All images by Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi.
The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi is one of only five Sofitel Legends in the world, and the second I have had the pleasure to review. Last year, I luxuriated in a day at the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena. The other two Legends are located in Amsterdam, Aswan, and Xi’an.
My partner and I received a mini tour of the city from our Uber driver, who picked us up from the airport. Like many other Vietnamese people I met throughout my trip, he was eager to practice his English, which he learned in grade school.
When we arrived at the Sofitel Legend Metropole, a small team of staff came to assist us. They were dressed in historic Vietnamese garb, greeting us in French and English as they ushered us into the beautiful, sprawling building.
Paolo, a Vietnamese gentleman who studied in England, gave us a tour of our palatial suite. He also assisted us during our stay, with everything from locals-only restaurant and bar suggestions to day trips and attractions. Part of what sets Sofitels apart from other luxury hotels is their unrivaled concierge service. Each guest is made to feel like he or she is at home.
We inadvertently scheduled our trip during Vietnam’s 70th Independence Day from France. This unfortunately meant a lot of canceled events, because roads in and out of Hanoi were closed for the parade, the parade dry run, and other various unexplained activities. The hotel and surrounding area had enough adventures to make up for our missed trip to Halong and motorbike tour. Find more tips on Hanoi destinations at the conclusion of this post.
Fortunately, the Metropole had more than enough things to do just on the property to fill the unexpected free days:
The hotel boasts 364 rooms, spread over two wings. The historic Metropole wing has 106 guestrooms and three Legendary Suites, which are named after famed visitors and residents of the hotel: Graham Greene, Charlie Chaplin, and Somerset Maugham.
Opposite the Metropole Wing is the contemporary Opera Wing hosts 236 guestrooms, including 12 Premium Patio Rooms, which have a 21-square foot terrace opening into a garden feature. The Opera Wing is also home to 18 suites and the over 2100-square-foot Grand Prestige Suite. Each room in the Opera Wing has been individually furnished and decorated in a neoclassical style.
Between the two wings is the picturesque pool and bar. Nestled into a sunlit-filled corner is the spa. Spanning two stories and 4300 square feet, seven styled treatment rooms give guests a variety of aesthetic options. With a touch of Indochine-inspired architecture, Le Spa’s atmosphere is influenced by both the Metropole Wing’s classic look and the Opera Wing’s contemporary feel.
There are three restaurants in this five-star hotel: Angelina, named after Angelina Jolie, who stayed at the Legend Metropole; Le Beaulieu, which was recently remodeled and served up a sumptuous breakfast spread featuring authentic Vietnamese food as well as fare from around the world; and Spices Garden, where I enjoyed a hosted lunch with Huyen Ha, the hotel’s press liaison.
With its local flavors, candy colors and patio, Spices Garden offers a Vietnamese culinary gastronomic experience. Serving specialties from the northern and southern regions, Executive Sous Chef Nguyen Thanh Van brings a unique quality to the fine cuisine, astonishing foreign and Vietnamese guests alike.
During my lunch at Spices Garden, I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Olivier Genique. Olivier, who studied in France, encouraged me to explore the many options on the buffet (there are hundreds). Adding variety to the spread was the Thai cuisine created by the hosted Sofitel So Bangkok chefs, who were visiting Hanoi as part of the hotel franchise’s international chef exchange program to expand the culinary offerings. Per our waiter’s suggestion, we started with Vietnamese food first, before exploring the Thai options, because Vietnamese is considerably less spicy. Had we begun with Thai, he explained, we may have blown out our palettes before experiencing the delicate flavors of Vietnamese fare.
Where’s the banh mi, or pho? I asked Huyen. Surely, these are what most Americans expect to eat for lunch in Vietnam, given they are mainstays for group outings from the office on an otherwise non-exotic Tuesday.
Huyen looked puzzled. “Why would we eat pho now?” she asked.
Turns out, if you’re eating pho or banh mi after noon, you’re doing it wrong. And, if you add a ton of Sriracha to your pho, your defeating the entire purpose of this calming, delicate breakfast food.
Indeed, pho is a breakfast food. As Paolo later confirmed: “No one eats pho after breakfast time, unless they are an anorexic woman, because no one can get fat off of eating only pho.”
So, instead of pho and banh mi, I enjoyed other delicacies like tuna sashimi, softshell Vietnamese crab, frog leg, hard boiled quail egg, and pigeon.
When dessert rolled around, Huyen informed me that the moon cakes, which are a national treasure of Vietnam, are “in season.” Not because you can’t make them any other time of the year, but because the Moon Cake Festival would soon be upon us (it’s celebrated September 27th). In fact, the Metropole is the only place in Hanoi that makes preservative-free moon cakes, which are moist, shaped pastries filled with various fillings, ranging from jam to chocolate to bean pastes to nuts. Basically, they are a much better tasting, prettier looking fruitcake.
