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Exploration Gateway: Experience the Charm of Vietnam's Capital

Posted By: Paul O'Neill / Vietnam Travel Guides
Visit Hanoi is a keyword that emphasizes the action of traveling to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. This phrase is repeated multiple times to demonstrate the importance of the keyword.

Practical information

Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, is a vibrant and bustling destination with a rich history and culture. If you're planning a trip to Hanoi, it's important to have some practical information to make your visit as smooth as possible.

Getting there

Hanoi has an international airport, the Noi Bai International Airport, which is located approximately 28 kilometers from the city center. Many major airlines operate flights to Hanoi from various destinations around the world. Once you arrive at the airport, you can take a taxi or use public transportation to reach your destination in the city.

Getting around

Hanoi has an extensive public transportation system, including buses and trains, making it easy to get around the city. Taxis and ride-sharing services are also widely available. Additionally, Hanoi is a pedestrian-friendly city, and exploring its streets on foot can be a great way to soak in the local atmosphere.

Visa requirements

Before traveling to Vietnam, it's important to check if you require a visa to enter the country. Many nationalities are eligible for a visa exemption or can obtain a visa on arrival. However, it's advisable to check with the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your home country for the most up-to-date information on visa requirements.

Currency and money exchange

The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). While some establishments in Hanoi may accept major foreign currencies, it's advisable to exchange your money for the local currency. Money exchange services are available at the airport, banks, and authorized currency exchange counters throughout the city.

Safety and security

Hanoi is generally a safe city for travelers. However, it's important to take standard precautions to ensure your personal safety. Be cautious of your belongings and avoid flaunting valuable items. It's also a good idea to have a copy of your passport and other important documents stored securely in case of loss or theft.

Best time to visit

Hanoi experiences a humid subtropical climate, characterized by four distinct seasons. The best time to visit Hanoi is during spring (March to April) and autumn (September to November) when the weather is mild and pleasant.

Spring (March to April)

During spring, Hanoi is adorned with blooming flowers and lush greenery, creating a picturesque setting. The average temperature ranges between 17°C (63°F) and 24°C (75°F), making it a great time for outdoor activities and exploring the city.

Autumn (September to November)

Autumn in Hanoi brings cool and dry weather, with temperatures ranging from 15°C (59°F) to 27°C (81°F). The city is also known for its vibrant fall foliage, making it a beautiful time to visit. It's worth noting that autumn is peak tourist season, so expect more crowds and higher hotel prices.

25 best things to do in Hanoi

Hanoi Old Quarter, Vietnam

Hanoi Old Quarter, Vietnam - (Source: Collected)

Hanoi offers a plethora of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy. Here are 25 must-visit places in Hanoi:

1. Hoan Kiem Lake

The heart of Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake, is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Take a leisurely stroll around the lake, visit the Ngoc Son Temple, and enjoy the serene atmosphere.

2. Old Quarter

Explore the charming streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter, where you can find traditional shops, street vendors, and historic buildings.

3. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Pay your respects to Vietnam's beloved leader, Ho Chi Minh, at his mausoleum. Visitors can view his embalmed body and learn about his contributions to Vietnamese history.

4. Temple of Literature

Visit the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first university, and admire its stunning architecture and tranquil gardens.

5. Hoa Lo Prison

Explore the infamous Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the "Hanoi Hilton," which housed Vietnamese political prisoners during the colonial period.

6. St. Joseph's Cathedral

Admire the neo-gothic architecture of St. Joseph's Cathedral, a striking Catholic church in the heart of Hanoi.

7. West Lake

Escape the bustling city and take a peaceful stroll along the shores of West Lake. Don't miss the Tran Quoc Pagoda, one of Hanoi's oldest Buddhist temples.

8. Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

Learn about Vietnam's diverse ethnic groups and their cultural heritage at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.

9. One Pillar Pagoda

Visit the iconic One Pillar Pagoda, a unique wooden structure that stands on a single stone pillar, symbolizing a lotus blossom.

10. Hanoi Opera House

Catch a performance or simply admire the French colonial architecture of the Hanoi Opera House.

11. Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

Experience the art of water puppetry, a traditional Vietnamese form of entertainment, at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater.

12. French Quarter

Take a stroll through the elegant French Quarter, known for its grand boulevards, French-inspired architecture, and upscale boutiques.

13. Dong Xuan Market

Get lost in the vibrant atmosphere of Dong Xuan Market, where you can find a wide range of goods, from fresh produce to clothing and souvenirs.

14. Long Bien Bridge

Cross the historic Long Bien Bridge, an iconic symbol of Hanoi, and enjoy panoramic views of the Red River.

15. Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Step back in time and explore the ancient Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

16. Ba Vi National Park

Embark on an outdoor adventure and hike through the lush landscapes of Ba Vi National Park, located just outside of Hanoi.

17. Vietnam Fine Arts Museum

Marvel at the extensive collection of Vietnamese art, from traditional to contemporary, at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum.

18. Ho Chi Minh Museum

Gain insights into the life and legacy of Ho Chi Minh at the Ho Chi Minh Museum, located in a striking modern building.

19. Bia Hoi Corner

Join the locals and enjoy a glass of fresh Bia Hoi, a popular local beer, at the bustling Bia Hoi Corner.

20. Vietnamese Women's Museum

Learn about the contributions and achievements of Vietnamese women throughout history at the Vietnamese Women's Museum.

21. Quan Su Pagoda

Visit the Quan Su Pagoda, the headquarters of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, and witness Buddhist rituals and ceremonies.

22. Historical and Revolutionary Museum

Discover Vietnam's revolutionary history at the Historical and Revolutionary Museum, which showcases artifacts and exhibits related to the country's struggle for independence.

23. Ba Dinh Square

Explore Ba Dinh Square, where important national events and ceremonies take place, including Ho Chi Minh's declaration of independence.

24. Truc Bach Lake

Relax by the picturesque Truc Bach Lake and try the famous local delicacy - "pho cuon," a variation of traditional pho.

25. Hanoi Night Market

Experience the vibrant atmosphere of the Hanoi Night Market, where you can find a variety of goods, street food, and live entertainment.

Best hotels & hostels in Hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam - (Source: Collected)

When visiting Hanoi, finding the perfect accommodation that suits your needs and preferences is essential. Here are some highly recommended hotels and hostels in Hanoi:

1. Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

Located in the heart of Hanoi, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi offers luxurious rooms, a range of dining options, and world-class amenities.

2. La Siesta Diamond Hotel & Spa

This boutique hotel is known for its excellent customer service, comfortable rooms, and convenient location near Hanoi's Old Quarter.

3. Golden Sun Suites Hotel

Offering modern and spacious rooms, Golden Sun Suites Hotel provides a comfortable and stylish stay in Hanoi.

4. Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa

Situated in the heart of the Old Quarter, this hotel features elegant rooms, a rooftop bar, and a spa for ultimate relaxation.

5. Hanoi Rocks Hostel

An affordable and social hostel option, Hanoi Rocks Hostel offers dormitory-style rooms and a lively common area for travelers to connect.

6. Little Hanoi Diamond Hotel

This budget-friendly hotel provides cozy rooms, friendly service, and a central location near major attractions in Hanoi.

7. Zephyr Suites Boutique Hotel

With its stylish design and comfortable rooms, Zephyr Suites Boutique Hotel offers a chic and modern stay in Hanoi.

8. Hanoi Youth Hostel

Perfect for budget-conscious travelers, Hanoi Youth Hostel offers dormitory-style rooms, a friendly atmosphere, and a social bar.

9. The Oriental Jade Hotel

Located in the heart of Hanoi's Old Quarter, this boutique hotel combines traditional Vietnamese elements with modern comforts.

10. Hanoi Marvellous Hotel & Spa

Featuring spacious rooms, a rooftop terrace, and a spa, Hanoi Marvellous Hotel & Spa provides a relaxing stay in Hanoi.

Food & drinking

Hanoi is a food lover's paradise, renowned for its vibrant street food scene and diverse culinary offerings. From traditional Vietnamese dishes to international cuisines, there is something to satisfy every palate in Hanoi.

