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History’s home in Hanoi: the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel

A sing-song “Bonjour Madame“caught me somewhat by surprise. This is Hanoi, Vietnam’s hectic capital, and the redolent heart of old French Indo-Chine.  And, I’m at the Metropole. Some 10 minutes later, I am wrapped up in a checked woolen blanket, drinking vin rouge by the swimming pool. Festive Christmas lights twinkle over-head.  The air is crisp and stark, refreshing after the humidity of the South. Arching back into familiar, old rattan furniture, beneath rotating Cedar fans, and surrounded by sepia images of a yesteryear, I am rather in my element. Hanoi Metropole This hotel has been on my radar for a very long time. Built in 1901, the Metropole joins the ranks of the illustrious oriental stalwarts, old friends with the Galle Face in Colombo, the Eastern & Oriental in Penang and Raffles in Singapore. Bewitching and soothing, over decades these halls have welcomed the illustrious, the bohemian, the persecuted and the lonely. These are beguiling spots indeed. It was within these whitewashed walls where Charlie Chaplin spent his honeymoon after his exotic second wedding in Shanghai. Somerset Maughan, and Graham Greene spent months here, ultimately influencing the tapestry of the hotel itself. Jane Fonda squeezed into the hotel’s bomb shelter in 1972. Brangelina have a habit of stopping by. Curled up in the grand suites of the Old Quarter, dark wooden floorboards creaked gloriously underfoot. Teak furniture and Oriental antiques line the walls. A deep and sumptuous bed swallows you up whole. Hanoi Metropole Located just a short amble from Hanoi’s highlight: the Lake, an early evening walk from the Metropole’s front door takes you down open boulevards, past weeping cedar trees, old colonial frontages, and promises altercations with a seething mass of modern-day scooters. Yes, Hanoi was on our doorstep. However, the magic of the hotel proved too overwhelming. After an early evening constitutional, we would later retire to the Pool Bar, back in our blankets, armed with warming glasses of red wine, watching stars and darkness settle in. The Metropole team are incredibly proud of the hotel’s history and heritage, and rightly so.  This hotel has borne witness to seismic shifts in the Vietnamese order, from the hey-day of the French empire through to its demise in 1954 and the bitter international conflict, which followed. Brass plaques are a chilling reminder of the number of international embassies that took shelter at the Metropole during the ‘American War’, when the streets laid waste to daily bombings. It is difficult to accurately describe the authentic, magical and powerful atmosphere here.  Elegance, nostalgia and a searing identity drapes over every corner, corridor, photograph, and window shutter. I have unabashed adoration for the Metropole. This is Hanoi’s hotel.

Harriet Dedman

A freelance journalist and documentary photographer, Harriet is currently based between London and New York. Specialising in grass-roots and vintage luxury travel brands, Harriet is constantly on the look out for the alternative and the boutique. Happiest with big vistas, heritage hideaways, and her Nikon DSLR, you can normally find her espousing the glories of golden weekends in Wales.

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  1. I love old world hotels like this that are kept up to day with contemporary needs but with old world charm…I would love to stay there when I get to visit Vietnam some day.

  2. What a charming hotel with a fascinating (if sometimes sad) past. There is something so uniquely beguiling about hotels from this era. I have yet to visit Hanoi and the Metropole would certianly make the perfect base for me.

  3. I love the Sofitel hotel chain. After our awesome experience at the Sofitel Brisbane at the end of 2012, I have always urged folks to stay here around the world. There have not been too many occasions over the last 18 months where I have visited locations where Sofitel have a hotel but I think this select location approach is a positive aspect. Rather than just locating hotels everywhere, they are focusing on certain metropolises where they know a certain clientele will want to stay there.

    What better way to enter the hotel lobby and be greeted with a pleasant ‘Bonjour Monsieur/Madame’, it’s the small, unique things that count and the Sofitel certainly have that down to a fine art!

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