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Hanoi’s Sofitel Metropole Hotel: A History

| Words by Rachel McCombie |

Discover the illustrious history of Hanoi’s Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel, considered by many to be the best hotel in Vietnam.

Deciding where to stay in a city you’ve never visited before can be a bewildering process, but choosing a hotel in Hanoi is easy, because it’s home to one considered by many to be not just the best in this city, but the best in the whole of Vietnam.

Hanoi’s 5-star Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel was opened in 1901 by a pair of Frenchmen whose heritage is evident to this day in the hotel’s French colonial style. Green shutters frame each of the windows that punctuate the hotel’s elegant Neoclassical façade, giving it a distinctly Parisian flavour that will make westerners feel at home in the heart of Hanoi.

View from the Pool

Operational for more than a century, the Metropole has been the focus of a long and illustrious history that has seen it become the hotel of choice for the rich, famous and powerful. VIPs ranging from Jane Fonda to George Bush Sr have made themselves at home in the hotel’s luxurious rooms, and Charlie Chaplin even spent his honeymoon there following his 1936 marriage in Shanghai. It’s been a haven for authors, too, with Graham Greene writing The Quiet American there in 1951, and Somerset Maugham choosing the hotel as the perfect spot for writing The Gentleman in the Parlour.

Hanoi Opera Room

The hotel’s history hasn’t been without its share of strife, however. The presiding Communist party renamed the hotel to “Thong Nhat Hotel” (Reunification Hotel) following the country’s independence, and American air raids in the 1960s necessitated the building of a bomb shelter to keep the hotel’s guests safe from harm. Memorably, the American folk singer Joan Baez recorded her song “Where Are You Now, My Son?” at the hotel during the 1972 Christmas bombings of Hanoi, with the sounds of bombing in the background testament to a turbulent time in the history of Hanoi and its most luxurious hotel.


Happily, life has now returned to normal in Hanoi. The hotel regained its original name after being acquired by Pullman hotels in 1987, and it’s since changed hands to Sofitel Hotels, who’ve expanded it and given it a place among their exclusive Legend collection.

Situated in the centre of Hanoi, within walking distance of many of the city’s top attractions, the Sofitel Metropole’s location is every bit as desirable as the hotel itself. These days, the hotel is also noted for its fine dining; its three top restaurants offer you a choice of superb French, Vietnamese or Italian cuisine, and three stylish bars provide unique settings for sipping cocktails during your stay.

Soak up the Sofitel Metropole’s historical ambience on your tour to Vietnam with Insider Journeys.