10 exciting things to do in Hanoi

One of the first things you will notice when you visit Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is the traffic with the noicy horns from the endless fleet of locals on scooters rushing by, while tourists explore the wealth of exciting experiences.

Numerous experiences await you with everything from tasty street food to traditional entertainment, and not least the fascinating history and culture in a city that has survived colonial occupation and war times with its spirit intact. Read our proposal for 10 exciting experiences in Hanoi.

Explore Hanoi's "Old Quarter"

“Old Quarter” – Hanoi’s buzzing heart for more than a thousand years. Located at the northern end of the Hoan Kiem Lake, Old Quarter is still a hub for everyday life. “The 36 streets”, which Old Quarter is also referred to, are originally named after the merchandise that was once traded there. Some streets still specialize in specific products, like Hang Gai, where silk and textiles are traded – hence also referred to as “Silk Street”. The Old Quarter is a fascinating place to ramble around, whether you shop for souvenirs or watch city life over a cold Bia Hoi (freshly brewed beer) in one of the many bars on the sidewalk.

Vietnamese coffee and Café culture

The Vietnamese capital can only really be understood when you are settled in a sidewalk café and wait for your coffee to be slowly filtered.

Hanoi may seem busy and stressful on the outside, but the city’s true rhythm is far from hasty and stressful. The many coffee places give tourists as well as Vietnamese a time-out from the busy city. When the chilled coffee is served, the busy streets are sending new reverberations, which suddenly seem serene and relaxing. You should therefore visit one of the many coffee shops in Hanoi and feel how the city pulse changes.

Dive into Hanoi's history (Thang Long citadel)

Hanoi’s history dates back more than one thousand years, and new excavations at the Thang Long Imperial Citadel have unveiled ancient monuments dating back to the 7th century. Over the years, many archaeological findings have been made on site. The place also has more modern resonance. You will also find “House D67” which was the headquarter of the Vietnamese people’s army during the war years 1955-1975.

Morning run around Westlake

Westlake (Tay Ho) is an excellent way to escape Hanoi’s busy streets for a short while. And what better way to start the day than a morning run along the Westlake shore, while life in the busy city is once again revived. You will encounter Vietnamese people practicing morning gymnastics, locals who try their luck with a fishing rod or other fresh morning runners who enjoy the silence of Westlake. Westlate is also a popular refuge to many foreigners in Hanoi and also to wealthy Vietnamese people due to its calm expression and deep contrast to the rest of Hanoi. 

The walk is 12 km, and we recommend that you leave early in the morning (6 pm) as Westlake is located about 5 km from the city center.

Tempel of Literature Hanoi

In 1070, the Temple of Literature was built with the intention to function as a university and it was dedicated to Confucius and his students. Fortunately, the building is remarkably well-preserved and is an excellent example of Vietnamese architecture. Today the temple serves as a tribute to education and literature. Many of the visitors are school children and students who visit together with their teachers to understand the importance of education. The most recognized prize for the most successful students was to get their names engraved on the so-called turtle-stems.

Thang Long water puppet theater

During your stay in Hanoi, the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is also one of the sights not to be missed. The puppeteer is placed in water to the waist and through long bamboo sticks he controls the puppets, so it looks like the puppets dance on the water surface. The performance often depicts a story of local legends, agricultural stories or Vietnamese myths. It is said that these performances started in Vietnam’s rural areas when the rice fields were flooded during the rainy season and the locals danced with dolls on the water for entertainment. The water puppet theater provides an authentic experience of traditional Vietnamese entertainment.

Banana Island

Banana Island is definitely worth a visit. Cross the Red River via Long Bien bridge and halfway you will be on an exotic island where banana trees and other fruits are grown. This place and its lushness is a huge contrast to Hanoi’s noisy character, and this has made the place a formidable refuge for people who want to escape the bustling Hanoi for a short while. It has become popular to practice yoga here or go for a run in the  banana plantation. Some even go here to swim on the riverbank.

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Hang Be Market

For hundreds of years, the Hang Be market has been an indispensable part of Vietnam’s capital. To the locals in Hanoi, the Hang Be market is a place of socialization – a cultural space for the people of the old neighborhoods. In addition, due to its central location, people often feel that the food here has a better taste. Perhaps this is a subjective opinion that is no longer correct, but nevertheless, it still lies deep in the mind of the Hanoi people. After centuries, Hang Be still manages to maintain the same discipline as in the old days. Every morning, small stalls are set up that disappear again at sunset, and everyone gathers his goods and returns home in order for the day to begin again the following morning. Each stall owner has his own small space that has been allocated to him by joint efforts. At this market there are never any disputes on the stalls spaces among the sellers.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is one of the most visited sights in Hanoi, and this is not a coincidence. The Mausoleum is the resting place of the revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, the most iconic and popular leader in Vietnam, among the people also called “Uncle Ho”. His body is preserved in a glass cage inside the pompous monument. For visitors, an excursion to Ho Chi Minh’s resting place can be an extraordinary experience as it is not only an average attraction but a part of unique history that has great affectivity among the people.

Dong Xuan market

Dong Xuan Market is located in a four-storey Soviet-style building, located at the northern end of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. It was established in 1889. It is also known as Hanoi’s largest indoor market, offering a wide range of goods; fresh ingredients, souvenirs, clothes, electronics and household appliances. Like many markets in Southeast Asia, Dong Xuan Market has a busy “fresh-produce area” on the ground floor, where locals shop for seafood, meat and vegetables. Explore the Dong Xuan Market and buy a few souvenirs at great prices while experiencing real Vietnamese market atmosphere.