Twenty-eight hotels are listed by preference and budget within the following neighborhoods:

OLD QUARTER Most first-time visitors stay here, with scores of $15 to $50 options and walkable distance from Hoan Kiem Lake and most central sights. Energy (and traffic, and hassle) is a bit wild — but it’s undeniably the heart of Hanoi.

CATHEDRAL DISTRICT Just west of Hoan Kiem Lake, and a bit quieter than the Old Quarter, this ’boutique district’ is another good central locale for many $15 to $50 hotels (plus Vietnam’s lone hostel) — my favorite area to base a Hanoi stay.

FRENCH QUARTER Those with bigger budgets, eye this sight-friendly area south and southeast of Hoan Kiem Lake — most choices are over $100, if not $200, capped with Vietnam’s greatest French-era hotel the SOFITEL METROPOLE.

SOUTH OF THE CENTER A few more blocks south of the lake are bigger boulevards and a host of business-oriented hotels in this leafy residencial area of French-era buildings and well-to-do locals and expats at backlane restaurants.

NEAR WEST LAKE It’s several kilometers north of the lake, but business-oriented hotels on the lake split the distance between central sights and the bridge to the airport. It’s more relaxed, and lake views have inspired Vietnamese writers for centuries.

Best Hotel SOFITEL METROPOLE (see French Quarter)
Best US$50 Hotel CHURCH HOTEL, and it’s only US$40! (see Cathedral Area)
Best Cheapie Hotel The dizzying array of budget hotels makes this category a tough, ever-changing question. Social-hounds should opt for the excellent dorms at HANOI BACKPACKERS (see Cathedral District), Vietnam’s only hostel. Otherwise go for neighborhood. I liked the US$12 rooms at the ROSE HOTEL (see Cathedral District). Other good choices include the SUNSHINE HOTEL (see Old Quarter) and the GOLDEN SUN HOTEL (see Cathedral District).