Pho Ha Noi Menu

Pho Ha Noi is a famous Vietnamese dish that originated in Hanoi. This traditional noodle soup consists of soft rice noodles, tender beef or chicken, and flavorful broth. It is usually garnished with fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and lime. You can find Pho Ha Noi on the menu of many local restaurants and street food stalls in Hanoi.

Street food

Exploring the streets of Hanoi allows you to indulge in a variety of mouthwatering street food. From Banh Mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich) to Bun Cha (grilled pork with noodles), and Nem Ran (fried spring rolls), there are endless options to satisfy your taste buds. Take a culinary adventure and try different street food vendors to experience the authentic flavors of Hanoi.

Vietnamese coffee

No visit to Hanoi is complete without trying Vietnamese coffee. Known for its strong flavor and unique preparation method using a drip filter, Vietnamese coffee is a must-try for coffee enthusiasts. Whether you prefer it hot or iced, the rich and smooth taste of Vietnamese coffee will surely delight your senses.

Hanoi's local specialties

In addition to Pho Ha Noi, Hanoi offers a range of local specialties that showcase the city's unique culinary heritage. Try Bun Cha Ca (fish cake noodle soup), Cha Ca La Vong (grilled fish with turmeric and dill), or Xoi Xeo (sticky rice with mung bean and fried shallots) for a taste of Hanoi's distinctive flavors.

With its rich history, vibrant culture, and delectable cuisine, Hanoi is a captivating city that offers a truly memorable experience. Plan your visit, book your hotel, and get ready to explore the best of Hanoi, Vietnam.

How to get there

Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, is located in the northern part of the country. There are several ways to get to Hanoi depending on your starting point.

By air

The Noi Bai International Airport is the main gateway to Hanoi and is served by numerous international and domestic airlines. Direct flights to Hanoi are available from major cities around the world. Upon arrival at the airport, you can easily reach the city center by taking a taxi or arranging a transfer through your hotel.

By train

Hanoi is well-connected to other cities in Vietnam by rail. The city has two main train stations: Hanoi Railway Station and Gia Lam Railway Station. Trains offer a scenic and comfortable way to travel, with sleeper cabins available for longer journeys. It is advisable to book your train tickets in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.

By bus

There are several bus companies that operate routes to Hanoi from various cities in Vietnam. Bus travel can be a budget-friendly option, although the journey times may be longer compared to flying or taking the train. It is recommended to book your bus tickets in advance to secure your seat.

How to get around

Best Time To Visit Hanoi Vietnam: Temple of Literature

Best Time To Visit Hanoi Vietnam: Temple of Literature - (Source: Collected)

Once you have arrived in Hanoi, there are several convenient ways to get around and explore the city.

Taxi

Taxis are a popular mode of transportation in Hanoi. Make sure to choose reputable taxi companies and ask for a metered fare to avoid any potential scams. Taxis can be easily hailed on the street or requested through ride-hailing apps.

Motorbike

Renting a motorbike is a common way for tourists to navigate the bustling streets of Hanoi. There are numerous rental shops available where you can rent a motorbike for a day or longer. However, be aware of the traffic and ensure that you have the necessary license or permit to ride a motorbike in Vietnam.

Public transportation

Hanoi has a comprehensive public transportation system, including buses and a metro line. Buses are a cost-effective way to get around, and the metro system is currently being expanded to provide more convenient options for travelers. Look for bus routes and schedules at the designated bus stops or consult the local transportation authority for more information.

Itinerary 2 days in Hanoi

If you have limited time in Hanoi, here is a suggested itinerary for exploring the city in two days.

Day 1

Start your day with a visit to the historic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where you can pay your respects to the former Vietnamese leader. Next, explore the nearby Presidential Palace and Ho Chi Minh's Stilt House. Afterward, head to the Temple of Literature, which is Vietnam's first national university.

In the afternoon, wander around the Old Quarter, known for its narrow streets filled with shops and street vendors. Don't miss the opportunity to taste traditional Vietnamese street food, such as "pho" or "banh mi," at one of the local eateries. Finish your day with a water puppet show, a unique Vietnamese art form, at Thang Long Water Puppet Theater.

