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Hanoi Bucket List: Explore the Top 10 Must-See and Must-Do Activities in the City

Posted By: Paul O'Neill / Vietnam Travel Guides
"Things to See and Do in Hanoi" offers an array of top-rated activities and attractions in Vietnam's capital city. From exploring historic landmarks like the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Temple of Literature, to wandering through the vibrant Old Quarter and trying local street food, there is no shortage of must-do experiences that showcase Hanoi's rich culture and history. Whether you are a history buff, a food lover, or simply in search of unique experiences, Hanoi has something for everyone.

Explore and photograph Hanoi Train Street

Tran Quoc Pagoda, Hanoi

Tran Quoc Pagoda, Hanoi - (Source: Collected)

Hanoi Train Street is a unique and captivating attraction located in the heart of Vietnam's capital city. This narrow street is home to a functioning railway track, where trains pass through twice a day, just inches away from the residential houses. It has become a popular spot for photographers and tourists alike who are drawn to its incredible spectacle.

Getting there

To reach Hanoi Train Street, visitors can take a taxi or use public transportation. It is conveniently located near the Old Quarter, making it easily accessible for tourists staying in the city center.

Timing your visit

The best time to visit Hanoi Train Street is during the morning or late afternoon when the natural lighting enhances the picturesque scenes. It is important to note that train schedules can vary, so it is advisable to check the timetable in advance to ensure you don't miss the trains passing through.

Photographing Hanoi Train Street

Photographers flock to Hanoi Train Street for its unique photo opportunities. The narrow alleyways and dramatic backdrop of passing trains create a stunning juxtaposition of modernity and traditional Vietnamese life. It is essential to exercise caution while taking photos and be aware of oncoming trains for your safety.

Revel in the architecture at St. Joseph’s Cathedral of Hanoi

St. Joseph’s Cathedral of Hanoi is an iconic landmark and a must-visit for architecture enthusiasts. This magnificent church, dating back to the late 19th century, is a standout example of French colonial style with Gothic elements. Its grandeur and beauty make it a significant symbol of Hanoi's spiritual and cultural heritage.

A brief history

St. Joseph’s Cathedral was constructed in 1886 by the French colonialists, heavily influenced by the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. The church serves as the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi and continues to be an active place of worship.

Architectural features

The cathedral's architecture is characterized by its neo-Gothic style. The prominent twin bell towers, soaring arches, and intricate stained glass windows are a true feast for the eyes. The exterior of the cathedral features a striking stone façade, while the interior boasts a serene and solemn atmosphere, complete with beautiful religious artwork and decorations.

Visiting St. Joseph’s Cathedral

Visitors are welcome to explore the church's exterior and interior, and attend the daily mass if desired. The cathedral is located in the vibrant Old Quarter of Hanoi, making it easily accessible for tourists. Remember to dress modestly and respectfully when entering the church as a sign of respect for religious customs.

Visit Hoàn Kiếm Lake in the heart of the city

Hoàn Kiếm Lake, also known as Lake of the Restored Sword, is a serene oasis nestled in the heart of Hanoi. This picturesque lake is not only a popular tourist attraction but also holds great historical and cultural significance for the people of Vietnam.

A historical tale

Legend has it that in the 15th century, Emperor Lê Lợi was gifted a magical sword by a mystical turtle living in the lake. With this sword, he successfully fought against Chinese invaders and restored peace to the country. Hence, the name "Lake of the Restored Sword" was born.

Attractions around the lake

Surrounding Hoàn Kiếm Lake, visitors can find numerous interesting landmarks and attractions. Ngọc Sơn Temple, located on an islet in the lake, is a stunning example of traditional Vietnamese architecture and is dedicated to General Trần Hưng Đạo, a national hero. The Huc Bridge, a vibrant red-painted bridge, connects the temple to the shore, adding to the charm of the lake.

Leisure activities

Hoàn Kiếm Lake offers a peaceful ambiance and is a popular spot for a leisurely stroll or relaxing moments. Visitors can also enjoy activities such as joining a tai chi class, renting a paddleboat for a romantic ride on the lake, or simply sitting on one of the many benches to admire the beauty of the surroundings.

Feel on top of the world at Lotte’s Observation Deck

Hanoi Old Quarter

Hanoi Old Quarter - (Source: Collected)

Lotte's Observation Deck, located in the iconic Lotte Center in Hanoi, provides visitors with a breathtaking panoramic view of the city's skyline. This modern and luxurious observation deck offers a unique way to experience the beauty of Hanoi from above.

