This independent and handpicked guide to Hanoi's best eating was last updated in February 2017. We've tried every place on this list - most of them several times.
To the Vietnamese palate, the differences between northern and southern cuisines are pronounced. For travellers, those differences are far more subtle. One thing you can be sure, is that food will be a highlight of your Hanoi travels as it will be throughout Vietnam.
Hanoians prefer their food saltier with more fermented sauces than their southern counterparts. This is in part a legacy of the harsher climatic and agricultural conditions of the north and the relative scarcity of fresh and high quality ingredients. Northerners have had to make do with less throughout history and exotic sauces were one way of creating a tasty meal from basic elements all through the year.
These days the quality of the produce is much better but the culinary legacy remains. And while soups are big throughout the country, the Hanoian obsession with canh - at the centre of every family meal is a habit well worth cultivating during your stay.
Bun cha, and cha ca are tasty, accessible local dishes that shouldn’t be missed during a visit to the capital. Try and push yourself beyond the stench and sample the exquisite mam tom (fermented shrimp) sauce with your cha ca. You won’t forget it. You may become a fan for life.
As the home of Vietnam’s most well known dish, Hanoians are very protective of their pho offerings and will be displeased with unfavourable comparisons to the different version from the south. Detractors attribute MSG to be an excessive feature of Hanoian dishes and some say it defines the pho. Check if you react badly to MSG.
While dog and snake are eaten throughout the country, Hanoi is the city where their consumption is most common. If you want to explore these exotic flavours, Hanoi’s a good place to do so. Bear in mind though that even for Vietnamese, eating dog and snake is usually a rarity. These are not staple dishes and plenty of Vietnamese across the country would never touch either.
Hanoi may well be the best place in Vietnam to sample street food. You can barely walk a block in the Old Quarter without stumbling across a run down opening packed with tiny plastic stools, low tables and enthusiastic diners. These places are so abundant that it would be ridiculous to list favourites. We’re not going to presume to know more than the locals. Follow them and you won’t go wrong.
And if you want something a little more comfortable than street dining, there are also plenty of choices from good quality, inexpensive Vietnamese eateries through to some impressive upscale spots. Several of Hanoi’s more upmarket restaurants are located in spectacular colonial era villas that have been lovingly restored.
Hanoi's also developing an interesting culinary scene beyond the native flavours. There are some excellent French eateries as well as chefs playing with contemporary dishes.
Whether you’re eating on the street or going high-end, be sure to plan your eating time in Hanoi.