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.
Tucked into a tiny cul-de-sac off another tiny alley just south of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, this gorgeous architect-designed hotel is filled with handcrafted furniture, and beautiful propaganda-style prints. The 12 rooms, named after spices (ginger, cinnamon, anise), have bamboo furniture, red lacquer lamps and bamboo shades, as well as inviting corners with French colonial armchairs and mismatched pretty cups and saucers. Breakfasts are taken at smart lacquered square tables, and ginger tea is served on the ground floor terrace amid a scattering of bright floral cushions. Once you head out, you’re surrounded by some of Hanoi’s best restaurants.
Maison d’Hanoi Hanova
This perfectly pitched Hanoi hotel combines Indochine elegance with a modern ambience. Ceiling-height padded silk headboards prop up wonderfully comfortable beds layered in white cottons in rooms with polished wooden floors, silk lamps, red Oriental trunks-turned-tables, and chairs upholstered in silver cotton and chenille. Its location on Hang Trong, just south of the Old Quarter, and just around the corner from one of the most popular shopping streets, Hang Gai, makes it the perfect base for shopaholics. After a day pounding the streets, head to the top-floor Le Royal Spa, for a soothing foot massage.
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.
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.