The Best Hanoi Record Stores To Give a Spin
The record shops in Hanoi are often hard to find | © urbancow / Getty Images
Heat and humidity are two things guaranteed to ruin the delicate medium of a vinyl LP. These also happen to be two things that Vietnam has in abundance. However, the climate is no excuse for a dearth of good vinyl, and there are still plenty of places in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, to find great records.
Vietnamese record shops have always been quite hard to find, tucked away down back alleys and sidestreets. Some of them look more like parking garages for scooters than vinyl emporiums. To find the best records, you have to know where to look. Here, Culture Trip lists the best places to find great vinyl in great condition.
LP Club in Hanoi is a cratedigger’s paradise Courtesy of LP Club
LP Club and Vinyl4u
The title of the best record-hunting spot in Hanoi is jointly held by two businesses that share a small, red room on a quiet sidestreet, a few blocks south of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Vinyl4u’s owner, Dang Ai Dan, used to sell parts of his personal collection piecemeal over the internet and out of his house. His endeavours to grow the business have seen him and his collection take up residence alongside the LP Club’s owners. These days, if you’re after exciting European and Japanese pressings of jazz, blues and classic rock, all in near perfect condition, there’s no better place in Hanoi.
Giang Nhạc Xưa
If you’re looking to listen to your records in Hanoi, then you’re going to need a turntable. Overlooking the Sông Sét River, as it winds its way through the south of the city, Giang Nhạc Xưa is an audiophile’s dream. The shop’s long, narrow walls are stacked high with shelf upon shelf of record players, while bunches of gramophones cluster in the corner of the room like tropical flowers. Also, the place caters to every possible taste, from the modern hi-fi connoisseur to the lover of vintage wooden cabinets and crackly 45s. While its vinyl collection isn’t huge, it’s varied. You can find modern American singer-songwriters, old blues legends, classical Vietnamese composers and, most excitingly, local rock and blues from the ’60s and ’70s – most of which was destroyed after the war and is nigh impossible to get hold of today.
While this one is a bit of a long shot, Quang’s Records is reportedly the first dedicated vinyl shop in the city, supposedly opening in 2007. Its shelves are overflowing with Vietnamese and Western jazz, and according to those who say they have visited, it’s a little pricey. While there’s some debate over whether or not Quang’s even exists any more, several more people are convinced it never existed in the first place. Whether it’s real and open or not, no breakdown of the city’s vinyl map would be complete without its very own El Dorado.
If it’s a vinyl adventure you’re looking for, Fox Music might be the one for you. Located just a stone’s throw from Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Fox Music (named after its owner) sells mostly cheap CDs and DVDs of questionable legitimacy. There is no vinyl in the shop. However, Fox himself buys a lot of vinyl with the money he makes. As with all obsessive collectors, he has more vinyl than he can shake a stick at. Go to Fox Music and talk to him. If he likes you, he’ll either sell you something from his personal collection or put you in touch with someone who can.
Hồ Gươm Audio-Video
Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a riot of antiques, water puppetry and overpriced pastries. Between the constant rumble of scooter engines and the cries of vendors, it can all get a little discordant. However, in the middle of all of this is Hồ Gươm Audio-Video, a little oasis of harmony tucked away in the northwest corner of the Old Quarter – right next to a really good bún chả restaurant. While you’ll struggle to find a music shop anywhere in Vietnam not giving half (or often more) of its shelf space to pressings from the West, Hồ Gươm Audio-Video is actually a label dedicated to presenting the sounds of Vietnam itself. You can find modern Vietnamese pop, such as Sơn Tùng M-TP and Mỹ Tâm, alongside classical Vietnamese and local folk songs. If you want the real sound of Vietnam, Hồ Gươm is the place to go.
A beautiful, minimal modernist boutique hidden above an empty shop that people use to park their motorcycles, Rita Records is one of the stores working hard to inspire a new generation of Vietnamese vinyl collectors. Its selection is relatively small but absolutely top-quality and largely modern – mostly imported from the UK, Germany and Japan. Its racks have everything from Cigarettes After Sex and Hawkwind to the Bill Evans Trio. After dark, sometimes the place fills up with gaggles of hip young guitarists and trumpet players, who perform moody, ethereal sets in low lighting. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Trần Đức CD and LP Shop
To find the Trần Đức CD and LP Shop, you’ll have to walk off of Phố Hàng Bài, down the alley. Then, you take a right, go down some stairs and take a left down a much narrower alley, before climbing some more stairs and going into someone’s house. Inside, you’ll find gorgeously higgledy-piggledy piles of vinyl and CDs, mostly from Japan and the US. You can find some actual Blue Note records, loads of stuff by The Beatles and heaps of classical music.
These recommendations were updated on February 17, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.