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40 Essential things to see and do in Hanoi

Hanoi is one of my favorite cities. Its ordered chaos is something that hooks you from the first moment. From its temples, the streets of the Old Quater, its food, its people... Therefore, whenever I can I return to visit it and enjoy it.


If you are thinking of traveling to Vietnam, I recommend that you then go through my complete travel guide to Vietnam, where you will find about 200 articles related to the country, the best things to do, what to see, where to stay, how to get around...



40 ESSENTIALS TO SEE AND DO IN HANOI (Vietnam)


1. Start getting to know the city of Hanoi with a guided tour


The best way to get to know a new city is by taking a guided tour. In Hanoi you have the opportunity to take a guided tour in Spanish and English, something that is appreciated if you do not have a high level of English. There are several options, from a free tour, a private guided tour or a group tour. I leave you all the links so you can see what they consist of and book:



2. Hoan Kiem Lake


It is a fairly large lake where you can walk around. It is a very interesting place surrounded by colonial buildings, street food stalls, bicycle sales of flowers and fruit, locals playing board games and, above all, the Ngoc Son Temple "The Temple of the Jade Mountain". One of the essential places to see in Hanoi.




3. Visit Ngoc Son Temple


The Ngoc Son Temple or Jade Mountain Temple is one of the most representative of Hanoi. It is located on an island in the middle of Hoam Kiem Lake, a very photographed place thanks to its red bridge and its entrance "The door of the Moon".


Ho Hoàn Kiém means “lake of the restored sword”. Its name is no coincidence, since it is related to an ancient myth of the city. Legend has it that the emperor threw a magic sword into the lake which ended up turning into a golden turtle. That is why the turtle is so important in Vietnamese symbology. The turtle also represents a place of sages, since this temple was dedicated to the Taoists and Confucians.




4. Walk along Hanoi's Train Street


If there is something that we have seen a lot on social networks, it is the famous street of the railway in Hanoi. Although you can see this road in many places in the city, since it crosses the same, the best area is the entire route that is in the Old Quater.


In it you will find houses attached to the road, with small bar chairs so you can eat, have a drink... there are even shops, street vendors.


The train pass 2 times a day. When it reaches this section it goes very slowly, however, you always have to be careful.


It is recommended that you go along Hong Luoc Street to the railway track and go down the Railway Street to the intersection to Cua Dong to re-enter the old town. If you feel like continuing, you can continue and reach Trang Thi to take Hang Bong Hang Gai avenue to reach the Lake again.



5. Dong Xuan Market


This market is located north of the old town and is a beautiful building built by the French in 1889. It opens at 7am until 9pm. I recommend you go up to the second floor and look down, you will be able to appreciate the hustle and bustle of the market in its full splendor. The best time is in the mornings, when the market is full of locals.

Here you can find anything you are looking for; food, crafts, textiles...


6. Discover the hidden Bach Ma temple


In Hanoi (and in any part of the country) it is not difficult to find small and large temples that go unnoticed by travelers. As soon as you enter, you will find a row of peace and tranquility, something unthinkable considering the chaos of the city.


One of the temples in the old town is the Bach Ma Temple, it is the oldest in the city. It is a beautiful little Buddhist temple.


If you have the opportunity, I recommend you make yourself known when it's already dark, before closing time. Normally every day there is a ceremony, where the locals gather to worship the Buddha. Incense, candles, songs and music.




7. And you must also discover the temple of Pho Han Bac Street


Another of the hidden temples in Hanoi's Old Quater is on Pho Hang Bac Street. It is inside a house. When you get to number 102 there is a small red sign. Enter the dark corridor (without fear) and you will hallucinate with this place. It is a temple completely unknown to tourists (a local with whom we struck up a conversation told us about it and luckily we paid attention to it).


8. Hanoi Old Quarter and its 36 streets


Formerly it was known as the artisans' neighborhood since, along its 36 streets, each guild was established exclusively in one of these streets. The great thing is that today, this tradition continues to be established, so you will have the street of the blacksmiths, the street of the shoemakers, the street of pharmacies, the street of clothes, the street of bamboo, food... It's something very curious to see. I assure you that you will want to walk through all its streets, to marvel at each store and corner.


Many of the places that I indicate in this list are in the Old Quater. At the end of I add a map so you can locate yourself better.


