Hanoi is the capital and second largest city in Vietnam (it is only behind Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, with about 9 million). It is located in the north of the country, and has a population of approximately 6.5 million inhabitants (Vietnam has approximately 90 million inhabitants). And the first thing you will ever notice about Hanoi is its traffic horns blare as the locals zip past on a seemingly endless fleet of scooters, while tour buses barrel in carrying a steady flow of tourists, ready to lap up the sights and sounds of this vibrant city.
What to do in Hanoi, Vietnam
Explore the Old Quarter
The ancient centre of the city is where things happen in Hanoi. A crazy movement of people and vehicles take over the Old Quarter, which it never stops. There are many restaurants, shops around and motorcycles squeeze between narrow streets often without sidewalks.
Most common scene is seeing people making food on the sidewalk. It is also a great place to stay as it is close to all the sights, safe and has many options for eating, drinking and shopping.
At night, a market runs from Hang Dao Street and tables are set up on the streets - by day, pass the Dong Xuan market. I like the fact that despite being a very tourist area, it does not hide the local vibe.The night market in Hanoi takes place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at the Old Quarter (Hang Dao Street) from 7pm.
Tip: You must bargain. Even costing very little, you will pay at least 3 times the original price.
Lake Hoan Kiem
The Old Quarter is right next to the lake, the main tourist point of the city. It is a large lake right in the central region of Hanoi. It marks the division between the Old Quarter and the French Quarter.
There are a lot of tourists, local people practicing Tai Chi Chuan.It is great for a walk or even to sit and watch people exercising, fishing and doing other activities.
Ngoc Son Temple
In a small island on the lake is also the most important and visited temple of Hanoi, the Ngoc Son, the Ngoc Son temple sits on a small island in the northern part of the lake, and is reached by a bridge.
If you love beer, you should definitely check it out.
Beer from only 25 cents a dollar at the Bia Hoi Corner (Bia Pho Co), sitting on sidewalk mini benches, a Vietnamese tradition.
Discover Hanoi’s history
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the final resting place of Vietnamese Revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam It is a large building located in the center of Ba Dinh Square, where Ho, President of the Communist Party of Vietnam from 1951 until his death in 1969.
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Citadel of Hanoi, a collection of structures, palaces and ancient ruins. Since 2010, it is World Heritage by Unesco.
The citadel occupies an area of more than 18 thousand square meters in the heart of Hanoi. Inside, it is possible to visit the Vietnam Military History Museum, the flag tower, built in 1812 and symbol of Hanoi, the imposing north and south gates and the archaeological site, among other structures.
Hoa Lo Prison
This prison was built by the French settlers in 1896 and was used to house Vietnamese prisoners - Only a small section of it remains, but it’s enough to display the exhibits exploit repression (with torture objects) to Vietnamese who sought independence from the country.
Templo of Literature
Founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, the temple is dedicated to Confucius. Inside you will find a pond, a beautiful pagoda and statues of Confucius and his disciples. A rare example of well-preserved Vietnamese traditional architecture, he honours the country's writers: the first Vietnamese university founded in 1076 was founded there, which later brought students from all over the country to Hanoi to study the principles of Confucianism, literature and poetry.
The gardens are beautiful to walk around. Open from 8am to 5pm every day.
Where to Stay in Hanoi?
The best neighbourhood to stay in Hanoi is even the Old Quarter. My recommendation is to stay around the Old Quarter and for more options, take a look at Booking.comor Agoda. Despite the madness of a typically Vietnamese neighbourhood, it has the advantage of being safe and being close to all the main tourist attraction of Hanoi, which can be traversed on foot.
How to get around in Hanoi?
If you are staying in the Old Quarter, you will probably be able to visit the main attractions of Hanoi on foot. Just be aware of chaotic traffic: do not expect drivers to stop at a pedestrian crossing. The thing is to raise your hand and go through it at a slow and steady pace, that is, never run and always stay alert.
For the more distant sights, it is better to take a taxi, being a cheap and relatively safe option. We did not hear any negative reports from travellers with taxis, and everyone we saw had a meter. Try to carry some small cash.
The Vietnamese motorcycle is another option, and venture out on a motorbike through the Hanoi traffic. It seems a bit scary looking at the streets of Hanoi, but it can be an interesting experience (We rode a motorcycle on Ho Chi Minh night and it was awesome!).
How long to stay in Hanoi?
It is one of the main entrance of the country besides Ho Chi Minh City also know as Saigon, consider that Hanoi is a must stop for your Vietnam trip. To visit the main tourist attractions of Hanoi and feel the climate of the city, I would say that you will need at least a full 3 days. Remembering that this period of time should be unique to take advantage of Hanoi.
That is, if you are planning on going to Halong Bay, you should add some extra days in the itinerary because it is starting point to visit the world famous Halong Bay. So take a few days to enjoy this city full of history, temples, delicious street food and of course its chaotic traffic. Please do not get ran over.
Enjoy these Hanoi tips and have good trip!
If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, check out the other posts full of tips for your trip.