This was our first trip to Vietnam and we loved it.
We stayed at the Majestic Salute Hotel (not affiliated with the Majestic Saigon). It is a relatively new 3-star boutique hotel and a good option for a stay in the Old Quarter. There are nicer hotels in Hanoi but not many with as good a location. The breakfast buffet was good, the lobby was nice but for a relatively new hotel, the rooms were a bit worn. We had booked a “City View Suite” and when we checked in the first time, that’s what we got. It wasn’t a huge room but was adequate and had an oddly shaped but enjoyable seating area with access to a balcony looking out over the neighborhood. But when we checked back in after a few days on one of our side trips we ended up in a “deluxe” room with a city view. The deluxe room was tiny. We tried to change but they were overbooked. The next day I overheard a conversation at the front desk from another traveler who had booked a suite but gotten a deluxe room. This isn’t a large hotel and I think it is a case that they just don’t have enough suites.
There is a spa on the 2nd floor that mostly takes the form of a massage palor.
The hotel is located on Hang Duong (or Sugar) St, one of the 36 streets in the Old Quarter where the street names reflect the business conducted there: Silk Street, Rice Street, Paper Street and in this case: sugar and candy street.
It is a short walk to Hoan Kiem Lake in one direction and Dong Xuan market in the other. When we had time to kill, we really enjoyed just walking around the lake or sitting and looking at Ngoc Son Temple, located on an island in the lake or just watching others walking by. We had the occasion to be there early one morning end were lucky enough to see the very large solitary fresh water turtle that lives there.
We really liked staying in the Old Quarter and being able to walk to so many good local restaurants. For information on restaurants we visited on this trip to Hanoi, see our Vietnam 2005 Food & Restaurant Notes.
It’s a bit on the touristy side but we enjoyed the Water Puppet Show, which is performed in a theatre near Hoan Kiem Lake.
You should visit the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi. If you are going on a trip up into the mountains to visit the ethnic minority tribes, try to go to the museum before your trip. They have some great exhibits of the traditional cultures of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups.
Any city tour you do in Hanoiis going to include a visit to the Temple of Literature and Ho Chi Min’s mausoleum. Apparently Uncle Ho hasn’t allowed death to interrupt his annual vacations to Russia as when we were there his body was in Russia for refurbishment. But the grounds and his residences were interesting. We felt a little odd doing it but to be honest, once we got over the thought of what we were doing we enjoyed about a half hour ride through the streets of the Old Quarter in a cyclo (bicycle powered 1-person carriage) at the end of the city tour.
If you have an interest in art, you should visit the gallery/home of our artist friend Pham Luc. We were just blown away by his work and couldn’t believe how accommodating he was. It would be a good idea to call ahead at 04.8294317 just to be sure he is there. Take a cab and ask the driver to wait for you. The address is175 Nghi Tam Road, Tay Ho district in Hanoi. He doesn’t speak much English but does speak French.