaurants here but I personally prefer street stores with plastic tables and chairs laid outdoors. Enjoy the hotpot with friends in the bitter cold of Hanoi’s winter is such an amazing experience.
3. Milk Tea Shops
Bubble milk tea has become so popular in the past few years in Hanoi that you can almost spot one milk tea house every few blocks. Imported into Vietnam through franchised chains, the number of milk tea brands is so large that it makes even a local like me confused. As it is an easy beverage with a reasonable price while the stores are well decorated and equipped with air conditioners, they are an ideal place for a big young crowd in Hanoi. Such pearl tea houses are busy all day but the high time is in the evening, especially at weekend. You will hardly find any spare seats and have to queue in line even up to 30 minutes. My favorite makes are Gongcha and Heekcaa, which are both in Lý Thường Kiệt street and near the Sword Lake. Come by and try Alisan tea and Cheese foam in these 2 stores respectively. Oh, do not forget to order white pearl as topping for your drink (which charges between 5000 and 10.000VND more) as well as the level of ice and sugar at will.
1. Gongcha – 56 Lý Thường Kiệt street, Hoàn Kiếm District, Hanoi
2. HEEKCAA – 42C Lý Thường Kiệt street, Hoàn Kiếm District, Hanoi (there are quite many “fake” stores so just come to this address and check the brand name carefully)
Open – close:
1. 8:00 – 22:00
2. 09:30 – 22:30
1. 024 3756 8989
4. Hoàn Kiếm Walking street
Newly opened to Hanoians since September last year, this walking street is of no less bustle and crowded than the old one in Cho dem Hang Dao – Dong Xuan. Attracting a big number of locals, it is a perfect spot for walking while enjoying cool gusts of wind and the lovely scenery of Hoan Kiem lake. Moreover, there are also many entertaining games along with traditional music shows. After walking for hours, you can make your way to Trang Tien street, buy yourself a sticky rice ice cream or come over the book street nearby, in Nguyen Xi St. Or another choice is, if you are around Dinh Tien Hoang section, and you drop by the old small Thủy Tạ ice cream shop which faces the Nine West store, try a mint lime ice cream and feel its amazing cool taste.
This “street” (covering Dinh Tien Hoang, Dinh Le, Nguyen Xi, Hang Dau, Trang Tien, Bao Khan st., etc) is opened from 19.00 on Friday to Sunday every week. Fasten your shoelaces and let’s go!
5. Bình Minh Jazz Club
It was once considered to be insane to open a jazz club in Hanoi during the early 21st century, but it is not the case of musician Quyền Văn Minh. Making it his dream work, the originator and maestro of Vietnamese Jazz opened the former of Bình Minh jazz club – Hanoi jazz club in Lương Văn Can St in 2004, hoping to spread the love of jazz to the dynamic young of Hanoi at the time that Pop started to lose its heat. After changing locations for a few times, the club is finally housed in no 1, Tràng Tiền St since 2014 as a cafeteria serving breakfast and lunch in daytime (until 4 pm); and a club for the jazz lovers every evening from 9 pm. The music is focused mainly on standard and traditional jazz, which is performed by a band including 3 – 4 saxophone players, 1 pianist, 1 drum and 1 bass player. A special performance that you should not miss is the duo of the Quyền’s father and son, both of whom are one of the finest jazz players. The show is always overcrowded, so do come early and save a seat!
Address: no 1, Tràng Tiền St, Hoàn Kiếm District, Hanoi
Open – close: 7.00 – 23.30
Price: 100.000 VND – 200.000 VND
6. Water puppet show ( Múa rối nước)
Water puppetry, a traditional art of Vietnam, dates back to over 1000 years ago in the Red River delta, together with the formation of the wet rice cultivation during the Ly dynasty. This art has been passed down through generations and soon became a formal but also a unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition. It is performed as an inevitable, charming part of almost all the festivals of the Viet people, telling the legends, folk tales or just the very ordinary life of villagers. In the fast-paced lifestyle these days, spending a night watching water puppet show in such old theaters is not only a way of entertaining but also a way of preserving the country’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Address: Thăng Long water puppet theatre, 57b Đinh Tiên Hoàng St, Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi
Peforming hours: 15.00, 16.10, 17.20, 18.30, 20.00 (whole week)
Price: 100.000 VND/adult – 60.000 VND/children(under 1.2m)
7. Toilet Bar & Club ( formerly Bank club)
“If the music is too loud, you’re too old”.
Situated in one of the best spots of Hanoi with modern, large interior, one-of-a-kind music, finest DJs, good services, the Bank-now renamed the Toilet Bar & Club is definitely on top of your must-visit lists. On every Wednesday night, the club offers a lady night – buffet and free entrance for all girls, which is a well-preferred activity of the night goers. Toilet bar now adds to its soundtrack more Hip-hop music besides EDM, making the club hotter than ever before. Just in case, if you somehow cannot stand the vibe, move to the balcony for a cool gust of wind or only to admire the beauty of Hoan Kiem lake and downtown of Hanoi, then come back, well.
Address: 6th floor, Capital building, 41 Hai Bà Trưng St, Hoàn Kiếm District, Hanoi
Open – close: 20.00 – 3.00
Price: 200.000 VND – 550.000 VND
8. Cafes with live music
As claimed in a blog post of CNN: “In Hanoi, it’s all about egg coffee”; well, to be frank, it is not only egg coffee but coffee, in general, is beloved by Hanoi people just like the way the English adore their tea. Having a cup of this amazing, enchanting beverage while listening to live music is one of the most favorite habits we, the Hanoians, take ourselves for over 2 centuries since the day the French stepped onto our country from the Son Tra coast. Why coffee is so preferred like that, how or where to have a true cup of coffee, all lies in my previous article especially writing for Hanoi coffee. To find out which coffee shops offering live music, click to read this article
9. The West Lake
Hanoi is of favour to have many natural lakes, one of which is the West Lake. This lovely reservoir does not just put its name on the map for its amazing scenery during sunset or delicacy like ice cream or shrimp cake but for the ideal path curving around itself, an ideal spot for walking with your love by night. Holding hands tightly, crossing fingers, having a romantic but peaceful night is all West lake will offer you! Or else, hide a matt blanket, order some beer and grilled cuttlefish, enjoy the last few hours of the day by the pavement!
Here is an album of the West Lake we captured: