Welcome Trekkers to the bustling city of Hanoi, Vietnam! This vibrant capital is located in the northern region of the country and is a must-visit destination for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in Vietnamese culture. Hanoi is a city of contrasts, with ancient temples and modern skyscrapers coexisting side by side. It is a city that has seen centuries of history and cultural influences, from Chinese domination to French colonialism, which have all left their mark on the city’s landscape, cuisine, and traditions.
One of the most striking aspects of Hanoi is its Old Quarter, a maze-like labyrinth of alleyways that is steeped in history and tradition. Here, you’ll find a lot of markets selling everything from food and crafts to fabrics and souvenirs. It’s an excellent place to wander around, take in the sights and sounds, and embrace the city’s rich heritage.
No visit to Hanoi is complete without trying out the local cuisine, which is known for its distinctive flavors and subtle use of herbs and spices. From the famous Pho noodle soup to the crispy spring rolls, there is something for everyone. Hanoi’s street food scene is also not to be missed, with plenty of stalls and vendors that will delight your taste buds.
Hanoi is a captivating city that will leave you spellbound. With its rich culture, history, and cuisine, it’s a destination that deserves a spot on every traveler’s bucket list. So pack your bags and come experience the sights, sounds, and flavors of this wonderful city that embraces tradition while striding towards the future.
Here are 10 things to do while you’re in Hanoi, Vietnam
1. Explore Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake is a charming and tranquil oasis in the heart of Hanoi, Vietnam. Surrounded by stunning architecture and lush greenery, it’s the perfect place to escape from the chaos of the city and enjoy some peaceful reflection.
Taking a leisurely stroll around the lake is a must-do activity for any visitor to Hanoi. The 1.5-kilometer loop takes you past some of the city’s most beautiful landmarks, including the red-painted Huc Bridge and the striking Tortoise Tower. As you walk, you’ll be enveloped in the sounds of the city, from the chirping of birds to the bustle of locals going about their daily business.
One of the most special things about Hoan Kiem Lake is the sense of community that permeates it. As you walk, you’ll see locals gathering to chat, jog, and do tai chi, a practice which has been handed down from generation to generation. You may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a traditional dragon dance or water puppet show, both of which are often performed on the lake’s shores.
The Hoan Kiem Lake is a scenic and serene destination in Hanoi, Vietnam that offers a much-needed respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is an excellent place for a leisurely stroll, with its well-paved paths along the lake, surrounded by lush trees and beautiful architecture. Visitors can take in the stunning scenery and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere while also observing local life as many Vietnamese people come here for their daily exercises or gathering with friends.
2. Wander through the Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature is a cultural and historical gem nestled in the heart of Hanoi, Vietnam. A tranquil escape from the city’s bustling streets, this temple is a must-visit destination for any traveler who wants to immerse themselves in Vietnam’s rich history of education.
As you wander through the temple’s gates, you’ll be transported back in time to the 11th century, where Vietnamese scholars would come to take their exams in hopes of becoming civil servants. The well-preserved architecture of the temple is a sight to behold, with intricate details and traditional Vietnamese design elements that have stood the test of time.
Once inside, the temple’s museum offers a wealth of knowledge about the history of education in Vietnam. From the first emperor’s edict in 1070, through centuries of Confucian scholarship, to the present day, the Temple of Literature is a testament to the importance and significance of education in Vietnamese culture.
As you stroll through the tranquil gardens of the temple, you’ll feel a sense of peace and serenity that is hard to come by in a bustling city like Hanoi. Take a moment to reflect on the knowledge and wisdom that has been passed down through generations of Vietnamese scholars, and marvel at the beauty of one of Vietnam’s most treasured historical landmarks.
3. Eat street food in the Old Quarter
The Old Quarter is the bustling heart of Hanoi, Vietnam’s historic capital city. It’s a place where ancient architecture and modern life coexist in colorful and noisy harmony. And one of the most exciting and delicious things about the Old Quarter is its street food.
The streets of the Old Quarter are lined with food vendors, each selling their own speciality. From spicy noodles to sweet sticky rice, from crispy savory crepes to freshly squeezed fruit juice, there’s something for everyone’s taste buds. And the amazing aromas make it difficult to choose which vendor to visit first.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try some of the more exotic street foods, like grilled snails or sticky rice with fermented pork. And don’t forget to try the famous Vietnamese egg coffee, a locally beloved drink made with egg yolks and condensed milk. But street food in the Old Quarter isn’t just about the delicious flavors. It’s also a social experience. Pull up a tiny plastic stool and chat with the locals who are also enjoying their meals. You might learn some interesting stories about the city, its history and its people.
