Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences. At its heart is the chaotic Old Quarter, where the narrow streets are roughly arranged by trade. There are many little temples, including Bach Ma, honoring a legendary horse, plus Đồng Xuân Market, selling household goods and street food.
Hanoi is a city that plays host to up to 5.5 international tourists per year. There are certainly a lot of things you shouldn’t miss in Hanoi, with its rich combination of antiquity, culture, modernity, and unique experiences.
A visitor could spend weeks exploring its historic streets, hidden gems, and many attractions. However, to make your trip easier to plan, we’ve selected 5 of the top experiences to enjoy while on your visit to this historical, exhilarating and occasionally chaotic city in North Vietnam.
Before starting your trip to Hanoi remember, most visitors to Vietnam will require a visa to enter the country. In the case of US, EU and UK citizens it’s often quicker and easier to enter the country with a Vietnam eVisa.
A Vietnam online visa application for a stay of up to 30 days can be completed in just a few minutes as little as 3 days before travel. In most cases, your visa will be approved in just 24 hours.
If you’re traveling to Hanoi soon, these are the 5 things you shouldn’t miss on your trip.
Where’s the Best Place to Relax in Central Hanoi?
Hanoi is a famously busy city. It is home to some 8 million people and is visited by a further 20 million people from Vietnam and abroad. Further to that, the streets are filled with another 5 million motorbikes. However, there are places visitors can go to get away from the congestion.
Just adjacent to the Old Quarter of the city is Hoan Kiem Lake (or Turtle Lake). It is a popular and relaxing spot for tourists to enjoy in the middle of the bustling capital. The lake is surrounded by trees and is a popular spot for jogging and enjoying a peaceful moment in the city.
In its center, you’ll find the small Huc bridge (or Rising Sun Bridge) to Jade Island. The main feature of Jade Island is Ngoc Son Temple a pagoda memorial to the 18th-century war hero Tran Hung Dao.
Where’s the Best Place to Learn about Vietnam’s History?
Ho Chi Minh is considered the architect of modern Vietnam. He played a large part in the uprising against French Colonial rule and led the country’s struggle for reunification until his death in 1969. His dream would ultimately be realized just 6 years later and Saigon, the nation’s largest city was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in honor of him.
In a strange way “Uncle Ho” as many knew him, is still with us as his body has remained lying in state in the country’s capital since his death. Visitors still flock to see the spiritual father of the nation in his impressive mausoleum.
The mausoleum is far from the only Ho Chi Minh attraction in the city. However, for visitors wanting to learn more about the country’s ancient history a visit to the UNESCO Heritage Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is highly recommended.
What’s the Best Food to Try in Hanoi?
One of the country’s most beloved dishes is Pho, a soup usually made of bone broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat (usually chicken or beef). Hanoi is perhaps one of the best cities in Vietnam to try this traditional dish.
There is no shortage of places to taste pho in the city. You can enjoy this famous dish almost anywhere for just a few dollars. However, like eating out anywhere in Vietnam, there are a couple of ways to pick a good and, more crucially, safe to eat place. Firstly eat at the businesses where the locals flock to. If the restaurant is busy you know the pho is good and, more importantly, fresher.
Pho is a dish that most Hanoi residents enjoy almost daily, so it will give you the perfect taste of everyday life here in the capital.
Other popular Vietnamese dishes you should try include:
Bahn Mi – A baguette sandwich of meat, chili, and herbs
Bun Bo Hue – Noodles and meat (normally chicken or beef)
Nem Ran – Spring rolls
Goi Cuon – Summer rolls
Bahn Xeo – Crepe wrap of pork, shrimp and bean sprouts
Ga Nuong – Vietnamese BBQ chicken
What’s the Best Show to See in Hanoi?
There are a few good performances to enjoy whilst visiting the Vietnamese capital.
For those looking for a unique experience, it’s worth paying a visit to the city’s water puppet theatre. Hanoi is the traditional home of the ancient art of water puppetry. This almost 1000-year-old art is very much alive and well at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre near Hoan Kiem Lake. The puppets are supported by metal rods and are manipulated above a pool of water to appear as if they are floating across its surface.
Alternatively, for culture lovers, Hanoi’s French Colonial Opera House offers regular performances of both opera and traditional Vietnamese dance, music, and plays.
What Are the Best Souvenirs to Buy in Vietnam?
You won’t struggle to find a plethora of interesting and souvenirs or gifts to bring home from Hanoi. Vietnam has been a country of artisans for centuries thanks to its strategic position on the old silk road.
The best spots to pick up a bargain or something special for your friends and relatives from Vietnam are the Old Quarter Market and Dong Xuan Market. Remember, in Vietnam haggling is a normal way of doing business in most markets, so don’t be afraid to try a little bargaining with the prices.
However, be mindful of where you’re traveling on the next leg of your trip. Some paper and wooden gifts are not permitted on entry to Australia and New Zealand by Customs and Excise.
Popular Souvenirs to Bring Home from Vietnam:
Bamboo and wooden gifts
Paintings and posters
Puppets and masks
Hanoi offers a broad and beautiful mix of culture, history, and flavors to enjoy. It is a city that’s full of life, sights, and sounds and is a place you don’t want to miss on a trip to Vietnam. And remember, be sure to get your Vietnam online visa before you travel to make your journey to Hanoi as simple and smooth as possible.
Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam!