20 things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam

My time in Hanoi has come to an end! After calling Hanoi home for the last 10 months, it’s about time for me to head home to the States. Although I no longer live in Vietnam, it will always hold a special place in my heart. I want all of you to be able to experience everything the Vietnamese capital has to offer. So, I’ve put together this list of 20 things to do in Hanoi in order to ensure you can have a diverse trip and see the best of the best Hanoi has to offer!

Stroll the perimeter of Hoan Kiem Lake

20 things to do in Hanoi-Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake is smack dab in the middle of Hanoi. It’s a really beautiful area of the city! The park surrounding the lake blooms with freshly planted flowers year around. Although Hoan Kiem Lake is gorgeous throughout the day, my favorite time to go is early in the morning before it’s too hot (I’m talking 4am-6am) or after dark. Locals come out in the masses to workout during the cooler hours of the day. Sometimes you need a place to escape from Hanoi’s chaos and Hoan Kiem is a great place for that.

See Sunday Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral

20 things to do in Hanoi-Cathedral

Although Vietnam has a majority Buddhist population, there is a small minority of Catholics in the country. On Sunday evenings St. Joseph’s Cathedral is brimming with Christian worshipers. The cathedral is also open throughout the day on Sunday for you to see inside.

Visit Hanoi’s oldest pagoda

Hanoi’s oldest pagoda, Chua Tran Quoc, lies on Thanh Nien Street, which is the road that runs between two of Hanoi’s lakes: Truc Bach and Tay Ho. It’s a beautiful setting to see this pagoda. Be sure to take a stroll along the lake while you’re there and maybe even rent a swan paddle boat on Truc Bach lake.

Enjoy a Vietnamese Coffee

20 things to do in Hanoi-Vietnamese-coffe

Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Hanoi has turned me into a coffee addict. What with it costing roughly 20,000 VND {$0.90}, it’s easy to consume one everyday. Especially when it is mixed with sweetened condensed milk. I’ll miss my daily cà phê sữa.

Explore via motorbike

20 things to do in Hanoi-motobike

Motorbikes are the mode of transportation that a majority of the locals use. So why not do like the locals do? It’s the best, most genuine way to see Hanoi. While intimidating from the outside, driving in Hanoi is not as hard as it looks as long as you realize that traffic laws are a suggestion. Be sure to look both ways on a one-way street and to be wary of large intersections.

Try a Pho Cocktail

For foreigners, pho is viewed as a quintessential Vietnamese dish. Although, you’ve never truly experienced the pleasure of pho until you’ve actually eaten it in Vietnam. It’s a 100 times better! However, it is also served very hot. And as you may know, Vietnam can be extremely hot and humid. I unfortunately haven’t eaten pho in months because I would be drenched in sweat while attempting to eat it. So, if you arrive in Hanoi during the peak of the heat season and still want to enjoy pho, try a refreshing pho cocktail instead at Mojito Lounge. Sounds weird, right? Somehow the steaming beef noodle soup translates to a cool, refreshing summer cocktail.

Temple of Literature

20 things to do in Hanoi-Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature is one of my Hanoi’s most iconic places to visit, so much so that it is on the 100,000 dong bill. It is Vietnam’s oldest national university and also honors Confucius scholars. Plus, it’s a gorgeous green space in the city. I really don’t think that a visit to Hanoi is complete without visiting the Temple of Literature.

Enjoy Hanoi’s best view at the Sofitel Legend Summit Lounge

20 things to do in Hanoi-West Lake

Hanoi is a large city with many lakes, with West Lake being the biggest. Head to The Summit Lounge at the Sofitel Plaza Hotel for sunset cocktails with a side of Hanoi lake and city views.

Buy a bouquet at the Flower Market

20 things to do in Hanoi-Flower market

Hanoi’s flower market operates during the late hours of the night. Vendors and stores stock up on flowers to sell the following business day. Head here to experience the beauty and buzz of the flower market activity.

