Where to stay in Hanoi - the best areas for travellers - review by Rusty Compass
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Where to stay in Hanoi - the best areas for travellers

| 14 Oct 2018
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Where to stay in Hanoi - the best areas for travellers
14 Oct 2018

Where should you stay on a visit Vietnam’s capital Hanoi? This independent guide will help you select the best Hanoi location as a base for your travels - the Old Quarter, the French Quarter, Ba Dinh or the expat area of West Lake - aka. Tay Ho. We’ll also provide some guidance on the pros and cons of different parts of town and some info on some of the hotels around town.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

The Old Quarter, the French Quarter and Ba Dinh District are close to one another and all three have good access to everything in Hanoi - though they differ in feel. The Old Quarter is where most travellers stay and it's pretty intense with local life and tourist stuff colliding all around. The French Quarter and Ba Dinh are slightly less intense - but intensity is a relative thing and Hanoi has it in spades. Note that Ba Dinh is a large district. You want to be close by the Ba Dinh Square / Citadel part of town and not the business and urban area.

Hanoi haircut
Photo: Mark Bowyer Hanoi haircut

 

Hanoi's expat area known as West Lake (aka. Tay Ho and Ho Tay) makes an increasingly persuasive argument as a base for travellers, despite being a ten to twenty minute cab ride back to town (depending on traffic). It's where many of the city’s expats live and cool cafes, restaurants and bars have popped up in the area in recent years.

The business district around Tu Liem and the western part of Ba Dinh District has new hotels that are targeting corporate visitors (JW Marriott / Lotte and more). These areas hold no real interest for travellers. Make sure you don’t end up booking a hotel here.


Staying in Hanoi's Old Quarter

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is the most popular place to stay for travellers. It’s where the bulk of the city’s hotels, restaurants and nightlife has developed over the past few decades. The shopping and history of the Old Quarter are also must-sees - though most tourist attractions are a short distance away in other nearby districts.

The accommodation in the Old Quarter ranges from backpacker hostels and dorms to quality three star. The standards and value for money are usually good. There are no five star hotels in the Old Quarter.

Everything is cheek by jowl along this old part of the city so land is at a premium. Don‘t expect gardens and swimming pools.

Because of the high density, windowless rooms are a hazard. Book carefully and make sure you don't end up in one. Most hotels have a few windowless rooms - usually the lead-in rooms. Websites like booking.com and Agoda do not expend much energy helping travellers to spot windowless rooms. You'll need to do it yourself.

One last point about the Old Quarter - there isn’t an old historic hotel in the Old Quarter - don’t be deceived by names.

The Old Quarter is busy bordering on chaotic. But you will be close by everything. If you can cope with the intensity, you’ll have an experience that is authentically Hanoi. Street food is everywhere - as are tourist restaurants.

I stay in the Old Quarter often and prefer to be closer to the Cua Dong (West Gate) area. There are slightly fewer tourists here and lots more local life than in parts closer to the tourism epic-centre of Hoan Kiem Lake. The area around Ta Hien St (aka. Beer St) and Ma May St are especially crowded with nightlife and backpacking festivity which many will prefer to avoid and some may wish to embrace.

Old Quarter Hanoi
Photo: Mark Bowyer Old Quarter Hanoi
 
Beer St in Hanoi's Old Quarter
Photo: Mark Bowyer Beer St in Hanoi's Old Quarter

 
Staying in Hanoi's French Quarter

Hanoi’s only colonial era five star hotel, the Sofitel Metropole, is located in the French Quarter. There are a number of other five star properties including the Hanoi Opera M Gallery also in the French Quarter.

There are fewer budget accommodations in this area.

Many of the city”s sights are located in the French quarter, as is much of its historic architecture. This is a good location.

Hanoi's Metropole Hotel - the heart of the French Quarter
Photo: Mark Bowyer Hanoi's Metropole Hotel - the heart of the French Quarter

 

Hanoi Opera House - The French Quarter
Photo: Mark Bowyer Hanoi Opera House - The French Quarter

 

Staying in Hanoi's Ba Dinh District

Ba Dinh District is Hanoi's government district. It includes some of the most beautiful parts of the city - near Ba Dinh Square and Hanoi Citadel. But Ba Dinh covers a large area so make sure if you’re staying here, you’re staying nearby Ba Dinh Square area. The Daweoo and Lotte five star hotels are both located in Ba Dinh - but they're in a business district away from the centre of town in an area with little of interest to visitors.

Ba Dinh Square - Uncle Ho' Mausoleum
Photo: Mark Bowyer Ba Dinh Square - Uncle Ho' Mausoleum

 

Colonial gems - Hanoi
Photo: Mark Bowyer Colonial gems - Ba Dinh Hanoi

 

Staying in the West Lake (Tay Ho) - Hanoi's expat enclave

Hanoi’s West Lake area has long been the major expat area of the city. Increasingly, it’s also a centre of dining and nightlife. If you’re spending more than a couple of nights in the capital, this can be a nice contrast to the congestion and intensity of downtown. And your eating and drinking needs will be well catered for. But you’ll need to make the 10 - 20 minute journey back downtown (around 100K VND by taxi) to see the city attractions.

There are not many hotels in the West Lake area. The 5 star InterContinental and Sheraton are here. There are a handful of smaller independent hotels too.

Your best bet may be to check out Airbnb. The apartment building boom means that Airbnb is offering excellent value for money across a range of standards in this part of town.

Hanoi's West Lake expat area
Photo: Mark Bowyer Hanoi's West Lake expat area

 

Expat heaven - morning catchup West Lake, Hanoi
Photo: Mark Bowyer Expat heaven - morning catchup West Lake, Hanoi

 

Staying in Tu Liem and western Ba Dinh

In recent decades, Hanoi’s new business districts have developed around western Ba Dinh District (Daewoo and Lotte Hotels) and Tu Liem (JW Marriott Hotel). If you’re travelling to Hanoi as a tourist and not on business, there is little reason to stay in these areas. You’ll face congested and often long taxi rides back to the main parts of the city and there's nothing much to see and do in these parts of town.

 

Disclosure
Rusty Compass recommendations and suggestions are always independent. We list the places we think you should know about. That’s it. No money changed hands for any of the mentions in this piece.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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