Take one step through the door at Typograf Café and Restaurant and you know you’re in for something different.

Photo by Julie Vola

Tucked away in Ba Dinh, this small, cosy coffee shop is something between a café and a science lab. Above the counter is a sign that lists seven different tools of the barista trade to choose from, and imported coffees from the likes of Burundi, Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea — a rarity even in a city as obsessed with coffee as Hanoi.

Photo by Boris Lopatin

On the edge of the Old Quarter lies a small café that has the power the teleport your mind to Hogwarts. The walls are lined with fake Harry Potter newspapers and butter beer signs; flying brooms hang from the ceiling. You don’t have to be a Potterhead (as serious Harry Potter fans call themselves) to enjoy all the quirkiness and photo opportunities scattered throughout the café. If you’ve been searching for your magic wand, medallion or tie affiliating you to a certain Hogwarts School of Wizardly, Always café has several Harry Potter memorabilia up for sale.

Photo by Julie Vola

One step inside the Lissom Parlour, I am transported to a world of tranquillity, leaving behind the non-stop commotion of the coffee street of Nguyen Huu Huan. A closer look reveals not a typical coffee shop, but more like the living room I’d love to own, had I been endowed with such good taste.

Klasik Coffee Roasters. Photo by Bao Zoan

Nestled on the street corner between Mac Thi Buoi and Phan Van Dat, from the streetfront Klasik Coffee Roasters looks simple and modest. Yet walk inside and the space is equipped with classic French-style chairs and tables in harmony with the contemporary décor, all giving a cozy and tranquil ambience. There were a couple of people in the café, mostly working. I settled in a corner and started looking at the drinks list.

Gardenista Cafe. Photo by Fuji Pham

Choosing between the matcha latte and spicy mango tea is a tough call, but it’s not the most difficult decision you’ll face at Gardenista Cafe. Rather, it’s deciding which Instagram filter to slap on that photo of an old-fashioned bathtub — brimming with plants — that has been outfitted with wooden planks and repurposed into a table.

When Hanoi becomes too much an attack on the senses, sometimes it pays to forget it’s there.

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