Vietnam is without doubt one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia. Having travelled all over Europe for years, I decided to return to Vietnam to explore my own country deeper, and also to enjoy the local treats that I could find nowhere else in the world. One of the things I like the most about Vietnam is the wide variety of cafes, restaurants and places to hang out that I could choose from. Here’s my list of the 7 must-experience cafes in Hanoi.
1. Cong Cafe aka. Communist Cafe
Cong Cafe is a chain of cafes built and designed with history in mind; you can only find something like this in Vietnam. Cong means communist and, therefore, many Cong Cafe shops were exceptionally designed to resemble houses built during the communist era. From the tables to bars, the paintings and even the bathrooms, every part of a Cong Cafe is designed to make them look old and authentic. What I especially love about some Cong Cafes is that they have acoustic live music and open mic nights on certain weekend evenings. They offers a wide variety of drinks here, including different kinds of Vietnamese coffee, tea, smoothies or juice and even beers and cocktails. If you are unfamiliar with Vietnamese drinks, go for a dracontomelon or apricot drinks, which costs around 3 to 4 USD (60,000 VND to 80,000 VND). Cong Cafe is a busy popular spot for expats and definitely a popular meet-up point for groups of friends and young people. Their branches are well spread across the country. The daily opening time is from 7.30 AM to 11.30 PM.
2. I-Feel: a modern cafe with stunning view of Hoan Kiem Lake
I-Feel is one of my favourite cafes in Hanoi, because of its majestic panoramic lake view and modern design. The space is well set up with 2 floors, several sets of cozy sofas and decorated with lively painted walls. Lying on the 6th floor of an old building on the hectic Cau Go street, it is just next to Hoan Kiem lake in the heart of Hanoi. I-Feel is pretty hidden, making it not too crowded and is ideal for chilling and get away from the frequent traffic chaos of Hanoi. My favourite drink here, which I always order, is ice coffee (bac siu in Vietnamese). This is also one of the signature drinks of Hanoi. The daily opening time here is between 8 AM and 11.30 PM.
3. Cafe Giảng
Another famous cafe spot that many hostels in Hanoi would recommend travelers to visit is Cafe Giảng. It is famous for its Vietnamese egg coffee, made of black coffee powder, whipped egg yolk and condensed milk. It does not sound like the most delicious kind of drink, yet is a local Hanoi specialty. Though Cafe Giảng is a bit hidden, has narrow spaces and interesting little chairs inside, it can be crowded here from time to time. Cafe Giảng is open daily from 7 AM to 10:30 PM.
4. Nest AIA: a library and workplace
Nest AIA is a great place to visit because they hold conferences and seminars rather frequently. Nest AIA has a great networking scene. On a regular basis, Nest AIA hosts international events and networking events. The interior design of NEST AIA is simple, elegant and very urban, with massive wooden ceiling and decorations. The atmosphere suits those who would like to come to work or read, yet is great for chilling too. It’s surprisingly also a library with tons of books to read for free. The location is very central, right on the 4th floor, building B of the Vincom twin towers on Ba Trieu Street. Drinks here are quite pricey, but it’s totally worth it to come for their events. Lemongrass is definitely a special drink to try out. One glass costs about 2.5 USD or 50,000 VND. Nest AIA is open from 7 AM to 10 PM every day.
5. Xofa: a popular hub for young local people
One of the cafes that is great for gathering with friends is Xofa. It is centrally located, quiet and well designed with green surroundings. Xofa doesn’t have such a memorable design or atmosphere, like Cong Cafe for example, but is a place for every young person. Young locals tend to come here to work, chill and even take a nap on the sofas. The best-seller drink at Xofa is cold coffee mixed with coconut or coconut ice-cream, which costs about 2.5 USD (50,000 VND). Xofa is one of the few cafes in Hanoi that is open 24 hours a day.
6. 6 Degrees: Drink, Eat, Meet
Though Hanoi is an incredibly affordable capital in Southeast Asia, you could find some extravagances in cafes here too. 6 Degrees is a top-notch cafe and restaurant with a dazzling view of West Lake. Food and drinks here are westernized, and more expensive compared to the average price around the city. You can order all sorts of western food here, from spaghetti to burgers, fries and lasagne. I had a portion of fries for two people for about 4 USD (80,000 VND), which is slightly double the normal price. If you are looking for a fancy place in the city with wide excellent range of wines, 6 Degrees is the place to enjoy the extravagance. The dazzling view of West Lake, huge spaces and excellent organization make 6 Degrees an ideal venue for birthday parties, weddings and events. It’s a brilliant spot for a night-out with your group of friends and family. It is open daily from 7 AM to 11 PM.
If you wish to get out of the central, tourist areas of Hanoi and explore a bit more, or simply experience something more local, check out Firefly cafe. It’s located in the southern part of the capital city, and is massive with three floors. Firefly is suitable for big groups, or freelancers and nomads looking for a cafe with a stable Wi-Fi connection to work. Drinks are reasonable priced. I had a smoothie for about 2 USD (around 40,000 VND), and they serve small snacks like spicy dried beef and sunflower seeds. Yes, these are quite common snacks to have at cafes in Hanoi! By the way, did I also mention that Wi-Fi is available for free in almost every new cafe like this one in Hanoi? Firefly is open everyday from 7 AM to 11 PM.
The list goes on!
Regarding great cafes and restaurants, there’s so much more in Hanoi to explore. It’s such a tremendous city for foodies that would take months and even years to discover thoroughly. With all sorts of themes ranging from cats, flowers, bookstores, beaches, and so on, cafes in Vietnam offers endless options for Vietnamese ice-coffee and smoothie lovers.