Six Places To Go If You Want To Discover The Real Hanoi After Dark
Good evening, Vietnam.
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There’s a new nightlife brewing in Hanoi, one quite apart from the claustrophobic heat of seedy nightclubs and sketchy bars the city was once known for. Inspired creatives, expats and a new middle class of Vietnamese are etching out a fresh scene in the capital. The Old Quarter has undergone an incremental polishing over the last five years, the bamboo scaffolding finally taken down to reveal a modern, south-east Asian Bohemia.
There’s magic to a city in transit; you have a very real sense that the next time you find yourself back here, things will have changed. Hanoi’s very specific mix of traditional culture, street food and elegant historical architecture, coordinated with a rapidly evolving contemporary arts scene and sophisticated night life, makes it one such city to remember. Here are some of the most memorable and surprising places to spend a night in Hanoi.
Live Out All Your Nightmares In Snake Village
Where: Lệ Mật, Việt Hưng
Every sentence in this entry needs to be read with the suffix ‘if you’re into that kind of thing’. Le Mat is a tourist-focused village where you’re enthusiastically encouraged to choose live snakes from pits, baskets or jars and then sit down for an eight-course dinner made entirely from your kill. Travel blogger Anna Nicola detailed her dining experience as follows: “We watched as they slit the live snake and then furrowed around for the heart and swallowed it whole while it was still pulsating…Once the heart had been removed the blood was squeezed into a nearby glass and mixed with the local snake moonshine. In another glass, a bile cocktail was prepared by squeezing all the green gunk from its stomach.”
Le Mat is clearly not a village for the squeamish, the active animal rights advocate or the vegetarian, but it is definitely a memorable travel experience, an interesting look into a different culture and a very visceral example of extreme tourism. If you’re into that kind of thing.
Where: 34 Cao Bá Quát, Điện Biên, Ba Dinh District, Hà Nội
Hidden away on the top floor of a colonial-era mansion, and close to the excellent Fine Arts Museum, is Bar Betta. While on first impressions it may look like just another Williamsburg transplant, with its decor of retro prints and miscellaneous vintage relics strewn over four rooms, Bar Betta deviates from this world-over trend by using genuine souvenirs and antiques from the French colonisation.
There’s a nice little rooftop patio, the clientele is a mix of young, artistic locals and travelers looking for a place to spend a few lazy hours outside the central tourist zone, and the walls are bursting with local art for you to peruse. Not bad.
Where: 14 Phan Huy Ích, Nguyễn Trung Trực, Ba Đình, Hà Nội
Manzi café and art space is an excellent example of Hanoi’s dedication to a thriving art scene, and is responsible for showcasing some of the most interesting up and coming Vietnamese artists like Nguyen Manh Hung in their upstairs gallery.
The space also hosts independent film screenings most nights, so you can eye-binge on some wild local film and art, then fill your stomach with a bunch of delicious treats from the kitchen. We recommend the Viet pumpkin soup and a Jamaican spiked coffee, chased down with a Saigon Green on the patio.
Where: 24b Tong Dan, Hoan Kiem
A roving café bar with an ever-changing style, it’s the Magical Faraway Tree of chophouses. Right now, Tadioto is squatting smack bang in the middle of Hanoi’s French Quarter. The owner is Vietnamese-American journalist and former NPR commentator Nguyen Qui Duc: a legendary figure in Hanoi, and an influential figure in the city’s thriving art scene. His bar puts on plenty of music and spoken word events and he describes the place as “a point of unlikely intersection for all sorts of people: film directors and street kids, gays and multiracial couples who don’t want to be hassled.”
Though it serves as an all-day café and cocktail bar, Tadioto really comes to life once the sun sets, serving as an intimate art and performance space with great traditional food.
Where: 1 Bà Triệu, Tràng Tiền, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
We’ve covered the new face of Hanoi, and while the plethora of vibrant, young and artsy nightspots are a great addition to the city, you’re obviously going to want to get a taste of authentic Vietnamese culture, too. Minh’s Jazz Club is true Hanoi; a soulful exploration of Vietnamese music and nightlife. The city, particularly the French quarter, has a beautifully tracked history of fusion jazz and this is the best place to witness an earful, with jam sessions kicking off every night at 9pm. Also, the owner, Minh, is a saxophone teacher at the Hanoi Conservatory, so you know it’s the real deal. A+ for Mr. Minh.
Where: 11 Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, Bến Nghé, 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Yeah, yeah, yeah, cool your judgment jets. This beer club might seem garish to more cultured bar hoppers, but at some stage, every traveler just wants to park their weary wazoo down and smash an ice-cold beer.
If you’re an ale enthusiast, Hanoi was made for you. The city is stone-cold stout crazy, with an entire crook of the town dedicated to the amber nectar, known as Bia Hoi Corner. But if the cheap, crowded tourist spots aren’t your deal, Vuvuzela Beer Club is the best spot to grab a cold one. While it’s an obvious take on an American sports bar, the cheese factor is kept to a minimum thanks to the mostly local crowd and the vivacious energy of the place.
The 12-day Vietnam Contiki Experience trip is a perfect mix of culture and chill. Fishing with local Mekong families in the Mekong Delta, to an overnight boat trip in world-renowned Halong Bay – Vietnam ticks all the boxes for your next adventure.