Best Things To Do In Hanoi

When you travel to Vietnam, you may choose Hanoi as the first destination before travelling to Central Vietnam and Southern Vietnam. You may choose a hotel in the Hanoi Old Quarter near Hoan Kiem Lake. There will be a lot of places to visit and a lot of things to do in Hanoi which you may see below.

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1. Top 5 attractions in Hanoi

1.1. Hoan Kiem Lake

This small lake between the Old Quarter and the French Quarter is in central Hanoi. As known as the Restored Sword (or Hoan Kiem Lake), refers to a legend of the great Vietnamese hero who led a success against the enemies in the 15th century. You will be recharged and have full energy by the refreshingly cool air of the lake. Furthermore, if you are lucky, you may find the old men playing cheese at the corner while jogging around the lake. Early morning around 5 am every day, you will also see locals practising Tai Chi. There is no doubt, Hoan Kiem Lake is one of the top attractions in Hanoi when you travel to North Vietnam.

Turtle Tower - A Symbol of Hanoi capital

1.2. Hanoi Old Quarter

Listed in the best places for tourists while travelling in Hanoi, visiting Hanoi Old Quarter is one of the best things to do in your free time in Hanoi. The city of Hanoi is an amazingly energetic place that forms harmony within contradicting elements: old world and new world, traditional and modern. One cannot say they have been to Hanoi if they have never visited the Hanoi attractions - Hanoi Old Quarter. Being considered as the heart of the capital– is the oldest as well as the busiest district of Hanoi for centuries. If you do not have enough time to explore Hanoi, we highly recommend you to spend your precious time in Hanoi Old Quarter.

White daisy in Hanoi

The streets are always alive and bustling. Start the whirlwind day at around 5 am, locals people are out for morning exercise; some people jogging around Hoan Kiem Lake, and some playing badminton or aerobics. The economic activity starts at 06:00 am with restaurants opening for breakfast such as Pho (noodle soup), Banh Mi, Banh Cuon, etc. Shopkeepers get ready for the new day as well as street vendors along with local markets and sidewalks of the street. All this goes on till 09:00 pm at nighttime and by 09:30 pm the streets become quiet. The best part of the walk is that you can easily observe how local people are living and you will have a valuable chance to interact with Hanoians. 

Have breakfast with Hanoi's Beef Pho

1.3. Ho Chi Minh Complex

Ho Chi Minh Complex consists of Ho Chi Minh‘s Mausoleum, Ba Dinh Square, Uncle Ho’s House on stilt, Ho Chi Minh Museum and One Pillar Pagoda (Chua Mot Cot). This is an important historical place and priceless value to the Vietnamese people. You may learn about Uncle Ho’s life, his contributions to the independence and freedom of the Vietnamese people. The quiet line that forms to view his body in Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum is a vision of respect and may even feature a few tears. Ho's mausoleum is open only in the mornings, every day except Monday and Friday. The mausoleum sits in front of Ho's stilt house.

Ho Chi Minh Museum

Furthermore, you will see the unique architecture of One Pillar Pagoda, which was built in the shape of a white lotus flower in 1049. This is a unique complex with a gorgeous garden and mature trees around will make you feel peaceful and relax when you visit these popular attractions. List it in your notebook for the best things to do in Hanoi.

One Pilar Pagoda

1.4. Temple of Literature

If you see some tour itineraries you will see that Temple of Literature is always on the list of best places to visit. Temple of Literature - Hanoi‘s symbol of wisdom, talent, and study. As known as the first University of Vietnam, it was constructed in 1070 under Ly Thanh Tong’s dynasty in order to honour Confucius and nowadays to celebrate the doctorates and high-rank scholars of Vietnam. It has five courtyards, which cover 54000 square meters with Van Lake and Giam Park.

Each year, there are thousands of students come here and pray for their studies; some pray for a good result on the final exam at University; some pray for a smooth year with luck and health as well. From April to June, you could see many beautiful young ladies in colourful traditional dress “Ao Dai” and boys in suits and ties to take yearbook photos in the Temple of Literature. That is the reason why the Temple of Literature has become one of the best Hanoi attractions. 

Temple of Literature

1.5. Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton)

As known as Hanoi Hilton – nicknamed by U.S pilots during the American War and also in the top list of Hanoi attractions. Hoa Lo Prison was the place to keep the American prisoners in 1990s, including the first Ambassador to Vietnam- Pete Peterson and John McCain – the Republican Nominee of US also arrested here. Covered by the tiny, damp, and dark with the mannequin, which depicted the prisoners and their living in the past. Today, only a small section remains and it is preserved as a museum. Each day, Hoa Lo Prison attracts many tourists come to visit and learn more about the history. Just list it in the best places to visit in Hanoi.

Hoa Lo Prison

Below are some of the best Hanoi City Tours for you to discover beautiful attractions in Hanoi in only one day:

2. Shopping in Hanoi – best things to do in Hanoi

When you travel to a new place, new country or everywhere in the world, I am sure that you will think about what to buy and where to shop after exploring the city. Hanoi is not the exception. These places below might help you to find out the interesting about shopping in Hanoi and also is a good idea for things to do in Hanoi.

