My wife and daughter have spent the summer in Asia and I have spent every other weekend visiting them. On my final trip back to Asia to bring them home, we re-visited Vietnam, this time trying Hanoi for the first time. While we were there, we wanted to stay in a truly historic hotel, in my review of the Hilton Hanoi Opera you’ll find that it accomplished that mission.
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The Hilton Hanoi Opera is about to start renovations that they have been planning for more than 3.5 years. They clearly list that renovations are under way when booking so there should be no surprise. The model rooms are in the final stages of completion and upon approval, they will begin working their way through the property.
Neither the hotel, nor I believe that the rooms in design and décor will impress any readers today. But like any good home remodeling show on HGTV, you shouldn’t judge the house by the paint on the wall or the bad carpet – those things can (and in this case will soon) be replaced. It’s whether or not the hotel has “good bones”, underlying structural elements that make it a good place to stay today and a better place to stay when renovations are complete.
Suffice it to say that for almost every element of the hotel room and pool area I could be justified in writing that this or that is “dated”, however that wastes both of our time and the hotel acknowledges such – it won’t be going in the rest of the post. What will be in the post is whether or not after renovation the hotel is superior in particular categories to surrounding options.
I have one final note on the renovations regarding the branding. There are rumors in some frequent Hilton guest circles that the hotel will rebrand coming out of the renovations as either a Conrad or even a Waldorf-Astoria. It is my opinion that the property could pull off a Conrad branding, but that a Waldorf might be a stretch. If you have heard similar re-branding comments regarding the hotel, please feel free to leave them in the comments. I would love to come back and see the hotel after it’s been complete.
The lobby is rather impressive with 40’ vaulted ceilings, giant pillars and a large chandelier. Flowers in the lobby were changed often, the staff took great pride in the property. There is a small lobby bar, gift store and patisserie that seemed almost constantly half full of people. I got the impression that the hotel lobby bar was a place to see and be seen.
The hotel had both a front and back entrance, the front with easy access for taxis and to the major roads, the back was better for tour buses and for walking to the nearby Opera House or the rest of the French Quarter.
As a Hilton Diamond, my family was complimentary upgraded to a suite on the 6th floor (seven floors in the property). My wife and daughter arrived a day earlier than I did and had a chance to explore the room a bit more than I did.
Walking in, the space is large. It’s enough to really separate out living space from sleeping space. The guest bathroom features two doors with the sink and vanity through the first door, and a second door for the toilet.
Throughout the living room, fresh roses were put out for us; without counting it looked to be more than four-dozen in total. There was plenty of space for the couch and chairs, the TV was set off to one side and a little far away, I hope that in the redesign they re-think where to put it, though that space is so open it will be tough to place.
The desk was sufficient for a laptop, maybe two but not comfortably. There were, however, built-in outlets in the desk with international plugs and USB connections. We would find that this was not as common as we had hoped, though it was necessary.
Views from our corner suite featured a small park below us with locals practicing Tai Chi in the morning, and dogs playing in the afternoons. Within site were the tree-lined streets of Central Hanoi and a cityscape of several low-lying buildings.
In the closed-door bedroom, plenty of space throughout the room made it really comfortable. I will book a trip back to Hanoi to see what they do with all of that room following renovations. The TV was sizeable, but the King-size bed was not likely a US standard King, more like a Queen+. The bed was comfortable, even for someone as jet-lagged as I had been.
You just can’t add more space to a small area, and that is the challenge with any renovation, but this bathroom has plenty of space. It features a separate tub, a large walk-in shower, and another closed-door toilet. The vanity also leaves plenty of room for toiletry bags, and the hotel uses Peter Thomas Roth for soaps and shampoo.
The hotel features a small, but nice pool. There are shaded loungers with cabana coverage and a pool basketball hoop. The hoop is not something I have seen elsewhere but kids and adults alike both fired shots, none of them were Steph Curry, but it was nice to see everyone actually using it without making a huge disturbance.
The poolside bar and restaurant offered a reasonably priced selection food and drink both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. We ordered a sandwich and a quesadilla, the sandwich was good, the quesadilla was ok for a country 10,000 miles from Mexico – most Americans will want to give this a pass but we were craving anything resembling Mexican food.
Poolside service was not so good. When they came out, service was attentive, but they had to be coaxed outside and the pool chairs were half full so it would have been an obvious time to provide service.
Around the hotel staff were generally very good. They went out of their way to help us find transportation options, answer questions and share their stories. Many people stop us when we travel with our daughter to say hi and inevitably they tell us about their own kids and where they are from.
The Hilton Hanoi Opera is placed in a very French Quarter. As advertised, it sits just feet from the front steps of the Opera and is surrounded by a mix of Vietnamese and French restaurants.
Tree-lined streets with sidewalk cafés host locals and foreigners alike. A mix of Mercedes and pedi-cabs cruise around the embassies in the area. The mix of Southeast Asia and French culture is evident everywhere, but never more clearly than local Vietnamese with pointed straw hats riding bikes with cilantro and baguettes in the basket.
There are five restaurants on site and we tried four depending on how you look at it. The patisserie serves beautiful and delicious cakes and cookies, though the price is on par with an expensive bakery in Europe ($3-6/item).
I said possibly four restaurants because there is a lobby bar that also serves coffee and we ordered some but this is also connected to the patisserie. The cost was fair, about $2, and like the rest of Vietnam – the coffee was excellent.
