With so many accommodation options available in Hanoi, Vietnam, choosing a place to stay can be an overwhelming task. With outstanding service, an award-winning restaurant and an unbeatable location in the heart of the Old Quarter, Essence Hanoi Hotel & Spa is my top choice of Hanoi Old Quarter hotel.
If you’ve been following me on social media, you would have noticed that we recently departed Vietnam after living in Hanoi for a year. We have a bit of a ‘tradition’ going now where we hand over the keys to our apartment and spend our final few nights in a hotel. Our last full day in Hanoi also coincided with my birthday—so we decided to book something a little more luxurious than usual. Essence Hanoi Hotel and Spa, one of three Essence properties in Hanoi Old Quarter, fit the bill perfectly.
As soon as we walked through the hotel doors to check in, we looked at each other in surprise: This wasn’t going to be our first time staying at Essence Hanoi. We had, in fact, stayed at the same hotel on our first trip to Vietnam back in 2012—we just didn’t remember! On that first visit, the staff hospitality really impressed us and made our stay memorable. Essence Hanoi still has some of the best service of any hotel in Southeast Asia—and ever since a major renovation in October 2017, extremely luxe rooms for a very reasonable price.
Who could blame us for not recognising the place? Since 2012, Essence Hanoi has changed dramatically, both inside and out. Most obviously, it has doubled in size. Staff informed us that Essence recently purchased the neighbouring property, allowing the hotel to expand dramatically. If you’ve been to Hanoi, you’ll know that space is a premium (buildings are tall and skinny due to property taxes). As a result of the acquisition, Essence Hanoi has twice the lobby space and a restaurant that’s twice as big as usual. There are two elevators, so you’re never left waiting. And best of all—as you’ll see—rooms are very spacious.
Hanoi Old Quarter needs no introduction. The oldest part of the city is its heart and soul—it’s by far the most dynamic and atmospheric part of Hanoi. I always recommend people stay in the Old Quarter, especially if it’s their first visit.
Essence Hanoi is located in the Old Quarter, just north of Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s a short walk to some of my favourite spots in Hanoi—including Bac Ma Temple, and the wonderful Long Bien Bridge and market. The only downside is that the area is very touristy.
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Ta Hien Street is extremely busy; the nearest intersection is known as ‘Bia Hoi Junction’ because of the number of footpath bars and pubs. It can get very rowdy—and noisy—especially on weekends. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either extremely atmospheric, or extremely touristy (bia hois are a favourite among backpackers and there are lots of hostels in the area as well). The rooms at Essence Hanoi all have double windows and block-out curtains, so noise and flashing lights aren’t an issue at all (I had a fantastic few nights of undisturbed sleep during our stay). But if you’re looking for a quiet neighbourhood or something that’s off the tourist trail, this area probably isn’t for you.
By day, it feels very different—Ta Hien Street has some charming architecture and excellent shops and restaurants.
Ta Hien and surrounding some streets are closed to vehicles from 7pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Keep this in mind if you’re arriving by taxi.
The rooms at Hanoi Essence Hotel are extremely elegant and well-considered. Oversized headboards in deep-green velvet are a luxe touch, while dark wood floors and modern light fittings give the rooms a contemporary edge. The hotel has nine types of room on offer, including deluxe, doubles, suites and interconnecting family rooms, some with balconies and others with city views. We were impressed with both the size (our deluxe double room was positive spacious) and the amount of natural light we had. Rooms have ample storage space—which is very rare in Hanoi, especially for this price point—and a study/reading nook.
Bathrooms are similarly new and sparkling, with marble tiles and brass fittings. The one thing we were left wanting was an extra hook or two for our bath towels.
As responsible travellers, sustainability is important to us—but I must confess that it didn’t really factor into our choice to stay at Essence Hanoi. We were pleasantly surprised when we learned about the sustainability initiatives in place on the property. Many of these might sound like they’re insignificant or things you’d expect to be mainstream—but unfortunately, environmental considerations aren’t yet commonplace in Vietnam. More and more hotels and tourism service providers are starting to focus on social and environmental responsibility, but Essence Hanoi is definitely a forerunner in this respect.
Bins lined with newspaper rather than plastic bags, toiletries wrapped in paper, and shampoo and products in porcelain containers to cut down on plastic. Instructions of reusing towels and changing sheets—which may seem simple, but not yet mainstream in Vietnam.
Similar initiatives are in place at the in-house Essence Spa. We didn’t get to try the spa this time, but it comes highly recommended. Hotel guests can enjoy discounted rates.
One of the major perks of staying at Essence Hanoi Hotel is having the in-house restaurant right on your doorstep. Essence Restaurant is consistently ranked among the city’s best eateries on TripAdvisor. The menu includes a selection of Vietnamese and Western-style dishes, with a focus on regional specialties from northern, central and southern Vietnam. Cocktails and local wines are also available.
We ate breakfast and lunch at Essence Restaurant. The breakfast buffet was far more than we’re used to (don’t worry—banana pancakes are available if you’re having withdrawals). Fresh fruit and house-made yogurt and creme caramel tubs are a highlight. There’s also a healthy pastry section, cold cuts, and hot dishes that you can pair with your choice of cooked-to-order eggs.
Lunch was even better than breakfast—which was a good thing, since this ended up being our last meal in Vietnam. Hoi An-style chicken and rice, and noodle rolls with char siu pork were both divine. For dessert, don’t go past the banana and chocolate nem (fried spring rolls) and the violet rice with coconut and mango.
Breakfast is included in some room rates or can be added on for an extra 12 USD per person. Every day at 3pm, the restaurant hosts a complimentary afternoon tea for hotel guests. Essence Restaurant is open to non-guests daily from 11.30am.
A final note on the service. Essence Hanoi Hotel and Spa is a large hotel (certainly by Hanoi standards) and a big company—but that doesn’t mean it’s lost its little personal touches. Far from it. As mentioned, the first time we stayed at Essence Hanoi in 2012, we thought it was the best service of any hotel we stayed at in Southeast Asia. Our latest stay was no different.
On arrival, we were offered our choice of welcome drink and a refreshing towel. I went with the Vietnamese iced coffee, which was much better than the usual glass of juice. A staff member sat with us and took us through Hanoi’s major landmarks and attractions before answering all of our questions about the city. (This wasn’t really necessary for us since we’d already been in Hanoi for a year, but it was still interested to hear the spiel.) Back in 2012, Essence Hanoi organised our airport transfer and helped us book and collect our train tickets. Staff can also help with tours, car hire, onward transport, and anything else you might need. The hotel offers luggage storage—and even a tailoring service. There is an ATM conveniently located at the front door if you need to get cash out.
Staff cottoned onto the fact that it was my birthday and delivered a surprise cake—candles and all—to our room. It was a very sweet gesture. When we were checking out, they helped us communicate with our driver to coordinate the pickup. We had an unforgettable stay at Hanoi Essence—it was a wonderful way to spend our final hours in Hanoi.
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