Go for the lake views
Scorning the trend to build tall, the sprawling low-rise InterContinental Hotel in Hanoi stands quietly proud alongside its high-rise neighbour the Sheraton.
Jutting out into the northern edge of West Lake, the Intercontinental makes up for its distance from the atmosphere of the Old Quarter with its lake views and its proximity to the restaurants and bars along Xuan Dieu. It’s also only a few kilometres from Tran Quoc Pagoda and Truc Bach Lake, and a short taxi ride to the Mausoleum compound and surrounds.
The hotel has all the facilities and trimmings you’d expect from an international luxury hotel: a choice of restaurants and bars, a health centre, an outdoor pool, room service and business, concierge and travel services.
International buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the Café du Lac restaurant on the ground floor, with a special seafood buffet on Friday evenings. Breakfast is included in some room rates. Upstairs you’ll find Saigon Restaurant – unsurprisingly serving Vietnamese – and Milan, which serves Italian. Both are open for dinner only.
The sunset bar, set out into the lake, is a beautiful place to relax, with bed-style seating – or lying. And look out for the special cushion covers in the Diplomat lounge. The health centre is also worth a mention as it has the best gym set-up we’ve seen in a hotel: whereas often the ‘gym’ is a small room with a treadmill and a few weights, this gym has plenty of equipment and a studio in which they hold exercise classes every day. A massage service is also available, in the health centre or in your room.
As for the rooms, there are two main levels — deluxe and suite — although there are a number of different size suites. All rooms are spacious and simply though warmly decorated, with cream walls and dark wood furniture, and they have balconies which face either the lake or “the Hanoi skyline”. Beds are large and look good enough to bounce on – though we resisted the urge — and the person who showed us around checked that we weren’t allergic to feather pillows. I almost handed over my credit card there and then.
As you’d expect, all the rooms have a large TV, safe, iron, mini-fridge and tea maker, and the suites also come with a kitchen area – next to the lounge – complete with coffee maker, microwave oven and glassware. Bathrooms have tubs, shower cubicles, fluffy towels and robes, and Elemis toiletries.
Rooms are located in both a main building and in pavilions perched on stilts above the lake, reached by a walkway. If you’re visiting on holiday, the pavilion rooms have a more relaxed atmosphere than in the main building, which feels a bit more business-like, although rooms are the same style throughout.
Of course, the Intercontinental is at the pricier end of options in Hanoi, but rates are comparable to other five-star hotels in town. With seven days’ advance purchase, rooms start from a deluxe city view going for US$125 – keep an eye out for special offers. The InterContinental’s faultless style and facilities, professional staff and location on the lake makes it a standout option for both business travellers and tourists alike.
The size of the hotel – it has 359 bedrooms and covers a fair bit of acreage – and its outside area and peaceful surrounds, mean it’s very easy to feel you’re getting away from it all, while still being easy enough to explore Hanoi.
Last year, the former CEO of a company I worked with in the UK came to Hanoi on holiday and stayed at the Intercontinental; he claimed it was the best hotel he’d ever stayed in, which is praise indeed from someone who travels widely and well. Our visit gives us no reason to dispute this claim: while it doesn’t have the historic charm of Hanoi’s Sofitel Metropole Legend, it’s notably cheaper and has charms of its own.
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 3rd February, 2016.