The capital of Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant and fascinating cities. With a blend of traditional, colonial, and modern architecture, an unbeatable nightlife, some of the most delicious food on the continent, and a chaotic approach to traffic that tends to terrify most newcomers, Hanoi is simply unforgettable.
The picturesque Old Quarter is a mix of old temples, modern backpacker hotels, timeless cafes, and little alleys packed with bars and rickety food stalls. As you explore the rest of the city, you’ll find peaceful parks and great museums. Hanoi is also an excellent base from which to explore Ha Long Bay, one of Vietnam’s most famously beautiful natural wonders.
One thing Hanoi doesn’t have is a particularly large gay scene. There is only one gay bar in town, with a few regular gay or gay-friendly parties to keep things interesting. Locals meet up in a handful of gay saunas, but these tend to sit outside the touristy parts of town. Don’t let the lack of a gay scene discourage you, however – there are few places as vibrant and exciting come nighttime than Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
Hanoi is a sprawling city, but the vast majority of visitors mostly stay within the Old Quarter of the city. This area spreads west and north of Hoan Kiem Lake and contains most of the major tourist sights in town. Bustling yet charming by day, it turns into the city’s main nightlife hub when the sun sets, packed with street food stalls and bar terraces. This is also where the only gay bar in town, the Golden Cock, is located, so it goes without saying that most of our recommended gay-friendly hotels are in this area.
Like most countries, Vietnam’s attitudes to homosexuality are changing and evolving. Young people and those in cities are more likely to be accepting, while older generations and rural communities maintain more conservative values.
Same-sex relationships were never illegal in the country, and gay marriage has been decriminalized (although not outright legalized). An increase in LGBT representation in Vietnamese media is both reflecting and leading an overall change in attitudes.
Many Vietnamese men still feel pressure to remain in the closet or to be discreet, but these pressures generally don’t apply to tourists. As a visitor, it is highly unlikely you will be anything but welcome, and you should have no trouble booking rooms as a gay couple.
It is worth noting that overt public displays of affection are frowned upon in Vietnamese society, even between opposite-sex couples. Holding hands is fine, but anything more than that might be considered rude.
For a large, gay-friendly city, Hanoi has a surprisingly tiny gay scene. There is only one “proper” gay bar, meaning gay locals tend to spread around town in other gay-friendly or gay-owned venues. With the city becoming an increasingly popular backpacker and tourist destination, there is hope that new demand will cause the gay scene to expand and grow. In the meantime, you can’t go wrong with drinks at Golden Cock and a night out at a dance party.
Of course, it’s not all about the gay options. Hanoi’s nightlife is like no other and deserves to be explored: hunker down in a tiny plastic stool to sip ice-cold beer and slurp a hot bowl of noodles, party with backpackers in basements clubs and swanky bars in the Old Quarter, or simply sit in a terrace and spend the night drinking bia hoi, a light home-brew that’s infamous as the world’s cheapest beer.
GC Bar (Golden Cock) is Hanoi’s main gay bar and one of the most established gay bars in Vietnam. With a pool table and comfy chairs, it’s the kind of place you come to chat and meet new people, not to dance the night away. This makes it a great choice for you to make new friends and find out where the gays are heading to that night. It is very conveniently located near Hoan Kiem Lake and gets really busy with a mixed crowd of locals, expats, and tourists on weekends.
METRO is an underground dance party run by a gay couple, often hosted in gay-owned Birdcage, which is an awesome venue with cool decor and a large terrace. These parties cater to a mostly straight but fully gay-friendly crowd, with a DJs spinning house and techno music until late.
Hanoi Pride takes place every summer in the city, and is pretty big. During the festival, there are plenty of club nights, parties, and events to cater to Vietnam’s ever-growing LGBT community.
Generally speaking, the saunas in Hanoi are on the run-down side, catering mostly to locals and without bothering to update much. This is slowly changing, with a few clean and well-maintained saunas in town. You are not going to find any amazing state-of-the-art facilities like in Bangkok, or even the kind of pleasant, garden-filled saunas that have started popping up in Ho Chi Minh, but the saunas are the best way for some guaranteed fun in Hanoi.
The locals will be super welcoming, but they can be a bit shy, so don’t necessarily expect them to make the first move. The saunas are mostly busy on weekends and evenings and can be mostly empty outside of these times.
TITAN Sauna is a modern, high-quality sauna that takes pride in having the cleanest facilities in town. These include a salt hydrotherapy jacuzzi, Himalayan salt dry steam room, herbal steam room, and darkroom. The staff are very friendly and there are nude parties every Monday and Thursday. TITAN Sauna is a bit out of the way from the city center, but can easily be reached by taxi in about 15 minutes.
T-House is small and most frequented by locals of all ages. The facilities are modern but not always well-maintained. There is a jacuzzi, steam room, dry sauna, large dark room, and private cabins for rent. The entrance fee includes free tea, coffee, and snacks. It is located on the southern end of West Lake, about a 20-minute drive from the tourist center.
B Spa & Lounge is located in a Hanoi suburb and caters mostly to younger local men. It’s run-down but not dirty, just in need of some maintenance. There is a jacuzzi, sauna, and a steam room, which is where the action happens.
Spa Adam Hanoi is the city’s first gay sauna. It is clean and has been recently renovated with modern facilities. There is a jacuzzi, dark room, steam room, Himalayan salt dry sauna, and some private cabins. It’s a friendly neighborhood sauna and, being well-established, it is often busy in the evenings and weekends. Half-price entry of 30,000 VND ($1.30) for guys under 22.
Vietnam has made great strides when it comes to identifying and treating HIV. The number of cases has dropped significantly since 2010, and as of 2018, 65% of all people with HIV were undergoing treatment.
It’s not particularly easy for tourists to get tested for HIV in Hanoi, as there are no dedicated clinics with English-speaking staff. Bach Mai Hospital can administer a test, but this could be expensive.
Vietnam’s largest gay hub, Ho Chi Minh, has a wealth of resources available in Ho Chi Minh where you can get tested. G-Link is a great service with 5 dedicated clinics throughout the city, where you have more of a chance of finding English-speaking staff. Larger gay hubs in Southeast Asia like Bangkok have simpler, cheaper solutions than Hanoi.
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