As you weave through the French colonial buildings, taking in the heady aroma of noodles cooking on every street corner and motorbikes spitting out exhaust, Hanoi will steal your heart.
This Southeastern Asian capital city is famous for its dynamically rich culture, foodie delights, and fascinating historical sights. Sure to be one of the most memorable stops on any Vietnam tour, you could spend weeks exploring the wonders of Hanoi.
If you only have a few days to take in the highlights of Hanoi, you will want to come prepared! Here are the essential experiences of the Vietnamese capital.
- Visiting the Ho Chi Minh City Mausoleum
Often called simply Uncle Ho, former president Ho Chi Minh is widely considered to be the father of Vietnam. His mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square is one of the most visited places in the city. Popular amongst locals and tourists alike, the Ho Chi Minh City Mausoleum is one of the top things to do in Hanoi.
- Going on a Food Tour
French-influenced with a distinctly Asian flair, Vietnamese food is famous around the world. To truly experience the local culture, you’ve got to sample those core dishes that are at the heart of daily life in Vietnam. A food tour will take you to the stalls where locals buy noodle soups. You’ll find the most savory Vietnamese sandwiches, experience mouth-watering pancakes, and try Vietnamese fresh spring rolls while they are still sizzling hot.
Already in love with Vietnamese food? Book a cooking class! There is no better souvenir than an authentic recipe straight from the source.
- Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Having served as the political center for thirteen centuries, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is an essential stop on every trip to Vietnam. A vast range of artifacts dating from the sixth to the twentieth century has been found at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tip- When you are planning a trip to Hanoi, be aware that many museums and galleries are closed on Mondays. While you will generally find restaurants and shops open, places like the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long and Ho Chi Minh City Mausoleum are closed. Be sure to check ahead of time for all of the things to do in Hanoi that you’ve got scheduled for a Monday.
- Motorbike Tour
One of the most interesting experiences in Hanoi is hopping on the back of a motorbike! They are the beating heart of the city. Having a local guide you through the bustling streets is certainly the best way to see the city. Take in the most important sights of Hanoi while you get a glimpse of local life as you zip through that famous Vietnamese traffic.
- Water Puppet Theatre
This fascinating Vietnamese performance art is a puppet show on the water that depicts life around the country. Watching scenes of Vietnamese farmers and historical legends, locals and international travelers on a tour of Vietnam sit together for an unforgettable show. While you will find water puppet shows all over the country, Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi is one of the best options.
- Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son
Hoan Kiem Lake, or Turtle Lake as it’s known in English, is one of the most iconic sites of Hanoi. With Ngoc Son Temple in the backdrop, it is one of everyone’s favorite places to take photos on a Vietnam tour.
Hoan Kiem Lake is a local hangout all day long but it really comes alive at sunset as couples take romantic strolls, older folks come out for Tai Chi and tourists snapshots of the sun setting over the lake.
- Hanoi Old Quarter
The Old Quarter is called Ba Dinh District, or the French Quarter in English, and it’s where you will find many of the key attractions. If you only have time for one of part of the capital city during your Vietnam tour, be sure to visit Hanoi Old Quarter. Explore the French colonial architecture, taste the local street food, and experience one of the famous bia hoi bars for a type of light Vietnamese beer.
- Hanoi Opera House
Inspired by the Paris Opera House, the Hanoi Opera House is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, a visit here is well worth planning in advance. You’ll find tickets to everything from Vietnamese Opera to Asian ballet performances.