Eating street food in the Old Quarter is a popular, must-do activity for tourists visiting Hanoi. The Old Quarter is known for its bustling streets and diverse culinary scene, with a variety of food stalls and restaurants offering traditional dishes like pho, banh mi, and bun cha. This experience allows tourists to immerse themselves in the local culture and try new and exciting foods they may not have tasted before. The atmosphere can be lively and chaotic, with a lot of people and noise, but this only adds to the charm of the activity.
4. Explore the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, also known as Hanoi Citadel or Dong Kinh Citadel, is a complex of historic buildings located in the heart of Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi. This impressive site served as the political and cultural center of the country for nearly a millennium, from the 11th century until Vietnam’s capital was moved to Hue in the 19th century.
The Citadel is divided into three sections, the Forbidden City, the Imperial City, and the Outer Citadel. Each section contains ancient relics and intricate architecture that illustrate the rich history and culture of Vietnam. Visitors can admire the intricately-designed gates and walls that once protected the citadel from invaders, as well as the many palaces, temples, and other structures that were built by emperors and their families throughout the centuries.
One of the most impressive structures at the Imperial Citadel is the Hanoi Flag Tower, which stands 40 meters tall and was built in 1812 during the Nguyen Dynasty. The tower was used to signal important events and celebrates the country’s independence from French colonialism in 1945. Meanwhile, the Doan Mon gate, which served as the main entrance of the citadel, features an elegant design incorporating both Chinese and Vietnamese architectural elements.
Visitors can explore the many museums and exhibitions located within the Imperial Citadel, which offer unique insight into the cultural and political history of Vietnam. These include the National Museum of Vietnamese History, the Hanoi Citadel Archaeological Site, and the Flag Tower Heritage Site. With so much to discover, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long offers a fascinating glimpse into the complex and captivating history of Vietnam.
5. Watch a water puppet show
If you’re looking for a unique and enchanting cultural experience, then you simply can’t miss out on watching a Water Puppet show. This traditional Vietnamese art form dates back to the 11th century, and involves the use of intricate wooden puppets that are expertly manipulated by puppeteers who stand waist-deep in water.
As the puppets gracefully glide across the water’s surface, performers bring to life Vietnam’s vibrant folklore, with stories about ancient kings and queens, mythical creatures, and everyday life in rural villages. The music, which is performed using traditional instruments like the đàn bầu (a one-stringed instrument), adds an ethereal, haunting quality to the show.
Watching a Water Puppet show is truly a feast for the senses - the puppets are brightly colored and carved with incredible attention to detail, the music is mesmerizing, and the performers are so skilled that it’s easy to forget they’re neck-deep in water. The puppeteers use long rods and strings behind a bamboo screen to bring the colorful and vibrant puppets to life. The show features Vietnamese folk tales and legends accompanied by traditional music, creating an authentic cultural experience.
6. Wander through the Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens is the perfect place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and connect with nature. As you stroll through the winding paths, you’ll be greeted with a symphony of colors and scents from the various flora.
The gardens are meticulously maintained and are home to a variety of plant species from around the world. You’ll find exotic orchids, towering palm trees, vibrant wildflowers, and everything in between. Be sure to take your time as you explore each nook and cranny, as there’s always something new to discover.
One of the highlights of the Botanical Gardens is the peaceful atmosphere. With plenty of benches and shaded areas, it’s the perfect place to unwind and soak up some fresh air. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for butterfies, hummingbirds, and other small creatures that call the gardens home.
Whether you’re a nature lover, a photographer, or just looking for a serene place to relax, the Botanical Gardens is sure to leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the open lawns, or just sit and people-watch as you take in the beauty around you.
7. Take a bike tour of the city
As you pedal through the winding streets and colorful alleyways of Hanoi, you’ll have the opportunity to soak in the vibrant energy of this incredible city. From the historic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the bustling Old Quarter to the serene West Lake and peaceful Temple of Literature, the sights and experiences of Hanoi are sure to leave an indelible impression on your heart and soul.
In addition to offering a unique perspective on the city, a guided bike tour of Hanoi also provides an excellent opportunity to learn more about the rich culture and history of this fascinating city. Your knowledgeable guide will be on hand to offer insights and share interesting stories and anecdotes as you explore the city’s sights and landmarks.
So whether you’re an experienced cyclist or just looking for a fun and active way to experience the city, a guided bike tour of Hanoi is an experience that should not be missed. From the awe-inspiring sights to the rich history and culture, this adventure is sure to be an unforgettable highlight of your visit to Hanoi.
Hanoi is a beautiful city that offers sights and experiences that are quite remarkable, and a bike tour presents an opportunity to explore its beauty more intimately. The tour can also give insight into the city’s culture and history from an informed guide’s perspective. Additionally, it is a great way to stay active and get some exercise while enjoying the stunning scenery.
