Things to do in Hanoi – A Comprehensive Guide to Hanoi

Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, is a bustling metropolis that offers a perfect blend of ancient traditions and modern developments. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and delicious cuisine, Hanoi has become a popular destination for travelers from all over the world. From exploring historical landmarks to indulging in mouth-watering street food, there is no shortage of things to do in this charming city.

In this blog post, we will take you on a journey through Hanoi and uncover the must-visit landmarks, hidden gems, culinary delights, and unique experiences that make this city a top tourist destination. Whether you are a history buff, a food lover, an adventure seeker, or simply looking for a cultural immersion, Hanoi has something for everyone. So pack your bags and get ready to explore the wonders of Hanoi!

Ride a Cyclo Through Old Quarter of Hanoi
Ride a Cyclo Through Old Quarter of Hanoi

Must-Visit Landmarks in Hanoi

Hanoi is a city steeped in history and culture, with a plethora of landmarks that showcase its past and present. From ancient temples to colonial buildings, here are some of the must-visit landmarks in Hanoi:

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is one of the most iconic landmarks in Hanoi, dedicated to the father of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh. The mausoleum is located in Ba Dinh Square, where Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence in 1945, marking the birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The mausoleum is open to the public every morning, except Mondays and Fridays, and visitors can pay their respects to Ho Chi Minh by viewing his embalmed body.

Temple of Literature

Built in 1070, the Temple of Literature is Vietnam’s first university and a symbol of the country’s dedication to education. The temple is dedicated to Confucius and honors Vietnam’s most accomplished scholars. The complex consists of five courtyards, with the main attraction being the Temple of Literature itself, which houses a statue of Confucius and a collection of stelae inscribed with the names of successful scholars.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as the Lake of the Returned Sword, is a picturesque lake located in the heart of Hanoi. According to legend, Emperor Le Loi was given a magical sword by a turtle in the lake, which he used to defeat the Chinese Ming Dynasty. Today, the lake is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, with its tranquil atmosphere and scenic views. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll around the lake or visit Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda located on an island in the lake.

Unveiling Hanoi’s Culinary Delights

No trip to Hanoi is complete without indulging in its mouth-watering cuisine. From street food to fine dining, Hanoi offers a diverse range of flavors that will tantalize your taste buds. Here are some must-try dishes and places to eat in Hanoi:


Pho is Vietnam’s national dish and a staple in Hanoi’s culinary scene. This delicious noodle soup is made with beef or chicken broth, rice noodles, and various herbs and spices. It is usually served with bean sprouts, lime, chili, and hoisin sauce, allowing you to customize the flavor according to your preference. For an authentic pho experience, head to Pho Gia Truyen, a small family-run restaurant that has been serving up delicious pho for over 70 years.

Banh Mi

Banh Mi is another popular Vietnamese dish that has gained worldwide recognition. It is a French-inspired baguette sandwich filled with a variety of ingredients, such as grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables, and herbs. The combination of flavors and textures makes Banh Mi a must-try dish in Hanoi. For the best Banh Mi in town, head to Banh Mi 25, a small street stall that has been serving up delicious sandwiches for over 20 years.

Bun Cha

Bun Cha is a traditional Hanoi dish that consists of grilled pork served with rice noodles, herbs, and a dipping sauce. This dish is a favorite among locals and tourists alike, and it is often enjoyed as a lunchtime meal. For an authentic Bun Cha experience, head to Bun Cha Huong Lien, also known as “Obama’s Bun Cha” after the former US President dined there during his visit to Hanoi.

Exploring Hanoi’s Hidden Gems

While Hanoi has its fair share of popular tourist attractions, there are also many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. These off-the-beaten-path adventures will take you away from the crowds and give you a unique perspective of the city. Here are some hidden gems to explore in Hanoi:

Train Street

Train Street is a narrow alleyway located in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, where a train passes through twice a day. The houses on either side of the tracks are so close that residents have to bring in their furniture and belongings when the train is due to pass. Visitors can witness this unique sight by standing on the tracks and watching the train pass by just inches away.

