Great dates

There’s a host of places to head in Hanoi when you’re keen to get to know someone a little better.

By Kevin Raison on October 09,2018 10:23 AM

Great dates

photos: Binh Minh & Viet Tuan

Hanoi is a place of majesty in many respects. It’s a city of discord; beauty intertwined with chaos. Truth be told, after half a decade here I’ve found the city’s greatest beauty, and indeed the nation’s greatest wealth, to be in the hearts of the people. Every so often, however, there comes a heart that resonates deeper. There are plenty of dating options in Hanoi if you know where to look. Given that the “what do you want to do today” game gets old very fast, we’re here to help. Personally, I feel dating goes so much better with frequent shorter dates than infrequent day-long ventures. The short meet ups make the most of the “beginning of the date” high while minimizing the drag of boredom that can occur at times. They’re also simply much easier to fit into one’s life while adding some fresh fun to a relationship.

First dates and ice breakers

Many people on a first date choose a café or a restaurant. The first date is already tense and a bit awkward, so the last thing you want to worry about is how you look while eating. Instead, choose an activity where you can both do something new or exciting together to take the tension off you both through engaging with the activity. Besides, novel experiences lead to increases in dopamine levels, a vital brain chemical linked to happiness and attraction, so choosing a new experience is a create way to start things off well. If the weather is nice, Westlake Mini Golf at 79 Vo Chi Cong, Xuan La, Tay Ho district, is a great destination, while a weekend walk around the pedestrian-only streets in the Old Quarter can be a good way to ease into getting to know someone.

Should the weather be less than supportive of your date there are also several board game cafes in Hanoi such as The Nest at 4A Trang Thi or Meeple Village at 14 Pham Huy Thong. You could also try bowling at Aeon Mall, which has the option of using bumpers that keep the ball in the lane, so even if one has never played before it’s still fun and scoring is assured. On a more romantic side, ice skating at Royal City is a rather sure-fire way to hold hands.

Adventurous ideas for couples

Sometimes it’s nice to do something a little outside the norm. If you’re looking for some adventure, a short motorbike trip is a good way to take a break from the daily routine. There are several destinations outside of Hanoi that offer a great experience. Tay Phuong Pagoda is only about 30 km from Hanoi and an easy trip to make with fairly straightforward roads. Bring your charged phones with GPS and you’ll be fine. If you’re looking for a little more adventure, Perfume Pagoda is about 60 km from Hanoi while Tam Dao up in the mountains of Vinh Phuc is a bit over 70 km away. Tam Dao in particular can be a full day trip given the restaurants and cafes in town.

If you’re still on the adventurous side but want to stay in the city, why not try out a Muay Thai class. Down Ngo 264 Au Co in Tay Ho district, Song Hong Gym provides myriad martial arts classes. The head Muay Thai instructor, Ot, has exceptional experience and the right personality to give new participants confidence. There’s also a lovely flower garden next door - go figure.

If working up a sweat with your significant other isn’t your thing there are many escape rooms in Hanoi instead. The idea is simple, you are put in a room and given a scenario. There are clues throughout the rooms that you need to use to solve the puzzles and escape. Miss Terry’s Escape Room on the tenth floor of 381 Doi Can charges VND400,000-500,000 for a duo and it’s a great chance to test your teamwork skills. Alternatively, Camp VR on the fifth floor of the Lotte Center is where you can get suited up with full virtual reality equipment and go through some seriously unique videogame experiences.

Great dates

Mellower moments

If you’re looking for something easier, first check out the museums - places often overlooked by non-tourists. The Museum of Ethnology and the Women’s Museum in Hanoi are both of exceptional quality. The Hanoi Botanical Gardens and Yen So Park are also great places to picnic and enjoy a day of good weather.

If you’re looking to grow together, consider taking some classes. Tipsy Art has sessions in Hanoi where you and your significant other can spend time side-by-side learning to create something new together. They don’t have a fixed location, instead providing their painting events around town, so check out their website to find out what’s coming up. Or, since you’re in Vietnam, try learning the language together at Hanaspeak, 227 Trich Sai, Tay Ho. The school also occasionally has out of city events such as visiting a tea farm to spice up language practice.

Lastly, there are the Hanoi go-to date destination: cafes. But don’t just keep going to the same place, revel in the diversity! Café Nha San is in a traditional style stilt house. Cup of Tea is one of the quaintest places you can find, while S’Patisserie and O’Douceurs have the most excellent pastries in the city. Loading T is in an old French villa with unique coffee slightly spiced with cinnamon, and Manzi is located inside a small art gallery. There are endless options in Hanoi, why not visit them all? Finding them in the first place is a small adventure in its own right after all.

Classics

Dinner and a show make for a classic date night, but not all cinemas in Hanoi are equal. Some you have to walk through shopping centers or a smelly garage that somewhat kills the romantic vibe. CGV Ba Trieu, Aeon, and Nguyen Chi Thanh are a touch more elegant than others, with direct lifts from outside or, in the case of CGV Aeon, a rather ambitious escalator. If you’re looking for music, Discovery Lounge at 139 Cau Giay is one of the largest and newest places around and provides a stunning view. Trixie at 165 Thai Ha is likewise one of the more remarkable lounges, but don’t expect to see many foreigners. A lot of the music is Vietnamese, but it’s good, sometimes very good. If jazz is your thing then Cool Cats Jazz Club at the JW Marriott is hands down the place you should find yourself. If you’re into something a bit more intense then Polygon Musik at 36 Cat Linh is the place to go. Alternatively, Pharaoh’s Bar and Upper in the Lotte Center and Top of Hanoi, located on the building’s roof, provide less music-focused after-dinner destinations. Be sure to book in advance or expect a wait on nice evenings at Top of Hanoi - and bring a sweater because 267 meters up the air can be chilly. They do have blankets and heating lamps during the colder seasons, though. The altitude also means the air is much cleaner and you can’t hear the honking of the traffic down below.

Good dinner locations are plentiful and just a Google search away. Something a bit more decadent though might be breakfast, or better yet, brunch. The French Grill offers a great Sunday buffet, and The Hilton provides a nice relatively-budget option, but let’s skip to the undeniably best brunch in town, at The Intercontinental Hanoi Landmark72. This brunch is only on the first weekend of each month, so book early and save up (it’s not cheap) and enjoy something you’ll remember all month through; a decedent gustatory foray into luxury that can really make a date remarkable.

And there we have it, a plethora of ideas to help make memories, grow together, and make your time in Hanoi all the more magical. This city can be as exciting and engaging as one makes it, so why not make the most of it. Who knows, you just might find beauty in the discord, and majesty in the chaos. Even if you don’t fall in love with Hanoi, there’s nothing stopping you from falling in love in Hanoi.

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