Just a decade ago, travellers wouldn't have found a bar in Hanoi worth hanging out in, but times have changed. The nightlife in Hanoi is still not quite as crazy as Bangkok in neighbouring Thailand, but it offers an increasing range of affordable and stylish places where locals and visiting barflies can grab an a cold beer or a well-crafted cocktail. The bars close early in Hanoi, but the city is filled with places where barflies can spend an evening drinking with the locals.
Bia Hoi Corner for the World's Cheapest Beer
Once the sun goes down and visitors start wandering around looking for a place to tuck in, they are likely to happen across at least one Bia Hoi place. Here locals sit on stools so low that they look to be squatting, sipping on golden suds in plastic cups. Bia Hoi is usually translated into "Fresh Beer," and that is exactly what it is. Each night, a new batch of this beer is brewed without preservatives and delivered to Bia Hoi places in the morning. It has less alcohol content than the usual light beer and it doesn't taste the greatest, but it has one thing going for it - a pint costs about 16 cents, making it the cheapest beer in the world. The simply named Bia Hoi Corner nestled in the heart of the Old Quarter just around the corner from The Downtown Hostel is the best place to drink the cheapest beer in the world. Many Bia Hoi places only get a keg of beer everyday and it can run out quick, so to stretch it, they water it down. This can cause the beer to taste a bit like dishwater. The purveyors at the Bia Hoi Corner don't water down their brew, or if they do, it still tastes like a perfect, cold light beer. It's a great place to get soused for only two dollars.
Avalon Sky Garden for Great Views
Not every bar in Hanoi involves drinking cheap beer on a street corner. In fact, the city hosts some of the most sophisticated bars in Vietnam. One such paragon of sophistication is the Avalon Sky Garden. This pinnacle of class hangout sits six floors above Hanoi's iconic Hoan Kiem Lake and allows visitors to look down at the after-work traffic tangle of mopeds and taxis below. Nestled within the rooftop garden are rocking chairs so visitors can enjoy the view as they sip on some of their signature cocktails like the Wild Grass cocktail that combines vodka, lime and finely cut lemongrass into a subtle and refreshing cocktail.
Bar Betta for a Vintage Taste of Home
For barflies that find themselves a little homesick for western culture while in Hanoi, it is not without its western influences. Bar Betta definitely feels out of place in this Vietnamese setting, but it is a fascinating shrine to 1960's counterculture. Rabbit ear TV sets, rotary phones, and metal desk fans all mingle with an assortment of aging chairs and couches while Audrey Hepburn, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe all peer down from the walls. Visitors certainly won't get much in the way of Vietnamese culture, but there is something comforting about having a drink in a bar that looks more like your grandmother's living room. Among locals, Bar Betta is renowned for its unique decor, but visiting bar flies will enjoy their seasonal, artisanal cocktails.
Half Man, Half Noodle for Late Night Revelry
Like Cinderella at a ball, as soon as the clock strikes midnight the bars in Hanoi close their doors with police out to enforce the curfew. However, not only does Half Man, Half Noodle win accolades for having one of the best bar names in the world, it also has found a way to stay open past the normal bar curfew. Right up until midnight, it is wild with visitors that come to enjoy cold beer and ample shots of liquor, but once the curfew takes over, the drinkers are moved to the fenced off backyard and Half Man, Half Noodle takes on the guise of a average late night restaurant in the front. Not only can visitors bypass the usual bar curfew, but like its name suggests, Half Man, Half Noodle also serves up some quality Pho and other noodle dishes.
Summit Lounge for Hanoi Drinks In Style
Summit Lounge via Facebook
The Summit Lounge sits on the 20th-floor of the Sofitel Hotel, making it the place to go for the highest drinks in Hanoi. Visitors access the bar from a private elevator and are served cocktails by waitresses dressed in French maid outfits and pink wigs. While the waitresses are all worth a quick gawk due to the uniqueness of their garb, but the real attraction at the Summit Lounge is the view from their floor-to-ceiling windows. Visitors should enjoy their signature mojito with passion fruit foam and relax in their comfortable, yet stylish setting.