Hanoi is one of the most beautifully hectic cities I have ever been. Motorbikes on every corner, street food to die for and enough unique culture to keep you entertained for quite some time.
17 Things To Do In Hanoi
1. Old Quarter
Perhaps one of the most famous parts of Hanoi. Old Quarter is a great place to explore both on foot and motorbike. Some of the following things to do are also located in Old Quarter, but this is my suggestion to wander the streets and just get lost. Vietnam is full of fascinatingly beautiful discoveries round every corner and down every alley! I highly recommend a visit to this area photographed below. Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square is almost comically busy , crazy crazy traffic and it’s so fun to watch. You can watch from a number of the surrounding cafes and bars, this photo was taken from Highlands Coffee but if coffees not your choice of drink you can watch the bikes from Legend Beer instead.
2. Saint Joseph’s Cathedral
Saint Joseph’s Cathedral or the Big Church is located on 40 Nha Chung Street in Hoan Kiem District. It is a beautiful street leading down to this impressive cathedral. It is also a popular spot for couples to take their engagement and wedding photos.
3. Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple
Escape the noise of motorbike horns by having a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake. A beautiful red bridge and a pagoda sitting on a tiny island. You can access the island by the Huc Bridge or the Rising Sun Bridge.
4. Tay Ho
Tay Ho District located in West Lake. This large body of water has a 17km circumference and there is lots of nightlife, restaurants and cafes to enjoy. Just a 15 minute drive from Hanoi’s Old Quarter. If you are craving western food this is the perfect spot. Enjoy a juicy burger at ‘Chops Tay Ho’, curry at ‘Rasm Indian Cuisine’ or barbecue at ‘The Fat Pig’. Then after your meal enjoy a walk or a ride around the lake at sunset.
5. Hanoi Opera House
Despite searching long and hard for photos of the Opera House on my hard drive, it seems over the past 3 years I have misplaced the imagine I intended to post. So instead here are a few pictures from the time we watched the U23 Championship Final between Vietnam and Uzbekistan on the big screen, which they sadly lost.
Built in 1911 by the then occupying French it is strongly influenced by French architecture, with domes, pillars and shutters. It is the biggest theatre in Vietnam! Take a look outside, or at the architecture inside, or enjoy an evening show.
6. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Located in Ba Dinh Square, this is one of the most popular attractions in Hanoi. It is the final resting place of Vietnams most popular leader Ho Chi Minh or ‘Uncle Ho’. To enter you should dress modestly and hand your bags and cameras over. Interestingly if you’re visiting in October he may not be there, as the remains are sent annually to Russia for maintenance. Admissions to the mausoleum is free, but donations are excepted.
7. Ba Vi National Park
Not technically Hanoi, but near enough to add it to this list. The national park is a great escape from the city with views of rolling hills filled with lingering misty clouds. It is located just under 50km west of Hanoi and is best accessed if you rent a bike! Entry price per person is VND 60,000 (US$2.60).
8. Try Banh Mi
I see plenty of blog posts telling people to try Banh Mi from local shops, but I will advise you to only eat Banh Mi from the traditional street carts, not only are they more fairly priced, but they are way more delicious. As a common rule to go by in Vietnam, if your food comes from a restaurant with real chairs it probably only tastes moderately good , if it comes from a place with plastic chairs, its pretty good, if there are no chairs in sight and just an old lady next to a cart then it will surely be delicious! But I haven’t even told you what Banh Mi is. It is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich. A crust bread roll filled with suspicious but delicious ingredients such as pate, mayonnaise, vegetables, seasoning, ham, beef even chicken and a dollop of yummy but undisclosed sauce.
9. Ho Tay Flower Valley
Located in the West Lake area of Tay Ho has over recent years become a popular tourist spot. Known in Vietnamese as Thung Lung Hoa Ho Tay this place is best viewed during the week as its much less busy. And the best time of year to visit is from September to March as the flowers are blooming. The entrance fee to the flower valley is VND80,000 (US$3.50).
10. Enjoy Nem Lui Hue
This is one of my favourite Vietnamese foods. There are a few different parts to this Vietnamese dish. Firstly you are provided with these thing circular rice papers, they act as the wrap to hold the filling together. Then there is the barbecued pork, shaped like sausages that come on wooden sticks. Finally an assortment of vegetables, cucumber, onion, lettuce and grated carrots. You fill up your rice wrap with pork and vegetables and then wrap up tight, then pull the stick from the pork and you have Nem Lui Hue ready to dip into the most delicious sauce. The price of this delicious dish depends on how many pork sticks you order, but roughly speaking it’s around VND25,000 (US$1). A Vietnamese bargain too delicious to miss.
11. Abandoned Lideco Ghost Town
Khu do thi Lideco (or the Lideco Urban Area) is an unfinished residential development thats laid dormant since 2012. There are around 600 French influenced houses that are completely unoccupied, and all of which surround a lake. You can creep around the houses, go up to their roofs and third floors…the perfect place for a set of black and white photos! This ghost town is found in Hoai Duc District 17km west of the centre of Hanoi, you can get there by taking highway 32.
12. Cầu Long Biên Bridge
I love this bridge, it’s my favourite bridge in Vietnam. Is it weird to have a favourite bridge? The Long Bien bridge crosses over the Red River out of the north east of Hanoi. Filled with bikes crossing into Hanoi this is a great bridge to take photos of and watch the morning traffic. You can also pop onto Banana Island right next to the bridge, and find spectacular views of, you guessed it, banana trees and the rusty bridge.
13. Hanoi Train Street
Two times a day a train passes through these narrow tracks just inches from the residential buildings on either side. The train street is located between Le Duan and Kham Tien Street in the Old Quarter, the train passes along Ngo 224 Le Duan.
14. Holi Festival
Holi is a vibrantly colourful Indian festival that celebrates the eternal and divine love of Radha Krishna. Not the experience you’d expect to have in Vietnam, but when the opportunity arose we couldn’t help but enjoy the powdered paint throwing.
15. Trill Rooftop Cafe
Located on Floor 26, Hei Tower, No.1 Nguy Nhu Kon Tum Street in Hanoi, this cafe offers a stylish and sophisticated vibe, with a rooftop pool and most importantly great rooftop views of Hanoi.
16. Nhật Tân Bridge
Another bridge on the list. This one is beautifully coloured, with each triangle structure continually changing colour. Nhật Tân Bridge is also known as the Vietnam – Japan Friendship Bridge connecting Hanoi to Noi Bai International Airport. Make sure you visit at night for the colours and take a timelapse video for perfect flashing colours.