A couple of decades ago you wouldn’t have found a bar worth hanging out in around Hanoi as nobody had any money to spend. How times change. Though Hanoi’s nightlife is still not as lively as that of Ho Chi Minh City or Bangkok, there is an increasing number of places that offer a decent range of beers, wines and spirits and a cozy atmosphere.
As with eating, the Old Quarter is the best hunting ground for bars, and as places are opening and closing all the time, it’s worth taking a spontaneous stroll and dropping by anywhere that looks appealing. Below we list the best places to down a few glasses and meet fellow travelers.
One aspect of Hanoi life that you should not miss out on are the bia hoi bars, which are no-frills shophouses that serve locally-made draught beer to customers sitting on tiny stools around tiny tables. The easiest spot to head for in the Old Quarter is at the junction of Ta Hian and Luong Ngoc Quyen, where all four corner stores serve the stuff. At less than 20 cents a glass, you could keep ordering up all night, and you’re unlikely to get legless as the alcohol content is very low.
All socializing should stop by midnight in Hanoi, and police are often out at the witching hour making sure the bars close punctually. After that, if you want to continue carousing, you’ll need to fork out for an expensive drink in one of the hotel bars, or splash out a cover fee to enter a hotel disco.
Recommended Hanoi bars and pubs
Funky Buddha: One of Hanoi’s hippest hang-outs, offering a dim-lit atmosphere and reasonably-priced drinks. Open: 18:00 to late; 2 Ha Tien, tel: +84 4 3292 7614.
Cheeky Quarter: A welcoming vibe at this place with contemporary music and table football for fun. Open: 11:00 to midnight; 1 Ta Hien, tel: +84 90 403 2829.
Dragonfly: a hip venue featuring different events each night, such as Cuban nights on Tuesday and Laid-back nights on Sunday. Open: 17:00 to midnight; 15 Hang Buom, tel: +84 4 3926 2177.
Green Mango: One of Hanoi’s best restaurants also has a cool lounge bar on the first floor. Open: breakfast, lunch, dinner (Happy hours: 16:00–18:00); 18 Hang Quat, tel: +84 4 3928 9916-18, fax: +84 4 3928 9915, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.greenmango.vn.
Le Pub: Great location near Hoan Kiem Lake, good range of drinks and an extensive menu of eats as well. Open: 07:00 to late; 25 Hang Be, tel: +84 4 3926 2104.
Red Beer: One for the serious beer drinker; a microbrewery serving up German and Belgian style ale. Open: 09:00-23:00 (daily); 97 Ma May St, tel: +84 4 3826 0247.
Mao’s Red Lounge: One of the more popular bars in the Old Quarter for its cheap prices and punchy cocktails. Open: 17:00-02:00; 7 Ta Hien, tel: +84 4 3926 3104.
Funky Monkey: This two-floor combination of bar and lounge packs in the punters, especially at happy hour (16:00-21:00). 31 Hang Thung, tel: +84 4 3928 6113.
Hair of the Dog: This place offers a first floor lounge, second floor dancing, a shisha lounge and Sex on the Beach (that’s a cocktail), so get on down there.27 Hang Giay, tel: +84 90 440 0701.
Minh’s Jazz Club: Great choice of location for an evening out, particularly for jazz lovers. Excellent music, food and booze. Open: 10:00 to midnight (daily); 31 Luong Van Can Street, tel: +84 4 3828 7890.
Finnegan’s Irish Pub: Every city seems to have its Irish Pub, and here’s Hanoi’s – the ideal spot to swap travel tales over a Guinness. Open: 10:00 to midnight; 16a Duong Thanh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, tel: +84 4 3828 9065.
Polite Pub: This place looks like a proper English pub, and even features live sports from the UK and elsewhere on TV. Open: 17:00-02:00 (daily); 5 Bao Khanh, tel: +84 4 3825 0959.
Legends Beer: The big attractions here are the view over Hoan Kiem Lake and the home-brewed beer. Open: 09:00-23:00; 109 P Nguyen Tuan, tel: +84 4 3557 1277.
Half Man Half Noodle: This place wins the prize for the wackiest bar name, and draws in a regular crowd of expats. Open: from 10:00; 62 Dao Duy Tu, tel: +84 4 3926 1943, email: email@example.com.
I-Box: Plush furnishings and elegant décor make this a neat place to hang out, particularly during happy hour (16:00-19:00). Open: 08:00-22:30; 32 Le Thai To, tel: +84 4 3828 8820, email: IboxHanoi@yahoo.com.