Getting to Lotte's Observation Deck

Lotte Center is conveniently situated in the Ba Ðình District, making it easily accessible for tourists. Visitors can take a taxi or use public transportation to reach the observation deck. The entrance to the deck is located on the 65th floor of the tower.

The experience at the Observation Deck

Upon arriving at Lotte's Observation Deck, visitors are greeted by floor-to-ceiling windows that provide unobstructed views of Hanoi. The deck offers both indoor and outdoor viewing areas, allowing visitors to experience the city from different perspectives. Enjoy a birds-eye view of famous landmarks like Hoàn Kiếm Lake and the Old Quarter, and admire the sprawling cityscape.

Additional facilities

Otis Sky Walk is an exhilarating attraction within Lotte Center, where visitors can walk on a transparent glass floor, suspended at a height of 270 meters above ground level. This thrilling experience provides an adrenaline rush and allows visitors to truly feel on top of the world.

Find limestone caves, islands, and water activities at the famous Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay, located in northeastern Vietnam, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stunning natural beauty. This captivating bay is famous for its emerald waters, towering limestone islands, and intriguing caves, making it a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

Exploring the limestone karsts

Ha Long Bay is renowned for its unique landscape of karst formations. Visitors can embark on a cruise or boat tour to explore the bay and get up close to the limestone islands. The sheer grandeur of these towering formations is a sight to behold, providing countless opportunities for breathtaking photographs.

Visiting the caves

Ha Long Bay is home to many fascinating caves waiting to be discovered. Thien Cung Cave and Sung Sot Cave are among the most popular ones, known for their impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations. Exploring these magnificent caves is an otherworldly experience that showcases the wonders of nature.

Water activities

Ha Long Bay offers a wide range of water activities for adventure enthusiasts. Kayaking through the bay's scenic lagoons and hidden caves allows visitors to get even closer to the natural beauty of the area. Other popular activities include swimming, snorkeling, and fishing, providing ample opportunities for fun and excitement.

Choose a stay in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, i.e. the old town

The Top Things to Do in Hanoi, Vietnam

The Top Things to Do in Hanoi, Vietnam - (Source: Collected)

If you're planning to visit Vietnam, a stay in Hanoi's Old Quarter should be at the top of your list. This historic neighborhood, also known as the old town, is located in the heart of Hanoi and offers a unique and immersive experience. As you explore the narrow streets, you will be transported back in time and get a glimpse of the city's rich history and culture.

Discover the charm of Hanoi's Old Quarter

The Old Quarter is a lively and bustling area that is known for its vibrant street markets, traditional Vietnamese architecture, and delicious street food. The streets are lined with colorful buildings, each housing unique shops, cafes, and guesthouses. Walking through the streets, you'll encounter a mix of locals and tourists, creating a vibrant atmosphere that is truly unforgettable.

Explore Hanoi's rich history

Hanoi's Old Quarter is steeped in history and has been preserved remarkably well over the years. The area dates back to the 13th century when it was established as a trading hub. As you wander through the streets, you'll come across ancient temples, pagodas, and traditional Vietnamese houses that have stood the test of time. Take a moment to appreciate the architectural beauty and learn about the city's fascinating past.

If you’re craving the ocean, head to Cat Ba Island

Best Things to Do in Hanoi: Temple of Literature, Hanoi

Best Things to Do in Hanoi: Temple of Literature, Hanoi - (Source: Collected)

Located in northeastern Vietnam, Cat Ba Island is a paradise for beach lovers and nature enthusiasts. This stunning island is part of the famous Halong Bay and offers a unique blend of natural beauty and adventure.

Enjoy the pristine beaches

One of the main attractions of Cat Ba Island is its pristine beaches. With crystal clear waters and soft sandy shores, the beaches offer the perfect setting for relaxation and sunbathing. You can also indulge in a variety of water activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Some of the popular beaches on the island include Cat Co Beach and Tung Thu Beach.

Explore the beautiful landscapes

Cat Ba Island is not just about beaches; it also boasts breathtaking landscapes that are waiting to be explored. The island is home to Cat Ba National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which offers hiking trails and stunning viewpoints. You can embark on a trekking adventure through the lush forests, spot diverse wildlife, and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding islands and mountains.

