The Metropole is the best hotel in Hanoi. It is quite possibly the best in Vietnam – certainly the most loved. The (Sofitel) Metropole is a perfect combination of tradition, service, atmosphere and luxury in one of the country’s most elegant French colonial buildings. Previous residents Charlie Chaplin, Graham Greene, Robert De Niro and Fidel Castro would all agree. At the centre of the French Quarter it is a hotel which oozes history. The Metropole Hotel was built in 1901 and was at the centre of colonial life in Hanoi during this proud and ambitious time, until the French were unceremoniously marched out of town by Ho Chi Minh’s communists. The hotel’s glamour was long faded in the war-torn 1960s & 70s but in 1990 everything in Hanoi began to change as foreign investors began arriving in number. The transformation began. A new wing opened in the 1990s and another renovation in 2006 resulted in the hotels’ current splendour.
Arriving at the lobby is like walking on to a movie set – a stunning reception desk, original dark wooden boxes and staff in their traditional uniforms, whisking you back in time. It is immediately apparent that the current tenants pay appropriate reverence to the elegance of the building, with its genteel atmosphere of understated style. On further investigation you discover that the hotel actually consists of two wings, quite distinct from each other. The ‘Old Wing’ at the front of the building is restrained in colonial style with timber floors and classic decor. The ‘Opera Wing’ (new) is built sympathetically to the main building, but has instead opted for a more modern and bold interior. Both work well, but most people quite decisively prefer one over the other – there are no right or wrong answers here, it’s simply a question of taste. A welcoming outdoor swimming pool is in the courtyard between the two wings.
The Metropole has three restaurants; ‘Le Beaulieu’ specialises in French cuisine and has pride of place at the front corner of the old building; ‘The Spices Garden’ is a good place for the timid to sample Vietnamese cuisine; ‘Angelina’ specialises in Italian cuisine in a jarringly contrasting hip space. Service is quite superb – friendly, assured and professional.