Hanoi, one of the world's oldest capitals, offers a unique blend of well-preserved colonial architecture, ancient pagodas, and fascinating museums in the heart of the city. Despite its age, the city retains a lively atmosphere that buzzes with energy from early morning until late at night, with bustling streets filled with motorcycles weaving their way through the crowds.
With so much to see and do, Hanoi is a traveler's paradise. Whether you're on the hunt for mouth-watering street food, exploring historic colonial buildings, or immersing yourself in the local way of life, there's never a dull moment in this vibrant city.
These are the top 15 amazing things to do in Hanoi
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The Old Quarter is one of Hanoi's most well-known areas, attracting both locals and tourists alike. This bustling district serves as both a commercial hub and a prominent tourist destination.
A typical scene on the streets of Hanoi involves bustling sidewalks filled with bicycles and scooters, while crowds of people scour the markets and haggle with street vendors. When exploring the Old Quarter, visitors are forced to face the traffic as locals do, allowing them to experience the history of the area.
The Hanoi Old Quarter is a fascinating blend of ancient history and modern commercialism, featuring a mix of French colonial and traditional Vietnamese architecture, as well as numerous pagodas and Buddhist temples. The streets are so inviting that visitors will want to get lost and wander aimlessly, exploring the shops and admiring the surroundings.
Walking in Hanoi old quarter
The streets in the Old Quarter have names that have been passed down for over a thousand years, reflecting the businesses that were established there long ago. These businesses were primarily craft shops, many of which have evolved into modern establishments, including cafes, restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, and bars.
Despite the evolution of the area, visitors can still find shops that have been owned by the same families for generations, selling original Vietnamese handcrafted products.
In short, the Hanoi Old Quarter is a vibrant and fascinating destination that showcases the best of Hanoi's history, culture, and modernity.
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex is an iconic destination in Vietnam that includes the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Presidential Palace, The House on Stilts, Ponds, and the Old Pillar Pagoda. Additionally, the Ho Chi Minh Museum provides a comprehensive look into the life of Uncle Ho and the liberation process that took place under his leadership.
This historic site is a must-visit for anyone interested in Vietnam's rich history. Visitors can learn about Uncle Ho's life and his contributions to the country's independence movement. However, visitors are reminded to dress respectfully and avoid wearing shorts, mini-skirts, sleeveless shirts, or tank tops.
Visiting Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex is on the list of top things to do in Hanoi
As a place of solemnity, visitors are expected to maintain a quiet and respectful demeanor. It is important not to make any unnecessary noise or disruption.
Before entering the Mausoleum, guards will collect cameras, mobile phones, and daypacks. While this may be an inconvenience, it is necessary to maintain the solemn atmosphere and protect the sanctity of the site.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex is a historic and significant site in Vietnam that offers a glimpse into the country's past. Visitors are reminded to dress respectfully, maintain a quiet demeanor, and follow the guidelines to ensure a meaningful and respectful visit.
Hoan Kiem Lake is an iconic symbol of Hanoi and is located in the heart of the city. It is a popular destination for both locals and travelers seeking respite from the bustling noise of the city. The tranquil and serene surroundings of the lake are further accentuated by the presence of Ngoc Son Temple, located on a small island at the center of the lake.
The beauty of Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son temple
The temple, built in the 18th century on Jade Island, is accessible via the charming scarlet-painted wooden bridge known as The Huc Bridge or Rising Sun Bridge. This bridge is an icon of classical Vietnamese design and provides visitors with a breathtaking view of the lake and the temple.
In summary, Hoan Kiem Lake is a significant landmark and an essential destination to visit for anyone visiting Hanoi. Its peaceful and serene surroundings, coupled with the history and legend of Ngoc Son Temple, make it a place of beauty and cultural significance that should not be missed.
Dong Xuan Market, located in the heart of Hanoi's Old Quarter, is a must-visit destination for those who wish to explore cultural values and experience local daily life. As one of the oldest and largest markets in Hanoi, Dong Xuan Market is not only a symbol of the city but also a source of pride for all Hanoians.
Originally built in 1889 as a French administrative building and later renovated several times, Dong Xuan Market has become a covered market that sells a wide variety of goods, including souvenirs, clothes, household items, and foodstuffs.
Dong Xuan market - a great place to explore the local life
At the end of the 19th century, Hanoi's Old Quarter had two primary marketplaces, one at Hang Duong Street and the other at Hang Ma Street. These two markets were eventually closed and replaced by the original Dong Xuan Market, which has become an integral part of Hanoi's cultural heritage.
Today, visitors to Dong Xuan Market can experience the hustle and bustle of traditional Vietnamese market life while browsing through the various stalls and shops. The market offers an extensive selection of goods, and bargaining is part of the shopping experience.
In summary, Dong Xuan Market is a cultural and historical landmark that reflects the essence of Hanoi. Its rich history, vibrant atmosphere, and diverse offerings make it a must-visit destination for travelers looking to experience local life and culture.
The Temple of Literature is a renowned historical and cultural landmark in Hanoi, Vietnam. It was established in 1070 under Ly Thanh Tong’s dynasty to pay tribute to Confucius, and was initially known as Văn Miếu (“Văn” means Literature, “Miếu” means Temple). Quoc Tu Giam was erected six years later behind the Temple of Literature, and became Vietnam’s Imperial Academy, a prestigious institution for top scholars during the reign of King Ly Nhan Tong.
Initially, the Imperial Academy was restricted to members of the elite such as princes, nobles, and bureaucrats. However, in 1253, under Tran Thai Tong’s dynasty, the Imperial Academy was expanded as the National Academy, accepting the children of civilians who displayed exceptional academic abilities.
Temple of Literature exploration is in the list of top things to do in Hanoi
During the reign of King Tran Minh Tong, Chu Van An, who was the principal of Quoc Tu Giam, taught the princes directly. After his death in 1370, King Tran Nghe Tong worshiped him at the Literature Temple which was situated next to Confucius.
In the late Le dynasty, Confucianism became increasingly popular. In 1484, King Le Thanh Tong set up stelae for those who had passed the doctoral exam from 1442 onwards. Each stele was placed on a turtle's back, symbolizing longevity and wisdom.
Visiting the Temple of Literature is one of the amazing things to do in Hanoi.
Hoa Lo Prison, also known as “Hanoi Hilton” and “Maison Centrale”, is a historical site located in the French Quarter of Hanoi. Its name roughly translates to “fiery furnace” or “stove”, and it was originally built by French colonists in 1896 to incarcerate and torture Vietnamese revolutionaries.
Hoa Lo prison - a Hanoi hilton
Operating as “Maison Centrale”, Hoa Lo quickly became one of the largest and most notorious prison complexes in Indochina. After the French withdrawal, it was used to house US prisoners of war (POWs) during the Vietnam War, who sarcastically dubbed it the “Hanoi Hilton”.
Although much of the prison was demolished in the 1990s, a portion of it remains as a museum and it became one of top Hanoi attractions.
St Joseph's Cathedral, also known as Hanoi Cathedral or "The Big Church" by locals, is a historic landmark that dates back to the French colonial era. It was one of the first structures built by the French during their expansion in Indochina and has survived two fierce wars, remaining one of the few intact colonial buildings in Hanoi.
St Joseph's Cathedral in the city center of Hanoi
Despite being damaged during the conflicts, the cathedral has been restored to its former glory and still stands as a magnificent example of French Gothic architecture. Today, it is a popular tourist destination that attracts visitors with its stunning interior and the old-world charm it adds to the bustling capital.
Ta Hien Beer Street is a lively destination located in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, near Hoan Kiem Lake and Dong Xuan Market. The Old Quarter, characterized by its narrow streets, traditional architecture, and street vendors, is a must-visit for those who want to experience local culture.
Enjoying beer and street foods in Ta Hien street is must things to do in Hanoi
Ta Hien Street, in particular, is a relatively small street packed with outdoor bars and restaurants, creating a bustling and unique atmosphere in the busy streets of Hanoi. One of the highlights of Ta Hien Street is its lively and vibrant atmosphere, perfect for an enjoyable evening out.
The vibrant Ta Hien Str at night
Visitors can sit on small plastic stools while enjoying their beer or food, surrounded by locals and other tourists. The street is also known for its street performers and vendors, adding to the overall ambiance and making Ta Hien Beer Street an exciting place to explore.
The city of Hanoi boasts many unique attractions, but what truly sets it apart is its incredible street food. While upscale restaurants offer delicious dishes, some of the best food can be found on the streets.
To fully experience the local cuisine, it's essential to know where to find the best street food in Hanoi.
Tasting the street foods is on the things to do in Hanoi
Street food in Hanoi can be as simple as a small food stall on the sidewalk, found in both quiet neighborhoods and bustling highways. Equipped with cooking essentials such as a gas stove, BBQ, and pots and pans, these vendors offer plates, soup bowls, cutlery, and low stools for their guests to sit and savor the local flavors.
Hanoi Old Quarter is the place where tourists could find the best local street foods. There are many small food stalls at every corner of the street. And discover the best food in Hanoi.
Tasting the local street foods is on the list of amazing things to do in Hanoi while you are on your Vietnam holiday.
Vietnam is home to 54 distinct ethnic groups, making it a truly multi-ethnic country. To honor and safeguard the cultural heritage of these groups, the Vietnamese Government established the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi. The museum, located approximately 8 kilometers from the city center on a 9,500 square meter site, was built between 1987 and 1997.
Experience Vietnam Museum of Ethnology on your Vietnam Holiday
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology has a vital mission to collect, document, research, preserve, and display the cultural and historical treasures of the nation's diverse ethnic groups. Looking towards the future, the museum plans to expand its scope to showcase the cultures and civilizations of other countries in Southeast Asia and the region at large.
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology welcomes 500.000 visitors annually. Exploring this museum is one of the top things to do in Hanoi.
The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, located near Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of Hanoi, offers a one-of-a-kind experience: a water puppet show. Originating in the northern Vietnamese villages, this form of entertainment involves puppetry performed in water. As its popularity grew, the show made its way to Hanoi.
Watching Water Puppet show is an unmissable thing to do in Hanoi
The modern theater in Hanoi features a unique pool stage where the puppets perform. The puppeteers, concealed behind a bamboo screen, manipulate the puppets with long rods. This creates the illusion of the puppets moving on their own in the water, adding to the magic and charm of the performance.
Watching the Water Puppet show is an unmissable activity once traveling to Hanoi.
Tran Quoc Pagoda, originally named Khai Quoc, is situated on an islet in the eastern part of West Lake, within Yen Phu Ward of Tay Ho District in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The 1500-year-old pagoda is a masterpiece that showcases the perfect harmony between ancient architecture and the enchanting West Lake landscape. Its garden, which is home to many ancient towers dating back to the 18th century, is the main highlight of the pagoda. Among the towers, the most impressive is the lotus-shaped stupa constructed in 1998. Standing tall at 15 meters, the stupa has 11 floors, each with a vaulted window that houses a gemstone statue of Amitabha.
The beauty of Tran Quoc pagoda in the sunset
Tran Quoc Pagoda holds great historical and cultural significance as the oldest pagoda in Hanoi, recognized as a National Historical and Cultural Heritage site since its inclusion in the first round of listings in 1962. Recently, the travel website Wanderlust honored the pagoda by naming it one of the ten most beautiful ancient temples and pagodas worldwide.
Long Bien Bridge was designed by the legendary architect Gustav Eiffel, renowned for his work on the Eiffel Tower, and built between 1899 and 1902. Unlike other railway bridges, Long Bien Bridge also has a pedestrian pathway, providing visitors with the opportunity to take peaceful strolls while acknowledging the perseverance and bravery of the Hanoians during the Vietnam War. The bridge serves as a symbol of the Hanoians' resilience in the face of hardship, and their unwavering commitment to freedom and independence.
Walking in the Long Bien bridge is on the things to do in Hanoi
Walking across the Long Bien bridge is a unique experience that should not be missed. The sights and smells of the bridge offer a welcome respite from the bustle of Hanoi city. With a total length of 1.6 km, the spans of the bridge are impressive and provide breathtaking views of the Red River.
The Thang Long Imperial Citadel, constructed on drained land reclaimed from the Red River Delta in Hanoi, was built in the 11th century by the Ly Viet Dynasty, marking the independence of Dai Viet. It stands on the site of a Chinese fortress dating back to the 7th century. The Imperial Citadel served as the center of political power for almost 13 uninterrupted centuries, making it a significant historical and cultural landmark.
Visiting the Imperial citadel of Thang Long is in the list of things to do in Hanoi
The Imperial Citadel buildings and the remains found within the 18 Hoang Dieu Archaeological Site reflect a unique South-East Asian culture, specific to the lower Red River Valley, where influences from the north and the ancient Kingdom of Champa in the south intersected. The site offers insight into the rich cultural heritage of the region, as well as the historical significance of the site itself.
A discovery of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long should not be missed when you have time in Hanoi city.
The Army Museum, located at 28A Dien Bien Phu str, Ba Dinh District, adjacent to the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long and the Hanoi Flag Tower. It is also known as the Vietnam Military History Museum.
Established on July 17, 1956, and is one of 7 Vietnam national museums. Covering an area of over ten thousand square meters. The museum boasts a vast collection of exhibits, including photographs, maps, and scale models depicting the Vietnam War.
Vietnam Military History Museum
A visit to this museum, which typically takes about two hours, offers an excellent source of information on the history of Vietnam's powerful military, as well as insight into the local philosophy of freedom and the country's quest for independence.
Explore Hanoi in the recommended Vietnam tour packages