Day 2

Spend your second day exploring Hanoi's cultural and historical sites. Begin with a visit to the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the political center of ancient Thang Long.

Next, venture to the Hoa Lo Prison Museum, also known as the "Hanoi Hilton," which provides insights into Vietnam's turbulent history. Continue your journey by visiting the renowned Vietnamese Women's Museum, which showcases the contributions of women in Vietnamese society.

In the evening, head to the West Lake area and enjoy a relaxing stroll along the lakeside promenade. You can also visit Tran Quoc Pagoda, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Hanoi, located on a small island in West Lake.

More tips for traveling in Hanoi

The Huc Bridge in Hoan Kiem Lake

The Huc Bridge in Hoan Kiem Lake - (Source: Collected)

When visiting Hanoi, it's essential to keep a few tips in mind to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.

Weather and packing

Hanoi experiences four distinct seasons, with hot summers and cool winters. Pack accordingly, with lightweight clothing for summer and warmer layers for winter. Don't forget to bring comfortable walking shoes as you'll be exploring the city on foot.

Currency and money exchange

The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). It's recommended to have some local currency on hand for small purchases and street vendors. Money exchange services are widely available in Hanoi, including at banks, hotels, and authorized exchange counters.

Language

The official language spoken in Hanoi is Vietnamese. While English is spoken in tourist areas and hotels, it's helpful to learn a few basic Vietnamese phrases or carry a language translation app to communicate with locals.

Respect local customs

When visiting temples and pagodas, dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering. It's also important to respect local customs and traditions, such as not pointing with your finger and avoiding public displays of affection.

Tours in Hanoi you may like

Exploring Hanoi on a guided tour can enhance your travel experience and provide valuable insights into the city's history and culture. Here are a few tours you may consider:

Hanoi City Tour

This full-day tour takes you to Hanoi's must-visit attractions, including Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Temple of Literature, and the Old Quarter. You'll also have the opportunity to enjoy a traditional Vietnamese lunch and watch a water puppet show.

Food Tour in Hanoi

Embark on a culinary adventure through Hanoi's vibrant food scene with a food tour. Sample a variety of dishes, including the famous "pho," and learn about the local ingredients and cooking techniques from knowledgeable guides.

Halong Bay Cruise

While not directly in Hanoi, a Halong Bay cruise is a popular excursion from the city. Cruise through the stunning limestone karsts, visit floating villages, and engage in activities such as kayaking and cave exploration.

Booking these tours can be done conveniently through various travel agencies, hotel concierge services, or online platforms specializing in Vietnam tours.

Check out the Old Quarter

Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, is a bustling metropolis that offers a mix of rich history and vibrant culture. One of the must-visit places in Hanoi is the Old Quarter. This charming neighborhood is known for its narrow streets, traditional architecture, and bustling markets. Strolling through the Old Quarter is like stepping back in time, as you soak in the sights, sounds, and smells of the city.

Experience Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine

One of the highlights of visiting the Old Quarter is the opportunity to try authentic Vietnamese cuisine. From street food stalls to cozy restaurants, there is no shortage of options to satisfy your taste buds. Be sure to try the famous pho Ha Noi, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup that is loved by locals and tourists alike. With its fragrant broth, tender beef or chicken, and fresh herbs, it's no wonder that pho Ha Noi is a beloved dish in Hanoi.

Explore Traditional Craft Villages

The Old Quarter is also home to several traditional craft villages, where you can witness artisans practicing age-old techniques. One such village is Hang Bac Street, known for its silver jewelry and handcrafted items. Take a stroll along the street and marvel at the skill and precision of the craftsmen. You can even purchase unique souvenirs to commemorate your visit.

Visit Historical Sites

The Old Quarter is steeped in history, with many historical sites worth exploring. Don't miss the Hanoi Ancient House, a well-preserved example of traditional Vietnamese architecture. Take a guided tour and learn about the history and significance of the house. Another must-visit is the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first national university. Marvel at its stunning architecture and tranquil gardens as you delve into the country's educational heritage.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Located in the heart of Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake is a scenic oasis in the midst of the bustling city. The name "Hoan Kiem" translates to "Lake of the Returned Sword," and legend has it that a magical sword was returned to the lake by a turtle. Surrounding the lake is a beautiful park, perfect for leisurely walks or picnics.

