1. Get an outfit designed just for you
Whether you desire the perfect suit or a one-of-a-kind dress for a gala event, Hanoi is brimming with tailors to meet your needs. We suggest an appointment on day one of your trip, where a fitting is held and designs are sketched out. From there, repeat fittings need to be scheduled and the result is a garment that fits its owner like a glove. There are many tailors to choose from in the city, including Stark Suits and Zeds Threads.
2. Brunch or Dunch at the Hanoi Social Club
This is Hanoi’s trendiest cafe and a popular artist hub (6 Hoi Vu, Hoan Kiem), with three funky floors of retro furniture and decor. We love coming in for a late wholesome breakfast or an early dinner before a night out in the city. The menu is a twist on healthy and vegetarian dishes including vegan lasagne and tofu chips. In the heat, we recommend the fruit and mint slushies (we love the pineapple and honey freeze) to quench your thirst. There are regular live music and acoustic performances at night.
3. Wander the captivating museums
A city so rich in history naturally results in a city rich in museums. Escape the daytime heat and visit the cooling arenas to learn about the past and the making of today’s Hanoi.
Highlights include the Vietnamese Women’s Museum (below) on Ly Thuong Kiet Street. This modern museum looks at women’s significant contributions to the nation’s development, culture and society. From wartime heroes to notable personalities, these women are strong and inspiring. The Hoa Lo Prison is a thought-provoking site to visit as well. Built by French colonialists in 1896, it held Vietnamese patriotic and revolutionary figures; later on, part of the prison was used for captured American pilots during the Vietnam War. Art fans will enjoy the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts, which showcases artwork from historical periods across two buildings.
4. Master the art of Vietnamese cooking
Hanoi is foodie heaven. There are many tours and classes to choose from but they all generally follow the same format: a local expert takes participants on an informative tour of the busy markets to hand-pick meat, fish, vegetables and ingredients to create your own Vietnamese feast.
The first part of the experience can be done on foot, bike or scooter, before heading back to cooking headquarters to prepare the freshly bought items. From pho to green papaya salad to spring rolls, expect a step-by-step guide to creating your own Vietnamese meal, and of course, a chance to sit down and enjoy it with a glass of Vietnamese wine. Some recommended tours and classes include the Hanoi Street Food Tour and Apron Up (above). A summary and recipe sheet is usually provided at the end of the day.
SEE ALSO: Essential guide to Hanoi, Vietnam
5. Feel pampered
There are massage parlours everywhere but to really pamper yourself, look into a hotel spa to experience premium treatments and service. Our favourite is the Marvel Spa, found within the Marvellous Hotel (No.55 Duong Thanh St, Hoan Kiem District). They offer a traditional ‘Body & Foot Massage’ service, perfect if you’ve been out sightseeing and need some down time. The Vietnamese spa hospitality includes complimentary tea and light snacks upon arrival, a cool down with a cold towel, and the therapeutic massage experience in a beautiful atmosphere. This is definitely a calming little oasis in the heart of the city.
6. Splash out at a skyscraper
The Lotte Center building (54 Lieu Giai, Ba Dinh) is the tallest building in Hanoi, with an impressive 65th-floor observatory (below). Once photos are done, it’s time to shop till you drop in the Lotte Department Store selling everything from designer clothes and fragrances to gadgets. You can even find one-Michelin-star dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wan in Lotte Center. While the chain in Hong Kong is packed and a hole-in-the-wall type of establishment, in Hanoi it is magnificently perched on the 36th floor and makes for a beautiful date spot. In addition, the tower also houses a hotel (one of the best in the city), a spa, bars, upscale supermarket and much more.
7. Be entertained at the Puppet Theatre
The Hanoi Water Puppet Theatre (57b Dinh Tien Hoang St, Hoan Kiem District) first opened in 1969 and offers daily spectaculars to a local and international audience. Shows are a splash of puppetry with lighting and musical effects telling stories of Vietnamese legends.
8. Take a dip with city views
The Apricot Hotel (136 Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem District) is simply divine and a new addition to Hanoi’s luxury hotel circuit. For those who decide to stay elsewhere, its five-star facilities can still be enjoyed by all for a small entrance fee.
We turned up to use the glorious rooftop pool (below), the only one in the city centre, which overlooks the downtown area and the iconic Hoan Kiem Lake. For just 500,000VND (US$22), you can enjoy the sweeping views, perfectly heated pool and relaxing lounge all day.
The cocktail list is extensive and staff can take both food and dessert orders right over to your lounge and table (try the almond ice cream, it’s amazing). As sunset looms, grab a seat on the leafy edges and say cheers to a beautiful evening in Hanoi.
PHOTOS: APRICOT HOTEL FACEBOOK, THE HANOI SOCIAL CLUB FACEBOOK, APRON UP COOKING CLASS FACEBOOK, HANOI MARVELLOUS HOTEL AND SPA FACEBOOK, LOTTE CENTER HANOI, STARKSUITS FACEBOOK
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.