Top 19 Things To Do In Hanoi

Street Scene in Hanoi, Vietnam. Credit Jack Young on Unsplash

Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam but still holds on to its long history that dates back to 3000BC. Offering rich and varied architecture, and a variety of sites that are generally accessible on foot, Hanoi has much to offer.

Hanoi is often the base for trips to the stunning Ha Long (Halong) Bay. Read our guide to Ha Long Bay here.

Hanoi is also the starting point for the Reunification Express which runs through Vietnam, experiencing incredible scenery, all the way to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Read our guide to the Reunification Express here.

Explore the Old Quarter

Comprising of 36 streets each home to a different set of craftsmen and traders.

Take a leisurely stroll around discovering the amazing fare on offer.

Even better during the evening when the street food is added to the charm of the area.

Old Quarter at Night, Hanoi, Vietnam. Credit Frida Aquilar Estrada on Unsplash
Hoa Lo Prison, Hanoi, Vietnam. Credit Matthias Rosenkranz on flickr.

Hoa Lo Prison Museum

This prison was used to house US prisoners during the Vietnam war and became known as the Hanoi Hilton.

Originally built in 1896 as a French prison it now displays some of the horrendous conditions and torture instruments used on prisoners.

There is even a French guillotine used for executions.

Hoan Kiem Lake

This is an excellent place to just relax and watch daily Vietnamese life carry on around you.

The wonderful lake and surrounds offer a picturesque view of Hanoi.

Ngoc Son Temple is one of the highlights of any sightseeing tour of Hanoi. Situated on a small island on the north side of Hoan Kiem Lake and accessed by a beautiful scarlet coloured bridge.

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam. Credit Markus Winkler on Unsplash
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Credit Katie Bordner on flickr

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Excavations have uncovered artefacts dating back to the 7th century on the site and the museum is home to dragon heads and terracotta phoenixes.

The temple complex here dates back to the 11th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Also home to the Vietnamese People’s Army HQ until 1975.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Built to house the embalmed body of Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh.

Vietnamese and visitors alike queue for hours to visit the mausoleum and pay respects.

War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City. Credit Gary Todd on flickr
Perfume Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam. Credit Maya Anais Y on flickr

Perfume Pagoda

Around 2 hours from Hanoi by road, plus a short boat trip may seem like a trek to visit a temple complex.

The journey itself allows you to see some of the Vietnamese countryside but the 15th century temple complex, built on the side of a mountain, is also well worth the trip

Dong Xuan Market

Dating as far back as the late 19th century, Dong Xuan is the largest indoor market in Hanoi.

Located at the edge of the Old Quarter, this market includes local fresh produce, handicrafts, tourist souvenirs plus excellent street food.

If you want something in Hanoi, the chances are you will find it here, somewhere.

Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi, Vietnam. Credit Mike Hauser from flickr

Vietnamese Woman’s Museum

A series of exhibitions that highlights the crucial role that Vietnamese women have played in the country’s history and society, including their part in the Vietnam / US war.

Often voted one of the best museums in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese Women’s Museum in Hanoi, Vietnam. Credit Dan Costin on flickr
Vietnam Street Foof. Credit Rene DeAnda on Unsplash

Vietnamese Food

The range and quality of food in Hanoi is exceptional from street food to high end restaurants, the choice is outstanding.

For me there is nothing like wandering around the markets and street vendors picking out the food to try. There are many tours that will help you if you are not the independent, exploring type.

One Pillar Pagoda

Built in the middle of a lotus pond, this wooden Buddhist pagoda stands on a single stone pillar in 1049.

Built to resemble a lotus flower blossoming from the muddy waters, a symbol of purity, and in honour of the Goddess of Mercy.

The One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi, Vietnam. Credit Staffan Scherz on flickr
Hanoi Opera House. Credit Adam Jones on flickr.

Hanoi Opera House

Built at the start of the 20th century and refurbished in 1997.

The largest theatre in Vietnam and built in the colonial style, the theatre attracts top acts and performers from Vietnam and around the world.

Vietnamese Coffee

There is not just one type of Vietnamese coffee as it tends to vary depending on the region you are and the beans used, and ingredients added. The local egg coffee, ca phe trung, is the Hanoi specialty.

Known and admired worldwide for the quality and taste be sure to try a coffee wherever you visit in Vietnam.

Vietnamese Coffee. Credit Jon Spectacle on Unsplash
Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi, Vietnam. Credit Audrey Sel on flickr

Water Puppet Theatre

Performers stand behind bamboo screens, waist deep in water to control the puppets used in this performance reacting scenes from rural village life, local legends and Vietnamese myths.

Water puppetry can be dated back to the 11th century.

The Temple of Literature

Built in 1076 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong. The Temple of Lietature or Van Mieu, was erected in honour of Confucius and in 1076 was home to the first university in Hanoi.

A highlight is the Stele of Doctors with 82 carved blue stone turtles, considered to be holy creatures in Vietnam.

Shrine interior at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi Vietnam. credit Paul Mannix on flickr
Museum of Ethnology, hanoi, Vietnam. Credit Falco Negenman on Unsplash

Museum of Ethnolgy

Looking at the 54 ethnic minorities that make up Vietnamese culture with indoor exhibitions and outdoor space that features life size replicas of ethnic architecture.

The galleries include incredible tribal art, artifacts and handicrafts.

Lotte Tower Observation Deck

Head up to the 65th floor of the Lotte Center and admire the incredible views over Hanoi.

The Observation Deck has a number of different ways of looking out over the city including a Sky Walk where you can stand on the glass floor looking hundreds of metres below you.

View from the Lotte Observation Deck in Hanoi, Vietnam. Credit Cha gia Jose on flickr
National Museum of Vietnamese History, hanoi, Vietnam. Credit Richard Mortel via flickr

National Museum of Vietnamese History

Dating back to 1925 when it was a French colonial school, the museum houses exhibitions related to the French colonial period, the Vietnam War, statues, jewelry and bronze pieces that date back to the 3rd century BC.

Long Bien Bridge

A stunning bridge dating back to 1902 that offers wonderful views over the Red River and Hanoi.

Best visited in the evening when the bridge is illuminated and street vendors sell food and handicrafts.

Long Bien Bridge, Hanoi, Vietnam. Credit Hoach Le Dinh on Unsplash
Tran Quoc Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam. Credit David Emrich on Unsplash

Tran Quoc Pagoda

The oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi, dating back to 1639.

Standing on an island in the middle of West Lake, with 11 floors filled with statues and gemstones, it can be accessed via a causeway.

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