Any trip to Vietnam always should start from Hanoi or if not possible, then end with it. There are so many things to do in Hanoi that without visiting this 1000 years old city, a trip to Vietnam is incomplete. Hanoi is also the capital of Vietnam and situated in the northernmost part of the country.
When I was planning my trip to Vietnam with my friend I had little expectations from Hanoi and one question popped into my mind "What to do in Hanoi?" but my perception entirely changed when I once visited this city. Once you enter the city, you would see centuries-old architectures and buildings having Chinese and French influences.
I would recommend at least 3 days in Hanoi to absorb the positive vibes of the city. Everyone here is so welcoming and smiling all times that I fell in love with this city.
So, let's begin with our guide: What to do in Hanoi
1. Go on a Free Tour around the City.
Why not start with a free tour around the city with locals. It is never to miss opportunity to roam around the city with a free tour guide. The tour guides are local students, promoting the culture of Hanoi and this would also bring students closer to foreign travelers. It is definitely one of the best things to do in Hanoi.
Walking tours are a wonderful way to visit a new place, especially Hanoi city. Remember that the tour is free but if you avail any services during the tour like transportation, meals, entrance tickets then you would have to pay for that. My opinion says go directly for the Old Quarter walking tour.
All attractions in this tour are free of charge and you would explore the Hanoi's Old Quarters beauty with complete insight into Hanoians' culture and lifestyle.
The great thing about this tour is you can customize it with the help of your tour guide and you can add extra shows by paying some money. There will also be a free pick-up and drop-off. Other free tours of Hanoi worth mentioning here are:
And if you are a Klook fan like me, then you can enjoy Old Quarter Tour through Klook app/website with great pricing.
2. Walk around Old Quarter
Not into guided tours? no issues just book your accommodation in Old Quarter area of Hanoi and all places will be accessible on foot. Old Quarter is one of the best area to stay in Hanoi. All Hanoi attractions are nearby to this area and that's why it offers best things to see in Hanoi.
3. Hoan Kiem Lake
Remember, while exploring old quarters you have no choice but to confront the traffic as a local would do. There is so much to explore with something new to offer for everyone. I really liked walking down the narrow lanes of the old quarter area and seeing hundreds of people eating and watching games on the roadside.
In the night, take a walk along the Hoan Kiem lake as it is one of the unmissable things to do in Hanoi. Try to visit either on Saturday or Sunday as this place would be decorated with lights and there will be hundreds of stalls with vendors selling a variety of things. There were performers also, who were dancing and singing for everyone. It was a completely different experience.
4. Hanoi's Night Market
If you have never been to any night market before then go visit this one. Though this would not be like Thailand's never-ending night market but still a must-visit if you are in Hanoi's old quarter area. There will be stalls everywhere with vendors selling lots of things. If you want to buy anything for cheap here do visit this place. You will find so many souvenirs to buy and if you know how to bargain, you can get it for a very cheap price.
5. Bia Hoe Corner or Beer Street (Cheapest Beer)
You wanna have a drink? Come here to this lively street of Old Quarter. If you wanna get up close to the culture of local people of Hanoi, come here, sit on a stool and have a nice cold beer. If you aren't into drinking, still it is a must-go street where you can have something to eat also.
Beer street starts just after completing the Night Market lane. All roads will be a little quiet in the night time, locals would be packing their things and closing their shops, but once you enter here, the complete atmosphere would be different. There will be 1000s of people on street eating, drinking and dancing. I was there thrice during my time in Hanoi and everyone was having a great time here. Also, once at the time of Vietnam vs Thailand soccer match, the streets were completely blocked with people. Everyone was yelling, shouting and clapping for Vietnam.
Search for either "Ta Hien Street" or " Bia HoI corner". This place is known for serving the world's cheapest beer - Bia Hoi (fresh beer). It is a light Vietnamese, low alcohol content (less than 3 %) draft beer. It costs 25 cents or 16 Rs only. A visit to this place isn't about enjoying a few beers but its also a window into the culture of the city.
6. Banh Mi (Sandwich)
You can’t be searching things to do in Hanoi without having thoughts of what kind of food you’re going to eat. Well, it’s easy – you can try anything here! But first and foremost when walking around lanes of Hanoi, you can try Vietnamese famous sandwich called "Banh Mi".
Though I found it similar to subway brand sandwiches, but the spices and ingredients used to make this sandwich makes my mouth water. I just cannot forget the taste of the bread which was so moist and fluffy. If you are in Vietnam, having Banh Mi, is a good idea any time of the day and night. I don't remember particularly the names of the restaurant in Hanoi, where I had eaten this but every time I had it anywhere in Vietnam it came out to be always fresh and delicious. So, Banh Mi should definitely be in your 'top things to do in Hanoi" bucket list.
7. Rail track Cafes (Train Street)
This I always wanted to try in Thailand ( Meklong Railway Market) but couldn't do it as the place was very far away from Bangkok. Here, I came to know about the same place with cafes along the rail tracks. At Hanoi's famous Train street, speeding blue train passes through a narrow lane where local residents and tourists are having a cup of tea or snacks on rail tracks. One minute they are sitting at stool on tracks eating something, and the next they've scooped up their belongings and moved to the very edge to let the train pass by them.
Come here in the evening and have a cup of famous Vietnamese coconut coffee with a bowl of noodles. I also tried the famous egg coffee here but didn't like it. Train passes 3 times between 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM in the evening. It is located between Le Duan and Kham Thin Street, Hanoi's Old Quarter.
Hanoi's famous Train street is a special experience but safety comes first. Try to listen to locals and do not try to do anything stupid here. Do not risk your life for taking a selfie or touching the train while it passes by you.
8. Water Puppet Show
Portraying ancient and cultural Vietnam's stories through puppets on the water is not to be missed in Hanoi. The show is performed in a large contemporary theatre within a pool of water with puppets attached to a long bamboo stick and performers hiding behind a curtain.
There are several theatre showcasing this art but go visit popular Thang Long Puppet theatre to truly enjoy the show. There is no need to buy tickets online as you can get the same price tickets an hour before the show at the counter window.
Price Range: VND 100,000 or 4.3 USD
9. Temple of Literature
If you are into temples and architectural structures, visiting the temple of literature is one of the unmissable things to do in Hanoi. This is an interesting place to explore even if you are not into monuments and architectural complexes.
It was built in 1070 and was dedicated to Confucius, scholars and sages. Later, it became a university for Mandarin students. It is an excellent example of traditional Vietnamese architecture. This place has seen thousands and thousands of Vietnam's finest scholars.
Today, when students receive a degree they come here to celebrate it by having photographs here. Successful graduates had their names engraved on a stone stele which can be found on top of the stone turtles. You can sign up on klook through my referral link to book various tours for Vietnam. I mostly use this app to book 80% of my activities whenever I travel. So what you are waiting for? Book you tickets and explore Vietnam.
10. Hoa Lo Prison Museum ( The Hanoi Hilton)
The prison was built in Hanoi by French in Hanoi's French Quarter area. This Prison Museum displays and educates the sufferings of the Vietnamese revolutionaries who were confined during the French ruling period over Vietnam. By seeing the sorrows and horrors felt by the revolutionaries, it will really make you question about humanity that how can anyone let this horrible act to happen.
That’s my amazing list of the best things to do in Hanoi! Leave a comment down below and let us know about your experience or anything you would like us to add here!