Feel super cultured at Hanoi Opera House

Hanoi Opera House is a true gem of Hanoi's cultural scene. This magnificent building, inspired by the Paris Opera House, is a must-visit for those who appreciate art, music, and architecture.

Immerse in the world of performing arts

The Hanoi Opera House is known for its impressive lineup of performances including ballets, classical concerts, opera, and traditional Vietnamese theater. Attending a show at this iconic venue is a great way to experience the vibrant arts scene of Hanoi and witness world-class performances in a stunning setting.

Admire the architectural beauty

Even if you're not attending a performance, a visit to the Hanoi Opera House is worth it just to admire its architectural beauty. The building features a neoclassical design with French influences, adorned with intricate carvings and elegant details. Take a stroll around the exterior and capture some stunning photos of this iconic landmark.

Pay tribute at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Ba Dinh Square

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Ba Dinh Square are two significant landmarks in Hanoi that commemorate the country's beloved leader, Ho Chi Minh.

Visit the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a mausoleum that houses the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh. It serves as a place of reverence and allows visitors to pay their respects to the former leader. The mausoleum is an imposing structure surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, offering a tranquil and reflective atmosphere.

Experience the historical significance

Ba Dinh Square, located in front of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, is an important historical site in Vietnam. This square is where Ho Chi Minh declared the country's independence in 1945, marking a pivotal moment in Vietnam's history. Visitors can learn about the significance of this event and explore the surrounding area, which includes several museums and monuments.

Find peace in nature at Hanoi’s Parks

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi - (Source: Collected)

In the bustling city of Hanoi, finding a peaceful retreat amidst nature is possible thanks to the numerous parks scattered throughout the city.

Relax in the tranquil setting of Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake, located in the heart of Hanoi, is a popular spot for both locals and tourists looking for tranquility. The lake is surrounded by lush greenery, making it an ideal place for a leisurely stroll or a peaceful picnic. You can also visit Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda located on an island in the lake, and enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding area.

Explore the vast expanse of West Lake

West Lake, one of the largest lakes in Hanoi, offers a serene and picturesque setting. The lake is surrounded by parks and gardens, providing ample space for relaxation and recreation. You can rent a bicycle and take a leisurely ride along the lake's perimeter, or simply find a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the peaceful ambiance.

Exploring Hanoi's Old Quarter, soaking up the sun on Cat Ba Island, immersing in culture at Hanoi Opera House, paying tribute at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Ba Dinh Square, and finding peace in Hanoi's parks are just a few of the highlights of Vietnam tourism. Each experience offers a unique perspective on the vibrant city of Hanoi and showcases the beauty and rich history of Vietnam. Whether you're a history buff, a nature lover, or simply seeking new experiences, Vietnam has something to offer everyone. Plan your visit to Vietnam and discover the magic of this captivating country.

Escape the Hanoi hustle in Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh, located just a few hours south of Hanoi, offers a tranquil escape from the bustling city life. Known for its breathtaking landscapes, Ninh Binh is often referred to as the "Halong Bay on land", with its towering limestone karsts and winding rivers.

Explore the Trang An Grottoes

The Trang An Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit attraction in Ninh Binh. Hop on a boat and navigate through a network of caves, grottoes, and stunning waterways. The experience is truly magical, as you pass under towering cliffs and lush greenery.

Climb up to Hang Mua Peak

If you're up for a bit of adventure, make your way up to Hang Mua Peak. The climb consists of 500 steps, but the view from the top is well worth the effort. From there, you can admire panoramic views of the entire region, with rice fields stretching out into the distance.

Get educated at Ho Chi Minh Museum

The Ho Chi Minh Museum, located in Hanoi, is dedicated to the life and legacy of Ho Chi Minh, the revered leader and founding father of modern Vietnam. The museum provides visitors with valuable insights into Vietnam's history, as well as Ho Chi Minh's contributions to the country's independence.

Learn about Ho Chi Minh's life

Explore the different exhibits showcasing Ho Chi Minh's childhood, his early activism, and his leadership during the Vietnam War. Gain a deeper understanding of his ideologies, including his vision for a united and independent Vietnam.

View artifacts and photographs

The museum is home to a vast collection of artifacts, documents, and photographs related to Ho Chi Minh's life. Get a glimpse into the past through these historical relics, which shed light on significant events and milestones in Vietnam's history.