Visit Ngoc Son Temple

Ngoc Son Temple is a picturesque temple located on a small island in Hoan Kiem Lake. Accessible by a charming red bridge, this temple is dedicated to the revered Vietnamese hero, Tran Hung Dao. Explore the temple's ornate architecture and learn about its historical and cultural significance. As you take in the serene atmosphere, enjoy the panoramic views of the lake and its surroundings.

Enjoy Recreational Activities

Hoan Kiem Lake offers a variety of recreational activities for visitors to enjoy. Rent a paddleboat and traverse the tranquil waters of the lake, taking in the scenic views of the city skyline. For those seeking a bit more exercise, join the locals for a morning tai chi session or a jog around the lake. The peaceful ambiance of the lake, coupled with the lush greenery, provides the ideal setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Shop at Dong Xuan Market

Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi, Vietnam

Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi, Vietnam - (Source: Collected)

If you're in search of a shopping adventure in Hanoi, look no further than Dong Xuan Market. Located in the Old Quarter, this bustling market is a treasure trove of goods. From clothing and accessories to electronics and souvenirs, you can find almost anything at Dong Xuan Market.

Browse a Variety of Products

Dong Xuan Market boasts a vast array of products to suit every shopper's needs. Explore the different sections of the market, each offering its unique items. From fabrics and spices to handicrafts and homeware, you'll be spoiled for choice. Bargaining is a common practice here, so be prepared to negotiate for the best price.

Indulge in Local Street Food

No visit to Dong Xuan Market is complete without sampling the delectable street food available. Numerous food stalls dot the market, offering a wide range of Vietnamese delicacies. Treat your taste buds to fresh spring rolls, savory banh mi sandwiches, and sizzling pho noodles. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere as you savor the flavors of Hanoi's street food scene.

St. Joseph's Cathedral

St. Joseph's Cathedral is a stunning piece of architecture located in the heart of Hanoi. Built in the late 19th century, this neo-gothic style cathedral is reminiscent of the Notre Dame in Paris. Its towering spires and intricate stained glass windows make it a sight to behold.

Discover the Architectural Beauty

Step inside St. Joseph's Cathedral and marvel at its soaring ceilings and ornate interior. Admire the intricate details of the stained glass windows, depicting biblical scenes and saints. The serene ambiance and beautiful acoustics make attending a religious service or a music performance at the cathedral an unforgettable experience.

Explore the Surrounding Area

St. Joseph's Cathedral is located in a vibrant neighborhood with charming cafes, boutique shops, and art galleries. Take a leisurely stroll around the area and soak in the lively atmosphere. Stop by one of the cozy cafes to enjoy a cup of Vietnamese coffee or indulge in a delicious pastry. The proximity of the cathedral to other attractions, such as Hoan Kiem Lake, also makes it an ideal starting point for further exploration of Hanoi.

In conclusion, Hanoi, Vietnam offers a plethora of attractions and experiences for visitors. From exploring the historic Old Quarter to embracing the tranquility of Hoan Kiem Lake and shopping at vibrant markets like Dong Xuan Market, there is something for everyone in this captivating city. Be sure to visit St. Joseph's Cathedral and immerse yourself in its architectural grandeur. Whether you're a history enthusiast, a food lover, or seeking cultural immersion, Hanoi has it all.

Conclusion

In conclusion, visiting Hanoi, the charming capital city of Vietnam, offers a plethora of attractions and experiences. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes, Hanoi is a must-visit destination for travelers. From exploring historical sites like the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Temple of Literature to immersing yourself in the bustling streets of the Old Quarter, there are plenty of places to visit in hanoi that showcase its unique charm. Additionally, Hanoi is known for its delicious cuisine, and trying the famous Pho Ha Noi, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup, is a must. When planning your visit to Hanoi, make sure to book a hotel in advance to ensure a comfortable stay in this captivating city. Whether you are interested in history, culture, or culinary delights, Hanoi has something to offer everyone.

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