2.1. Shopping in Hanoi Old Quarter

As mentioned above about Hanoi Old Quarter, this is one of the best Hanoi attractions as well as the shopping. You may have before about the 36 Streets- Hanoi 36 Pho Phuong which each street is named after, and often still linked to, the artisanal trade specific to it over centuries ago. 

Shopping in the Old Quarter is fantastic. We will start with Hang Gai Street (or Silk Street). This is one of the most popular shopping streets in Hanoi. Located in the North of Hoan Kiem Lake, Hang Gai has a variety of shops for high-quality silk, fashionable silk materials, traditional Vietnamese costumes, and home decor.

You may also see many quality hotels surrounding there with restaurants and crowded people preparing their feet to walk the street to go shopping conveniently. You can pass by the Tan My Design for silk goods or Thao Silk if you would like to do the best and the fastest tailor clothing within a few days. 

Shopping in Hang Gai Street

2.2. Shopping in a local market

One of the most interesting things to do in Hanoi is to discover the local market. Many people are wondering about what to see in the local market and are it possible to buy anything there or not. There are several local markets such as Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi Weekend Night Market, Hang Da Market, Cho Hom Market or Quang Ba Flower Market are the best 5 local markets recommended for tourists shopping in Hanoi. Some of the markets are indoor and some are outdoor.

For example, Dong Xuan Market is the largest indoor market and you will see a wide range of goods from foods, material for producing, kitchen tools, clothes, and souvenirs, and a wet market with fresh fish, birds, prawns, and so on. People normally call Dong Xuan is a wholesale market because of its variety of goods. You could find almost everything from fabrics, school uniforms, handbags, handicrafts, shoes, ceramics goods, etc at wholesale prices. Of course, the quality is not high but sometimes tourists still love the local things and want to try the bargain experience while shopping in Hanoi.

Overall, all the local markets are the same with the products there like handbags, clothes, and shoes; however, each market has a different feature such as the Hom Market selling many fabrics, Hang Da Market has secondhand clothing or Quang Ba Market just only has the flower.

Hanoi Night Market

2.3. Shopping in the Malls

Besides local shopping, tourists also want to purchase high-quality and authentic goods during their vacation in Hanoi. There are many shops in Shopping Malls which has internationally-renowned brands including Zara, H&M, Topshop, Topmen, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Adidas, etc or cosmetics such as Lancome, MAC, Clinique, Neutrogena, etc. You would find these products in Shopping Malls in Hanoi: Trang Tien Plaza, Vincom City Center Hanoi, Vincom Mega Mall Royal City, Hang Da Galleria Shopping Mall, Lotte Centre Hanoi, etc. These Malls are also a complex with Food courts, Cinema and some have Kid areas for playing and parents could go shopping. 

Trang Tien Plaza

3. Food in Hanoi

When you ask people how their impression of the place one of the first things they will talk about is the food in Hanoi. Billions of people around the world love Vietnamese Cuisine and definitely, Street food in Hanoi is the very interesting things you must try when travelling to Hanoi and be on the top of things to do in Hanoi as well.

3.1. Pho (Noodle soup)

A bowl of Pho

The very first thing we mention on this list must be Pho. Everyone knows Pho all over the world even in Europe, North America, Australia, or Asia countries; there are many Pho Restaurant with Vietnamese style to serve people who love Vietnamese Cuisine. However, the best place to have Pho originates must be in Hanoi.  Normally, people have Pho for breakfast as a common meal. The broth must be steamed with beef bones in a few hours and flavoured with ginger, star anise, cinnamon, black cardamom.

Traditionally eaten for breakfast, the steaming beef broth, flavoured with ginger, star anise, cinnamon, black cardamom, fish sauce, spring onions. After that, you could have a tasty beef pho with beef or chicken Pho. In Vietnamese way, you should squeeze a slice of lime, put more hot chilli, and mix all together then use spoon and chopstick to eat it. 

In Hanoi, there are many local restaurants has Pho such as Pho 10 at 10 Ly Quoc Su, Pho Thin at 13 Lo Duc Str for Pho Bo (Beef Pho ). Pho Ga (Chicken Pho) in Pho Tu Lun at 05 Hang Trong Str or Pho Ga Hang Hom. 

When you visit Hanoi, do not miss a blow of Pho in your list of food to try in Hanoi and it is one of the must things to do while travelling to Hanoi and Vietnam

3.2. Bun Cha (Kebab rice noodles with fish sauce)

Bun Cha Hanoi

The second recommendation for you on this list should be Bun Cha. This one is one of the specialities dishes of Hanoi but nowhere else in Vietnam has. Vietnamese usually has Bun Cha for lunchtime. If you walking in the Old Quarter, it is not difficult to find many local restaurants with a small table and plastic chair serving Bun Cha. It doesn’t matter if you eat Bun Cha in Fine-dining restaurant or in a local restaurant, you will always be served by a small bowl of broth which made by fish sauce mix with a little bit of sugar, vinegar, garlic, chili; barbecued pork and a plate of vermicelli (Bun) on the side with a basket of Vietnamese fresh herb. You will also have Vietnamese spring rolls to eat with Bun Cha and add more flavour when tasting this delicious dish.

