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Hanoi Uncovered: Discovering the Top Must-See Attractions and Experiences

Posted By: Kris Antoniacci / Vietnam Travel Guides
Best things to do in Hanoi: Explore the must-see attractions in Hanoi, Vietnam. Discover the top things to do and see in Hanoi, including must-visit landmarks and attractions. Experience the best of Hanoi with a variety of activities and sightseeing options. Find out what to see and do in Hanoi and explore the surrounding areas for more amazing experiences.

Explore and photograph Hanoi Train Street

Tran Quoc Pagoda, Hanoi

Tran Quoc Pagoda, Hanoi - (Source: Collected) 

Hanoi, the bustling capital city of Vietnam, is brimming with unique experiences and hidden gems for travelers to discover. One such hidden gem is Hanoi Train Street, a narrow railway track that cuts through a residential neighborhood. This unconventional attraction has become increasingly popular among tourists and photography enthusiasts.

A Glimpse into Local Life

Hanoi Train Street offers a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of the local residents who live alongside the railway tracks. Narrow houses stand just a few feet away from the tracks, and as the trains pass by, residents calmly go about their routines, seemingly undisturbed by the passing locomotives.

Capture Unique Photos

Photographers and Instagrammers flock to Hanoi Train Street to capture the unique scenes and moments that unfold here. The juxtaposition of everyday life and a functioning railway line makes for intriguing photographs. Visitors can capture shots of colorful houses, bustling street vendors, and locals going about their daily activities with the backdrop of a passing train.

Etiquette and Safety

While visiting Hanoi Train Street, it's important to observe etiquette and prioritize safety. Visitors should always remain mindful of their surroundings and give way to the passing trains. It's crucial to stand on the designated observation platforms or in designated areas for photographs, ensuring that you are not obstructing the track or putting yourself at risk.

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

St. Joseph's Cathedral, located in the heart of Hanoi, is an iconic architectural landmark that draws both locals and tourists. With its neo-gothic style and impressive façade, it stands as one of the city's most important Catholic structures.

A Historical and Religious Symbol

Built in the late 19th century, St. Joseph's Cathedral serves as a symbol of Catholicism in Hanoi. Its grand design and towering spires evoke a sense of awe and reverence. The cathedral is not only a place of worship but also an important cultural and historical site in the city.

Architectural Features

Visitors to St. Joseph's Cathedral will be mesmerized by the intricate details and architectural features of the building. The stunning stained glass windows, soaring arches, and ornate decorations add to the cathedral's allure. The interior of the cathedral offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere, inviting visitors to reflect and find solace.

Religious Services and Events

St. Joseph's Cathedral holds regular religious services, and visitors are welcome to attend Mass or other ceremonies. The cathedral also hosts events and cultural activities throughout the year, such as concerts and art exhibitions. These events provide an opportunity to experience the cathedral's vibrant community and appreciate its significance in Hanoi's cultural landscape.

Explore the Temple Of Literature, founded in 1070 to honor the philosopher Confucius

Hanoi Temple of Literature

Hanoi Temple of Literature - (Source: Collected) 

The Temple of Literature, also known as Văn Miếu, is a famous historical site in Hanoi, Vietnam. Built in 1070, during the reign of Emperor Lý Thánh Tông, it was dedicated to Confucius, sages, and scholars.

An Ancient Seat of Learning

The Temple of Literature was established as Vietnam's first national university and served as a center for Confucian education for several centuries. It played a vital role in shaping the country's intellectual and cultural heritage. The temple complex is divided into five courtyards, each representing different stages of the educational journey.

A Breathtaking Architectural Masterpiece

The Temple of Literature showcases exquisite traditional Vietnamese architecture. Intricate carvings, beautifully landscaped gardens, and ornate pavilions can be found throughout the complex. The tranquil ambiance and harmonious design make it a captivating place to explore.

Historical Artifacts and Exhibitions

Within the temple complex, visitors can explore the various pavilions and halls that display historical artifacts, including stone steles that list the names of scholars who passed rigorous exams during the feudal era. The site also hosts exhibitions that provide insight into the country's educational and intellectual history.

Visit Hoàn Kiếm Lake in the heart of the city

Hoàn Kiếm Lake, meaning "Lake of the Returned Sword" in English, is undoubtedly one of Hanoi's most picturesque and significant landmarks. Situated in the heart of the city, this serene lake holds a special place in Vietnamese folklore and history.

A Historical and Mythical Legacy

Legend has it that Emperor Lê Lợi, a hero who spearheaded the resistance against Chinese invaders in the 15th century, was gifted a magical sword by a divine turtle in Hoàn Kiếm Lake. After reclaiming Vietnam's independence, Emperor Lê Lợi returned the sword to the lake, hence its name. The tale continues to captivate locals and visitors alike.

A Tranquil Oasis

Hoàn Kiếm Lake offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling city streets. Surrounded by lush greenery, the lakeside pathways provide a tranquil setting for leisurely walks or romantic strolls. Visitors can take a boat ride to Ngoc Son Temple, an island pagoda located in the middle of the lake, adding to the mystique of the surroundings.