Long Bien Bridge

Long Bien Bridge is a historic bridge that spans the Red River and connects the two sides of Hanoi. Built in 1903 by the French, the bridge has survived wars and natural disasters and remains an important landmark in the city. Visitors can walk or cycle across the bridge and enjoy stunning views of the river and the city.

West Lake

West Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Hanoi and a popular spot for locals to relax and unwind. The lake is surrounded by parks, temples, and pagodas, making it a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Visitors can rent a bike or take a leisurely walk around the lake, stopping at one of the many cafes and restaurants along the way.

A Shopper’s Haven

Hanoi is a shopper’s paradise, with a wide range of markets and boutiques offering everything from traditional handicrafts to modern fashion. Here are some of the best places to shop in Hanoi:

Dong Xuan Market

Dong Xuan Market is the largest covered market in Hanoi and a must-visit for any shopaholic. The market is divided into different sections, with each section selling a specific type of product, such as clothing, electronics, and souvenirs. Visitors can find great bargains here, but be prepared to haggle with the vendors.

Hang Gai Street

Hang Gai Street, also known as Silk Street, is a popular shopping destination for those looking for high-quality silk products. The street is lined with shops selling silk garments, scarves, and accessories, all made from locally produced silk. Visitors can also watch the silk-making process at some of the shops and purchase unique souvenirs to take home.

Trang Tien Plaza

Trang Tien Plaza is a luxury shopping mall located in the heart of Hanoi. The mall houses international brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Gucci, making it a favorite among fashion enthusiasts. Visitors can also find a variety of restaurants and cafes in the mall, making it a perfect place to take a break from shopping.

Nightlife in Hanoi

Hanoi may be known for its rich history and culture, but it also has a vibrant nightlife scene that offers something for everyone. From rooftop bars to live music venues, here are some of the best places to experience Hanoi’s nightlife:

Bia Hoi Corner

Bia Hoi Corner is a popular spot among locals and tourists alike, where you can enjoy a cold glass of bia hoi (fresh beer) on the street while watching the hustle and bustle of the city. The corner is located at the intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen streets and comes alive in the evenings with people enjoying cheap beer and street food.

Old Quarter Night Market

The Old Quarter Night Market is a bustling market that takes place every weekend in the heart of the Old Quarter. The market stretches for over 3 kilometers and offers a variety of products, such as clothing, souvenirs, and street food. Visitors can also enjoy live music performances and cultural shows while browsing through the stalls.

Rooftop Bars

Hanoi has a growing number of rooftop bars that offer stunning views of the city skyline. These bars are a great place to relax and unwind after a day of sightseeing and offer a variety of drinks and snacks. Some popular rooftop bars in Hanoi include Summit Lounge, Skyline Hanoi, and Twilight Sky Bar.

Cultural Immersion in Hanoi

One of the best ways to truly experience a new destination is by immersing yourself in its culture. Hanoi offers plenty of opportunities to learn about its traditions, customs, and local way of life. Here are some ways to immerse yourself in Hanoi’s culture:

Water Puppetry

Water puppetry is a traditional art form that originated in the Red River Delta of Vietnam. The puppets are made of wood and controlled by puppeteers who stand waist-deep in water, creating the illusion that the puppets are moving on the water’s surface. Visitors can watch a water puppet show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and learn about this unique cultural tradition.

Cyclo Tours

Cyclos are three-wheeled bicycles with a seat at the front for passengers to sit in. These traditional modes of transportation are still used in Hanoi, and visitors can take a cyclo tour around the city to get a glimpse of local life. The drivers often double as tour guides and can take you to places off the beaten path, giving you a unique perspective of the city.

Homestay Experience

For a more immersive cultural experience, consider staying with a local family in Hanoi. Homestays offer a chance to live with a Vietnamese family, learn about their customs and traditions, and even participate in daily activities such as cooking and farming. This is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the local way of life and make meaningful connections with the locals.

