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.
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?