Hanoi, located on the banks of the Red River, is the capital of Vietnam, and also the hub of tourism in the northern side of Vietnam. The city is home to many cultural and architectural works, famous historical sites, and countless interesting spots.
Since the renovation, Hanoi tourism has been growing very rapidly, but a big part of the city still remains true to its essential personality. In my opinion, Hanoi is the best starting point of a Vietnam trip.
Best time to visit Hanoi
Hanoi has a tropical monsoon climate. Therefore, there are two distinct types of weather: summer with the hot humid weather and torrential rains, as well as dry and cold winter. So, the best time to travel to Hanoi is fall: from early September to the end of November (25 – 30°C). At this time, the cooler weather makes it more convenient to visit tourist sites. Besides, you can also visit Hanoi in the winter to feel the cold (10 – 15 °C) and enjoy the delicious hot food.
For more information about the best time to visit Hanoi, check out this article by Vietnam Online on Hanoi Weather.
Top things to do in Hanoi
Discover the Hanoi Old Quarter
This is the highlight of Hanoi tourism. Hanoi’s 36 streets and old houses have retained their appearance from the 19th century. In the evening, this place becomes a walking street – where a lot of music shows take place. Many booths selling beautiful souvenirs will help you choose the right gifts for relatives and friends.
Admire the beauty of Hoan Kiem Lake
The special feature of Hanoi is that there are many lakes in the city which is surrounded by big rivers. Hoan Kiem Lake is located in the heart of the city. In the middle of the lake, on an islet, lies an ancient Thap Rua (Turtle Tower). If you go to Hoan Kiem Lake, you can admire a series of impressive architectural sites of the city: Thap But, The Huc Bridge to Ngoc Son Temple. If you do not want to walk, you can choose to experience a cyclo tour around the city center.
Visit Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature)
Built in 1070, Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam was the first university in Vietnam. Today, this place is a popular destination for Hanoi tourism, as well as the court to award certificates of merit to students with excellent achievements. Here visitors can admire not only the beautiful natural scenery but also the unique architecture (for example, the doctor’s stone stele).
Learn about ethnic culture in Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is the ideal destination for visitors who want to explore ethnology without having time to visit all parts of Vietnam. Religious events, rituals that symbolize the lives of the 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam are displayed here. The museum has three main areas. One, includes exhibits, offices and research facilities, libraries. The second is the outdoor display area. Finally, the third is used to introduce the culture of ethnic minorities, mainly ethnic minorities in Southeast Asia.
Shopping and playing in the entertainment trade center
There are many commercial centers in Hanoi: Trang Tien Plaza, Royal City, Times City, or Indochina Plaza. These entertainment centers are ideal places to enjoy shopping.
Royal City has some of the best waterpark hotels in the world, and attracts young children with its indoor water park and large ice rink. Meanwhile, if you come to Ho Tay Water Park, you will not only be bathed in large, modern baths but also can experience sports activities such as playing badminton or table tennis, fishing, rowing speed boats, etc.
Where to stay in Hanoi
In Hanoi, accommodation options are abundant. You have many choices from budget hostels and motels to high-end hotels. If you go on holidays, book 2-3 weeks in advance to avoid running out of rooms or high prices. To find a popular hostel, you should go to the guest house in the old town at a very reasonable price. If you want to rent large hotels, booking through travel companies will save you more than renting directly. Below, are some suggestions from high-end, cheap for the price you can refer to.
- Melia Hanoi Hotel – 5-star hotel – This is a favourite hotel in Hanoi that many visitors choose to vacation. The interior is very modern, luxurious. The dedicated service and professional attitude of the staff are always appreciated by customers.
- Fortuna Hotel Hanoi – 4.5-star hotel – This hotel is beautifully located and extremely convenient for you when traveling to famous tourist destinations in Hanoi. At $ 166 it’s perfectly reasonable to have the most enjoyable experience.
- Antique Hotel – 4.5-star hotel – If you are looking for a mid-range hotel, Antique Hotel is the ideal choice. At an affordable price, you can experience the best service.
