Vietnam Hanoi

26th February 2024

16 Best Things to Do in Hanoi: Capital Unveiled (2023)

Are you eager to discover the best things to do in Hanoi? If so, you’ve come to the right place!

In this blog post, we’ll take you on an exhilarating journey through the vibrant streets of Vietnam’s capital, uncovering the city’s hidden gems and must-visit attractions.

From our past experience of leading group trips here, we learned that Hanoi is a city that captivates with its rich history, cultural treasures, and mouthwatering cuisine.

Join us as we delve into the enchanting world of Hoan Kiem Lake, immerse ourselves in the grandeur of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and savor the tantalizing flavors of Vietnamese cuisine.

With our local insights and insider tips, get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure through the best things to do in Hanoi.

5 Facts about Hanoi

  • Hoan Kiem Lake offers a serene oasis in the heart of Hanoi, perfect for leisurely walks and temple visits.
  • The Temple of Literature is Vietnam’s first university, a testament to the country’s rich educational heritage.
  • Hanoi’s Water Puppetry is a captivating traditional art form dating back over a thousand years.
  • Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi’s largest indoor market, entices with its vast array of goods and local street food.
  • The Hanoi Train Street is a unique intersection where a train passes through a narrow residential street, a sight like no other.

Best Things to Do in Hanoi

1. Explore The Old Quarter

Explore The Old Quarter

Step into a bygone era as you wander through Hanoi’s enchanting Old Quarter. Lose yourself in the labyrinth of narrow streets, each named after the trade once practiced there.

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere as you browse through bustling markets, where vendors sell an array of goods, from fresh produce to handmade crafts. Marvel at the French colonial architecture that adorns the buildings, their facades painted in vibrant hues.

The Old Quarter truly encapsulates the spirit of Hanoi, with its bustling streets, traditional shops, and charming historical ambiance.

  • Location: Old Quarter, Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning or evening
  • Famous For: Traditional markets, French colonial architecture

2. Visit Hoan Kiem Lake

Visit Hoan Kiem Lake

Nestled in the heart of Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake is a tranquil oasis that provides respite from the city’s energetic pace. Take a leisurely stroll along the promenade, enveloped by the calming presence of the lake’s sparkling waters.

Pause to admire the iconic red Huc Bridge, which leads to the picturesque Ngoc Son Temple, perched on a small island. Legend has it that the lake is home to a mystical giant turtle, adding an air of mystery to its allure.

Embrace the serenity of Hoan Kiem Lake, basking in its timeless beauty and immersing yourself in the rich cultural heritage that surrounds this beloved landmark.

  • Location: Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Early morning or evening
  • Famous For: Cultural significance, serene ambiance

3. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Pay homage to the iconic leader of Vietnam at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This solemn monument stands as a tribute to Ho Chi Minh’s enduring legacy and his pivotal role in shaping the nation.

As you approach the mausoleum, you’ll be struck by its imposing structure, built with gray granite and infused with a sense of reverence. Be sure to follow the strict dress code and maintain a respectful demeanor as you enter this sacred site.

Inside, you’ll have the opportunity to view Ho Chi Minh’s preserved body, laid to rest in a solemn setting. A visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum offers a unique glimpse into the history and reverence surrounding one of Vietnam’s most revered figures.

  • Location: Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning (except Mondays and Fridays)
  • Famous For: Final resting place of Ho Chi Minh, historical significance

4. Temple Of Literature

Temple Of Literature

Step into a realm of knowledge and enlightenment at the Temple of Literature, a timeless symbol of Vietnam’s intellectual heritage. As you enter the temple grounds, you’ll be greeted by a serene atmosphere, with ancient trees and peaceful courtyards.

Marvel at the intricate architecture of the temple buildings, adorned with elaborate carvings and traditional motifs. This hallowed site was once home to Vietnam’s first national university, dedicated to Confucian teachings.

