The grand dame of hospitality in Hanoi is an unforgettable experience transcending space and time to recreate an atmospheric colonial era vibe.
Text by Jan Yong
Staying at The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi is like walking through a time tunnel, along the way, the past comes alive to remind you of its many stories. As the top hotel in Hanoi, and once the finest hotel in all Indochina, it has welcomed dignitaries and celebrities from all over the world. The list of guests reads like a ‘Who’s Who around the World’.
Top politicians, Hollywood A-list stars and musicians, corporate titans, philanthropists and writers have walked through its corridors, and wined and dined at its fabulous restaurants. Some even left their names behind – three Legendary Suites in the Old Wing are named after Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, and Charlie Chaplin, respectively. Incidentally, Chaplin had spent his honeymoon there with wife Paulette Goddard, a Hollywood diva in the 1940s. In more recent times, another (former) celebrity couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have availed themselves of the warm welcome of the hotel.
First opened in 1901, the rooms were elegantly furnished and attracted the rich and famous. Situated next to the Red River in Hanoi’s French Quarter, the Metropole recreates the old world charms of a historical hotel complemented with modern amenities. It has what is acknowledged as the first and finest French restaurant in Hanoi as well as a sidewalk café that still packs in the crowds.
During the war years, like other grand hotels around the globe, it became a venue for discrete meetings and where military personnel stayed in the best rooms. After the war in the 1970s, the rooms temporarily housed foreign embassies while their embassy buildings were being rebuilt. It became the only hotel in the world to house so many different diplomats under one roof – Switzerland, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany and Israel, among others.
‘Mekong spy thriller’
The Metropole could easily be the setting of a great Mekong spy thriller – it has all the ingredients – the atmosphere, the people and the antiques. There is for example, a vintage Citroen limousine parked next to the Old Wing lobby and an excavated bomb shelter. Indeed, a known Japanese spy did stay there during World War II.