The Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, is a city situated along the banks of the Red River. Its history spans over multiple centuries, and this is definitely reflected in the cities’ architecture.
Hanoi is regarded as Northern Vietnam’s cultural, educational and commercial capital. After all, it is home to around 20 million people.
Traffic is primarily made up of motorcycles. As in most Asian countries, drivers tend to ‘beep’ a lot and hence this creates quite a substantial amount of noise. Despite this, Hanoi is a great city to explore on foot. From the long promenades along the riverbank to huge shopping streets, Hanoi has loads to explore on foot.
With an additional European spice thrown in, Hanoi offers unforgettable experiences: from breathtaking temples and cathedrals to delicious cafes and restaurants, Hanoi has lots of things to offer for every kind of traveler.
1. Visit the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long // Daniel Mennerich // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
This is the first attraction that anyone visiting Hanoi should see.
This Citadel was built by the Ly dynasty in 1010, making it just over 1,000 years old. It incorporates traditional Vietnamese architecture and is an outstanding place of interest.
Address: 19C Hoàng Diệu, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
Opening Hours: Sunday-Saturday, 8 am to 5 pm.
2. See St Joseph’s Cathedral
St Joseph’s Cathedral // Edgardo W. Oliviera // CC BY 2.0
Constructed in 1886, this cathedral was built by the French colonial government and closely resembles the architectural style of the Notre Dame de Paris.
Mass is conducted several times a day at the cathedral. Those who are unable to enter gather in large numbers outside and listen to the hymns being broadcast.
Address: 40 Nhà Chung, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
Opening hours: Open every day from 8 am to 11 am and 2 pm to 5 pm. Sunday: 7 am – 10:30 am, 3 pm to 9 pm.
3. Eat at Chim Sao
This ‘hidden gem’ as tourists describe it is located in the Hai Ba Trung District of Hanoi. This family-run restaurant offers an authentic Vietnamese experience with options for meat-lovers and vegetarians alike.
Whilst more on the expensive side, this authentic restaurant is certainly not one to miss.
Address: 65 Ngo Hue (135 Pho Hue, turn right) Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi Vietnam
Telephone: +84 4 3976 0633
4. Experience the Bach Ma Temple
Bach Ma Temple // Garrett Ziegler // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Bach Ma is the oldest temple of Hanoi. At just over 1,000 years old, Bach Ma is enriched in history. It was one of the four gate temples to the Thang Long citadel.
Unfortunately, due to a massive reconstruction of the temple in the 18th century, the temple doesn’t seem like it is more than 10 centuries old. However, it is still worth a visit.
Bach Ma is still used for regular prayers to this day.
Address: 76 Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Opening hours: Sunday-Saturday, 9 am to 5:30 pm
5. Visit Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House
Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House // Jorge Lascar // CC BY 2.0
This used to be the humble abode of Ho Chi Minh, the country’s revolutionary politician.
It is set in a peaceful area of the Hanoi’s Old Quarter, this attraction is definitely worth the visit. It is rich in history and is visited by hundreds daily.
This sightseeing tour will take you around all of the sites in the Old Quarter.
Address: 1 Hoàng Hoa Thám, Ngọc Hồ, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Opening hours: Sunday-Saturday 7:30 am to 11 am, 1:30 pm to 4 pm.
6. Observe Hanoi from the skies at the Lotte Observation Deck
View of Hanoi from Lotte Observation Deck //Geekoftheweek // CC BY-NC 2.0
At an astonishing 267 metres (875 feet), this is not for the faint-hearted. The Lotte Observation Deck provides a 360-degree view of Hanoi, whilst still being an affordable option for the average traveller.
You’ll even be able to compare the relatively small size of the Old Quarter to the vast size of Hanoi.
There is even a cafe situated in the Observation Deck.
Address: 54 Liễu Giai, Ngọc Khánh, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Opening Hours: Sunday-Saturday, 9 am to 11 pm.