Explore the various pavilions, stelae, and gardens, and gain insight into the country’s scholarly pursuits throughout history. The Temple of Literature offers a tranquil respite from the bustling city, inviting you to soak in the wisdom of the past and appreciate the beauty of Vietnam’s cultural traditions.

  • Location: Dong Da District, Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning or afternoon
  • Famous For: Vietnam’s first national university, Confucian architecture

5. Hanoi Opera House

Hanoi Opera House

Prepare to be captivated by the grandeur of the Hanoi Opera House, a majestic architectural masterpiece that reflects the city’s rich history. Immerse yourself in the elegance of the French colonial era as you admire the ornate façade and intricate details of this iconic landmark.

Step inside the opulent auditorium, adorned with velvet curtains, chandeliers, and plush seating. The Hanoi Opera House is not only a stunning sight but also a cultural hub, hosting a variety of artistic performances, including opera, ballet, and traditional Vietnamese shows.

Catching a performance at this enchanting venue is a truly immersive experience, transporting you to a world of artistry and refinement.

  • Location: Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Evening (during performances)
  • Famous For: French colonial architecture, cultural performances

6. Enjoy Water Puppetry

Enjoy Water Puppetry

Delve into the enchanting world of Vietnamese water puppetry, a unique and captivating art form that dates back centuries. Witness the magic unfold as skilled puppeteers manipulate wooden puppets on a water-filled stage, bringing age-old stories to life.

The intricate craftsmanship of the puppets, combined with live traditional music, creates a mesmerizing performance that will leave you in awe. The stories depicted often revolve around rural life, legends, and folklore, providing a glimpse into Vietnam’s cultural heritage.

Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this age-old tradition at one of Hanoi’s renowned water puppet theaters, where you’ll be immersed in the artistry, music, and storytelling that define this cherished Vietnamese art form.

  • Location: Various theaters in Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Evening (regular performances)
  • Famous For: Traditional Vietnamese art form, storytelling through puppets

7. Vietnamese Cuisine

Vietnamese Cuisine

Prepare your taste buds for an extraordinary culinary journey through the vibrant streets of Hanoi. Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for its bold flavors, fresh ingredients, and harmonious balance of textures.

Start your culinary exploration with a steaming bowl of pho, the quintessential Vietnamese noodle soup. Savour the aromatic broth, tender slices of beef or chicken, and fragrant herbs that make this dish a national favorite.

As you navigate the bustling streets, indulge in the crispy banh mi, a delectable Vietnamese sandwich filled with a medley of flavors, from savory meats to zesty pickled vegetables.

  • Location: Throughout Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Anytime (for meals)
  • Famous For: Pho, banh mi, bun cha, diverse street food

8. Dong Xuan Market

Dong Xuan Market

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi’s largest indoor market. As you enter this bustling marketplace, you’ll be greeted by a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and aromas.

Explore the labyrinthine corridors lined with shops selling everything from clothing and accessories to household items and souvenirs. Bargain hunters will delight in the opportunity to haggle for the best deals and uncover hidden treasures.

Don’t forget to indulge in the local street food stalls, offering tantalizing dishes like banh cuon (steamed rice rolls) and bun rieu (crab noodle soup). Dong Xuan Market is a sensory feast, offering a glimpse into the daily lives of locals and providing an authentic shopping experience in the heart of Hanoi.

  • Location: Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning or early afternoon
  • Famous For: Vast selection of goods, local street food

9. Museum Of Ethnology

Museum Of Ethnology

Embark on a cultural journey through the Museum of Ethnology, a fascinating institution dedicated to preserving and showcasing Vietnam’s rich ethnic diversity. Explore the extensive exhibits that delve into the customs, traditions, and artifacts of the country’s diverse ethnic groups.

Marvel at the intricate textiles, traditional costumes, and handicrafts that reflect the unique cultural heritage of each community. The outdoor section of the museum features life-sized replicas of traditional houses, providing insight into the architectural styles and living environments of different ethnic groups.

Engage with informative displays, interactive exhibits, and insightful documentaries that offer a comprehensive understanding of Vietnam’s cultural tapestry. A visit to the Museum of Ethnology is an enriching experience, fostering an appreciation for the rich cultural mosaic that defines Vietnam.