8. Visit St. Joseph’s Cathedral
St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the vibrant city of Hanoi. Located in the heart of the city, the cathedral is a unique example of European Gothic style mixed with Asian influences. Built in the late 19th century, the cathedral has a fascinating history, having survived wars and periods of political turmoil.
The architecture of the cathedral is truly stunning, with its towering spires and intricate stained-glass windows. Visitors are sure to be impressed by the scale and beauty of the building, as well as the level of detail that has gone into its construction. Whether you are an architecture buff or just someone who appreciates beautiful design, the cathedral is a must-see attraction in Hanoi.
Apart from the architecture, the cathedral is also a place of peace and reflection. Attending a Mass at St. Joseph’s is a unique experience in itself, with the hymns and prayers of the faithful filling the air. The atmosphere is serene and contemplative, offering visitors a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and take a moment to reflect on their own spiritual journey.
Visiting St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a great way to appreciate the beauty of one of the most iconic landmarks in the city. The stunning architecture of the Cathedral is sure to awe any visitor. Attending a peaceful Mass is also a great way to connect with the local culture and experience the serenity of the religious service. Overall, this activity is a great way to spend a peaceful and reflective time in the city.
9. Visit the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
As you enter the museum, you’ll immediately be struck by the beautifully landscaped gardens that surround the museum’s main building. Inside, you’ll find a series of interactive and hands-on exhibits that allow visitors to experience the daily life, art, and culture of Vietnam’s diverse ethnic communities. The exhibits range from traditional village homes to artfully-crafted musical instruments, all of which give visitors a unique insight into the customs and traditions of Vietnam’s ethnic groups.
One exhibit that particularly stands out is the ‘Cultural Rendezvous’ exhibit, where visitors can take part in traditional activities such as bamboo dancing and try on traditional clothes worn by the ethnic groups. The ‘Living with the Dead’ exhibit is also a must-see at the museum as it offers a deep dive into the funeral rituals and traditions of the different ethnic groups, providing visitors with a glimpse into the spiritual beliefs of each community.
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is a unique museum that presents a comprehensive overview of the diverse ethnic groups in Vietnam through its interactive exhibits. The museum showcases the daily life, traditional customs, cultures, costumes, and technologies of 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam in an engaging and informative way. Visitors get to learn about the history, cultural practices, and beliefs of the major ethnic communities, such as the Kinh, Thai, Tay, and Hmong. Moreover, the museum’s layout is easy to navigate, and visitors get the opportunity to interact with traditional objects, artifacts, and textiles from different ethnic groups. A visit to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is an insightful and enjoyable way to learn about the rich cultural heritage of Vietnam.
10. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh was a prominent personality in the world and was admired for his philanthropy and revolutionary spirit. He led the country’s political movement and was instrumental in its liberation from the French colonial rule. The mausoleum, built-in 1975, is a tribute to the great man and is considered a pilgrimage site for Vietnamese people.
The mausoleum is situated in the center of Ba Dinh Square, and the building itself is an imposing structure made of gray granite. It is a perfect combination of Vietnamese and Soviet architectural styles. Once inside, visitors are required to follow strict codes of conduct. Photography, talking, and even pointing are not allowed, and visitors must maintain silence and show respect. The atmosphere inside is serene and solemn, and there is an air of deep reverence.
Walking through the mausoleum, visitors admire the marble columns and the interior, which was designed to look like the Kremlin Mausoleum in Moscow, Russia. Inside the mausoleum is where the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh lies in a glass case. The preservation of his body is a great achievement, and it’s fascinating to see how much care has been taken to keep it such pristine condition.
This activity involves visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum to pay respect to Vietnam’s revolutionary leader who has played a significant role in the country’s history. The mausoleum is a grand structure that is well-maintained and a symbol of deep reverence for Ho Chi Minh. The visit is both educational and historical which makes it a worthwhile experience for anyone interested in learning about Vietnam’s past.
Hanoi is a city that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity. It is a city that will enchant you with its vibrant energy, ancient temples, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality of its people. From exploring the Old Quarter’s narrow streets and alleys to taking a leisurely stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake, there is always something to do in Hanoi.
If you’re planning to visit Hanoi, make sure you add these ten things to your itinerary. From tasting the city’s famous street food to immersing yourself in its rich history and culture, these experiences will make your trip to Hanoi an unforgettable one. Remember to take your time and soak in the city’s unique ambiance, and you will surely fall in love with this charming city in Vietnam.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a returning traveler, Hanoi has something for everyone. So pack your bags, book your tickets, and get ready to explore one of the most exciting cities in Southeast Asia. Hanoi awaits you with open arms!