Hanoi is a rich historical and cultural city. There are many things to do in Hanoi. Here are the 10 best things to do in Hanoi. Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam – a fascinating destination with a rich history, diverse culture, and fantastic cuisine.
For first-time visitors, here are 5 must-do things:
1. Visit Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem lake is the heart of Hanoi city, if you stay in a hotel in Hanoi Old Quarter, you can easily walk to Hoan Kiem lake. Historical landmarks and beautiful big trees surround the lake. While you are sitting on a chair next to the lake you can see local people practising their Tai Chi or doing their morning exercise. You can also watch people rushing on the streets. Enjoy and take in the local culture!
Hoan Kiem lake used to be a place where the oldest turtle in Vietnam lived. Unfortunately, our sacred turtle passed away in 2016 due to polluted water in the lake. While you are here visit Ngoc Son Temple to discover the lake’s history by listening to a local story tale.
2. Visit the Hanoi Opera House and Explore the French Quarter
Hanoi Opera House is a stunning architecture built during the Frech colonial in the early 20th century. It is often chosen as a place to organise the finest cultural performances. Check out the show while you are in Hanoi. Sometimes, there are special shows that connect/promote cultures to Vietnamese people e.g., Japanese music performances. These shows are often free but have fantastic performances. While you enjoy the show, you can check out the amazing architecture inside the building.
The French Quarter starts from the Opera House to the streets around – Trang Tien street, Ly Thai To street, This area of Hanoi features elegant boulevards, historic buildings, and high-end shops.
You can easily walk from Hoan Kiem Lake through Trang Tien street to the Hanoi Opera House.
3. Explore The Old Quarter
The Hanoi Old Quarter is a network of small and narrow streets filled with shop-fronts, restaurants, and cafes. Houses in this area are very narrow and tall, people turn the ground floor into a shop or rent it out to small business owners e..g., restaurant owners, clothing shop owners etc.
The dimension of the houses is often 3 metres wide x10 metres long or 5 x 10 metres. When you enter a shop in this area, you can easily see how narrow and small they are. Enjoy the culture intake.
Tips: From Hoan Kiem lake, you can walk through Hanoi Old Quarter, stop and have a cup of coffee or a beer on a hot day.
4. Explore The Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature is the oldest university in Vietnam. It is a peaceful place in the middle of the city. This is a great place to learn about Vietnamese history. The buildings in the Temple of Literature are traditional Vietnamese architecture.
The Temple of Literature is a symbol of knowledge in our culture. Anyone who wants to pursue knowledge in Vietnam, when they visit Hanoi they often go to this place to pray for success in their scholarly career.
High school students especially year-12 students often go to the Temple of Literature to pray for good luck before the important exams to get into universities.
5. Visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh – our Uncle ‘Ho’ – Vietnam’s legendary leader. You can choose to go inside the mausoleum to pay respects to Uncle Ho and his preserved body. Or choose the complex with beautiful gardens, one pillar pagoda, Ho Chi Minh’s house and the fish pond where he used to live when he was the president of Vietnam.
For many Vietnamese citizens, this is a sacred place to visit and pay our respects to our hero. Many kids in the country want to visit Hanoi because they just want to meet him one time in their life.
If you have more time, here are more things to do while you are in Hanoi:
6. Shopping in Hanoi
Start with the fun thing first. Shopping, I mean even men want to shop so why not shop while you are here in Hanoi?
Here are 6 things that are special that you can buy in Hanoi. Women can shop for silk clothes, scarves, accessories etc. or Lacquer painting, Bat Trang pottery or Dong Ho painting.
Men can have their tailor-made suits made while visiting Hanoi. Hanoi has some of the most high-quality suits made. E.g., Cao Minh – 63 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, or a tailor-made suit at Phan Nghia in Ha Trong street.
Check out the full article shopping in Hanoi for more things to buy in Hanoi.
7. Visit the Museum of Ethnology
The Museum of Ethnology is a great place to learn about Vietnam’s diverse ethnic groups and their cultures. There are 54 ethnic minorities in Vietnam. The museum has a large collection of artifacts and exhibits, as well as an outdoor village showcasing traditional houses from around Vietnam.
If you visit the museum by yourself prepare yourself with a good pair of walking shoes. it will take around 4 hours to visit the whole museum.
8. Explore the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
I posted an interesting article about Thanh Long Imperial Citadel. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Imperial Citadel has beautiful and unique architecture. It was the political centre of Vietnam for more than a thousand years. Thanh Long Imperial Citadel is located near Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, so if you are wandering around, take a short walk to the citadel and check out this historic site.
9. Taste local street food
Hanoi is home to Vietnamese cuisine, the best foods around the country are in Hanoi. The city is also famous for its street food. There are many stalls and great restaurants where you can taste delicious Vietnamese dishes like Bún Chả, Phở, Bánh Mì. Try these authentic dishes in Hanoi and see the difference in taste if they are sold in your home country.
You can join a group tour for this activity. It is a good idea to follow a local guide because they know where are the best places to eat.
10. Watch a Water Puppet Show
Water Puppet Show is a traditional form of Vietnamese entertainment that started in the 11th century. The show demonstrates people’s daily life in those days – agricultural life.
The Water Puppet Theatre is just next to Hoan Kiem Lake. You’d better get the tickets one day before. Sometimes it is quite busy then you cannot get the tickets on the same day. You can buy the water puppet show on the Klook website. They are the same price as the theatre so it will definitely save you time and ease your hassle.
Here are some tour options while you are in Hanoi:
All of the content in this blog is based on my own experience. However, I have included some links that you might find useful – and I do make a little money if you use them.