  • Location: Cau Giay District, Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning or early afternoon
  • Famous For: Showcasing Vietnam’s diverse ethnic groups, cultural artifacts

10. Take A Cyclo Ride

Take A Cyclo Ride

Embrace the nostalgic charm of Hanoi by taking a cyclo ride, a traditional mode of transportation that allows you to leisurely explore the city’s bustling streets. Sit back and relax as your cyclo driver pedals through the vibrant neighborhoods, giving you a unique perspective of Hanoi’s daily life.

Feel the gentle breeze on your face as you pass by colonial-era buildings, ancient temples, and lively markets. Engage with the friendly locals and soak in the bustling energy of the city.

A cyclo ride is not just a means of transportation; it’s a delightful journey that allows you to connect with the heart and soul of Hanoi.

  • Location: Throughout Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Late afternoon or early evening
  • Famous For: Traditional mode of transportation, leisurely city exploration

11. Visit The Imperial Citadel Of Thang Long

Visit The Imperial Citadel Of Thang Long

Uncover the historical treasures of Hanoi at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, a UNESCO World Heritage site that dates back over a thousand years. This ancient royal citadel offers a glimpse into Vietnam’s imperial past and architectural splendor.

Explore the sprawling complex, including the Forbidden City, palaces, temples, and ancient relics. Admire the intricate design elements, from ornate gates to majestic courtyards.

Learn about the dynasties that once ruled from this magnificent stronghold and the rich history that unfolded within its walls.

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a testament to Hanoi’s enduring legacy, inviting you to step back in time and marvel at the grandeur of Vietnam’s royal heritage.

  • Location: Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning or early afternoon
  • Famous For: Ancient royal citadel, UNESCO World Heritage site

12. Stroll Around West Lake

Stroll Around West Lake

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city as you take a leisurely stroll around the picturesque West Lake. This expansive body of water offers a serene oasis, with its tranquil atmosphere and breathtaking views.

Enjoy a peaceful morning or a soothing late afternoon walk along the lake’s perimeter, taking in the scenic beauty and fresh air.

Discover charming pagodas nestled along the shoreline, such as the renowned Tran Quoc Pagoda, with its elegant architecture and serene ambiance.

As you wander, you’ll encounter locals engaged in tai chi exercises or fishing along the banks. Embrace the serenity of West Lake, allowing yourself to be immersed in its natural beauty and the sense of calm it offers.

  • Location: Tay Ho District, Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning or late afternoon
  • Famous For: Scenic lakeside views, pagodas

13. Hanoi Train Street

Hanoi Train Street

Experience the unique spectacle of Hanoi Train Street, where a train passes through a narrow residential street, mere inches away from houses and shops. This fascinating intersection of daily life and railway infrastructure provides an unforgettable sight.

Arrive at the designated spot a few minutes before the train’s scheduled arrival time and witness the excitement build as locals and visitors gather to witness this incredible phenomenon.

As the train approaches, the atmosphere becomes electric, and the residents quickly secure their belongings and make way for the passing train. It’s a truly extraordinary moment that showcases the resilience and adaptability of the Vietnamese people.

  • Location: Old Quarter, Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Late afternoon or evening (train schedule-dependent)
  • Famous For: Train passing through a narrow residential street

14. Bat Trang Ceramic Village

Bat Trang Ceramic Village

Embark on a cultural and artistic adventure to Bat Trang Ceramic Village, renowned for its centuries-old tradition of producing exquisite ceramics. As you step into this charming village, you’ll be greeted by rows of workshops and kilns, where skilled artisans meticulously craft ceramic masterpieces.

Explore the narrow lanes, lined with shops showcasing an array of pottery, from delicate vases to intricately designed tableware. Immerse yourself in the artistic process by participating in pottery workshops, where you can shape and glaze your own ceramic creations.

Engage with the friendly locals, learn about the rich history of ceramics in Vietnam, and appreciate the intricate craftsmanship that has been passed down through generations.

