I wouldn’t really call it a trip to the coffee shops because, in Hanoi, it wouldn’t even take ten steps to finding one. Just walk outside your hostel, you’ll find a street café. And when I say street café, I don’t mean those artsy coffee shops. I mean those stalls with small wooden or plastic chairs lined up along the sidewalk. Like Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Hanoi has myriad coffee shops. You can’t even compare one’s brew from the other because the Vietnamese coffee, regardless of whoever sells it, is like weed to coffee lovers.
So this short list, is so far, where I’ve camped out in my three-week stay in Hoan Kiem, Hanoi in consideration of two things other than coffee – mood and WIFI:
1. The Note Coffee
64 Lương Văn Can, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Open: 7am – 10pm
I’ve camped out twice in this charming little coffee shop just across the Hoan Kiem Lake. What makes it unique are those colorful sticky notes with handwritten messages from visitors all over the world, turning the walls into a collage.
Every mug even comes with a personalized note from the very friendly staff, then you can scribble your own and put those post-its to cute use. I’ve tried their green tea latte and egg coffee (which I didn’t really find exceptional) but their icy-cool lemon juice and Banh Mi were amazing.
Aside from the quaint nooks, I also loved the music playing in the background when I paid a visit – a perfect cure for temporary writer’s block. Of course, I had to stick my own note on the wall (photo below).
2. Xofa Café
14, Tống Duy Tân, Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi
Open: 24 hours
A Vietnamese friend tipped me off to this café which is open 24 hours, in case you arrive in Hanoi during the wee hours and you’re not up for some hostel-hunting yet.
The café has a rustic patio, with tables and umbrellas, for those who want to dine al fresco. On the upper floor, there are cozy spots where you can lounge on the couch and fiddle with your laptop or tablet.
The prices on the menu, though a bit higher, are reasonable. Its coconut pudding, in fact, is really worth some visits to Xofa Café.
3. Nola Café
Alley 89 Ma May, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Open: 10am – 11pm
I wouldn’t recommend this coffee shop if good service is what you’re after. But if you want to finish a book in one sitting, or an article because you’re beating a deadline, this place could be it.
Nola Café has that cool and quiet vibe for digital nomads and introverts because it’s hidden from the bustle of Ma May Street. I could also recommend its banana chocolate pancake and cà phê sữa nóng (hot coffee with condensed milk).
4. Highlands Coffee
5 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Open: 8am – 10pm
Highlands Coffee is a popular chain of coffee chains across Vietnam. In Hoan Kiem district alone, it has six outlets. But the one with the view of the massive Hoan Kiem Lake from the balcony is, by far, the most popular, and a nice spot for after-dinner coffee.
Highlands Coffee has the Starbucks vibe and you’ll get to experience (if you haven’t already) the Vietnamese way of brewing coffee through a filter. The drinks are pricier though than most coffee shops in Hanoi.
5. Vuon Ca Phe Coffee Garden
Dien Tien Hoang Street, Hanoi
This coffee shop offers not only authentic Vietnamese cuisine but a closer view of the Hoan Kiem Lake as well.
As it is located just across the fountain at Dien Tien Hoang, the free wifi signal is not provided by the cafe itself but by the Vietnam Posts & Telecommunications Group (VNPT). VNPT offers free wifi around the lake and adjacent areas. Not the best place though to work in, as noise from motorbike engines and vehicles (or weekend activities) can be distracting.
If you’re serious about making a café hunt across Hanoi or Vietnam, you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t forget to bring your comfy sneakers or flip-flops because it’s easier to track them down on foot.