7. Buy some desserts from Pheva Chocolate
Pheva Chocolate is a chain of Vietnamese chocolatiers. They sell delicious chocolate, cakes and other desserts.
It is only a 10-minute walk from Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square.
Address: 8B Phan Bội Châu, Cửa Nam, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Opening Hours: Sunday-Saturday, 8 am – 7 pm.
8. Listen to music at the Binh Minh Jazz Club
Binh Minh Jazz Club // Spencer.l.james // CC BY-ND-NA 2.0
This venue is conveniently located behind the Opera House and is the perfect place to listen to live jazz.
It even hosts a well-stocked bar. High-quality, local gigs regularly feature at the Jazz club, such as father-and-son Minh and Dac.
Address: 1 Tràng Tiền, Phan Chu Trinh, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Opening Hours: Sunday-Saturday, 5 pm to 12 am.
9. Visit the Hai Ba Trung Temple
Hai Ba Trung Temple // wikimedia commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Located near Hoan Kiem Lake, Hai Ba Trung Temple is well worth the visit if you happen to be in the area.
Address: Đồng Nhân, Hai Bà Trưng District, Hanoi, Vietnam
10. Have a local coffee at Cafe Giang
Egg Coffe at Cafe Giang // Travel oriented // CC BY-SA 2.0
This busy coffee shop is located in a small alley and it provides authentic Vietnamese Egg Coffee at an affordable price.
This coffee shop is not one to pass by. Hot and cold drinks are always available.
Address: 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Opening hours: Sunday-Saturday, 7 am to 10 pm.
11. Hanoi Opera House
Hanoi Opera House// Edgardo W. Olivera // BV CC2.0
This beautifully constructed Opera House was constructed by the French in 1911. It is one of the three opera houses that the French built during their time in Hanoi.
The Opera House is modelled on the Palais Garnier and is one of the top architectural landmarks of Hanoi.
Concert tickets are available at the door or are available online.
Address: 01 Tràng Tiền, Phan Chu Trinh, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
12. Observe the Thang Long Ca Tru Theatre
Located in the Old Quarter, this theatre features Ca Tru, which is Vietnamese chamber music.
Ca True is an uplifting genre of music and is traditional to Vietnam. Performances are usually an hour long and take place three evenings every week.
This art form has also been recognised as endangered by UNESCO.
Address: 28 Hang Buom St, Old Quarter, Hanoi, Vietnam
13. Explore the Temple of Literature
Temple of Literature // Garrett Ziegler // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The Temple of Literature is dedicated to Confucius and hosts the Imperial Academy, Vietnam’s first National University.
It is extremely well preserved and offers very picturesque architecture.
Check out this private tour that will take you around the main sites of Hanoi
Address: 58 Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam
Opening Hours: Sunday-Saturday, 8 am to 4:30 pm.
14. Stroll along the Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake // riouj // CC BY-NC 2.0
Hoan Kiem Lake is known for its quiet, picturesque scenes. Thap Rua, a ramshackle, is located on a small island near the southern end of the lake. Additionally, various pagoda-like stone gateways can be found around the lake.
You can even join local residents at around 6 am for t’ai chi practice on the shore.
15. Visit the Loading T Cafe
Another cafe famous for its coffee, the Loading T Cafe takes you away from the hustle-and-bustle of Hanoi and immerses you into a peaceful coffee-drinking experience.
Address: 8 Chân Cầm, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Opening Hours: Sunday-Saturday, 8 am to 10 pm
16. Hoa Lo Prison Museum
Hoa Lo Prison Museum / /Matthias Rosenkranz // CC BY-SA 2.0
Also known as the Hanoi Hilton, Hoa Lo was a prison constructed by French colonists and used for political prisoners, and later by the Vietnamese for U.S prisoners of war.
Hoa Lo was known for appalling conditions, riddled with disease and poor food.
It was demolished in the 1990s, however, several prison gates remain and can be visited.
Although on the expensive side, this private jeep tour takes you through Hoa Lo Prison and one of the downed U.S B-52 planes.
Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Hanoi
The Ba Dinh suburb is conveniently located north of the city centre. With leafy streets and a laid-back atmosphere and loads of things to do, this is a great place to stay if it’s your first time in Hanoi.
The Tay Ho District is great if you’re in Hanoi for the nightlife. It’s located around the Tay Lake, which is great for short walks and a quiet atmosphere.
Truc Bach is a residential neighborhood that is located near the Truc Bach Lake. It is well connected and is great for families.
Hoan Kiem is considered as the historic centre of Hanoi. It is packed with life, from busy streets to vibrant temples. It is perfect for those who are on a tight budget and who don’t want to travel around a lot.
Best Hotels Around the Old Quarter (Hanoi)
Peridot Grand Hotel and Spa. This Hotel offers some of the most luxurious facilities in Hanoi: from fancy Spa facilities, to amazing restaurants, this hotel is certainly not one to miss (unless you’re on a tight budget, of course).
Sofitel Legend Metropole. Conveniently located right next to the Old Quarter, this Sofitel is not one to miss. Whilst on the more expensive side, this hotel offers great facilities and a great location.
Hanoi Ecogreen Hostel is great for those who are on a tight budget. What’s great about this hostel is that it is located right next to the Old Quarter, whilst also offering a low price per night.
Best Restaurants in Hanoi
The Hanoi Social Club is popular with tourists and locals alike. Quite often they have musicians who come and perform. The menu is primarily made up of Mediterranean food, so this restaurant is not great if you’re looking for something local.
Cha Ca Thang Long is a popular option for those who’d like to try something local at a very affordable price. The choices, however, are quite slim.
The Hung Snake Restaurant is a popular destination for snake lovers. This restaurant is located right in the middle of Le Mat, otherwise known as Snake Village. Snakes here are cooked in different ways: fried, steamed, boiled or sauteed.
Located around the Old Quarter, the Red Bean Restaurant offers amazing Vietnamese cuisine in a high-end setting.
Best Sushi in Hanoi
The Sushi Club is located around the West Lake. This Japanese restaurant offers delicious sushi at an affordable price. If you happen to be in the area and are looking for something Japanese, this is certainly a great choice.
Azuma Japanese Restaurant in Hanoi is great if you’re looking for a high-end experience. Their classy interior accommodates around 100 people. They also have a teppanyaki and sushi bar.
Fresh Sushi, as its name suggests, offers fresh sushi in the Hoan Kiem District. It can be a bit of a squeeze inside, however, the prices are great and the options broad.
Khang Japanese Restaurant fuses the flavours of Vietnamese and Japanese dishes. Described by tourists and locals as “the best sushi you can find in Hanoi”, this restaurant offers a great selection of dishes at a reasonable price. It is also conveniently located by Vincom Tower, and be prepared to take your shoes off when you enter!
Best Burgers in Hanoi
If you’re looking for a little bit of fusion, then Bun Cha Burger is for you! This restaurant offers a fusion of Eastern and Western cuisine, and has been highly accredited by locals.
Chops is great place to go if you’re craving something American-y. This burger chain has lots of freshly made options for you to enjoy.
Located in Tay Ho, Home38 is described as a “cute little cafe”. With burgers made from juicy, Australian beef, Home38’s burgers are on the cheap side, whilst still living up to expectations. Definitely not the one to miss if you’re in the area.
Shebeen is a lively sports bar, again located in Tay Ho, is the place to go if you’re craving a good ol’ burger.
Best Pizza in Hanoi
Pizza 4P is a popular pizza chain that originally started out in Tokyo. Since mozzarella cheese wasn’t really a thing when the restaurant first opened in Hanoi, the owners started to make their own. To this day, they still make their cheese in house, which tastes delicious.
NYC Pizza is perfect for those who are missing greasy, New York-style pizza. Pizzas here are available whole or by-the-slice at an affordable price. This is a great place to visit if you’re on a budget.