Known as a progressive city, Hanoi is a ‘’hub’’ for multiple diversified day tours and perhaps has innumerable activities than any cities of Indochina. From basic to world-class ranked hotels, high-end restaurants with diverse cuisines and the best multi-lingual tour guiding team, Hanoi becomes a top worthwhile destination in Southeast Asia. Despite the rapid growth of modernization, the ancient charm of a thousand-year town is still well-maintained and harmonized with latter-day buildings and sparkling arcades. Most of visitors will prefer staying in the complicated Old Quarter in order to walk along its exciting guilds-streets, to taste its incredibly delicious traditional foods and to stroll around long poetic roads or lakes.
Thanks to ideally convenient location, the city is enfolded by mountains and river flows, Hanoi is not only a town to savor but the best departure in Vietnam for further discoveries by international and internal connections. In conjunction with Indochinese countries, the city is also remarked for offering low-cost airfare to Laos and Myanmar, even during the high season. More LCCs are considering Hanoi Airport as an ideal inter-connection, which makes the tourism in the upcoming years soar undoubtedly.
Hanoi, the beautiful cultural capital of Vietnam, has many things to see and do. A few days in the city doesn’t do justice, but luckily, most attractions are located within walking distance of one another. You can easily map out an itinerary for yourself and enjoy a day of wandering around, taking in the contrasting beauty between the old and new. Make sure to visit as many of these attractions as possible to fully enhance your experience in Hanoi.
1. Hoa Lo Prison Museum
This thought-provoking site is all that remains of the former Hoa Lo Prison, ironically nicknamed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by US prisoners of war (POWs) during the American War. Most exhibits relate to the prison’s use...
2. Hoan Kiem Lake
Legend claims that, in the mid-15th century, heaven sent Emperor Ly Thai To a magical sword, which he used to drive the Chinese from Vietnam. After the war a giant golden turtle grabbed the sword and disappeared...
3. Temple of Literature
A rare example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture, the Temple of Literature honours Vietnam’s finest scholars. Founded in 1070 by Emperor Le Thanh Tong, the attractive complex is dedicated to...
4. Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Added to Unesco's World Heritage List in 2010, Hanoi's Imperial Citadel was the hub of Vietnamese military power for over 1000 years. Ongoing archaeological digs continue on-site, revealing remains of ancient...
5. National Museum of Vietnamese History
Built between 1925 and 1932, this architecturally impressive museum was formerly home to the École Française d’Extrême-Orient. Its architect, Ernest Hebrard, was among the first in Vietnam to incorporate a blend...
6. Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
This fabulous collection relating to Vietnam's ethnic minorities features well-presented tribal art, artefacts and everyday objects gathered from across the nation, and examples of traditional village houses....
7. Bach Ma Temple
In the heart of the Old Quarter, the small Bach Ma Temple (literally 'White Horse Temple') is said to be the oldest temple in the city, though much of the current structure dates from the 18th century and a...
8. Vietnamese Women’s Museum
This excellent and highly informative museum showcases the roles of women in Vietnamese society and culture. Labelled in English and French, exhibits cover everything from marriage customs to childbirth, but it’s...
9. Hai Ba Trung Temple
Two kilometres south of Hoan Kiem Lake, this temple was founded in 1142. A statue shows the two Trung sisters (from the 1st century CE) kneeling with their arms raised in the air. Some say the statue shows the...
10. Heritage House
One of the Old Quarter’s best-restored properties, this traditional merchants’ house is sparsely but beautifully decorated, with rooms filled with fine furniture set around two courtyards. Note the high steps...
11. St Joseph Cathedral
Hanoi's neo-Gothic St Joseph Cathedral was inaugurated in 1886, and has a soaring facade that faces a little plaza that's usually stuffed with selfie sticks and posses of preening photographers. The church's most...
12. Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House
This humble, traditional stilt house where Ho lived intermittently from 1958 to 1969 is set in a well-tended garden adjacent to a carp-filled pond and has been preserved just as Ho left it. The clear views...
13. Lotte Observation Deck
The city's best views can be found on the 65th-floor 360-degree Observation Deck of the landmark Lotte Center in the western corner of Hanoi's Ba Dinh district. From this uninterrupted vantage point, high above...