- Helios Legend Hotel –The basic facilities will make you satisfied. Located in the heart of the city, Helios Legend Hotel is very convenient for moving to the places of interest in Hanoi.
Another great alternative for accommodation in Hanoi is Airbnb, where private rooms start at $30 and offer a unique way to experience the city from a more local perspective.
Don’t have an Airbnb account yet? Sign up now and receive a discount to put towards your first Airbnb stay!
Where to eat and drink in Hanoi
Pho is not to be missed when traveling in Hanoi. Each of the white rice noodles is blended with the flavour of beef, chicken or spring rolls, along with onions and herbs in traditional Vietnamese cooking style.
You can go to Pho in Hang Trong Street. This is a small eatery on the sidewalk, with no tables but only small chairs. You will sit in a chair and take your bowl of pho to taste delicious street-style cuisine. This bar is only open in the afternoon and the price per meal is set at is 15,000 VND.
Other famous beef noodle soup is Pho Lý Quốc Quốc. Foreign tourists highly appreciate Chicken Noodle in Quan Thanh Street. If you leave Hanoi without enjoying Pho, you are missing out!
Cha Ca La Vong
Fish is fried in a small oil pan; each table will have a small charcoal stove and fish pan on top. Fried fish with grilled rice noodles, white noodles, along with roasted peanuts, coriander, dill, onions and shrimp paste sauce. Delicious and unique dishes make this place unforgettable. You can visit the restaurant at No. 107 at Nguyen Truong To Street. Clean, spacious and airy space. The price of La Vong fish fry is 175,000 VND per person.
The best Banh Com in Hanoi is sold in Nguyen Ninh at 11 Hang Than. The stall still sells Banh Com with the traditional method of making. Banh Com is fresh green color, making the lightweight shell look so attractive. You can even see the yellow of mung bean inside. The aromatic scent of rice mixed with coconut and mung bean will make you drol.
Hanoians often like delicate food, like Banh Cuon, a delicious dish typical to the egoi. The rice to be coated must be carefully selected and then ground into powder. The chef cooks thinly sliced cookies on the stove, spreads quickly to the plate, and sprinkles the pork roasted with mushrooms on top of the cake. The Banh Cuon will be rolled up, served with shrimps, fish sauce with basil and cinnamon rolls. The most famous stall in Hanoi is Thanh Van at 14 Hang Ga, that’s been opened for many years. It’s a “must visit” place for tourists.
How to Get to Hanoi
Getting to Hanoi is easy. International and domestic flights arrive daily to Hanoi International Airport. The country also has a well-developed bus and train system which can whisk you around the top places to visit in Vietnam with a little bit of planning.
How much time do you need in Hanoi
A 3-day tour gives you the opportunity to discover the most popular places in Hanoi. Also, if you have a lot of time, you can stay in Hanoi for a week to visit places outside Hanoi such as Duong Lam ancient village, Ba Vi National Park, or Vietnamese Cultural Village, etc. These trips will bring you a great experience such as engaging in production with local people or climbing mountains, admiring the majestic beauty of nature.
Some notes when visiting Hanoi
- Pay attention to the weather: the weather of northern side of Vietnam is really harsh. Check the weather forecast carefully before booking your ticket. Winter of Ha Noi can be much worse than you think, most westerners find that 10 degree Celsius even colder than 0 degree Celsius back home.
- Get yourself a map: The streets of Old Hanoi are famous for being a maze for foreigners, be careful and save yourself some unexpected troubles.
- Shopping in Ha Noi (or anywhere in Vietnam) is great, so make sure you save some time for that during your visit. If you only intend to window-shop, never do it in the early morning, it’s considered to bring very bad luck for business in Vietnam and vendors here can get extremely rude if you do.
- Haggle when there is no price tag on the item (or fixed price in the menu at the restaurant). My suggestion would be, do some research to find out what the standard price for those items or services is in the city and stick with it (it’s best if you can have some locals consult you).
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About the author: My name is Jim. I love traveling around Asia and share my stories & travel guidelines with my readers. I want people from all over the world to see the beauty of the landscape, the people, and culture of Asia. You can check out my other articles at my blog.