When visiting Hanoi, oftentimes visitors don’t venture past the Old Quarter. If they do, it’s via taxi to one of the highlights, such as The Temple of Literature or Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. They then return back to the Old Quarter. In doing so, it’s hard to understand how massive Hanoi really is. In 2014, Hanoi’s estimated population was 6,936,900 people. To understand how sprawling Hanoi is, head to one of Hanoi’s rooftop bars for a cocktail with a view of Vietnam’s capital city.
City View Cafe
City View Cafe should be your first rooftop location. It is situated directly on the edge of the Old Quarter. One side of the rooftop boasts views of Hoan Kiem Lake, which is Hanoi’s most famous lake. Ngoc Son Pagoda sits in the middle of the lake. This is Hanoi’s most visited pagoda, most likely due to its location.
The opposite side of the rooftop has views of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Notice that the buildings in the Old Quarter aren’t as tall as in the rest of the city and the streets are narrower. It’s a great vantage point to get a feel for one of the oldest areas of Hanoi.
While City View Cafe has great views, the food is designed for tourists. The menu has anything and everything you could ever want, but you’d find better food by leaving the cafe. Instead, enjoy the views from City View Cafe while sipping on a cocktail or local beer. A Hanoi Beer costs 35,000 VND (1.56 USD).
Summit Lounge at the Sofitel Plaza Hotel
The Summit Lounge Bar at the Sofitel Plaza Hotel is on the 20th floor of the hotel. There is a large indoor bar and a smaller outdoor balcony with seating. This may offer the best view in all of Hanoi. The Sofitel Plaza Hotel looks over both Truc Bach Lake on the left and West Lake on the right. West Lake is Hanoi’s largest lake, with a 17 km circumference. Thanh Nien, the street that divides the two lakes, is a popular area to walk around. Many locals fish in West Lake from here. It is also a popular area because Tran Quoc Pagoda is located along this street. Built between 544 and 548 A.D., Tran Quoc Pagoda is Hanoi’s oldest pagoda, although it doesn’t sit in its original location.
With two lakes and an ancient pagoda in eyesight, it’s understandable why the Summit Lounge is a fantastic place to enjoy a drink or two. It opens at 4 pm so come here for sunset or late-night drinks. Cocktails begin in price at 100,000 VND (4.47 USD).
Top of Hanoi at the Lotte Center
If you want to see how expansive Hanoi is, grab a drink at the Top of Hanoi. Located on the 65th floor of the building, at Lotte Hotel Hanoi, you can see all of Hanoi from here. The Top of Hanoi is an open restaurant, with no walls or ceilings. While you won’t see specific attractions in Hanoi as you would from City View Cafe or Summit Lounge, you will see Hanoi’s many lakes dotted around the city, a beautiful skyline, and will understand how almost 7 million people can possibly live in Hanoi.
The Top of Hanoi is the most expensive rooftop option in Hanoi. The price of a glass of wine begins at 220,000 VND (9.83 USD).
Take a step back to enjoy Hanoi's beauty
Hanoi is a bustling city. Its streets are crowded. Its sidewalks are an extension of the street, with pedestrians dodging motorbikes that are trying to squeeze past a few feet of traffic. Dozens of power lines hang overhead. Chickens, cats and dogs meander in the vicinity of their owners. There is always something new to observe, which is why many people miss Hanoi’s charm. It’s a beautiful city but you may miss it if you’re so focused on avoiding motorbikes all day. Set aside a period of your day to step back from the city streets and view Hanoi from above. Hanoi’s beauty is guaranteed to amaze you.