14. Fine Arts Museum of Vietnam
The excellent Fine Arts Museum is housed in two buildings that were once the French Ministry of Information. Treasures abound, including ancient Champa stone carvings and some astonishing effigies of Quan Am, the...
15. Hanoi Opera House
This glorious neoclassical centrepiece of Hanoi's French Quarter is unmissable with its Gothic pillars and domes. The French-colonial 900-seat venue was built in 1911, and on 16 August 1945 the Viet Minh–run...
16. West Lake
The city’s largest lake, West Lake is 15km in circumference and ringed by upmarket suburbs, including the predominantly expat Tay Ho district. On the south side, along Ð Thuy Khue, are seafood restaurants, and to...
17. Long Bien Bridge
A symbol of the tenacity and resilience of the Hanoian people, the Long Bien Bridge (built between 1899 and 1902) was bombed on several occasions during the American War, and each time quickly repaired by the...
18. Manzi Exhibition Space & Artist Residency
Just round the corner from its namesake cafe, gallery and shop, this art space and gallery hosts exhibitions and open studios for local and international artists, connecting with overseas art institutions and...
19. Tay Ho Pagoda
Jutting into West Lake (Ho Tay), beautiful Tay Ho Pagoda is perhaps the most popular place of worship in Hanoi. Throngs of people come here on the first and 15th day of each lunar month in the hope of receiving...
20. Thong Nhat Park
This park, formerly known as Lenin Park, is a lovely place to escape the bustle of the Old Quarter and see what the locals do in their downtime. Hint: they use the exercise equipment, chat and play badminton or...
Vietnamese cuisine varies by region. Each city, even each village has its own list of unique local specialties. Hanoi is no exception. Our quest through Vietnam started in the capital city of Hanoi, known for must eat Hanoi food. Many of the popular Vietnamese dishes originated here. The famous Vietnamese noodle soup Pho, is one of the most iconic northern Vietnamese food.
Situated near the Chinese border, northern Vietnamese cuisine reflects Chinese influences. With the cooler climate in the north and wide availability of freshwater fish and seafood like prawns, shrimp, crab, clams and more, food from the region has its own distinctive flavor.
Hanoi, we discovered, is also famous for its street food culture. Street food stalls are popular and make up for the vast majority of Hanoi food. Some of the best and surprising local food experiences in Hanoi are made on the sidewalks with locals and not in restaurants.
Here is the top 10 Vietnamese food you must eat in Hanoi including the best places to have them.
1. Bún Chả – Barbecued Pork with Rice Vermicelli
Bún chả, is one northern Vietnamese food that quickly became our favorite. It is one of the best Hanoi food specialty not to be missed.
The dish consists of grilled pork strips and balls or chả served over a bed of rice vermicelli noodles or bún. It typically comes with a plate of fresh Vietnamese herbs and a bowl of dipping sauce. Pickled vegetables, like cabbage, carrots, onion or green papaya served with additional meatballs on the side.
2. Nem Cua Be – Crab Spring Rolls
Nem Cua Be, or crab spring rolls are the perfect complement to bún chả. These are fried rolls filled with sea crab and vermicelli noodles. Fresh and lightly fried, these rolls melt in the mouth and are to be savored.
These crab spring rolls are sold by the roll, where one roll is cut into three smaller pieces. They are eaten as an appetizer while waiting for the bún chả meal or dipped into the savory bún chả soup.
3. Chả Cá – Grilled Fish with Dill and Tumeric
Chả Cá is one of the unique specialties of the Hanoi people and definitely a must eat in Hanoi. So important is this local specialty, that it even has a street named after it – Cha Ca street.
4. Bún Cả – Fish Noodle Soup
In northern Vietnam, fresh water fish is widely used in dishes. This Hanoi food Bún Cá, is no exception.
It is a light broth made from fish bones with golden fresh white fish lightly fried. At the bottom of the soup, is a bed of rice vermicelli noodles. On the top covering the broth, is a delicate combination of spring onions and bean sprouts mixed with dill herbs.
5. Bánh Cuốn – Steamed Rice Rolls
Bánh cuốn is another local specialty from Northern Vietnam that you don’t want to miss.
It is a delicate and light dish usually eaten for breakfast in Vietnam. However, you can find it all day long.
Bánh cuốn is made of a thin rice sheet rolled and filled with ground pork meat and minced mushrooms. It is served with fried shallots and cilantro herbs on top.
6. Lau – Hot Pot
In the cooler months, Lau is one of the most popular food you will find in Hanoi. Sitting on the sidewalks, in the evenings, you will see groups of locals huddled together over a large pot of simmering soup, cooking beef, chicken, fish, noodles, veggies and so on.
7. Pho – Vietnamese Noodle Soup
Pho is THE classic Hanoi food, and possibly one of the best food Hanoi offers. Our previous article, the best pho in Vietnam, goes into detail about the soup and where to eat it, including in Hanoi.
8. Bánh Mì – Vietnamese Sandwich
The bánh mì sandwich is truly the best Vietnamese sandwich to fall in love with. While its origins are French, the Vietnamese have made it distinctively their own. Generally speaking it is an airy Vietnamese baguette made with a combination of wheat and rice flours with a thin crispy crust.
9. Chè – Vietnamese Sweet Soup
Chè is the perfect end to your meal, especially if you had a light Hanoi food like Bánh Cuốn. Chè basically means dessert in Vietnamese.
In Hanoi, you will find chè vendors on the streets. Delight in warm chè in the cooler evenings and refresh with crushed ice added to the dessert in the hot months.
10. Cà Phê Trung- Vietnamese Egg Coffee
Although it is not a food, it is like food. Egg coffee or Cà Phê Trung is the most famous coffee in the north of Vietnam. It is a thick dark coffee topped with egg yolk whipped with condensed milk into an airy froth. Rich in taste, it can be likened to tiramisu dessert.
Hanoi’s nightlife scene offers a multitude of interesting things to see and places to go well after the sun sets. The city’s lively bars and glitzy nightclubs are conveniently set around Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter, where you can enjoy great tunes and all sorts of booze as well as mix and mingle with fun-loving locals and expats.
Top activities we would like to recommend you to do as below:
1. Wander around Hanoi Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake the lights come on and awaken the city in a whole new way. It seems like half of the people living in Hanoi hanging out here at night. That’s why it is so crowded and full of motorbikes on the roads of Old Quarter areas.
2. Bia Hoi Junction - at the junction of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen, Old Quarter (North of Hoan Kiem Lake): sit back on plastic stools and enjoy bia hoi (Vietnamese draft beer) along the bustling streets.
3. Experience an unique show/traditional show to discover more about Vietnamese culture: Water Puppet Show; My Village Show, Quintessence of Tolkin Show.
4. Shop around the Night market (Weekend’s evening from Friday to Sunday): Running through the Old Quarter, it gathers a lot of roadside stalls and also local food vendors. This is a place for buying souvenirs for friends and enjoying plenty of iconic dishes at cheap prices. Here , you can find inexpensive T-shirts, accessories, handicrafts, sunglasses, and shoes, etc. And remember to bargain for better prices.
5. Famous night clubs in Hanoi: Hero Club Hanoi (42M Yen Phu Street), Hanoi Rock City (27/52 To Ngoc Van Street), 1900 - Le Theatre (08 Ta Hien Street); Polite & Co (Bar Whiskey & Cigar - 5b Bao Khanh Street)
6. Drink Lemon Tea at a Corner of St. Joseph’s Cathedral: after dinner, the St. Joseph’s Cathedral is an ideal place for relaxing. Enjoying a cup of lemon tea, you may feel like a truly Hanoian. It is the most favorite and picked-up drink of the Vietnamese young people in the North of Vietnam.
7. Visit Quang Ba Night Flower Market: Wandering the streets in Hanoi, you may see ladies with bicycles laden with fresh-cut flowers. They all begin their work late at night and in the early morning in Quang Ba night flower market, one of the most atmospheric markets in Vietnam. If you want to experience as a local, this could be the best place to go.