Hanoi Nightlife Guide (2017) - Vietnam

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars)
I just spent two weeks in Hanoi and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the nightlife.

When I was living in Saigon, people kept telling me that Hanoi was a conservative town with unfriendly people, a curfew at midnight and a suffocating weather.

In fact, I found barely any differences between the two cities, and particularly at night. Saigon is in my Top 3 party destination in Southeast Asia, and Hanoi is not far behind.

The hundreds of bars, clubs, lounges, spas and karaokes in Hanoi range from extremely basic (4 walls and a stool) to world-class sophisticated venues. You'll rarely pay an entrance fee for any nightclubs and the drinks are usually cheap, even in the more upmarket spots. Girls are everywhere, from young backpackers to crazy-hot Vietnamese dolls. Just open VietnamCupid or Tinder and you'll have so many matches you won't be able to follow up with half of them.

This review is the summary of my findings: The best bars, the best clubs, the best places to stay, and how to meet girls. If I forgot something important, please don't hesitate to leave a comment at the end of the post.

Nightlife Areas in Hanoi
To make things simple, I would say there are 3 major nightlife areas in Hanoi.

→ The Old Quarter is where most backpackers, tourists and Vietnamese students hang out. It is cheap, cramped and messy.
→ The West Lake is where expats and trendy Vietnamese party. It is naturally more expensive and the crowd is older.
→ The Historical Center, from Hoàn Kiếm Lake down to Tran Hung Dao street, is a posh area, particularly around the Opera House. You'll find mostly bars and clubs targeting rich Vietnamese/tourists.

Please have a look at the Hanoi nightlife map at the end of this article to see the exact delimitation of these areas.

Old Quarter: Tourists and Young Vietnamese
Old Quarter nightlife
A dense, action-packed district with at least 200 nightlife spots, most often small bars selling cheap draught beer (Bia hơi - as low as VND4,000 or $0,17 per glass). It is popular with a young Vietnamese crowd (mostly students) and foreigners (backpackers, tourists). 95% of the venues close at 1AM (official curfew), but if you poke around you'll find hidden bars to party until at least 3AM (see "Late Night/After Hour Clubs" below for more details).

You can start your evening at the intersection of Tạ Hiện and Lương Ngọc Quyến streets, also called "Beer Corner". It reserved for pedestrians and from there you can just walk from one place to the other.

Many bars seem to have been inspired by a Communist ideology: Identical design, identical product, no name (only a number) and little attention paid to customer service. That said, getting drunk on those tiny stools is still a fun local experience. You'll notice that a lot of people are breathing into balloons of laughing gas. Those are not illegal in Vietnam and they cost $1 or $2. They give a mild euphoria or a feeling of numbness for a few minutes. I have the impression that they make your hangover worse on the next day though.

On your pub crawl, you may include some more proper bars and clubs, for instance:

Bars:
Factory 47: A foreign-owned, hipster bar. Better music than elsewhere but also more expensive. Open from 10AM to 3AM.

RockStore: Same owner as above. Unlike its name would suggest, the DJs and live bands play rather eclectic styles of music, from reggae to pop. Western food.

Local, next to Beer Corner, it has a DJ playing Top 40/EDM and a dance floor (there is also a second branch here). Backpacker crowd. Prague Pub is very similar.

Dragonfly: Tiny bar with an outdoor and indoor area serving food, shisha, balloons and alcohol. They have a DJ and occasionally sexy dancers. Mainstream music.

Craft Beer Pub: A rustic pub serving craft beer and Western food. Popular with young and older foreigners. Live sports on screens.

Clubs:
1900 Le Theatre: My favorite club in the Old Quarter. A modern venue with live music (usually in Vietnamese) and DJs playing commercial EDM and Hip Hop. Mixed crowd. Recommended for meeting girls. Closes at 1AM.

Ball Bars: I counted at least 3 of them (Ball Bar 4, Ball Bar 6, Ball Bar 19). They are crowded with 90% young Vietnamese. EDM and commercial music. They normally stay open until 2AM or 3AM. Recommended for meeting Viet girls.

Hair Of the Dog, a small club with commercial music opened until around 2AM/3AM. Mixed crowd: 1st floor with locals, 2nd floor with foreigners. It gets started at midnight.

👌 Food: A great way to explore the Old Quarter is to join the famous Hanoi Street Food Tour (#1 activity on TripAdvisor). In 3 hours, you'll have a chance to try about a dozen delicious Northern Vietnam dishes. More information on their Facebook.

