When the very last rays of sunshine race to their own cocoon and cover the sky with a black cloak, it’s time for Hanoi’s streets to turn on the lights and bring out its dynamic and vibrant nightlife. It’s also the perfect time for you to explore the culture and lifestyles of local people, so make sure to make room for one or two free evenings in your travel schedule. But what should you do and where should you go during your limited free time?
Here at Mercury Travel, we’re well versed in Hanoi evening entertainment, and where to find the hottest entertainment options past sundown. But more than anything, we know how to enjoy the Hanoi evenings like locals, by doing as they do: eat, drink, walk, sing and dance.
Eat: Street Food
Vietnamese cuisine is undoubtedly one of the most popular draws for both travelers and locals who venture out under the stars. If you were to try out authentic Vietnamese cuisine, you wouldn’t want to miss Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the paradise of street food. But despite appearances, it’s not the fancy indoor restaurants that promise the best eats — the plastic chairs on roadside pavement are the epicentre of Vietnamese food goodness. Perching awkwardly on these children’s sized furniture is your best bet at finding the most delicious food in Hanoi.
And among all of the delicious street-eat options, there’s a few dishes that simply can’t be passed up during a visit. To get the best out of your night out, the resident foodies at
Mercury Travel count these local spots as tried-and-tested favorites:
- For a bowl of Pho — the most iconic of the Vietnamese classics — head to a local favorite at 49 Bat Dan Street in the Old Quarter.
- For something a little bit different, but still a local favorite, try Bun Ngan, vermicelli in muscovy duck soup. Our favorite spot is located at 31 Ly Quoc Su Street.
- More daring foodies should have seafood at the top of their travel bucket list, and with Hanoi’s street selections of clams, fish and snails the best in the country, we suggest Oc Vi at 19 Gia Ngu Street, a local spot with a great reputation.
- Xoi, or sticky rice, is famous in Hanoi. For the best classic xoi dishes, head to Xoi Yen at 35 Nguyen Huu Huan Street.
- Banh cuon is a tasty Vietnamese version of dessert — a rice noodle rolled cake with a savory twist. Our favorite spot is at 14 Hang Ga Street.
As for snacks or desserts, you can try out:
- Che, a super tasty and unique blend of savory and sweet tastes, that’s Hanoi’s own version of ice cream. We attest to the stall at 31 Dao Duy Tu Street as the very best.
- Nem Chua Ran is something truly Hanoian – sour fried rolls. Our pick? Tam Thuong Alley on busy Ta Hien Street, just off of downtown’s most popular bars.
Drink: the “pavement culture”
Street culture extends beyond just street food. In Hanoi, with its frenetic traffic and congested downtown streets, bars and cafes alike spill out onto the pavement. Seeing a hoard of plastic stools gathered outside of a small bar entrance isn’t uncommon, and part of the fun of a night out in Hanoi is braving the pavement while perched on a miniature chair. Although nearly every downtown street is packed with street food and cafe stalls with chairs precariously balanced on the curb, the best places are the spots where locals regularly congregate to sip tea, coffee and northern Vietnam’s own famous local brew.
Lemon tea or tra chanh is a local favorite. This sweet tea goes great with sunflower seeds and a warm summer day, which has made the courtyard outside of St. Joseph’s Cathedral, lovingly nicknamed Tra Chanh Nha Tho, or lemon tea cathedral, a favorite hub for the local pasttime. Here, you’ll be served your tea on a metal plate perched on a stool, and offered sunflower seeds to munch on while you sip. If you have internet access via your phone, do as the locals do and check in at Tra Chanh Nha Tho while you’re there.
A little known secret about Vietnam is that it is the 2nd largest producer of coffee beans — in the world! Consequently, coffee is enormously popular in Hanoi, but the city has its very own, decidedly sweeter version of coffee. The thicker, richer brew is mixed with condensed milk for something akin to chocolate milk, but with a bit of welcome caffeine. Check out our blog about coffee for the best coffee spots in Hanoi.
Bia Hoi is famous in Hanoi, and a point of pride for the locals. Skipping out on a cup of the draft beer over ice in the Old Quarter would be a big disservice to yourself — and to the locals! For the best places to enjoy bia hoi, check out our blog dedicated to the brew, or try it yourself at Hanoi’s famous Bia Hoi Corner at the intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen.
Walk: around Old Quarter and Dong Xuan night market
After filling up your stomach with street food and a couple of cups of bia hoi, take a wander around the Old Quarter and explore the city’s built beauty at night. Should you want to get away from the Old Quarter heat, head to Hoan Kiem Lake for a nice evening breeze. Keep an eye out for a pair of turtles in the lake — if you see one, it’s considered good luck.
Alternatively, you can go shopping for some cheap souvenirs at Dong Xuan night market. All the streets from Hang Giay to Hang Dao are closed from traffic and only open for pedestrians. Beware of pickpockets, though — it’s best to keep your phone, money and passport in a bag that is kept close to you.
Sing: Karaoke, Vietnamese style
Karaoke culture originated from Japan in the 1980s and quickly exploded onto the nightlife scene across Asia throughout the 90s — and Vietnam is no exception. Karaoke is a great way to spend time with friends, and a perfect way to celebrate a birthday or an event — not to mention the chance to show off some singing skills, Karaoke in Vietnam often includes 10 people or more in a private room, complete with your own microphone and a constant stream of beer and food. Remember that you’ll pay for what you eat and drink at the end of the night, so keep tabs on how much you take.
Karaoke is most popular with Vietnamese locals rather than foreign visitors, but there are plenty of karaoke spots that have a wide selection of English-language tracks. These are a few of our favorites:
X-Men Club at 408 La Thanh
Jaguarudi Karaoke at 9 Hang Chuoi or 40 Cua Dong Street
Dance: Hanoian style
Hanoi’s clubbing scene gets more flack than it deserves, as its actually surprisingly bustling despite its young age. Plenty of fresh new clubs and lounges, plus emerging local DJs, are putting Hanoi on the nightlife map in southeast Asia. Starting early is imperative in the city, though, since most clubs close precisely at midnight. Most clubs are busy from around 10pm with locals and foreigners, with a few in the city taking the cake on the best music, scene and crowds:
Hair of the Dog is one of the most popular clubs for locals and foreigners, and is only just down the road from most of the city’s most popular hotels and hostels. Located at 32 Ma May Street, Hair of the Dog is located in the heart of Old Quarter, and has two floors with different music on each.
The Rooftop Bar is a decidedly more laid back spot in comparison to other clubs, located at 83 Ly Thuong Kiet Street. Its 19th floor view makes it a great way to see the city from up high, too. It goes from bar to club from weekdays to weekends.
Lift Bar & Lounge is at 18 Ly Thuong Kiet Street on the 11th floor, just down the road from Rooftop. It used to be a club called Fuse, but since its renovation and rebranding, is a new and up-and-coming spot for trendy locals. It’s swanky but still down-to-earth like most nightclubs in Hanoi, so don’t be afraid to don your more opulent threads.
The Bank at 41 Hai Ba Trung Street is perched on the 6th floor, and is the largest club in Hanoi’s city center. It has two rooms, each with different types of music, and an outdoor bar. When it comes to dancing, there’s no place better.
Mercury Travel’ unique Hanoi Street Eats tour will take you around the Old Quarter in the evening to taste the best Vietnamese delicacies, the perfect start to a big night out in Hanoi. Check out other Hanoi day-long adventures with us to get a real taste of the city at all hours of the day.