A visit to Bat Trang Ceramic Village is a truly immersive experience, allowing you to witness the beauty of traditional craftsmanship and take home a piece of Vietnamese artistry.

  • Location: Gia Lam District, Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning or afternoon
  • Famous For: Traditional ceramics, pottery workshops

15. Cycle To The Perfume Pagoda

Cycle To The Perfume Pagoda

Embark on a captivating cycling journey to the Perfume Pagoda, a sacred pilgrimage site nestled amidst stunning natural surroundings. Hop on a bicycle and venture through picturesque countryside landscapes, passing lush rice paddies, charming villages, and meandering rivers.

Feel the refreshing breeze on your face as you pedal along the winding roads, immersing yourself in the beauty of the Vietnamese countryside. Upon reaching the Perfume Pagoda, prepare to be mesmerized by its serene beauty.

Climb the stone steps, flanked by fragrant flowers and ancient trees, to reach the pagoda perched atop a karst limestone mountain.

Marvel at the intricate architecture, ornate decorations, and panoramic views of the surrounding valleys. The Perfume Pagoda is not only a place of religious significance but also a sanctuary of tranquility, offering a serene escape from the bustling city and a chance to connect with nature.

  • Location: My Duc District, Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring (February to April) for the Perfume Pagoda Festival
  • Famous For: Scenic landscape, religious pilgrimage site

16. Bia Hoi Experience

Bia Hoi Experience

Conclude your exploration of Hanoi with an authentic Bia Hoi experience, immersing yourself in the lively atmosphere of the city’s local beer scene. Bia Hoi refers to freshly brewed beer that is typically enjoyed at roadside establishments, where locals and visitors come together to socialize and unwind.

Join the jovial crowds at a Bia Hoi joint, take a seat on small plastic stools, and raise a glass of the crisp, golden brew. Savor the light and refreshing taste as you engage in conversations with friendly locals, sharing stories and laughter.

The Bia Hoi experience offers a glimpse into the vibrant street culture of Hanoi and provides an opportunity to connect with the warmth and hospitality of the Vietnamese people.

Raise your glass and toast to a memorable journey through the best things to do in Hanoi, celebrating the rich experiences and discoveries you’ve encountered along the way.

  • Location: Various locations in Hanoi
  • Best Time to Visit: Evening
  • Famous For: Fresh beer, lively atmosphere

Best Time to Visit Hanoi

The best time to visit Hanoi is during the months of October to April when the weather is pleasant with mild temperatures and low humidity. This period is considered the dry season, offering comfortable conditions for exploring the city and engaging in outdoor activities.

Additionally, the months of March and April boast the beautiful blooming of cherry blossoms, adding an extra touch of charm to the city. However, it’s important to note that Hanoi experiences distinct seasons, with hot and humid summers and chilly winters, so it’s advisable to pack accordingly based on the specific time of your visit.

How to Get to Hanoi

  • By Air: Hanoi is served by Noi Bai International Airport, located about 45 minutes from the city center. Numerous airlines operate flights to Hanoi from major cities around the world, making air travel a convenient option.
  • By Train: Hanoi has a well-developed railway network that connects it to other cities in Vietnam. The Hanoi Railway Station is a major hub, and trains offer a scenic and comfortable journey from destinations such as Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, and Sapa.
  • By Bus: Several long-distance buses operate to and from Hanoi, connecting it to neighboring countries like Laos and Cambodia. There are also domestic bus services that link Hanoi with other cities within Vietnam.

Where to Stay in Hanoi

  • Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi – Experience timeless elegance at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, a legendary five-star hotel located in the heart of the city. This iconic property seamlessly blends French colonial charm with modern luxury, offering spacious rooms, gourmet dining options, and a tranquil spa.
  • Hanoi La Siesta Diamond Hotel & Spa – Nestled in the bustling streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the Hanoi La Siesta Diamond Hotel & Spa provides a boutique retreat filled with charm and comfort. The well-appointed rooms feature elegant decor, and the hotel’s rooftop bar offers panoramic views of the city skyline.
  • InterContinental Hanoi Westlake – Set on the picturesque West Lake, the InterContinental Hanoi Westlake offers a luxurious escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. The hotel’s contemporary rooms and villas provide stunning lake views, and guests can relax by the outdoor pool or indulge in a pampering spa experience.

