Coming from Korea to Vietnam, I had low expectations of the drinks and food in cafes. What I have found recently while living in Korea is 80% of places I see on Instagram, vlogs, and blogs are being promoted solely based on ascetics. I, however, am all about coffee and food when I go to a cafe. Sure ascetic is nice, but what’s the point if the coffee and pastries are barely passable as good. Maybe it’s just me. In my opinion Vietnam over-delivered when it came to the quality of what cafes serve. I do have to warn coffee and non-coffee drinkers who travel to Vietnam because traditional Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk is not for the faint of heart. The coffee is not for everyone since it is ‘give you the shakes’ strong and sweet. These are the cafe’s I recommend from my time in Hanoi.
Always Cafe – A Magical Wizard Cafe
For good reason, Harry Potter is beloved around the world (despite feelings about the author herself). Now that those who grew up with it are older, we are bringing a little of the magic into our everyday lives in the form of themed cafes. Always Cafe in Hanoi does just this with beautiful murals, themed drinks, and souvenirs. I think what makes this cafe unique from other harry potter ones I have seen is its potioned themed drinks. These drinks are hand-crafted and uniquely flavored, making the drinks alone worth the stop, even if you don’t like Harry Potter. I would say this cafe is a 10/10 for flavor combinations and decorations.
The Note Coffee
Because this cafe is all over Instagram and YouTube, overlooking sword lake, I had low expectations for it. In fact, the only reason I went was that other cafes were not yet open, and I needed my caffeine fix before I took an early morning walking tour. What made this Instagram spot something more was how friendly the owners were. The Note cafe’s owner and staff genuinely love what they do and meet travelers worldwide. You can taset their love for their craft in their well-balanced and delicious drinks.
This cafe was even more special to me because I met two fellow travelers here who also happened to live in Korea. I spent such a lovely morning with these girls and Ended up spending the following day touring the city with one of them. In my opinion, when you travel, you can tell if a place is special based on your interactions there. The Note Coffee is just one of those special places.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a big coffee lover, and Vietnam has quality coffee. Unfortunately, when I went to Hidden Ally, I was all coffeed out, so I chose to have tea. I was not disappointed by the quality or flavors. Besides the quality of the drinks and the atmosphere tighten by good music, this cafe is really cool because it lets you into the hidden world of what homes are like in Hanoi.
When you walk around Hanoi, see a lot of 3-5 story buildings with plants hanging out the windows of the upstairs flats and businesses out the bottom. It left me wondering how people get into these buildings and what life is like on the inside. Hidden ally gives you a peak at everyday life in Hanoi. To enter the cafe, you must go down an ally into a tiny courtyard with stairs leading you up to each of the different flats and, eventually, the cafe. The courtyard, like the streets, has lowered and greenery hanging down from people’s balconies and windows with a pinch of sunlight coming through. The short walk up to the cafe was magical since I had only seen this style of living in movies or on Vlogs.
The infamous egg coffee creator eventually opened up his own cafe after his drink became an everyday staple in Hanoi. It’s a rare chance that you can affordably patronage the creator of a world-famous drink, so if you like coffee, this place is definitely a stop worth the trip. Egg coffee is a smooth sweet latte made because milk was too expensive and coffee too bitter for the Vietnamese, so this drink was birth. It may sound weird, but many traditional cocktails are mostly made with egg whites, so why not coffee?
Ok, I know I have said a lot of “this place has really great coffee,” but it so happens that all these places do have really great coffee. Also, I’m more likely to talk about how a business is overrated or not even mention a place than write a scathingly bad review. This is out of respect for the owners trying to make a living because defamation laws in Asia protect businesses. Writing a bad review, even a truthful bad review, could result in a steep fine.
This cafe is well worth the hype. My new friend, who I had met at Note Coffee the day before, and I stumbled on this place between Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and the Temple of Literature. Its sleek modern design makes it very attractive for those seeking photo opportunities, and its minimalist menu on slate makes it appealing to coffee lovers. I also find that minimalist menus show high-quality food and drinks. If you have less than 10 items (in this case, 5), they better be of high quality to keep people coming back for the same experience.
Design and fantastic high-quality coffee aside, this place is worth the mention solely for what it does for the community. The cafe is ‘pay what you can’ using the proceeds to invest in locals, including teaching people who want to open their own cafes about coffee and how to run a cafe. This business model is extended to the restaurant next door. Although it is not ‘pay what you can,’ it still invests in its community by using locally grown produce and training chefs to be the future of fine dineing in Hanoi. Although I didn’t get a chance to try the restaurant, it is on my list when I return to Vietnam.
I’m not going to lie; I avoided this cafe several times because I thought it would be overrated, but It was quite a pleasant surprise. I finally decided to try this cafe on one of my last two days in Vietnam when I needed a reprieve from the rain and the heat but someplace relaxing with a view. This cafe is beautiful, and its teas and fruit jelly yogurt bowl were fantastic.
Ok, a fellow traveler I met in Ninh Binh introduced me to avocado smoothies. I was skeptical, but when someone raves about something, you just have to take a chance and try it. She was right. Avocado smoothies are surprisingly refreshing and delicious. After my first, I was hooked, so of course, I had to try one every time I saw it. The best I had in Vietnam was at an out-of-the-way cafe which I would have never gone to if it wasn’t for needing a PCR test to get back into Korea (where I’m currently living as I write this). This cafe’s Avocado smoothies are next level. They added cinnamon and maybe a pinch of nutmeg or even ginger. I’m not quite sure. The subtle spice mixed in with the creamy sweetness of the avocado smoothie was such a flavor game changer, and, to me, it’s worth the out-of-the-way trip.
All the Places
The Note Coffee – 64 P. Lương Văn Can, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Hidden Alley – No. 9B P. Báo Khánh, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
Cafe Giang – 2VM3+9R Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam
Always Cafe – 8B P. Hàng Tre, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Refined – 43 P. Văn Miếu, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Laika Cafe – 1 P. Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Coffee Trung – 2RWW+GJ Ba Đình, Hanoi, Vietnam
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