Population: 7.7 million
Vibe: Frenetic, electric, & hectic - with winding avenues, yelling hawkers, speeding scooters, steaming street food, hidden temples, and piping hot coffee.
Must Do: Take a wander through Hanoi's Old City and see the marriage of Vietnamese and French culture and architecture - just allow yourself to get lost. Adventures await!
Known As: The current capital of Vietnam and previously the capital of communist North Vietnam (from 1954 - 1976).
Top Things to See and Do in Hanoi
Explore the Old Quarter
Most visitors centre their time around Hanoi’s Old Quarter, which has most of the tourist sites and the backpacker districts, but which still retains an air of the ‘authentic’ Hanoi. Traditionally, the 36 streets and guilds of the Old Quarter were named after what the artisans sold there, so that you now encounter avenues whose names translate to ‘Jam Street,’ ‘Silver Street,’ ‘Noodle Street,’ etc. Though not all of the old-fashioned industries remain, you can still go for a wander and distinctly see where ‘Baking Supplies’ Street ends and ‘LED Lighting’ Street begins. Because of these old guilds, Hanoi’s Old Quarter lends itself beautifully to long, exploratory walks. If you get hungry, there’s always a woman in a conical hat walking down the street with street snacks piled high in a bamboo basket. It’s just that picturesque.
Hoan Kiem lake
One of Hanoi’s most famous sites is the Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword). Legend has it that Emperor Ly Thai To was given a magical sword which he used to protect Vietnam from China. After the battle a giant golden turtle took the sword back to the bottom of the lake to return it to the Dragon King. Keep an eye out for the large soft-shell turtles which can be found in the lake and if you're taking an early morning stroll you'll see local residents practising t’ai chi on the shore. Cross the Huc bridge to Jade Island to see the Ngoc Son Temple suspended over Hoan Kiem lake.
Water Puppet Theatre
After sightseeing, make sure you attend a Water Puppet Theatre show by Hoan Kiem lake, as the performances in Hanoi are rated as the best in the country. This unique, Vietnamese form of entertainment goes back to the 11th century and comes from a time where people in flooded villages would make the best of their situation by creating entertaining shows with puppets and making them dance on the water.
Street Food Tour
Several companies offer street food tours so if you're a bit of a foodie this will be right up your alley! Some are on foot and some on scooter. It's a great way to try new foods you wouldn't usually try, or didn't even know existed!
Dong Xuan Market
If you're in need of a new pair of sunglasses, a knock-off Hugo Boss shirt or a few souvenirs to take home, you're sure to find it in one of the shops over several floors at the Dong Xuan Market. It's open every day from 6am - 7pm.
The French Quarter
Wander the tree-lined streets around the elegant French Quarter and admire the beautiful architecture. This is a popular spot for wedding photos and you're likely to see a few bridal parties celebrating their big day. The centre piece of the French Quarter is the Hanoi Opera House.
The Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature is a beautiful, garden filled university where ambitious young scholars crammed from as early as 1070 AD, just a half hour walk west of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
At Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum you can pay your respects to an embalmed Ho Chi Minh along with throngs of other residents. Ho Chi Minh is revered as Vietnam's greatest leader.
While technically not in Hanoi, it would be amiss to not mention Halong Bay as the tours out to Halong Bay begin in Hanoi. If you're in Hanoi don't miss the chance to get out to Halong Bay. You'll be blown away by over 2000 stunning rock formations rising up out of the blue water, peppered with traditional junk boats. Kayak the lagoons, explore hidden caves, relax on beautiful beaches and try your hand at squid fishing.
Eating and Drinking
Hanoi specialises in the curious ‘egg coffee,’ known in Vietnamese as ca phe trung and in English as ‘heart attack deluxe.’ It's a mix of coffee with condensed milk and a deliciously frothed egg cream - and so worth it.
And don’t forget the nightlife at the end of the day - Hanoi doesn’t shy from Vietnam’s tradition of fresh brewed beer, known as bia hoi, available most places very cheap! Plot up on a tiny plastic seat on Bia Hoi Corner (at the intersection of Luong Ngoc Quyen and Ta Hien Streets in the Old Quarter) and enjoy a drink with tourists and locals alike.
Travel tip for beer enthusiasts: The "bia hoi" is brewed and delivered to bars daily. Every region has its own blend, so taste your way through the country with some Vietnamese beers.
Buzzing scooters, vibrant temples, winding alleyways and a veritable army of food hawkers criss-crossing the streets make Hanoi one of Vietnam’s most energetic cities.
The Water Puppet Theatre is one of Hanoi’s most famous attractions and a cultural must- se...
The Hanoi Old Quarter is the most well-known and important district in Hanoi, Vietnam’s ca...
The Temple of Literature was originally built as a university in 1070 dedicated to Confuci...