Step back in time at the Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long

The Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long, also known as the Hanoi Citadel, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a significant historical landmark in Hanoi. Dating back to the 11th century, the citadel offers a glimpse into the rich history of Vietnam.

Explore the ancient palace complex

Wander through the citadel's ancient palace complex, which served as the political center of Vietnam for over a thousand years. Marvel at the architectural beauty of the buildings, including the Hanoi Flag Tower, the Doan Mon Gate, and the Kinh Thien Palace.

Visit the Archaeological Site

Discover the Archaeological Site within the citadel, where important relics and artifacts have been unearthed. Learn about the historical significance of these findings and how they contribute to our understanding of Vietnam's past.

Take photos of the unique One Pillar Pagoda

Best Things to Do in Hanoi: Reliving the Majesty of the Thang Long Imperial Citadel

Best Things to Do in Hanoi: Reliving the Majesty of the Thang Long Imperial Citadel - (Source: Collected)

The One Pillar Pagoda, located in Hanoi, is one of Vietnam's most iconic landmarks. Built in the 11th century, the pagoda is known for its unique design and picturesque setting, sitting atop a single stone pillar in the middle of a lotus pond.

Learn about the pagoda's history

Discover the fascinating history behind the construction of the One Pillar Pagoda, which has become a symbol of Buddhism in Vietnam. Hear stories and legends associated with this architectural marvel and its spiritual significance.

Capture the beauty of the surroundings

Immerse yourself in the serene atmosphere of the One Pillar Pagoda and take stunning photographs of the tranquil lotus pond, the surrounding gardens, and the pagoda itself. The unique architecture and beautiful surroundings make it a favorite spot for photographers.

Discover the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, located in Hanoi, offers a comprehensive insight into the diverse ethnic groups that make up Vietnam's rich cultural fabric. The museum showcases an extensive collection of artifacts, exhibits, and traditional houses.

Explore the indoor exhibits

Take a journey through Vietnam's ethnic diversity as you explore the indoor exhibits of the museum. Learn about the unique customs, traditions, and lifestyles of the different ethnic groups through a range of artifacts, clothing, and artworks on display.

Visit the outdoor ethnographic park

Step outside to the museum's outdoor ethnographic park, where traditional houses from various ethnic communities have been reconstructed. Wander through these authentic dwellings, gaining a deeper understanding of the everyday lives of different ethnic groups.

In conclusion, Vietnam offers a wide range of cultural, historical, and natural attractions for tourists to explore. From the serene landscapes of Ninh Binh to the historical sites in Hanoi, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you want to escape the hustle of the city or dive deep into Vietnam's rich history and culture, a visit to these destinations will not disappoint. Don't miss the chance to explore the wonders that Vietnam has to offer.


The Top Things to Do in Hanoi, Vietnam: Quan Thanh Pagoda, Hanoi

The Top Things to Do in Hanoi, Vietnam: Quan Thanh Pagoda, Hanoi - (Source: Collected)

In conclusion, Hanoi offers a wide range of captivating sights and activities that are sure to delight any traveler. From historical landmarks to vibrant markets and serene lakes, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this mesmerizing city. By exploring the bustling streets of the Old Quarter, visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture, taste authentic Vietnamese cuisine, and shop for unique souvenirs. Additionally, Hanoi serves as a gateway to various must-visit destinations in Vietnam, with many reputable Vietnam travel companies offering comprehensive tours to explore the country's natural wonders and cultural heritage. vietnam tourism continues to thrive as more and more people discover the beauty and charm of this captivating country.

To make the most of your visit to Hanoi, it is advisable to plan your trip during the best time to visit Vietnam, which is typically from October to April when the weather is pleasant and dry. This period allows you to comfortably explore popular attractions such as Hoan Kiem Lake, the infamous Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and the stunning Temple of Literature. Additionally, Hanoi's proximity to breathtaking natural landscapes makes it an ideal base for day trips to places near Hanoi like the majestic Halong Bay, the scenic Ninh Binh province, or the serene Perfume Pagoda.

With so many incredible things to see and do in Hanoi and the surrounding areas, it is no wonder that it ranks high on the list of top things to do in Vietnam. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a food lover, an adventure seeker, or simply someone looking to immerse yourself in the rich culture of Vietnam, Hanoi is truly a destination that should not be missed. Plan your itinerary, book a tour with reputable Vietnam travel companies, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime in beautiful Hanoi.

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