West Lake (or Tây Hồ District): Expats and Trendy Vietnamese
In this neighborhood, trendy and chic venues are spread out, principally on the east side of the Lake. The crowd is mostly made of expats and rich Vietnamese. To go there, I advise you to use Uber (only VND50,000 from downtown).

Some of the best venues are:

Bars:
Sidewalk: Hipster/artsy café with an outdoor garden. It features random live acts: Hip Hop, Latin, 80s, Reggae... Expat and local crowd.

Birdcage: Same owner as above but only opened on Fridays and Saturdays (until 5AM). Eclectic music from Drum & Bass to Jungle. LGBT-friendly.

Standing Bar: One of the hip bars in Hanoi at the moment. It is built on two floors with an outdoor area from where you can see the lake. They serve 16 types of craft beer, local and imported, for around VND80,000-90,000 per half-pint. You can also eat some tapas. Events include stand-up comedy and live music (sometimes brought by the team from the now-defunct ATK Cama).

Furbrew: Also a craft beer bar, owned by a Danish brewmaster, with an outdoor garden. Small beers (175ml) cost around VND45,000 and a pint (375ml) double this price. Closes at 11PM.

The Republic: Aussie-owned expat bar. Good for eating Western food and watching sports (NFL, AFL, football, rugby, etc). Popular hangout on Sundays. Lake view. Close early at midnight.

Unicorn: A dive bar that you could easily miss, but worth a try for their affordable cocktails. Perfect to start the evening.

The Kneipe: A laid back German bar with reasonable prices, decent pub fare and live music/DJ.

88 Lounge: A trendy wine lounge, managed (and partly owned?) by a French guy. It's a romantic location for a date. More expensive than average but you get happy hours from 4.30PM to 7.30PM. Check their Facebook for wine tasting and live Jazz events.

Clubs:
Savage: A new nightclub, bar and lounge in the West Lake area. It is owned and managed by 4 French based in Hong Kong. Popular with expats. Techno and non-commercial electronic music. Closes very late. Expensive. Good cocktails. My favorite nightclub in Hanoi.

Hero: One of the most popular nightclubs in the city with a mixed crowd of Vietnamese and foreigners. Good setup on two floors. Reasonable prices. Pick up spot.

Hanoi Rock City: The main alternative event and art space in Hanoi, it features live bands, DJ performances, open-mic nights and exhibitions. Entrance is usually free but drinks pricier than elsewhere. Check their events on Facebook before heading there: HRC.

Historical City Center: Rich Vietnamese and Tourists

The Historical City Center (excluding Old Quarter) from the northern tip of Hoàn Kiếm Lake until Tran Hung Dao street is filled with upmarket restaurants, lounges, bars, and nightclubs. Many are targeting Vietnamese, and more particularly the high-society (Hi-So). You may see some expats and tourists in some specific venues as well.

Below are some of the current hot-spots:

Bars:
Cosa Nostra: A classy, minimalist bar with concrete floors and walls. Comfortable leather sofas. 2 floors including a small terrace. Cheapest beer costs VND100,000. Closes at midnight.

Tadioto: Just next to Cosa Nostra, it is often considered one of the best bars in Hanoi (it was even featured in Time magazine). It is owned by a prominent Vietnamese-American artist who made it a hub for the chic bohemian crowd. A bit overrated in my opinion.

In front of Conifer Hotel, this elegant restaurant/lounge serves some of the best cocktails in the city. It is not too crowded so it is a fine choice to bring a date. VND290,000 for a signature cocktail (+ 20% tax and service!).

Clubs:
Camelia
Part of the Mélia Hotel in downtown Hanoi, it is perfect for having drinks with a group of friends. Eclectic music. Trendy design. Expensive. Chic Vietnamese and expat crowd over 40.

The Bank
A large, upmarket club with a New York vibe. Maybe the best pick-up spot to for Vietnamese girls in Hanoi (but beware the prostitutes). Recommended if you don't mind hearing commercial music.

The Breakfast Club: A new club attracting Vietnamese socialites. As I check their Facebook today, I see that they are closed temporarily due to landlord issues.

Elsewhere
Outside of these areas, there are many nightclubs, KTVs and beer clubs targeting Hanoi's middle to upper class. I've listed the most interesting on my Hanoi Nightlife map below.

Hanoi Nightlife Recommendations

Best "Vina House" Nightclubs with Sexy Dancers
Vina House, or Viet House, is a specialty of Vietnam which is just as remarkable as Banh Mi or Pho. It is a crossover between Pop Music and Techno with almost the same bassline on every track. Here is an example:
There are at least 15 Vina House nightclubs in downtown Hanoi, and I went to most of them. To be honest, it was a bit repetitive as they are not really different from one another.