We had breakfast in the restaurant downstairs, Ba Mien and the spread was nearly endless. It wasn’t all amazing food, but they had something for absolutely everyone. I mean everyone. There was a pho station, omelets and eggs, American breakfast (sausage, bacon), Full English (beans, tomatoes), Continental European, fruits, salad, soba, sushi, dumplings, congee, deli items, pastries and I’m leaving about 30 stations off.
Gold and Diamond members have access to this breakfast every day of their stay and as a result, we didn’t even enter the lounge. I know that’s a cardinal sin for a blogger, but consider me a sinner – I didn’t have a reason to go.
The price for our stay ranged from affordable to insane. The hotel had been fully booked and I failed to secure a return night from Ha Long Bay, but only realized it a week before I needed the night. Oops, that’s another sin. Those prices ranged from $180-350, and at $180 (with the breakfast) it’s worth it, at $350,we stayed elsewhere and you should too.
The cost in points for a stay in the hotel ranged from 25,000/night (great value) to 47,000 points per night (borderline bad deal, though this is what I paid for at least one night).
Once the renovations are done, I plan to return and word on the street is that it may change brands to a Conrad which could be a very interesting switch. On balance, stay at the Hilton Hanoi Opera for location until the renovations are done, then re-evaluate with changes and new rates.
Have you stayed in Hanoi before? Do you think this hotel could become a Conrad? Could Hanoi support a hotel with that level of investment?
They should absolutely rebrand. It has always surprised me that some genius at Hilton thought having a “Hilton” in Hanoi was ever a good idea (google any reference to “Hanoi Hilton”). It should have been rebranded the moment Hilton moved into the property.
@Big Papa – Yeah, I am going to wholeheartedly agree with “a” name change. I am just not sure that the area can support Waldorf-Astoria, maybe a Conrad though.
Loved our stay there as a diamond back in January, 2016. Large suite, pretty much like yours. Fresh flowers, bento box full of sweets and fruit to dip in chocolate. Lounge breakfast was amazing. Staff was amazing. Extremely friendly and helpful. Great location also.We decided that if we ever got back to Hanoi, this would definitely be the place to stay again.
Hi Kyle, I was very glad to see your review as my wife and I have an upcoming trip to Vietnam next February.
It has been a long time dream to visit Halong Bay and we are finally going soon.
We will also stay a couple of nights in Hanoi and I have been dueling whether to stay at the Hanoi Hilton or JW Marriot Hanoi.
While we enjoyed most of our stays at Conrad Hotels around the world, it has been a long time since we’ve been happy with any Hilton Hotels. Even the 5’stars feels only 4 stars for the most part.
I am a HH Diamond and Marriott Gold, so we will get free breakfast either way.
I believe that at this point the JW Marriott is a better hotel but it also costs almost twice as the Hilton, so I was wondering if you have any suggestions.
@FabinhoBP – Thanks for your comments, and yes I have two thoughts. We really carefully looked at the JW Marriott, but it seemed to be a little far from where we wanted to be, and more expensive on our dates as well. The JW will be more updated from what I have seen in images, but the Hilton is right in the heart of where you want to be. They also treated us exceedingly well (we are also Diamond) so the soft product is really good. My second thought, however, is to pay the money and stay at the Sofitel. I have an upcoming post about why we didn’t stay there, but in retrospect, I wish we would have spent at least a night in the Sofitel Metropole. It’s the best of French Indochina.
Thank you for your kind reply Kyle.
I will be looking forward to your future reviews and specially the one for the Sofitel Metropole.
It is not everyday that we receive this kind of attention from a travel blogger and I highly appreciate that.
I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn instead of the Hilton Opera when I visited Hanoi. It was slightly farther away from the city center and lake and not nearly as fancy, but much cheaper in price or points, which is what I used. I can’t recall if breakfast was included, but the local food is so inexpensive and delicious that I wouldn’t have partaken even if it was on offer. Great city. Hope to get back one day.
We stayed at the Garden Inn as well. I didn’t find it to be more than three or four blocks away, though Google maps may dispute that, but even with a boatload of Hilton points (it was only 10,000/night for us) I would pay to stay at the Sofitel, but then I guess I didn’t out of spite. More on that later.
One of your better reviews. Looks like your daughter turned into a “Hello Kitty” fan!
Good job with this post.
Thank you so much for the excellent review. Your style always makes me smile, as do your gracious replies to comments.
Seems like we, like most travelers are using their hotel in Hanoi as an overnight stopover on the way to Halong Bay, and, probably, then, back, and on to the airport.
Would distance be a factor when choosing the JW Marriott, or either hotel close to the Opera, the Hilton or Sofitel?
Thank you for your kind words, it makes it all worth it when readers like you express your satisfaction with the blog. We did use it as a jumping off point to HaLong Bay, but that doesn’t do the city justice. After a couple of days in HaLong Bay we wish we had more time to lounge around Hanoi and we will be back to do just that.
For us, the JW Marriott seemed to be well outside the city. There are kind of two camps for hotel locations in Hanoi (from our limited experience and research). The first is a concentration near the French Quarter and Embassy district, the second is near the lake. Depending on where you are, neither of these are that far away, but the Sofitel and at least two of the Hilton properties were located right in the French Quarter (where we preferred to spend our time). But along with the JW Marriott, there is also an Intercontinental that seems to get great reviews near the lake as well. Ultimately, we are city people that used to live in England and miss Europe terribly, so the French Quarter will probably be our selection every time we are there.