Hanoi's eclectic drinking scene features grungy dive bars, Western-style pubs, one gay bar, sleek lounge bars, cafes and hundreds of bia hoi joints.
The best places for a bar crawl include traveller-friendly P Ta Hien in the Old Quarter, and Ngo Bao Khanh near the northwest edge of Hoan Kiem Lake. An alternative scene, popular with expats, is on P Xuan Dieu in the West Lake area.
Don't Miss: Bia Ahoy!
‘Tram phan tram!’ Remember these words, as all over Vietnam, glasses of bia hoi are raised and emptied, and cries of tram phan tram (‘100%’ or ‘bottoms up’) echo around the table.
Bia hoi is Vietnam’s very own draught beer or microbrew. This refreshing, light-bodied pilsner was first introduced to Vietnam by the Czechs in a display of Communist solidarity. Brewed without preservatives, it is meant to be enjoyed immediately and costs as little as 5000d a glass.
Hanoi is the bia hoi capital of Vietnam and there are microbars on many Old Quarter street corners. A wildly popular place unofficially known as 'Bia Hoi junction' and 'Beer Corner' is at the corner of P Ta Hien and P Luong Ngoc Quyen, in the heart of the Old Quarter. It’s now packed with backpackers and travellers though, and has lost most of its local charm. Did you really come all this way to drink Heineken and talk to boozed neighbours from Jersey City or Johnsonville?
An alternative, more local bia hoi junction is where P Nha Hoa or P Bat Dan meets P Duong Thanh on the western edge of the Old Quarter. For something to go with the beer, Bia Hoi Ha Noi also does the best spare ribs in town; Nha Hang Lan Chin is famed for vit quay (roast duck); and you can't go past Quan Bia Minh for well-priced Vietnamese food and excellent service led by the eponymous Mrs Minh.
Hanoi is definitely not a clubbers’ paradise, and the often-enforced curfew means dancing is pretty much confined to bar-clubs in and around the Old Quarter. The no-fun police supervise strict opening hours and regularly show up to compel the closure of bars and clubs that flout this law. This makes for minimal action after midnight during the week. Weekends are getting busier now that the Old Quarter is allowed to stay open until 2am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. In any case, lock-in action after curfew does occur; ask around in Hanoi’s hostels to find out which bars are currently staying open beyond the witching hour.