What to do in Hanoi in 24 hours: Nightlife

The Hanoitimes - Night activities in this millennial city may surprise visitors and leave deep impressions.


This is the second part of a two-part story about must-do things in Hanoi in 24 hours. The first part is here.

2 pm: Shopping

The Old Quarter also provides a great opportunity for shopping, especially art, paintings, handicrafts, and accessories.

 A bunch of shops selling products for foreign tourists in the Old Quarter.

There is a bunch of shops selling products in sophisticated design and different style and materials such as ceramic, silk, brocade, wood, bamboo, lacquer, etc. Starting from US$2, they seem to be friendly until you recognize that your money is running out although there are no thieves.

The book street of Nguyen Xi is another interesting place to look for latest works of Vietnamese and international authors, including many English original versions.

5 pm: Iced-tea or bubble tea?

  Tra da on every sidewalk in Hanoi.

Tra da (green or dried tea served with ice) is a the most common low-cost beverage in Hanoi and elsewhere in the country. It can be found on almost every sidewalk at some cents a glass. The refreshing, astringent, icy drink smoothly combining tartness with a sweet aftertaste ideally helps you relieve your thirst in summer.

Meanwhile, bubble tea or milk pearl tea from Taiwan, has become a favorite and trendy drink of many Vietnamese, especially the young and teenagers. Hundreds of milk tea shops with tens of popular brands are available such as Gong Cha, The Alley, Phuc Long, Tocotoco, Bobabop, etc. Their menu is very diversified including tea mixed with fruits, pearls, cheese, cream and flavors. 

6 pm: Art show

With various culture centers, theaters, music bars and cafe, there are dozens of choices for weekend timeout. Especially, there are live folk-art shows telling audiences interesting stories about the history and culture of the city and the country. 

 My Village show 

One of the classic ones is water puppetry which was created many centuries ago in the Red River Delta as a way of entertainment during flood season, especially following the harvest. Hidden from audiences behind a large curtain, puppeteers stand chest-deep in water, skillfully using bamboo rods and pulleys to manipulate the wooden puppets. Their performances in the form of playlets are accompanied by a small orchestra led by a narrator. 

Meanwhile, My Village and Ionah, two shows introduced in recent years, have been praised by many people. My Village is a story of a village in northern Vietnam showing the work, daily life, and the religious beliefs of people from past to present, with the only unusual stage of bamboo. While Ionah, or Hanoi spelt backwards, is a love story told through the unusual combination of circus, dance, theatre arts, and hip-hop dance, accompanied by music, visuals, 3D mapping, and lighting effects.

Especially, more recently, The Quintessence of Tonkin, the country’s largest reality show on water stage, has been more outstanding as it shows the most quintessence of the northern Vietnamese traditional farming life and folk arts.

8 pm: Dinner 

 Banh xeo, Vietnamese pancake

As your tummy raises its voice again, it is never boring to take a small “food tour” in the evening when it is the best time for street food and Hanoi is truly a heaven for it. The city is so delicious with a lot of offers such as nem (spring roll), cha ca La Vong (grilled fish with noodle), banh xeo (Vietnamese pancake), bun rieu cua (noodle with crab soup), street BBQ, various kinds of hotpot, among others.

Besides those dishes for full, there is also a series of selection to eat for “fun” as well, such as thit xien nuong (skewers), nom bo kho (papaya salad with jerky), oc luoc (steamed snail), banh ran (deep-fried glutinous rice ball with the stuffing of sweet or meat), nem chua ran (fried fermented pork sausage), phomai que (fried cheese stick), che (sweet dessert), and so on.

10 pm: Night life

When the tummy is full, the mind starts to be hungry. A bunch of animated pubs and bars will satisfy it. Once again, the Old Quarter is the center for it, especially at the weekends when it turns into the pedestrian zone.

 Ta Hien street, also known as “beer street”

Similar to famous Khao San Road in Bangkok, the street culture is strongly reflected here particularly at streets of Ta Hien, Luong Ngoc Quyen, Ma May, Hang Buom, etc. including both the local people and tourists, are sitting on tiny plastic stools right on the street to gather with their friends, cheer glasses of draught beer with only half a dollar each and watch passers-by. Most lively clubs are also located here with the participation of popular local DJ, beating electronic music to bring more vibrancy to the place.

Meanwhile, West Lake’s area, like its name is joked as the place of the Westerners, for being known as the expat zone of the city, is also their rendezvous for a night out. As the spots here features more Western styles and menus, they offer more varied drinks as well as music, allowing either a chill night; a mini live show of Rock, Reggae, Jazz, Acoustic, etc., or dances with Funk, Techno, Deep House and Latin rhythm. 

 Hanoi’s bar at night

4 am: Night Flower Market

After vibrancy of the beers, music haunts and clubs, if you want some serenity for the rest of the night, Quang Ba night flower market on Au Co road is a good choice.

Opening from 10 pm until 5 am the next day, it provides a wonderfully vivid insight into city life. Different kinds of fresh flowers are on sale at amazingly low prices will start your new day with beautiful color and fragrance.