Oft times comparisons are drawn between the nightlife in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, and there seems to be an overwhelming consensus among travel writers in favour of Ho Chi Minh. I haven’t been to HCM so I wouldn’t be too quick to jump on that boat, but I am currently living in Hanoi and can vouch for the watering holes in Hanoi that are currently burning things up with killer cocktails, craft beers and more. So here is the list of best bars in Hanoi, if you feel strongly about your favourite bar that I’ve omitted then leave me a note on the comments section and I’ll be sure to drop by. 🙂
1. Top of Hanoi
Literally situated on Top of Hanoi (67th floor of the Lotte Tower), this spacious bar with a small food menu is already a hot spot for expats and locals alike. You’ll get 360 view of Hanoi and the first thing you’ll notice are the two icons of Hanoi: the Red River and the many lakes from where Hanoi derives its alternate name as the Lake City of Southeast Asia. Being part of a 5 star hotel, the food and beverage are naturally more expensive so if you’re on a budget then it’s a nice place to just sit back with a drink and enjoy the views.
Toning it down several notches from Top of Hanoi, is Sidewalk Bar. And here again, Sidewalk is literally located on the sidewalk (a Hanoian thing perhaps?) and decor here is somewhat reminiscent of a beach bar with mostly outdoor seatings. You won’t find many locals here, instead this place will be super packed on fridays and saturdays with expats (mostly long term travellers who’ve taking up temporary teaching positions in Hanoi). In fact, 9 out of the 10 people you’ll bump into at Sidewalk will be a teacher. The drinks here are reasonably priced and their bar food is surprisingly good!
Not exactly where you would start the evening but a good location after places like Sidewalk close because Rastaman stays open till late and well, they play some good old Reggae tunes too. It’s also situated right next to West Lake and the drinks aren’t expensive. I’ve been here on several occasions and all my experiences have been good but I’ve heard of some patrons who’ve had not-so-good experiences here, but that really hasn’t stopped the Sidewalk crowd from dropping by Rasta man post 1am.
4. Beer Corners
This isn’t a single establishment but the numerous pop-up bars where you can enjoy the legendary Vietnamese Bia Hoi (draught beer). What makes these little establishments special is that you can get beer as cheap as 5,000 Dong (USD 0.25)! But wait, with cheapness also comes questionable quality and the word on beer street is that the local Bia Hoi’s don’t go through any certified quality checks. I can’t say much for the quality other than approximately 5 litres of this golden goodness flows through my system every week. 😉 The highest density of these beer corners can be found at the Old Quarters, and is a good place to get the night started for the party-goers.
5. La Bicicleta
Tucked away in one of the quiet backstreets around West Lake, La Bicicleta is something of a hidden gem in the Hanoi bar scene. The first thing you’ll notice when you get here is the inconspicuous location, as if to suggest that the quiet street was deliberately selected to maintain its individuality from the rest of the bars in Hanoi. I am inclined to agree though – it does feel different just being here than at any other bar in Hanoi. They serve scrumptious tapas to go with your glass of wine, or beer. Also staying true to its name, cycles of varying shapes and sizes adorn the walls of this two storied establishment with distinct French architectural overtones. If you’re a movie buff (foreign films in particular) then note that they screen a movie every Tuesday night on the ground floor. If I had to take one pick from the all the best bars in Hanoi then La Bicicleta would be it. 😉
6. The Republic
No list of bars is complete without the customary sports bar and The Republic is Hanoi’s representation for this list. Situated right across from West Lake, the views are nothing short of spectacular and if you’re not exactly here to watch a game then the balcony is where you should be hanging out. In addition to their wide selection of drinks, the cooks here whip up a mean rack of pork ribs! A bit pricey at $15 but totally worth it.
7. The Moose & Roo
Sure, the Hanoians love their Bia Hoi but if whiskey is your thing then Moose & Roo will have your fix. Boasting the widest selection go single malts, they’re located at the Old Quarters and easily accessible if you’re lodging close by. But don’t just stop by for the single malts, the pub grub is equally good and you shouldn’t leave this place without trying their pulled pork sandwich.