Long Son Quan is more of a restaurant for the locals, but it can function as a wonderfully weird café. The venue is unique: a large countryside-looking space, set within concrete walls. You can get from one table to the other through stone paths, dine inside a hut, sit by a waterfall or on straw mats on the floor. Choose an area that appeals to you or one that makes a great Instagram shot, and spend an evening reading a book while you are shielded from the blazing hot Hanoian sun. There are set menus designed for various amounts of diners, so take your friends with you. It is great for groups.
Normally, you would be calling an exterminator to get rid of the animals you find in Pet Café, but here, you pay to have them crawl all over your face and hair. If you are an animal lover, then this café is for you, but you have to love more than just the cute and cuddly kinds of animals. You have to love the icky, slimy, creepy and crawlies. Enjoy a nice cup of warm coffee while sharing your couch with pythons, snakes, lizards, porcupines, sugar gliders, squirrels and even spiders. Don’t worry, they won’t ask to share your drink, but we cannot guarantee that they won’t get a little too close.
Conveniently located in the Old Quarter, Puku Café is a favorite among locals, expats and visitors to Hanoi. It is open 24 hours, 7 days a week, so it is a great stop for those arriving from Sapa on the overnight train that reaches the city at 4:30 a.m. Since you probably cannot check into your hotel this early, grab a table, enjoy some delicious drinks and grub and plug your phone in for charging. Be warned, music plays as early as 5:00 a.m., but we suppose that is how the staff stay awake during the ungodly hours. There are special monthly community events held here such as talk shows, sports game nights, movie and acoustic nights.
Nola Café is a charming vintage café that is hidden in an old house in the Old Quarter. Go through a broken-looking hallway, step inside and you will discover three floors of artfully decorated space with quirky furniture. There is a small courtyard in the center full of sunshine, a knight in semi-shining armor and decorations made up of old coke bottles, but the coolest is the rooftop seating area covered by pretty colorful umbrellas. You won’t get wet in the rain up there!
Cookie Jar is for the young and trendy and serves a mix of traditional Vietnamese coffee, along with fast food and yummy desserts. The venue has stumpy wooden tables surrounded by wicker mats on the floor for you to sit on. Chat up the vivacious owner, Trang, and you will realize that a lot of her personality shines through the décor. Every Wednesday there is a live music show.
If you’re looking for a classy venue with polished décor, then turn away. Chillout is a great place to do exactly what the name suggests. The design, ambiance and music promote that kind of lazy attitude. Oh, and there is shisha. The décor is rather mismatched. You can almost imagine the owner walking around a day before the opening and saying, “Hey, how about a sofa there? You know what? A piano here would be good. Can we afford that?” And then it all just came together magically! There are weekly live music shows and guitars lying around, so if you play…
Walk through a small, randomly decorated courtyard (Buddha statues and kitchen pots?) into a beautiful, abandoned-looking wooden warehouse with high ceilings, an interesting assortment of seating and a loft on the second floor. If you’re in Hanoi on a cold day, make sure you wear a few layers before you head out here, as there isn’t much insulation. There are also many power outlets around, making this the ideal place to kick back, relax, order a cup of coffee and get some work done without being disturbed.
Manzi Artspace is a favorite work spot among expats in Hanoi because of the clean, tranquil and motivating ambiance created by the decor. Doubling as an art gallery and an events location, this café is more for book lovers, and there is a free book exchange box out front. The drinks are equally wonderful, and on a hot day, you should try their watermelon mint juice while pondering the meaning behind the art pieces that surround you.
Cong Caphe is a popular local coffee chain that has taken the country by storm with its rustic, military chic decor. Communist propaganda adorn the walls, and the furniture is colored in army green and decorated with floral patterns. Not only that, but the staff are also dressed to fit the theme, in army-inspired attire. Many Cong Caphes dot the streets of Hanoi, which makes it that much easier for you to try their delicious specialty: iced coconut coffee.
Pho Co is located in the most popular street in the old quarter of Hanoi—Hang Gai (silk street)—yet it is easy to miss or get lost while trying to find. This ancient house (typical long house) comes with an ancient soul inside. A tiny alleyway behind a souvenir shop will lead you into a shared house with each room full of ancient furniture, decorated with sophisticated wooden carvings and black and white photos from the last century on the walls. You will need to order a drink before you are allowed to head up and sit by the gorgeous view of Hoan Kiem Lake. There is even egg coffee! But even better is the resident fat cat, a real-life Garfield who is just as lazy.