9. Ngoi Nha, a traditional Vietnamese house in the Old Quater


If you want to get an idea of ​​what to eat, it was the traditional houses, in the old Quater, on Pho Ma May Street. It is an old merchant's house in very good condition. With wooden details and a nice interior patio.


10. Hanoi St. Joseph's Cathedral


The Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hanoi was built in 1886, making it the oldest church in the city and is in neo-Gothic style. The church has 5 bells, 4 small ones and a big main bell. The dimensions of the Cathedral are: length 64.5 meters, height 31.5 meters and width 20.5 meters.

The very special thing about this cathedral was its location (Nha Chung), since the surroundings are full of charming corners, restaurants and cafes and many colonial buildings.



11. Street Markets


The streets of Hanoi would not be the same without its well-known street markets, an orderly chaos that leaves no one indifferent. At night in the Old Quater there are two streets where you will find the night market. They appear marked on all tourist maps.

It is the perfect time to stroll between stops, see the traditional dishes, eat a meat or seafood skewer for less than 1 euro, eat the famous iced sugar balls...


In addition, we not only find night markets. In Hanoi you will find street vendors everywhere, who either walk or ride a bicycle/motorcycle carrying a huge basket with their products. They sell flowers, fruit, sweets...


12. Tran Quoc Pagoda


Tran Quoc Pagoda is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi. It was built in the 6th century, during the reign of Emperor Lý Nam Đế (544-548). When it was built, it was located on the Red River. Due to the encroachment of the river, the pagoda was moved to its current location at Truc Bach Lake (or Lake Tay).

The main pagoda measures 15 meters and has a total of 11 floors. To be honest, I thought it would be bigger. Around the pagoda there are other buildings of cultural interest. I liked the visit because it seemed like a very quiet area and also just after I saw a beautiful sunset over Lake Tây.

They open every day from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and admission is free.




13. Circle Truc Bach Lake by bike


If you feel like disconnecting and doing something different, this lake is a great green space perfect for enjoying the place by walking or cycling around it.


What I like most about Hanoi is that it is a very green city. Not only do you find green spaces in its lakes and parks, but also in its streets, balconies, rooftops... there are always huge trees and plants shading the city.


14. Quan Thanh Temple


This temple is located next to Truc Bach Lake (or Lake Tay) and is gorgeous. The name of the temple is engraved on the roof gate, "Chan Vu Quan", over used since 1840. Previously it was named "Tran Vu Quan".


It seems incredible that as soon as you find this place you find peace and tranquility, having a chaos of motorcycles and cars, at your door.




15. Lotte Center Overlook


If you want to see Hanoi from above, I highly recommend visiting the observation deck located at the Lotte Center. Here you have 360º views and they are impressive.

It is open from 9 in the morning until 12 at night, although the ticket office closes at 11 at night. Admission costs 230,000 dong (€8.75). Although if you go to the first hour of the day and the last, you will have a 50% discount.


16. Thang Long Imperial City


Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2010, the Imperial City of Thang Long has a lot of historical and cultural importance. It was the political center of the country for 13 centuries. Today, the archaeological remains of what was once the capital of Vietnam can be found. The Doan Mon Gate stands out.

Hours: open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Price: VND 30,000.


17. Visit the Temple of Literature, the most essential place to see in Hanoi


The Temple of Literature is one of the most emblematic places in the city and a mandatory stop. You can't come to Hanoi and not visit this place.


It was built in 1070 by King Lý Nhân Tông, fourth emperor of the Lý dynasty, to honor Confucius. It took 6 years to build and as soon as it was finished, the Imperial Academy was housed in this building, thus forming the first university in Vietnam.


During the French period, this building was declared a historical monument, but due to the beginning of the Indochina War in 1945 and later the Vietnam War, the French were forced to demolish parts of the temple to house all the wounded. . Although a large part of the temple was destroyed, at the end of the Indochina War the French began a period of restoration, but this only focused on the most affected part. These currently destroyed parts are not visible, although one of the courtyards was lost in one of the bombardments by the French in 1947.




18. One Pillar Pagoda


This small Temple of the eleventh century whose origin is in the Ly dynasty, in honor of the Buddha for the birth of his son. Its structure is inspired by the lotus flower. It is unique and you will not find anything similar in any other country, hence it is essential to know this temple price.

Inside the One Pillar Pagoda there is an altar that is made to honor Buddha, where according to legend it says that he gives couples abundant children if an offering is made.




19. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum


Ho Chi Minh is considered a father of the country, a leader admired for his intelligence and humility for the North Vietnamese.


Ho Chi Minh was a teacher worried about the decline of his people after centuries of Chinese, Burmese and French domination. He traveled the world during his youth, taking careful note of how people lived in other countries, and when he returned to Vietnam he founded the germ of what would later become the communist party. A proscribed party, which began with just 16 members hidden between the northern border with China, but which ended up being the force that expelled the French after the humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu and that expelled the Americans after the capture of Saigon, a city which today also bears the name of the revered leader.


To visit the interior of the Mausoleum you must take it seriously and take into account all the prohibitions. Visitors can take photos outside, but to enter the mausoleum they must leave cameras, mobile phones, bags or backpacks outside. You can't enter anything. You can't talk, you can't laugh, you can't keep your hands in your pockets... Standing is prohibited. Going back is prohibited. There is always a queue, sometimes very long so it is better to go early and dress with some formality. For the Vietnamese, this is a place that borders on the sacred, a pilgrimage that must be made. Take it seriously, for them it is no joke.


The mausoleum is at the same point where Ho Chi Minh proclaimed Vietnam's independence on September 2, 1945, and presides over a large esplanade where festivals are held on Fatherland Day or Victory Day.




20. French Palace of the Governor of the Indochina colony


The visit to the Mausoleum is completed with a tour of three nearby buildings that have been part of the country's history. The most imposing and striking is the French palace that was occupied by the governor of colonial Indochina. Ho decided to place officials from his new state there and live in what used to be the service house (you can also visit it). But since that house was sometimes flooded, he had a small wooden house built on poles right in front of it, in the style of the ethnic group that took care of him during his years in hiding.



21. Visit the Hoa Lo Prison, an essential thing to see in Hanoi


Today only a small piece of it remains due to the construction of the Towers of Hanoi, but this prison was used by French settlers in French Indochina for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war. Americans during the Vietnam War. The same American pilots ironically called it Hanoi Hilton.

This museum keeps images and elements of torture used over the years.


The prison was built by the French in 1896 during the French colonial era to house 450 inmates, a number that grew to 2,000 prisoners years later.

The Vietnamese revolutionaries were crammed into rooms where they were side by side, lying on wooden bunks and bound in shackles at the feet. Part of the museum deals with this French era, where samples of it can be seen in photographs and in representations with dolls that are in some rooms.




22. Water Puppet Show


One of the most traditional shows to see in Vietnam is the famous water puppet show.

You will learn about the legends of Hanoi while witnessing an art with more than a thousand years of history.


It is worth seeing the show, they are quite cheap and I recommend that you book it online in advance so as not to run out of seats.



23. Hanoi Opera


The Hanoi Opera House is an opera house located in the center of Hanoi, Vietnam. This beautiful building was built by the French colonial administration between 1901 and 1911. It is neoclassical and eclectic in style, and will undoubtedly take you to any street in Paris.


24. Ho Chi Minh Museum


If you have time in the city and you want to know a little more about the history of the country and about Ho Chi Minh, you can do it in the Ho Chi Minh museum. It is located right next to the One Pillar Pagoda. It is a visit that will take you between 1 hour and 1 hour and a half. If it's hot in Hanoi, you can also take advantage of the view to cool off a bit.



25. Try the coffee with egg, typical Vietnamese


Egg coffee? Yes! Besides, it's very good.


Throughout the country, coffee is a common drink that is consumed in industrial quantities throughout the day and night. There are cafes everywhere and one of their specialties is coffee with eggs.


Egg coffee (cà phê trúng) originated back in the 1940s when a waiter, in the midst of a milk shortage, had the idea of ​​adding an egg to the coffee, something that was a success.


26. Visit the Hanoi Military History Museum


If you are one of those who have seen films from the Vietnam War, you will love walking through this museum. Apart from taking a tour of the history of the Vietnam War, in the museum we can see planes, cargo, weapons...


And there are not only elements from the Vietnam War, but also from the French colonial era.


27. The Flag Tower


Right at the Hanoi Military Museum you will find the Flag Tower. The tower is one of the symbols of the city and part of the Citadel of Hanoi, a World Heritage Site. Its height is 33.4 m and it was built in 1812. During the French colonization the tower was not destroyed (like other buildings in the city) and was used as a military post.


