Hanoi is a city where you can see and do a lot on the streets: buy a bowl of bun rieu or a fried banana cake, get a haircut, hang out with a chicken, drink tra da, avoid motorbikes, and anything else depending on the block. But when you are transfixed by the progress of a curbside shave, or waiting impatiently for your cake to be removed from its oil bath, or pondering the meaninglessness of the designation of a space as a “sidewalk” in this city, you may forget everything else. Wonder dissolves easily into frustration. When that happens, take refuge in a venue with a view– a place that will let you see the city from a different angle or at a slower pace, while sipping something salutary. Here are four spots to try.
Top of Hanoi restaurant and bar at Lotte Tower
54 Lieu Giai, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
Lotte Tower may be only Hanoi’s second-tallest building, after the 72-floor Keangnam Landmark in Cau Giay, but it offers the city’s best combination of lofty heights and booze options. Resting atop 65 stories, the Top of Hanoi bar and restaurant lets you take in panoramic views of the city, from the ancient Old Quarter to the high-rises rapidly sprouting up in the west. A remove from the street-level chaos gives you a clearer understanding of Hanoi’s vast expanse– and gives the illusion that all is orderly down below.
6 Au Trieu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
When it comes to views, distance from the ground is sometimes less important than what’s right at eye-level. La Place proves this dictum with its intimate views of St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Hanoi’s worn but lovely Catholic cathedral. Sitting on the second-floor patio, you’re level with tree branches that provide a frame for the greying neo-Gothic church. And there’s a big upside to sticking relatively close to the ground: you can observe everything happening on the street, from backpackers gaping at the church and the traffic to mass-goers parking their motorbikes. The menu includes Vietnamese food like fresh and fried spring rolls, banh mi and stir fries, plus Western-style breakfast and burgers. Drinks span coffee, smoothies and cocktails.
La Terrasse at the Metropole
15 Ngo Quyen Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Like La Place, this spot proves that the point of a view isn’t the height but the perspective shift it can afford. While street-side dining is ubiquitous in Hanoi, street-side dining in a chair with a back – or even a cushion – is much rarer, as is a street-side meal that is languid and unhurried instead of relished and efficiently concluded. At one of La Terrasse’s tables on Ngo Quyen, you can watch motorised traffic from a comfortable distance. If you focus your gaze on the tables beside you, you could mistake Hanoi for the City of Lights. The cafe is often compared to the famous Cafe de Flore in Paris.
189 Nghi Tam, Tay Ho, Hanoi
The road to a satisfyingly expansive vista runs through a Mini Cooper dealership. Once you’ve made your way past the charming British automobiles, you’ll find yourself in a French-fusion restaurant and a great spot for looking out at West Lake and its surroundings. Even if you’re sitting inside, the views are unmissable thanks to the floor to ceiling windows. Below are the colourful rooftops of Tay Ho residences and the lighted ribbon of Nghi Tam street. Beyond is the blue strip of West Lake and Lotte Tower in the distance.