Where to Eat in Hanoi

  • Bun Cha Huong Lien – This iconic restaurant gained global recognition after former US President Barack Obama visited and enjoyed its signature dish, bun cha. Located in the heart of Hanoi, Bun Cha Huong Lien serves up mouthwatering grilled pork patties and vermicelli noodles, accompanied by a flavorful dipping sauce.
  • Cha Ca Thang Long – For a unique dining experience, head to Cha Ca Thang Long, known for its specialty dish, cha ca. Served sizzling hot at your table, this dish features turmeric-marinated fish cooked with dill, served with rice noodles, herbs, and peanuts.
  • Quan An Ngon – Located near the famous Temple of Literature, Quan An Ngon is a culinary haven offering a wide array of Vietnamese street food delicacies. From pho and banh mi to fresh spring rolls and savory stir-fried dishes, this vibrant eatery brings together the best of Vietnamese cuisine under one roof.

Travel Tips & Suggestions

  • Dress modestly when visiting religious sites and temples in Hanoi.
  • Be cautious when crossing the streets in Hanoi, as traffic can be chaotic. Look for gaps and walk at a steady pace.
  • Sample the local street food in Hanoi, but prioritize cleanliness and choose stalls with a high turnover of customers.
  • Bargain and negotiate prices when shopping at markets like Dong Xuan Market, but do so in a friendly and respectful manner.
  • Stay hydrated and carry a bottle of water with you, especially during hot and humid months.
  • Take a cyclo ride in the Old Quarter to explore the narrow streets and immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.
  • Plan your visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in advance, as it has specific opening hours and can be crowded.

Conclusion – Best Things to Do in Hanoi

In conclusion, Hanoi is a city that never fails to mesmerize with its rich heritage, vibrant culture, and enticing culinary scene. From exploring the charming Old Quarter to immersing oneself in the tranquility of Hoan Kiem Lake, there is a myriad of best things to do in Hanoi.

Whether you’re captivated by the historical landmarks, indulging in mouthwatering street food, or embracing the warm hospitality of the locals, Hanoi promises an unforgettable journey of discovery.

So pack your sense of adventure and embark on an enchanting exploration of the best that Hanoi has to offer. Get ready for an extraordinary experience that will leave you with cherished memories of this captivating city.

FAQs – Best Things to Do in Hanoi

What are the must-visit attractions in Hanoi?

Hoan Kiem Lake, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Temple of Literature, and Hanoi Opera House are top picks for their historical and cultural significance.

When is the best time to explore Hanoi?

The best time is from October to April, offering pleasant weather and cherry blossoms. However, be prepared for hot summers and chilly winters.

Where can I enjoy authentic Vietnamese cuisine?

Head to Bun Cha Huong Lien for the famous dish relished by Barack Obama, or savor sizzling fish at Cha Ca Thang Long. Don’t miss Quan An Ngon for a street food feast.

What are some unique experiences in Hanoi?

Enjoy the captivating Water Puppetry shows or take a thrilling cyclo ride through the bustling Old Quarter for an authentic local encounter.

Is it safe to cross the streets in Hanoi?

Traffic can be overwhelming, but locals have a secret: walk at a steady pace, and drivers will adjust around you. Be cautious and look for gaps.

How can I get to Hanoi from other places?

Hanoi is well-connected by air via Noi Bai Airport, and trains offer a scenic journey from different cities. Buses and cars are convenient options too.

Any tips for exploring Hanoi’s markets?

Bargain with a friendly approach at Dong Xuan Market, and indulge in mouthwatering street food. Prioritize cleanliness and choose popular stalls.

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