Located near the city centre, the famous Café Lam is one of the oldest cafés in Hanoi, which makes it almost a historical monument. The charming atmosphere of this old café is complemented by antique pieces, art collections and rare books tucked away at every corner. Apart from the unique environment that takes customers back in time, great Vietnamese-style hot and ice coffee is served, with thick condensed milk. The café can boast of having many faithful regulars.
- Opening hours: Mon-Sun 6.30am – 10.30pm
- Address and Telephone Number: 60 Nguyen Huu Huan | Old Quarter, Hanoi, Vietnam, + 84 4 3824 5940
History of Cafe Lam Hanoi
One of Hanoi’s oldest cafés, this slightly musty one-room establishment is practically a historical monument. Its proprietor, Nguyen Lam, provided coffee and often loans to the city’s impoverished artist community during the war, and rumor has it that he is sitting on an art collection now worth a fortune. He serves Vietnamese-style hot and iced coffee (with thick, sweet condensed milk) to a crowd of faithful regulars.
It was by accident that Nguyen Van Lam became an art collector. Books were his hobby. And when he wasn’t looking for rare books, he was busy starting a cafe in the heart of Hanoi’s old quarter. But some of his patrons couldn’t pay, and gave him paintings in lieu of cash for long hours spent drinking coffee and talking.
Forty years later, Mr. Lam is still serving some of the best coffee in town, and on the walls of his small, dimly lit establishment hangs an outstanding collection of modern Vietnamese art. Connoisseurs skip the city’s Fine Arts Museum and go directly to Cafe Lam. And unlike the shiny new bars and restaurants springing up around the city, the one-room Cafe Lam is both an institution and an education. Mr. Lam opened his coffee business in late 1949 when he moved to Hanoi from the countryside.
He began with just a sidewalk stand and later expanded to a cafe on Hung Voi Street. In 1956, Mr. Lam bought the building at 60 Nguyen Huu Huan Street,Old Quarter Hanoi where he still lives and works. The cafe became a gathering place for students and artists in the ’50s, a turbulent time as French colonial rule was coming to an end and Vietnam was taking control of its own destiny. Many of the great names in Vietnamese painting passed through here: Nguyen Sang, Nguyen Tu Nghiem, Van Cao and Bui Xuan Phai, renowned for his scenes of Hanoi past.