You could find great Bun Cha 74 Hang Quat Str, Bun Cha Tuyet at 34 Hang Than Str or Bun Cha Obama (Bun Cha Huong Lien ) at 24 Le Van Huu St. The price range is from VND 30,000 – VND 55,000 (around USD1.5 -2.5) depends on portion and restaurant.

3.3. Banh Cuon (Stuffed Pancake with Pork)

Banh Cuon

Vietnamese people have a very special pancake steamed with rice flour and water – Banh Cuon. This cake will be stuffed with minced pork, wood-ear mushroom, and seasoning; put on top with fried shallots and Vietnamese pork paste then you will dip it in fish sauce dressing (a mixture of fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and lime). This dish is also served for breakfast or night meal.

If you would like to eat Banh Cuon, you should find these restaurants: Banh Cuon Thanh Van 12-14 Hang Ga Str, Banh Cuon Quang An at 72 Hang Bo Str or Banh Cuon Ha Trung to try Banh Cuon night time. The price is about VND35,000 for a serving (around USD1.5).

3.4. Banh Mi (Vietnamese baguette)

Banh Mi Vietnam

That would be a big omission if we do not mention about Banh Mi in the top 5 best food in Hanoi. Banh Mi or we call Vietnamese baguette. There are two kinds of baguette: Banh Mi Kep (Stuffed baguette) or Banh Mi (Plain baguette). Banh Mi Kep normally stuffed with pate, meat, vegetable, chilli sauce, fried-egg. Plain Banh Mi is just a small one and dipped into condensed milk to taste the butter and sweet flavour in your mouth. Nowadays, many tourists come to Hanoi and immediately find Banh Mi 25 or Banh Mi P to try the best Banh Mi in Hanoi.

The price for Banh Mi is not expensive, just around VND25,000- 35,000 for a normal Banh Mi (about USD1.5 -2). You will not disappoint with this healthy and delightful dish once you try it.

3.5. Cha Ca (Turmeric fish and dill)

Cha Ca

Last but not least, Cha Ca deserve to be on this top 5 must-try food in Hanoi for its unique and spectacular quality. Cha Ca or grilled fish is usually made from sweet water fish fillet such as Catfish, Lentils,... This fillet will be well-seasoned with fresh turmeric, galangal, shrimp paste sauce (mam tom), fermented rice, dills and green onions with the top of peanut. This dish will be served with vermicelli and shrimp paste sauce mix with sugar and lime.

You could find the best place to try this speciality in Cha Ca Thang Long at 19-21-31 Duong Thanh Str or Cha Ca La Vong at 14 Cha Ca Str. The price is around VND 145,000 – 165,000 (around USD 6-8).

4. Hanoi Nightlife

If daytime we have known some Hanoi attractions, now let’s see things to do in Hanoi at night and how is the Hanoi nightlife with both local people and foreigners. We give you top 5 recommendation for things to do as the below.

3.1. Bia Hoi Ta Hien (Beer Corner)

Different from Bui Vien Street in Saigon, Ta Hien Street or people call Beer Corner is the first things on list must-do in Hanoi at night. You could find many young Vietnamese people and tourists sit in low plastic chair on the street side and have fresh draft beer with very cheap price VND 5000 – VND 8000  (about 25 – 30 cent ) or beer in the bottle with good brand name such as Bia Hanoi, Bia Saigon, Tiger Beer, etc with the price is VND 30,000 (about USD 1.5). While sitting there and have a beer, you could order some Vietnamese snack for example steamed peanuts, fermented-pork, French fried with cheese on top then enjoy the music from pub and bars surrounded there and watch people are on their scooter or walking on the street.

Ta Hien Street

3.2. Legend Beer

Legend Beer is a third-storey bar located in the centre of Hoan Kiem Lake and offers you terrace overlooking down to the street. You could enjoy also an ice cold beer and snack then observe local people on the street with cars and motorbikes. 

Legend Beer

3.3. 1900s Le Theatre Bar

If you are looking for a local bar then this place will meet your expectation as it is very crowded, full of young Vietnamese people. This place for drinking and dancing, chit-chat won't be a good idea.

1900s Le Theatre Bar

3.4. Binh Minh’s Jazz Club

Located at the back of Hanoi Opera House, Binh Minh’s Jazz Club is a place where Jazz fans can catch live performances in the city. Opening all day, you can enjoy an impressive line-up of local and international acts performing between 21:00 and 23:30 every night.

Binh Minh's Jazz Club

3.5. Water Puppet Theater

Water Puppet show is one of the typical forms of Vietnamese art which has existed for more than 1000 years. Each show lasts for 50 minutes inside the theatre. You will enjoy the authentic performance of the daily life of Vietnamese’s farmers as well as the folk tales of Vietnamese that are told from generation to generation.

Water Puppet Theater

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