Nature Escapes in Hanoi

While Hanoi is a bustling city, it also has plenty of green spaces and scenic outskirts that offer a peaceful escape from the chaos. Here are some nature escapes to explore in Hanoi:

Ba Vi National Park

Ba Vi National Park is located just outside of Hanoi and offers a serene retreat from the city. The park is home to lush forests, beautiful waterfalls, and diverse wildlife, making it a popular spot for hiking and camping. Visitors can also visit the ruins of an old French hill station and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Perfume Pagoda

The Perfume Pagoda is a complex of Buddhist temples located in the Huong Tich Mountains, about 60 kilometers from Hanoi. The pagoda is a popular pilgrimage site, and visitors can take a boat ride along the Yen Stream to reach the complex. The journey itself is a scenic experience, with limestone cliffs and lush greenery surrounding the river.

West Lake Lotus Pond

West Lake Lotus Pond is a hidden gem located in the outskirts of Hanoi. The pond is surrounded by lotus flowers, which bloom from June to August, creating a stunning sight. Visitors can rent a boat and paddle through the pond, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and beautiful scenery.

Day Trips from Hanoi

Hanoi’s location makes it a perfect base for day trips to nearby destinations. From ancient villages to natural wonders, here are some places to visit on a day trip from Hanoi:

Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is a province located about 100 kilometers from Hanoi and is known for its stunning landscapes and historical sites. Visitors can take a boat ride through the Trang An Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and explore the ancient capital of Hoa Lu, which was the seat of power during the Dinh and Le dynasties.

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Vietnam. Located about 170 kilometers from Hanoi, this natural wonder is famous for its emerald waters, towering limestone islands, and floating fishing villages. Visitors can take a cruise around the bay, go kayaking, or even spend a night on a traditional junk boat.

Bat Trang Ceramic Village

Bat Trang Ceramic Village is a traditional village located just outside of Hanoi, known for its high-quality ceramics. Visitors can learn about the process of making ceramics and even try their hand at creating their own piece. The village also has a market where visitors can purchase unique souvenirs to take home.

Hanoi for Solo Travelers

Hanoi is a great destination for solo travelers, with its friendly locals, affordable prices, and diverse range of activities. Here are some tips for exploring Hanoi as a solo traveler:

Join a Group Tour

Joining a group tour is a great way to meet other travelers and explore the city together. There are many group tours available in Hanoi, ranging from food tours to motorbike tours, allowing you to choose one that suits your interests.

Stay in a Hostel

Staying in a hostel is not only budget-friendly but also a great way to meet other travelers. Many hostels in Hanoi offer communal areas where guests can socialize and organize activities together. This is a great way to make new friends and have company while exploring the city.

Be Open to New Experiences

Solo travel allows you to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. Be open to new experiences, whether it’s trying a new dish or participating in a local festival. You never know what amazing memories you will create!

Hanoi’s Unique Experiences: From Water Puppetry to Cyclo Tours

Hanoi offers a variety of unique experiences that you won’t find anywhere else. Here are some must-try experiences in Hanoi:

Egg Coffee

Egg coffee is a popular drink in Hanoi, made by whisking egg yolks with condensed milk and pouring it over strong Vietnamese coffee. The result is a creamy, sweet, and delicious concoction that is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Try this unique drink at Giang Cafe, where it was invented in the 1940s.

Motorbike Tour

Exploring Hanoi on a motorbike is an exhilarating experience that allows you to see the city from a different perspective. You can rent a motorbike and explore on your own, or join a motorbike tour and let a local guide take you to the best spots in the city.

Cooking Class

Taking a cooking class in Hanoi is a great way to learn about Vietnamese cuisine and culture. Many restaurants and cooking schools offer classes where you can learn how to make traditional dishes such as pho, spring rolls, and banh xeo (Vietnamese pancakes).


Hanoi is a city that has something for everyone, from history buffs to food lovers to adventure seekers. With its rich culture, delicious cuisine, and unique experiences, Hanoi is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Vietnam. So pack your bags and get ready to explore this charming city, and don’t forget to try some pho and egg coffee along the way!