So, you’re looking for the best pho in Hanoi? Follow the sweet smell of star anise and cinnamon soaking in broth from simmering beef bones, wafting through the air, leading you around the corner and down a narrow alley. The smell is on nearly every other street. It’s inescapable and one of the very best things about wandering through this chaotic city.
Pho is synonymous with Vietnamese culture, just like pizza or pasta is to Italy. On any given day you’ll see countless people enjoying it for breakfast, lunch or dinner anywhere across Vietnam.
Although Southern Vietnamese refugees popularized it in the Western world after they fled abroad with their family recipes following the American war, Hanoi is the birthplace of this culinary treasure.
In the southern part of the country, it is typically accompanied by more garnishes like raw onion, Thai basil, bean sprouts, chilies, and cilantro. In the north, you’ll find fewer herbs, but significantly more green onion.
Pho is the ultimate comfort food, especially on cold days or when you’re sick or hungover.
The warmth on your face from the fragrant steamy broth can turn your whole day around in an instant. Few foods have that kind of power over us. It helps you sweat out whatever ails you, and it always seems to turn that belly frown upside down.
This list is of course up for debate. There are probably thousands of places to get pho in Hanoi. We don’t claim to be experts, but we did eat a lot of it when we lived there and consulted with some Vietnamese friends about their favorite spots. So let’s get on with it!
Phở Bò Hàng Đồng
First is this quiet friendly shop situated on a corner in the Old Quarter. The young woman working there told me that her grandfather (who opened the shop in 1978 but has since passed) said that if you made beef noodle soup right, it shouldn’t need any lime.
Instead, only three items line the table: garlic vinegar, which seemed extra fragrant here, fish sauce, and fresh hot sauce. Their soup had a balanced broth that was lighter and not too salty.
The noodles are delicate and the beef sliced very thin, which is perfect for chowing down when you’re really hungry, as it doesn’t really require any chewing and just melts in your mouth.
Address: 48 Hàng Đồng, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam (Old Quarter)
Cost: 45k VND
They prepare the meat a bit differently at this little establishment. They stir fry it with garlic before they add it to the noodles and then they pour the clear broth over it. Above all, this small change leads to a revolution in flavor!
It makes the broth smokier, slightly sweeter, and fatty too. They also add heaps of green onion here. Splash in some garlic vinegar and you’re ready to rock! This restaurant may not be as traditional, but it’s certainly worth a stop. Overall expect mornings to be busier.
Address: 13 Lò Đúc, Ngô Thì Nhậm, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Cost: 50k VND
Phở 10 Lý Quốc Sư
When you ask people in Hanoi which pho restaurant they like best this one will inevitably come up. It’s conveniently located near Hoan Kiem Lake and St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Yes, it’s more expensive and tends to be very busy (they might rush you out the door), but it’s considerably cleaner than most.
They have the best crispy banh quay (breadsticks), an extra special saltier broth, and their generous cuts of tender beef are a real plus. It’s also fun to watch the soup being made through the windows near the front of the restaurant while you’re eating.
Trust us when we say you won’t leave here hungry. This place is a must-try when in Hanoi!
Address: 10 Lý Quốc Sư, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Cost: 45-70k VND
Phở Tư Lùn
This next eatery is clean and comes with hospitable service. It’s a traditional pho spot that was once owned by an older man named Tu Lun who was famous for his preparation of tasty soup. He has since passed away, but his two sons now carry on the family tradition.
When I visited, one of the son’s wives served me. She spoke English and told me that Phở Tư Lùn had been operating for 95 years! The broth here is heavier on the fish sauce for those who appreciate a saltier broth.
It includes both green onion and fresh cilantro. Their orange chili sauce is also a very bright and delectable homemade concoction. One of the best I’ve ever had in Hanoi. This restaurant is a great option for getting your pho fix!
Address: 23C Hai Bà Trưng, Hàng Bài, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Cost: 50k VND
Phở Gia Truyền Bát Đàn
You may have to stand in line here, but it’s well worth the wait. The service may not be the friendliest, but this is undeniably one of the best places to eat pho in Hanoi. It’s a clean restaurant by Vietnamese standards and it’s very popular.
Similar to Phở Bò Hàng Đong they don’t offer any lime with their soup. They assume that the broth is so mouthwatering you don’t need to add it, and they’re certainly right about that. The broth is light and subtle, a tad sweet and the noodles are cooked to slurping perfection.
Finally, it’s topped with fresh green onion and if you like, some red bird’s eye chilies. We ate here many times when we lived in Hanoi. It’s our favorite pho sho! Please just go there. Order a pho tai nam for me!
Address: 49 Bát Đàn, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam (Old Quarter)
Cost: 40k-50k VND
Phở Lâm Nam Ngư
Last but not least, this one has the best pho ga (chicken pho) we’ve ever had! This place is a local institution and likely Hanoi’s oldest restaurant serving this delicacy. They have a lot going for them with a nice balanced broth, crispy banh quay, a special red chili vinegar, and moist tender chicken. No bones!
Apparently this restaurant was established shortly after the American War and has been operational for over forty years. It’s run by an older woman who locals refer to as Hanoi’s own “Soup Nazi”. Satisfaction is guaranteed. Makes for a marvelous breakfast spot!
Address: 7 Nam Ngư, Cửa Nam, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Cost: 85k VND for two including tea
Decoding the menu:
Phở bò – Beef soup
Phở tái – Rare Steak
Phở chín – Well done beef
Phở nạm – Flank steak
Phở tái nạm – Rare and Flank
Phở tái chín – Rare and well-done beef (tasty combo)
Phở gà – Chicken soup
The usual suspects are…
Bánh quẩy: Fried breadsticks. Preferably crispy!
Lime: For those who like a little citrus.
Garlic vinegar: Our favorite addition. Gives it a nice tangy touch!
Chili sauce: These can vary in quality as some are homemade while others aren’t.
Heading to Hanoi to eat? Don’t miss our list of the 15 Vietnamese Foods You Must Try in Hanoi
For other ideas check out the list of Best Vietnamese Foods in Hanoi by the Wandering Wheatleys
Click this post to see 29 beautiful photos that will make you want to visit Hanoi
Where is your favorite place to eat pho in Hanoi? Did we miss one? Hit us up in the comments…