Drink the cheapest beer in the world

Bia hoi, known as “fresh beer,” is the cheapest beer in the world. It sells for anywhere between 5,000-8,000 VND/glass {$0.22 – $0.36). Although the alcohol content is lower than a normal beer, the experience is top-notch. You can drink bia hoi at Beer Corner {corner of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen in the Old Quarter} or in any bia hoi around the city. Keep an eye out for a large yellow sign with the words “Bia Hoi Ha Noi” in red lettering. These dives sell cheap Vietnamese food and bia hoi.

Learn a little history at Hoa Lo Prison

20 things to do in Hanoi-Ho Lo Prison

Hoa Lo Prison was built by the French and was once the largest prison in Indochina. Originally housing Vietnamese fighting for independence from the French, it then housed American P.O.W.s during the Vietnam War. Come here to learn a bit about Vietnam’s history and the various wars they have endured.

Learn to cook Vietnamese cuisine

20 things to do in Hanoi-Vietnamese cruisine

Vietnamese food is often about finding a balance between different flavors. Vinegar, salt, sugar, fish sauce, lime, etc. all work together to create fresh and flavorful food. In order to learn about this balance, be sure to take a cooking class in Hanoi. I’ve enjoyed a class at Hanoi Cooking Centre but I’ve heard that Orchid Restaurant & Cooking Class is great as well.

Women’s Museum

The Women’s Museum is a great museum to learn about women’s participation in Vietnamese history and about their roles in everyday life. Learn about the women who have served on the front lines in various wars, today’s women street vendors and see beautiful, hand-made traditional clothing.

Walk around the Old Quarter

20 things to do in Hanoi-Old Quarter

The Old Quarter is the heart of Hanoi. During any visit to Hanoi, you will spend a decent amount of time in the Old Quarter. Hostels, hotels, restaurants and street food abound here. There’s a flourish of activity and it’s a great place to begin exploring the city. Learn how to spend a day in the Hanoi Old Quarter here.

Shop for fresh groceries at a wet market

Wet markets are where most locals buy their groceries. Each day, the woman of the house frequents the wet market for fresh produce, seafood and different cuts of meat. The floor is wet due to frequent washing and overflow of seafood tanks. They are busy, smelly and everything is as fresh as it gets, most likely having been killed or caught that morning.

Savor street food

20 things to do in Hanoi-Street food

Vietnam is famous for its street food culture. Most places serve one or two items in order to perfect their dish. However, diving right into the street food scene can be intimidating. If you want a helping hand, take a street food tour with Hanoi Street Food Tours. The tour is fabulous and you can learn a lot about where the ingredients come from and about life in Vietnam. While on your own, try bun cha. It is Hanoi’s famous dish consisting of grilled pork paddies, broth, and noodles. Add fresh herbs on the side for added flavor.

View the city from Long Bien Bridge

20 things to do in Hanoi-Long Bien Bridge

Since Hanoi is such a busy city, it’s hard to imagine that just under Long Bien Bridge, there is a quite oasis covered in banana trees. After riding a motorbike through the quiet fields, climb up the stairs of Long Bien Bridge and look back for views of Hanoi and oncoming bridge traffic.

Have a spa day

There are soooo many cheap and relaxing spas in Hanoi. My favorites are SF Spa for massages and waxing, Mido Spa for facials and Orchid Spa for manicures and pedicures. After a long day walking around the city, pamper yourself!

See a show at the Opera House

20 things to do in Hanoi-Opera House

The Hanoi Opera House was built in 1911 by the French. Check the performance schedule to see if there’s something playing while you are in town. Get dressed up for an evening performance. I saw The Nutcracker a few days before Christmas and enjoyed cocktails at Tadioto after the play.

See life on the train tracks

20 things to do in Hanoi-see life on the train

While Hanoi is a large city, it’s also a very populated city. With 7 million residents, and plenty of visitors, every nook and cranny of this city is used! The train runs directly through Hanoi and past people’s homes. If you walk up and down the edge of the train tracks, you’ll be able to see local life. Residents live directly on the tracks and also own businesses here, including restaurants and barber shops.

Source: sunkissedsuitcase.com



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