Basically, they are all quite luxurious in appearance, with flashy lights, modern LED displays, high tables and a few VIP corners. Vietnamese come in groups, sometimes only guys, sometimes with girls who could be their girlfriends or hookers.

There is a DJ, often a sexy girl, who mixes Vina House, and a male MC who shouts at the crowd between songs. The sound is always deafening (bring earplugs). In most places, you also have sexy dancers wearing a different uniform every night. For me, it's the best part. The larger clubs have live music, unfortunately singing very boring Vietnamese pop.

Dress code: Guys will be expected to wear shoes and long pants. For girls, high heels and skirts are recommended, but as a foreigner, you'll manage to enter without.

Those clubs are not recommended for clubbers who are 1) alone 2) penniless. Even though the entrance is free, you'll be expected to buy a bottle of alcohol (between VND1,000,000 and VND2,000,000 for the cheapest ones) if you want to get a table. The choice of drinks by the glass or by the bottle is limited and pricey (a beer will cost from VND100,000 to VND200,000). Typically, Vietnamese will also add a shisha and a fruit platter to their table. They don't really need it but it's all about showing off how much money you can spend.

The service is particularly attentive because all waiters expect a tip. Even when you go to the toilet the janitor will do everything he can to get a few dongs, from turning on the faucet to giving you a back massage.

The best Vina House nightclub I've been to in Hanoi is called Fame. It is packed any day of the week and features some of the hottest dancers in Vietnam.

Max 3 is my second favorite and it is close from the Old Quarter. Playboy Establishment is also recommended, especially with foreigners.

You can also read the reviews I wrote for CivilizeInfinityF Club and Q Club. More clubs I haven't been too but that are interesting: New Square, Nest, Ibars and Airport Exclusive Club.

Best Viet-Style Beer Gardens and Beer Bars
Unlike the ones in Thailand that are often laid-back, beer gardens in Vietnam resemble nightclubs and usually have a DJ/loud music. The only difference is that they are cheaper, they serve food and they are partially in the open-air.

The New Spinx Beer Bar is one of the most impressive I've seen in the whole country. It has a massive entrance resembling a temple, a staff dressed up with Egyptian costumes and a huge stage featuring live music acts, DJs and sexy dancers. Beer costs from VND40,000 for a glass of Tiger up to VND120,000 for imported Belgian beers. Sparta is similar, but with a Greek/Roman theme.

Closer from the tourist area, the famous beer club chain Vuvuzela has opened a branch near the Cathedral and another one in the Old Quarter. They close early though and they didn't seem to be so crowded when I passed by.

Best Live Music
Live band in 1900
For the usual Top 40 covers, Rumors near West Lake is fun, not too expensive and popular with foreigners. Local cafés PolygonAy or Swing also feature cover bands (sometimes singing in Vietnamese) in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Closer from the Old Quarter, The Doors has the favors of young students. Their drinks are cheap and they have live bands from Tuesday to Sunday (open mic on Thursday). Walking distance, RockStore has more varied bands but a more random schedule (check their Facebook). Idem with Hanoi Rock City.

For more specific genres:
Hard rock, Metal: Rec Room.
Blues, Jazz: Binh Minh Jazz Club
Latin music, salsa, bachata, kizomba: Beso Latino

Rooftops
At the time of writing, there are only a handful of rooftop bars in Hanoi. The existing ones are not really happening but still OK for a drink. The most famous is The Rooftop Hanoi on the 19th floor of Pacific Place (VND190,000 for a cocktail).

Gay Bars
Golden Cock is the official gay bar in Hanoi. Located next to Polite Pub (the oldest in Hanoi), its sign only says "GC".

Birdcage (see description above) is not specifically gay but it is open-minded and popular with the lesbian and gay crowd.

You can check the Facebook page of Hanoi Panic for special LGBT events.

Late Night/After Hours Clubs
Even though there is an official curfew at 1AM, there are many places where you can party until sunrise.

After 1AM, many clubbers will head to Hero which closes at 3AM. For a more underground experience, I also recommend Savage club, but be careful as they won't let anyone in after 2.30AM (the party lasts until 4AM). On weekends only, Birdcage is open until 5AM.

In the Old Quarter, several small clubs and bars stay open after 1AM  until late, behind closed doors (to keep the police away). Temple Bar is open until 3AM. Tom's Bar until 4AM-5AM. Ball Bar 4 and Long Play (LP) until at least 5AM. 

Hotels near Hanoi Nightife
You can read my article Best (Girl-Friendly) Hotels near Hanoi Nightclubs for more details about the best places to stay in the city.

