If there’s one things that could give the number of Non-la’s in Hanoi a run for their money, it would be the abundance of cafes. Every street corner has a cafe of some sort, and you’re just as likely to come across a lane with 20 different cafe’s in a 50 metre stretch. Personally though, I think it reflects two traits of the Vietnamese: their entrepreneurial spirit and their endless love for coffee.
Hanoi’s diverse cafe culture has been influenced heavily by French and Dutch colonization. It is not uncommon to step into the backstreets, and be immersed in walls covered with paintings and memoirs from various decades, seeing old grandmasters in barrettes sitting on plastic stools, sipping ca phe sua da; through an assaulting haze of thuoc lao. Essentially, the Vietnamese have taken the coffee culture and given it their own unique twist. To see what I mean, let’s see some of the best cafes in Vietnam.
1. Cafe Sidewalk Stool
The two stools in the picture is a real cafe.
You can stop scratching your head now, let me explain how this cafe works. This isn’t a cafe in the traditional sense of the word, rather if you see these stools lying around the sidewalks of Hanoi then all you got to do is look around for a local loitering around and ask them for a Caphe or Bia (Coffee or Beer) and chances are you’ll be served up with your drink in no time while these stools act as your table and chair. Don’t believe me? this is what it looks like when several Hanoians look for such cafes on the same sidewalk. 😉
But note that if the police were to come by (which is quite often in the evenings) then your stool aka cafe, will disassemble temporarily until the police van passes by. The best place for these cafes are near the lakes.
2. Align 3D Graphic Café
Align is located in an old colonial french mansion, fusing stylistic bamboo interior design with a modern twist. Pleasant ambience, attentive service, and good food are several things to expect when visiting this lovely cafe. Align 3D Graphic Café is located in, 10A Khuc Hao Street, a hidden oasis situated between bamboo shoots positioned in a busy road across old hotels near the old quarter of Hanoi.
3. Cafe Giang
Tucked at the end of an inconspicuous hallway is the wonderful cafe, owned by the creator of the Hanoi’s famous delicacy, Ca Phe Trung, located on Nguyen Huu Huan lane 39. Ca Phe Trung, or egg coffee, is a small glass of strong, aromatic sweet coffee, whipped with egg, and sweetened condensed milk, a must try if visiting Hanoi. Yes, you got that right, the Vietnamese have put eggs in coffee and made it work! The only cons are that there is no view, no air conditioning or WiFi, but their drinks more than compensates for these absent facilites. Service is excellent, atmosphere is cozy, and prices are cheap.
4. Cafe Lâm
Located on a shaded street, it is decorated in authentic artisan spirit. Lavishly decorated bamboo furniture, beautifully framed oil paintings, china tea pots, and attracting old men and tourists alike, but most are sporting barrettes, discussing 19th century Chinese poetry, all the while drinking exquisitely house roasted egg coffee. Located in the Old Quarter on Nguyen Huu Huan, one will notice that it is the perfect refuge for artists , poets, and aspiring artisans to come together collectively to express creativity over a drink.
5. Duy Tri
This cafe has been standing at the same location for almost a century now. Best known for their speciality drink, frozen yoghurt with coffee. Located near the West-Lake on 43 Yen Phu: sitting in a common and unassuming narrow building, on the upstairs balcony over the street, you will understand and properly experience the old Hanoian city charm. Walking up the winding wooden stairs that have been worn down by years of loyal patrons climbing them as if making a pilgrimage. Caution: if you’re taller than 6 feet then you’ll have to navigate their upper levels with care. 🙂
6. Hanoi Social Club
So what brings the right concoction of hipsters, local, travellers and digital nomads to Hanoi Social Club? For starters, a wide selection of coffee from all over the world and the phrase ‘Soul Food’ that follows the cafes name – aptly so as they place an emphasis vegan and vegetarian. Also in addition to occupying an entire 100 year old building, the cafe has a decor to match with it’s rustic charms and cosy seating arrangements. And it gets better, every Tuesday night the cafe hosts a musical event where they bring in a diverse selection of musicians from different countries.
7. Pet Cafe
Well, let’s just say if all I wanted was a nice soothing drink, I wouldn’t be going to Pet cafe, but if I wanted a Komodo Dragon by my side while I enjoyed my banana smoothie on a hot Vietnamese summer then this is the place I would go to. Maybe Komodo Dragon’s aren’t your thing and you’re a cat person, they have kittens too. The Vietnamese sure know how to roll in style. 😉
This is by far not an exhaustive list of cafes in Vietnam, but a sampler of sorts on how the cafe culture has evolved in this beautiful city. For more updated news about cafes in Hanoi check out Hanoi hideaway.