Hanoi‘s buzzing streets and chaotic traffic are part of its charm, but it’s good to have a calm, stylish bolthole to escape to. Here’s our pick of affordable boutique hotels, hostels and homestays.
- Y Lan Guesthouse
Hanoi is the world’s copycat capital when it comes to hotels, restaurants and tour operators, but there’s nowhere else like Y Lan Guesthouse, quite possibly the most authentic homestay in Vietnam. Behind a thick door off a busy boulevard in the French Quarter, the quiet, modest guesthouse faces an incredibly beautiful 150-year-old temple. The tiled temple, fronted by wooden columns and dangling orange lanterns, houses the ancestor altars of the family of Mrs Nguyen Thi Kim Oanh, the guesthouse owner. Bedroom number three, with louvered shutters, has a balcony overlooking the pretty fan-shaped tile tips of the temple. No-nonsense Mrs Oanh, who speaks French but little English, provides breakfast on the marble-topped table next to the family kitchen, and will take you inside the family temple if you ask.
2. Golden Silk
Spacious, supremely comfortable rooms with vast beds set this Old Quarter hotel apart from the dozens of other Hanoi hotels professing to be “boutique” boltholes. If you’re in Hanoi to shop, its location is perfect, set smack in the middle of busy Hang Gai (Silk Street). Most of the rooms are set back off the busy shopping route, and offer luxurious surroundings at remarkably good value. It’s all rosewood floors, brushed silver velvet armchairs, lacquer-and-shell bedside lamps and silvery wallpaper. A tub in the bathroom seals the deal.
3. Hanoi Backpackers’ Hostel
Fitting a cavernous hostel into a small Old Quarter street is quite a feat. And the facilities here are so wonderful, you might have trouble actually stepping out on to the streets of Hanoi. Streetside is the popular chill-out lounge, bar, and restaurant. Upstairs, there’s more lounging on offer with a computer zone, pool table, bar football, sun terrace, beanbags and book exchange. There’s a roster of activities, too – free morning walking tours, Wednesday pub quizzes, Sunday barbecues, parties, sport screenings and a nightly organised bar crawl. And if you want to sleep, there are a handful of private rooms but mostly dorms complete with huge lockers, thoughtfully placed individual electricity sockets above your pillow, and little bed lamps. And eggs on toast for breakfast.
4. La Maison Hai Ly
A scythe-shaped bend in a Red River tributary hides this exquisite 18th-century house. It is just 15 minutes from Hanoi’s Old Quarter but a rural calm descends on La Maison Hai Ly and its garden of flourishing guava, banana and orchids. The house, with a low, tiled roof tipped with circular blue ceramics, was transplanted from Hoi An, a former Chinese mercantile port in central Vietnam. This hideaway for two combines an open-plan living room and kitchen facing the private garden. In winter, keep cosy with the cottage wood burner; in summer, light the barbecue in the walled garden. Breakfast is provided and Vietnamese meals, using herbs and seasonal vegetables from a nearby market garden, can be requested for supper.
Hanoi artist Le Hong Thai fashioned this rambling shabby-chic getaway on the foundations of an old stilted house in Long Bien district, in a mini bonsai garden in the yard behind his workshop. A central open fireplace dominates the huge open-plan living room, dining room, and kitchen, all supported by an interior grove of ancient columns. The walls are hung with his large abstract paintings and, behind every column, there’s an artfully placed object – a vintage sewing machine, a feather boa lampshade. Upstairs, a grand piano greets a freestanding bath while at the other end of the room, two double mattresses, on raised platforms face each other. As you climb higher, you’ll find another two bedrooms, other bathrooms, stairs to a private courtyard and, carefully nurtured in the rafters, the ancestor altar reflecting on all that happens below.