I also tried their Vietnamese coffee. As a major consumer of Bulletproof Coffee, adding sweetened condensed milk and sugar to my java was a shock to the system, but it tasted considerably better any ice cream-laden confection you’d get from Starbucks. The trick is the very distinctive taste of Vietnamese coffee. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you could even try the Weasel Coffee. It’s, quite literally, the shit.
Located steps from the Opera House, the Metropole is surrounded in heritage. What’s more, even as you sip cocktails at the pool bar, you are steeped in history.
During a sobering moment of the trip, I embarked on the Path of History Tour, which outlines the story of the bomb shelter below the hotel, only discovered during renovations to the Bamboo Bar in 2011. The bomb shelter served to protect guests between 1964 and 1973. After the war the bunker was closed and sealed and forgotten until the renovations. It was reopened in May 2012 to honor the extraordinary efforts of employees during shared hardships of wartime. Today, this space serves as a memorial to their courage and perseverance and to remember what should never be forgotten. Daily tours of Metropole’s Path of History and the bomb shelter with Ambassador of History are offered, exclusively for guests staying at the hotel.
Service at the Metropole is unparalleled. From the moment you walk in through your check out process (ours was with Mr. Trung, a true delight), each team member addresses you by your name, and no task is too large.
I took advantage of the world-ranked salon services to enjoy a massage at Le Spa du Metropole. Each massage area is private, allowing guests to meditate, recharge, and make the most of the spa experience. Using top-of-the-line products from Clarins Ytsara and Laurent Severac, Le Spa has diverse facilities: two therapy rooms, two themed spa suites for couples, three individual spa suites, one foot-massage room, steam bath, sauna, showers, a relaxation room, and reception. My massage, which I requested to be as firm as possible so as to work out 25-hour-flight-induced kinks, was pleasantly painful, with just the right amount of pressure. I opted for the Clarins Exfoliating Body Treatment With Bamboo Powder (60 min.) This high-performance treatment helps renew your skin deep down. A double exfoliating action, one mechanical and the other biological, leaves the skin softer, smoother, purified and revitalized. Body products applied afterwards are perfectly absorbed.
The rooftop garden balcony, Le Balcon, forms a welcome oasis in the heart of our historic premises, between the wings. The Metropole offers Yoga Mondays and Wednesdays, and Tai Chi Tuesdays and Thursdays. The classes begin at 7 AM, and are the perfect way to stay in shape and relax.
The city is incredible. While not a nightlife town, the energy of the city extends late into the morning hours, with thousands of motorcycles zipping along the streets and youth sipping coffee (SERIOUSLY? AT 2 AM?!) or stronger libations around the Ho Kiem Lake til the sun comes up. If you find yourself in Hanoi, here are a few other things to do during your time there:
• Water Puppet Show: it’s a must. It’s delightful, kitschy, and authentically Vietnamese. At under USD5 for an hour-long show, you can’t miss this world-famous event, which features an orchestra, singing, and puppetry (not in a serial killer kind of way).
• Smoking shisha: As Paolo attempted to convince us, “It’s not a drug, its just something you smoke that makes your entire body go numb and causes you to say silly things.” As far as Asian drug experiences go, this one’s basically the most PG you can get (it’s hookah).
• USD5 pedicure: Get all ten of your toes done for the cost of one, had it been in the US during its polish application. Just be sure your aestheticians are using sterile technique (we had no problems whatsoever finding people meeting this requirement). I loved Ran Nail Spa, mostly for their choice television choices of Vietnamese soap operas but also because the use the latest spa software that permits you to customize your spa experience even before you set foot there.
• Paddle Boating in West Lake: Rent one of the adorable swan paddle boats and enjoy a different side of Hanoi via water. It’ll put you back less than three dollars for an hour. Just don’t wear a dress. I made that mistake and ended up giving many unsuspecting Vietnamese locals quite the show.
• Ha Noi Time Café: The touristy part of town has a touristy-sounding bar called Ha Noi Café. Don’t be fooled. Unlisted on Google and tucked away in a concrete jungle that feels straight off the set of Burn Notice, you have to walk up three stories of squalor to make it to this quaint pub space. See our friend Hong (English name: Rose). She loves to practice English, and will sing along to every Maroon Five song you never even knew existed.
Sofitel is the only French luxury hotel brand with a presence on five continents with 120 addresses, in almost 40 countries, with more than 30,000 rooms. Sofitel offers contemporary hotels and resorts adapted to today’s demanding travelers, who expect and appreciate beauty, quality, and excellence. Whether situated in the heart of a major city like Paris, London, New York, Shanghai or Beijing, or nestled away in a country landscape in Morocco, Egypt, French Polynesia or Thailand, each Sofitel property offers a genuine experience of the French “art de vivre.”
For inquiries, email Huyen Ha.