We would like to recommend 10 of the top things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Before you leave for Hanoi we recommend getting good travel insurance e.g. the award-winning Travel Insurance by WorldNomads, which you can easily purchase online for the necessary duration.
1. Hoan Kiem Lake (The Lake of the Restored Sword)
Hoan Kiem Lake, meaning “Lake of the Returned Sword” or “Lake of the Restored Sword”, is a lake in the historical center of Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. The lake is one of the major scenic spots in the city and serves as a focal point for its public life.
2. Old Quarter
The Old Quarter, near Hoan Kiem lake, has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. At the beginning of the 20th century the city consisted of only about 36 streets, most of which are now part of the old quarter. Each street then had merchants and households specialized in a particular trade, such as silk traders, jewellery, etc. The street names nowadays still reflect these specializations, although few of them remain exclusively in their original commerce.
The area is famous for its small artisans and merchants, including many silk shops. Local cuisine specialties as well as several clubs and bars can be found here also. A night market (near Xuân market) in the heart of the district opens for business every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening with a variety of clothing, souvenirs and food.
3. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a large memorial to the Vietnamese leader in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is located in the center of Ba Ðình Square, which is the place where Ho read the Declaration of Independence on September 2, 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
4. The Water Puppet Theater
Water puppetry “puppets that dance on water”) is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century CE when it originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. Today’s Vietnamese water puppetry is a unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition.
The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered. The shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other using this form of puppet play. Traditional legends and historical tales are among the enchanting puppet plays performed at this popular theatre
5. Temple of Literature & Ancient National University
It is a temple of Confucius in Hanoi, Vietnam. Although several Van Mieu can be found throughout Vietnam, the most prominent and famous is that situated in the city of Hanoi, which also functioned as Vietnam’s first university. It is featured on the back of the one hundred thousand Vietnamese banknote.
6. Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology (Vietnamese: Bao tang dan toc hoc Viett Nam) is a museum in Hanoi, Vietnam, which focuses on the 54 officially recognized ethnic groups in Vietnam. It is located on a 3.27-acre (13,200 m2) property in the Cau giay District, about 8 km from the city center.
It is widely considered to be the finest modern museum in Vietnam and a tourist attraction in Hanoi.
The proposal for the museum was officially approved on December 14, 1987. Construction lasted from 1987 to 1995, and it was opened to the public on November 12, 1997.
The exhibition building was designed by the architect Hà Duc Linh, a member of the Tày ethnic group, in the shape of a Dong Son drum, and the interior architecture was designed by the French architect Véronique Dollfus.
7. West Lake
Ho Tay is the largest of all the lakes in Ha Noi. The lake is on the northwest part of the city. Long ago, the lake was a branch of the Red river but later, as the river changed course, the lake remained a body of water just west of the river. There are many legends associated with West Lake. The most popular is the legend of the golden buffalo. As the story goes, there once was a medicine man who was a giant. He is well known in Vietnam for his medicine practice and the king often used him to treat the royal family. His fame reached China and he was invited to China to treat the king. He was successful where others have failed so the king was going to reward him with great wealth.
He refused offerings of gold and only requested that the king give him all the black copper in the king’s vault. The king agreed and the giant left for Vietnam with vast amounts of black copper. In Vietnam the giant molded a giant bell of black copper. The giant rang the bell and the sound resonated all the way to China. In the king’s vault there was a golden buffalo. Upon hearing the sound of the bell, the buffalo came to life (because he thought that his mother was calling him) and charged southward. Upon reaching Ha Noi, the buffalo trampled the land in the area near Red river. Over the years, this area filled with water and became Ho Tay or West Lake.
8. Hoa Lo Prison
The Hoa Lo Prison, later sarcastically known to American prisoners of war as the “Hanoi Hilton”, was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.
9. Hanoi night market
This market spreading from Hang Dao Street to Dong Xuan Market creates a busy and crowded walking street. on weekend evenings, a lot of people come here to stroll or go shopping, which becomes a habit.
As a commercial street, you can find everything concerning clothes and recreation. Clothes, sweets, “o mai” (salted dry fruit), decorations, toys, stationeries, sundry goods are respectively sold on Hang Ngang, Hang Dao, Hang Buom, Hang Duong, Luong Van Can, Hang Ma, Ngo Gach and Hang Ca Streets. All goods and facilities can be found from Dong Xuan Market to Hang Giay Street.
People come here for shopping or just strolling in the crowd to feel the atmosphere of the night market and the habit of Hanoians. Children are excited about going shopping with their family, sitting on their father’s shoulders, holding their mother’s hand, walking in a stream of people, playing with sand pictures and painting statues. It is so romantic to see lovers hand in hand walking on the street, smiling, taking pictures, buying some pieces of clothes at weekends. There are lots of foreign tourists who go sight-seeing or shopping. It is easy for them to find Hanoi or Vietnamese style souvenirs at low prices.
Food stalls often sell “banh beo” (bloating fern-shaped cake), bacon, grilled “nem chua”, sausages, Hai Phong bread, Donner Kebap, cakes, sweet porridge of northern provinces or Hue city. At the end of the night market street, next to Dong Xuan market, there is a night eatery with a wide range of food, such as “lau”, grilled food, “banh khuc” and steamed sticky rice.
10. Bat Trang Ceramic Village
Bat Trang, a small village in the north of Vietnam, is about 13 kilometers south east of Hanoi center, on the other side of Chuong Duong bridge. Why is its name popular to most tourists to northern Vietnam? The answer is its ever famous ceramic and pottery products of high quality. If you have known about Vietnam, you may not be surprised that Bat Trang’s vases, bowls, dishes, and many other kinds of ceramic products have been exported worldwide. Should you would like to contemplate workers making ceramic products by hand, just come here! What’s more, you can also try it yourself!
EXTRA: Do not forget a good travel insurance before you go
We highly recommend to get a good travel insurance as most likely your standard health insurance won’t work abroad. We at Traveldudes recommend the awarded Travel Insurance by WorldNomads which you can easily purchase online for the exact time needed.
Check out the list of tours and tickets that you get for Hanoi before you go!
Related Travel guides
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Do you know more things to do in Hanoi? Feel free to share your travel tip by leaving a comment below!