If you don't have time to read it, here is a quick summary:

The best location is anywhere near the Saint Joseph Cathedral. It is walking distance from almost everything including the airport shuttle, the train station, the Hoàn Kiếm Lake, the Opera and the Old Quarter. 80% of the bars and clubs listed in this review are also within 2 kilometers.

Some of the best accommodation in this area are
→ More than $100 per night: The 5-star Apricot Hotel (home of Playboy Club)
→ Between $50 and $100: The Chi
 Under $30: Church Legend Hotel
→ Backpacker: Chien Hostel and Hanoi Backpacker Hostel are famous for being party hostels.

Girl-Friendly hotels
Since many hotels in Hanoi are not girl-friendly (meaning they won't allow you to bring a girl to your rooms if she was not part of your initial booking), you may want to reserve a room in more open minded properties.

The chain A25 is reputed for offering short-time rooms (VND180,000 for 2 hours) and they have very reasonable prices (between $25 and $35) for an overnight stay. There are several locations near the city center such as:

A25 Hotel – Luong Ngoc Quyen (walking distance from Ha Tien bars), A25 Hotel Phan Chu Trinh (Old Quarter), A25 Hotel - Mai Hac De (further but cheaper), A25 Hotel Phan Dinh Phung (near West Lake)

Hotels with Massage/Spa ++
What's even better than a girl-friendly hotel? A girl-friendly hotel that has an in-house spa ++. For instance:

→ Fortuna Hotel ($160 per night)
→ Oasis HotelBaoson Hotel and Hanoi Hotel (around $80 per night)
→ Windy Hotel ($40 per night).

For a complete review about Hanoi spas, you can read my article Top 15 Massage Parlors in Hanoi.

NOTE: If you book using one of the links above, I will receive a small commission from Agoda. It does not affect the price you pay and it helps me run Jakarta100bars.

How to Meet Girls in Hanoi
Hanoi, just like Saigon, is one of the best cities in Southeast Asia to meet girls.

The first reason for that is that Vietnamese girls are keen to date foreigners, even when there is a 10-15 years age gap. They won't mind exchanging numbers or add you on Zalo (Vietnamese Whatsapp) after a short chit-chat. On the downside, many cannot speak any English and they are conservative (saving themselves for marriage). Don't expect to bring them to your hotel on the first night.

The second reason is that Hanoi seems to attract more female tourists than male ones (based on my observation). Unlike in Thailand, you won't see many hordes of single guys trying to bang anything that moves. The advantage of foreign girls is that they can be easier to approach in clubs and more liberal-minded. On the downside, many are not as pretty as Vietnamese girls (in my opinion).

Best Pick Up Spots
The best bars and clubs to pick up girls in Hanoi are the following:

To hook up with foreign girls:
- Anywhere in Ha Tien street / Beer corner area (Local, Dragonfly, Tom's Bar, Prague, Temple)
- In backpacker bars (Chien Hostel and Hanoi Backpacker Party Hostel)

For both foreign and Vietnamese girls:
- 1900 Club
- The Bank
- Hero
- Camelia

For Vietnamese girls:
- Ball Bars
- The Doors
- Vina House nightclubs: Difficult unless you can speak Vietnamese. Most girls are either hostesses or accompanying guys.

Online Dating
Online dating is your best friend for hooking up in Hanoi as long as you use the appropriate websites/apps.

Tinder: Half the profiles are Vietnamese, half are foreign. It works well if you have nice pictures of yourself and if you are a good chatter (witty, funny and fast typer). Easy to get matches but a bit superficial. Girls residing in Hanoi may not be interested if you are only staying for a few days.

Vietnam Cupid: This is the best site for those looking for a more serious relationship with a Vietnamese girl. They have 500 to 1,000 girls online at any time, most of whom are interested in meeting a foreigner for marriage. I prefer it compared to Tinder because I can use it on my laptop and have more interesting conversations. It is also the best dating sites for those who are not living in Vietnam: Girls won't mind if you are living far away as long as you're serious.

Badoo and Skout: A mix between Vietnam Cupid and Tinder, but with less available girls and more prostitutes.

Zalo, WeChat and BeeTalk: These messaging apps have a "look around" feature allowing you to add girls who are located near from you. If you can speak Vietnamese, they are a goldmine. If not, it will be more difficult.

To maximize your chances, don't rely on only one 1 app/site and don't hesitate to "cheat" by upgrading to premium membership. The cost is usually reasonable (25$ for a month in Vietnam Cupid) and it will give you the edge over the competition.

You can also read: 15 Best Online Dating Apps and Websites to Meet Asian Girls.

Hanoi Nightlife Map

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