Have a couple of nights in Hanoi? Great! Not entirely sure what to do? Great again! Open to suggestions? Even greater! Here are some things you can do.
Eat your way through Hanoi
Hanoi is the birthplace of many Vietnamese delicacies that the locals talk about with pride. Pho, bun cha, and banh cuon just to name a few. Taking an evening food tour is a great way to munch your way through the city and watch as it wakes up from its afternoon nap, ready to party. Street food and drink vendors begin setting up their mobile carts, bars start blasting out live music, discos turn on their neon lights and drunk uncles bring out their karaoke machines, ready to belt out their favorite tunes (off-key) to the heavens.
There are many evening street food tours offered by various reputable companies. They have selected some of the best joints around the city for you to get the right taste of Hanoi. The best tours are the ones done on motorbikes and you will be driving past various areas. Beautifully designed colonial buildings, historical bridges, peaceful lakes and more will be included in your itinerary.
Beyond that, as you sit down to enjoy your various meals, your guides will tell you the stories behind each dish. You will definitely end your evening fulfilled! (Pun intended)
Let all your senses go wild
A visit to the Hanoi Night Market is a great way to stimulate all your senses. The stalls get set up come evening, and form a sort of labyrinth that you must walk through, running your eyes through each stall you pass. You’ll find all sorts of items being sold here, from souvenirs to clothing, simple electronics and home decor, also fresh and dried foods.
Cultural and musical events occur regularly, with performers wearing traditional outfits and playing traditional music using traditional instruments. All this you can enjoy as you chow down on a delicious banh mi or crispy banh xeo. The market only happens towards the end of the week on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It starts on Hang Dao street and runs through to the edge of Dong Xuan Market. The market is open from 7:00 PM till around midnight.
A unique form of art
A show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre of Hanoi is a must! Water puppetry has been around for centuries – having been started by farmers who wished to entertain their peers during difficult times of flood. Puppets of all kinds are used (string, hand, shadow) and a bunch of skillful puppeteers enact stories taken from Vietnamese myths and folklore, depicting what it was like living in the countryside.
Puppets dance and slide gracefully over the water, accompanied by traditional music, made using traditional instruments such as wooden bells, drums, horns and bamboo flutes. Water Puppet Shows are held daily from 3:00 PM onward, but booking your tickets in advance is highly recommended!
If you’re looking for a different kind of show, head over to the Hanoi Opera House, a spectacular example of colonial architecture built in 1911 under the French government. Here you can watch a live opera, traditional musical or ballet.
Sing along to some live music
Hanoi has a plethora of live music spots for you to enjoy a quality cocktail and watch unique performances but Binh Minh’s Jazz Club is unparalleled. Here, Hanoi’s finest musicians take to the stage, doing what they do best. The way the venue is built, with the ambient atmosphere and the dark interior leaves all attention on the talented performers on stage. Minh himself, regarded as the best Vietnamese jazz performer in history, sometimes makes an appearance. He is often joined by his talented band or other international performers.
Other live music bars include The Doors Cafe and Bar +84. These places have live music every week, and do not discriminate: Performers of all genders, skin colors, ages and styles put on some of the best shows you will ever see.
Stroll Around Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake is a gem in the middle of the city. It’s right by the old quarter and is beautiful come sundown. As the buildings and smaller establishments that surround the lake turn on their lights, everything gets reflected on the water’s surface, creating a beautiful background for photo ops.
Take your time to stroll around the lake. There is a pedestrian path and manys stalls set up serving Vietnam’s favorite street snacks. You will come across health enthusiasts going on a jog, riding their bikes or using the outdoor exercise equipment around the lake. Sometimes, groups of elderly come out to practice Tai Chi. It’s extremely calming.
Hoan Kiem Lake is also popular among the young Vietnamese as a spot to take their significant others. There will be more than one couple trying to sneak in a kiss when they think no one else is watching.
What time is it? Bia Hoi time!
Bia Hoi Junction between Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen streets of the Old Quarter, represents the quintessential Hanoi nightlife. Over here there are over 200 small bars that serve bia hoi (Vietnamese draft beer). Half of Hanoi seems to be hanging out here at night.
Hundreds of locals, backpackers and tourists, really a very random assortment of people, gather up here nightly, sitting on plastic stools that crowd the sidewalks and spill out onto the streets, enjoying some small snack (sold by vendors walking around such as peanuts, beef jerky, mango) as they chug their glasses that amount to about 4,000 VND – 8,000 VND (US $0.17 – $0.35).
While it’s usually good to dress up while in Hanoi, over here you really have to dress down to fit in with everyone. Dressing up in heels and a dress or a suit may only help you stand out like a sore thumb.
So there you have it, that’s Hanoi at night. We have a challenge for you: Try to stay up as late as the locals do! Tell us all the crazy stories in the comments below.