28. The Church of the Martyrs


The Church of the Martyrs or the Church of Cua Bac is a Catholic church that was built in 1932 during the French colonization. It is a striking yellow building that does not go unnoticed. Currently, it is one of the 3 most important Catholic buildings in Hanoi.




29. Quán Sứ Pagoda


This Pagoda, the Quán Sứ Pagoda, is a Buddhist temple that goes very unnoticed by travelers. It is located a few minutes walk from Hoa Lo Prison, just next block away. However, being a bit removed from the most popular places or itineraries, practically no traveler knows about it. I recommend that you add it to your map, and when you see the Prison go through here. It will only take you 10 minutes, and it is a beautiful little temple that you will love. Its cover in canary yellow attracts quite a lot of attention, and as soon as you enter it will happen to you as with the other temples, here the chaos and noise of the city ends.


30. Vietnamese Women's Museum


This museum collects the history and importance of women in Vietnam over the years, as well as their customs and work. You can see personal objects, everyday items, traditional Vietnamese clothing... It's quite interesting and if you have extra time in the city then add it to your tour.


32. Breakfast the Pho Bo


Try one of the most typical dishes of Vietnam: pho bo, a soup made with a super tasty broth, beef, aromatic herbs and rice noodles. It is a very traditional dish that you can find both in street restaurants, street food stalls, restaurants... Many hotels also include it in their breakfasts, since it is a dish that is usually eaten early in the morning. Start the day with energy.



33. Visit the Hanoi Museum of Fine Arts


Hanoi has a very important museum with artistic and historical pieces from all over the country. There are about 3,000 objects on display showing the evolution of Vietnamese art from prehistory to the present day. The same building that houses the museum shows part of the country's history. It is in the French colonial style with some elements of the communal houses of Vietnam. Admission costs 40,000 VND (€1.50).


34. Walk the almost 4 kilometers of the longest ceramic mosaic in the world


Hanoi holds a Guinness World Record for having the longest mosaic in the world. It is made on the retaining wall of the Red River dam and measures 3850 meters, almost nothing! The idea arose to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Hanoi in 2010. That is why scenes from the city's history created by various local and international artists are represented. The ceramic pieces were placed manually for 3 years.


35. Cross the Long Biên Bridge and walk along the riverbank


An interesting and different visit to do in Hanoi is this bridge built in 1903. It was the first to cross the Red River and was of great help to the French colonial government to control northern Vietnam. Precisely because of its strategic position, it was bombed several times by the Americans during the war.

Even so, some parts of its original structure are preserved along with others that have been restored. Only train, pedestrian, bicycle and motorcycle traffic is allowed to avoid further damage to the structure. You can take the opportunity to rent a bicycle, cross it and take a route along the shores of the lake.




36. Go on an excursion to the Perfume Pagoda


A very popular excursion to do in Hanoi is to visit the Perfume Pagoda. It requires you to dedicate a day to it, so if you are interested, plan them well in your itinerary. It is not a simple pagoda, but a large religious complex about 60 kilometers from the capital. There are several temples located in cliffs and caves. Among all of them, the Perfume Pagoda attracts the attention of locals and tourists. It has several caves with stalactites and stalagmites, each with a purpose: to ask for prosperity, a bountiful harvest, or to give birth.


The first time I traveled to Hanoi I had planned to visit it, then once there, the city was so fascinating and I had so many places left to visit, that I didn't go and you don't know what I regretted. Later, when I was finally able to go back and visit it, I loved it. You can't miss it! It is a fairly cheap full-day excursion, it costs around 26-27 euros. I recommend you book it in advance online.



WHAT TO DO IN NORTH VIETNAM


"Near Hanoi" there are true wonders that you must include in your trip to Vietnam. Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Bay, Ninh Binh, Sapa... Each of these places deserves you to spend several days and if you don't know how to organize yourself, don't worry, I'll help you! You will find complete itineraries and all kinds of tips in my travel guide to Vietnam.


If you don't have time to add days to each of these places, I'll leave you info on each of them so you can decide which one to visit, you can see the excursions, the transfers...




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PLAN YOUR TRIP STEP BY STEP



I hope you enjoy Hanoi very much, it is a beautiful city with a lot of interesting places to visit. You can read all the Vietnam articles on the blog.


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A hug and see you soon!

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