Top things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam
Hanoi, or Hà Nội is the capital of Vietnam and is around the second largest cities in Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh city being the largest). But there is plenty of things to see and do in this gorgeous city.
We had a couple of days in between our cruise along Halong Bay and found it just enough time. Between the many market stalls, restaurants or street food, there is something for everyone.
How to get to Hanoi
Hanoi has its own airport and is only around 30 minutes from the airport to the city centre where most hotels are located. Just remember to get into a Vinasun or Mailinh taxi and ask them to put the meter on.
Have you got a Visa?
Check out our post which goes into detail on how to get a Vietnam visa. Click here to read more.
Packing Guide for Vietnam
Click here for your ultimate packing guide for Vietnam!
Getting around Hanoi
Walk! Yep, the best way to get around Hanoi is to walk – we walked absolutely everywhere and it was easy (much easier than Ho Chi Minh City!). If you haven’t travelled to Asia before, you may not be aware of how challenging it is to just cross the street.
You might think it is easy – wait until you get a green walking man, or go to a pedestrian crossing? WRONG! It doesn’t matter if the lights are red, or if there is a crossing – the cars and bikes just keep going. You need to be confident when starting to walk across the road, don’t walk too fast otherwise the drivers won’t be able to work out where you will be and this way they can avoid you – this is why you also don’t stop – just keep going! They don’t want to hit you so they won’t.
What to see in Hanoi
Hoan Kiem Lake: Located in the old quarter, the lake is home to the famous red bridge and Ngoc Son Temple.
We walked around the lake numerous times and witnessed some interesting things! There were many groups of people exercising, doing yoga or running. We also saw a couple making ornaments out of bamboo. We bought a couple and they were super cheap.
Hanoi Night Market: The market really comes alive in the evening. The markets start just past the red bridge and you can walk and walk for ages up and down streets for different things.
You will notice all of the building supplies are on one street, all of the antiques are in one street, the garden products are in one street – it is very organised actually! Then, of course, all of the streets leading up to the lake are there for tourists mainly (although, we see locals shop there too!).
The Old Quarter on the weekend: Our hotel manager told us that from sunset Friday night through to Sunday evening, the streets surrounding the old town and lake are closed to cars.
This means pedestrians can walk along the roads. Well, this was a sight! All of the locals come out and enjoy games for the children, food stalls, and just enjoying a spot of shopping without the fear of being run over by a car or scooter! If you can plan your trip over a weekend, definitely do that.
Railway Track: This is truly something special. To walk along the railway tracks that is hugged by houses and locals making their dinner. It really does make you think how lucky you are to live in such a fortunate country. We went on quite a drizzly and misty day so it added a bit of effect to the setting.
The houses in Hanoi are really narrow and this is because the tax is based on the width of the building. So when you look inside some of these houses, you do wonder where they fit their entire family?
Street food: You should experience some street food and sit in some of the small plastic chairs on the footpaths!
Halong Bay from Hanoi
If you’re planning on visiting the beautiful Halong Bay, you will no doubt start and finish in Hanoi. Click here to see a full review, photos and video of our 2 night, 3-day cruise along Halong Bay and what company we recommend going with.
Where to stay in Hanoi
We stayed at the gorgeous Hotel De L’Opera and were not disappointed. The room was amazing and extremely spacious.
We were upgraded due to our Accor Plus and Le Club Platinum membership and were not disappointed. The staff were friendly and the food at the restaurant was delicious. I even got a lovely surprise for my birthday (and yes, my real name is actually Hendrik!)!
It was an easy 10-minute walk to the old town markets which meant it was nice and quiet in the evenings so you could get a good nights rest.
Do you have travel insurance?
Before travelling, make sure you get a travel insurance policy – you never know when you might need it! Click here for information on travel insurance, what company we recommend and a link to get an instant quote.
If you’re looking for alternative accommodation to either save some money or share with friends or family, click here for information on Air B&B ($50 discount on your first booking), hotel price comparison websites etc.
More on Vietnam?
Click here to see all of our posts on Vietnam.
Photo essay of Hanoi
Enjoy some more photos of Hanoi.
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson