Hanoi Parks – The Capital’s Humidity Shelter

For Vietnam, life is best lived outside. The nationwide culture of street-level activity, be it buying, selling, playing, conversing, transporting, or exercising, is one that lends itself to a much more open and social environment than many other countries. For Hanoi’s population of about 8 million, plenty of space is needed to conduct themselves outdoors, and a hive of activity can normally be seen at Hanoi parks around the city, usually at sunrise and sunset and all day on weekends.

The range of ages at parks in Hanoi spans the gamut, with heavily sun-protected toddlers sharing walking paths with their equally well-protected great-grandmothers. These parks are used largely for exercise and to escape the heat of Hanoi’s three hot seasons, with many being created by the French who struggled to cope with the change in climate during their colonial period. Here are the top 5 places to beat the heat at Hanoi’s parks.

Red River Park

Reunification Park – Cong Vien Thong Nhat

One of the largest of all of Hanoi’s parks is also one of its most splendid. Reunification Park features a large, central lake with a couple of islands and a vast walking path around the outside. The park is just a walk or short bike ride away from Hoan Kiem Lake , but it provides a good opportunity to get off the bustle of the Hanoi Old Quarter and into the wide tree-lined avenues of the French Quarter. 

Depending on the time of day, a walk around the lake’s perimeter will either see you meandering slowly on your own or edging along the side to avoid the many joggers who exercise here. Exercise takes a high priority in Vietnamese culture and you can see old men outpacing teenagers when on their sunset jog around Hanoi’s parks. Reunification Park is a consistently popular destination for joggers, but also for families and couples who come for the weekend stretch of clothing and food market stalls that lead from the entrance to the top of the lake.

A small train track runs adjacent to the walking path; the miniature train that runs on it is a popular activity for kids. Families also enjoy the swan boat rides on the lake and the wealth of shaded shops that operate around the water. It’s hard to beat a cold coconut on a humid Hanoi day!

Reunification Park

Lenin Park – Cong Vien Lenin

Confusingly, Reunification Park is often referred to as Lenin Park because of the statue of Lenin on one of the islands there. There is, in fact, another Lenin Park opposite the Flag Tower of Hanoi and Military History Museum, this one featuring a very prominent Lenin statue at its center.

Lenin Park is very small compared to other Hanoi parks but is a very popular one for tourists and locals alike. Similarly to other parks in Hanoi, exercise activities can start before sunrise, and tourists wandering around after a night out are often amazed by the Vietnamese commitment to early morning tai chi sessions and dance classes. Within the space of about an hour, Lenin Park goes from a tranquil tai chi spot to a hub of exercising activity, with the morning motorbike rush punctuating the peace of the park on its three sides.

In the evening, the park becomes abuzz with families playing badminton, children in little remote-controlled cars, teenagers practicing their skateboarding, old men jogging around the perimeter and tourists taking pictures of it all with the backdrop of the iconic Hanoi Flag Tower.

Le Nin Park

Botanical Gardens – Cong Vien Bach Thao

Situated just behind Ba Dinh Square and the Presidential Palace, the Botanical Gardens are a great place to get away from the sometimes debilitating humidity. Hundreds of tall trees cast shade throughout a lot of the park, as was the idea of the original French creators. Banyan, coconut and palm trees tower above the walking paths that encircle two lakes and several indigenous and imported plants flank the outsides.

Hanoi parks are usually a good mixture between French organisation and Vietnamese application. There are wide, open spaces throughout the Botanical Gardens that are used for football, evening dance classes, kickboxing lessons, exercise, karaoke or a game of Vietnamese Da Cau – a skillful shuttlecock kicking game that features in all parks in Hanoi and also throughout the country.

While the lakes are too small for the usually ubiquitous swan boats, there are many interesting facets to the park including a small island with homes for pigeons, a full outdoor gym, many art pieces and also a number of enclosures for animals such as peacocks and monkeys.

Botanical Garden

Peace Park – Cong Vien Hoa Binh

The theme of peace runs throughout a few of Hanoi’s parks. Reunification Park was built to honour the amalgamation of South and North Vietnam, while Peace Park features references to reconciliation throughout. Visitors are greeted by a giant crane, an international symbol for peace, while at the back of the park stands a tall statue of a woman holding a row of doves above her head.

As far as green places go, there aren’t many here. Peace Park feels like a very manufactured, but very well-planned park, with vast areas of the tiled floor being put to use by couples and families who rent roller blades from the park entrance. Skating and of course, jogging are popular here, and the three lakes are vast enough to jump into a swan boat and pedal out into the middle for fishing. 

Peace Park is probably the furthest park away from the Old Quarter but the clean atmosphere, coupled with the fact that it is never busy, means that it is worth the bus or motorbike trip.

Peace Park

Red River Park – Bai Da Vuon Hoa Song Hong

Located just on the banks of the Red River, this park in Hanoi’s Tay Ho district is a hidden gem, one that almost no tourists will have heard about. Down a few dusty, largely unmarked roads you will find a wide, unshaded park full of life, whether it’s among the flowerbeds or on the huge grassy field. This park belongs to a very small group of Hanoi parks that feature enough space to play full team sports as well as host picnics on its soft lawn.

Adults tend to leave their kids (with a supervisor) at the impressive playground while they meander around the park and take romantic-looking selfies in front of the vast fields of flowers. Whole days out in Vietnam can centre around the taking of selfies in various positions, and other Hanoi parks and attractions cater for this cultural need too. However, the choice of the backdrop at Red River Park in particular is pretty diverse, with many windmills, cars and little houses built to create the perfect selfie background.

Red River Park

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