Cultural Significance and Local Activities

Hoàn Kiếm Lake is not just a scenic spot but also a vibrant hub of sociocultural activities. The lake attracts locals who gather for morning exercise sessions and tai chi practices. During special occasions, it becomes a lively venue for traditional performances and festivals, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in Vietnamese culture and traditions.

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

Unforgettable Experiences: The Best Things to Do in Hanoi

Unforgettable Experiences: The Best Things to Do in Hanoi - (Source: Collected) 

Lotte Center Hanoi is a modern skyscraper that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city from its observation deck. Situated in the heart of Hanoi, this impressive tower stands as one of the tallest buildings in Vietnam.

Spectacular Cityscape Views

The observation deck on the 65th floor of Lotte Center Hanoi provides visitors with stunning views of Hanoi's skyline and the surrounding landscape. From this vantage point, one can admire the city's architectural juxtaposition of ancient temples and pagodas along with modern high-rise buildings.

A Multisensory Experience

The Lotte Center Hanoi's observation deck offers more than just breathtaking views. It provides visitors with a fully immersive and interactive experience. The deck features telescopes and touch-screen information panels that allow visitors to learn about notable landmarks and attractions.

In addition to the observation deck, the Lotte Center Hanoi also boasts a range of dining and shopping options. Visitors can indulge in a variety of cuisines at the tower's restaurants, which offer both Asian and international flavors. The building also houses luxury boutiques and department stores for those seeking a retail therapy experience.

In conclusion, Hanoi, Vietnam, is a city filled with remarkable cultural, historical, and architectural wonders. From the unconventional charm of Hanoi Train Street to the grandeur of St. Joseph's Cathedral, from the scholarly ambiance of the Temple of Literature to the serene beauty of Hoàn Kiếm Lake, and finally, the awe-inspiring views from Lotte's Observation Deck, this vibrant city offers an array of enriching experiences for travelers. Whenever you choose to visit Hanoi, Vietnam, you can be assured of a memorable and fulfilling journey.

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

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam - (Source: Collected) 

Overview of Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay, located in northeastern Vietnam, is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning natural beauty. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes, making it a must-visit for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Exploring the limestone caves

One of the highlights of visiting Ha Long Bay is exploring the magnificent limestone caves scattered throughout the area. These caves, such as Thien Cung Cave and Sung Sot Cave, offer an otherworldly experience as visitors venture through the maze-like formations adorned with stalactites and stalagmites.

Island hopping and water activities

A visit to Ha Long Bay is incomplete without experiencing its numerous islands and engaging in water activities. To fully appreciate the beauty of the bay, take a boat tour and hop from one island to another. Activities like kayaking, snorkeling, and swimming provide opportunities to immerse yourself in the crystal-clear waters of the bay.

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

Best Things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter

Best Things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter - (Source: Collected) 

Overview of Hanoi’s Old Quarter

Hanoi’s Old Quarter, also known as the old town, offers a glimpse into the city's rich history and vibrant culture. Situated in the heart of Hanoi, this bustling district is characterized by its narrow streets, colonial architecture, and an abundance of shops, markets, and street food stalls.

Immerse yourself in the local lifestyle

By choosing to stay in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, you'll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local lifestyle. Explore the vibrant markets where you can shop for traditional handicrafts, sample delicious street food, and witness the daily hustle and bustle of the locals.

Discover historical landmarks

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is also home to several historical landmarks that are worth exploring. Visit the iconic Hoan Kiem Lake, which holds great cultural and historical significance, or explore the peaceful grounds of the Ngoc Son Temple located on a small island in the lake. Other notable attractions include the Temple of Literature and the French Quarter.

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

Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

Cat Ba Island, Vietnam - (Source: Collected) 

Overview of Cat Ba Island

Located in Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Island is the largest island in the area and offers a picturesque escape for those seeking a seaside retreat. Surrounded by turquoise waters and limestone cliffs, the island is known for its stunning beaches, lush national park, and diverse marine life.

Relax on beautiful beaches

Cat Ba Island boasts several pristine beaches where visitors can unwind and soak up the sun. Some of the popular beaches include Cat Co 1, Cat Co 2, and Cat Co 3 beaches, each offering its own unique charm. Relax on the golden sands, swim in the clear waters, or try your hand at various water sports.

Explore Cat Ba National Park

For nature lovers, a visit to Cat Ba National Park is a must. This expansive park is home to a wide range of flora and fauna, including several endangered species. Embark on a hike through the park's trails, explore the dense forests, and witness breathtaking views from the mountain summits.

Feel super cultured at Hanoi Opera House

Introduction to Hanoi Opera House

Hanoi Opera House is a magnificent architectural masterpiece that showcases the influence of French colonialism in Vietnam. Built in 1911, this grand opera house boasts a neoclassical design and is a symbol of Hanoi's cultural heritage.

Enjoy world-class performances

The Hanoi Opera House is not only a stunning landmark but also a venue for incredible performances. From classical concerts and ballets to traditional Vietnamese operas, the opera house hosts a diverse range of shows that cater to different tastes. Watching a performance here is a great way to immerse yourself in Hanoi's vibrant arts scene.

Admire the architectural beauty

Even if you're not attending a performance, a visit to Hanoi Opera House allows you to admire its architectural beauty. The exterior features majestic columns and intricate detailing, while the interior is adorned with ornate chandeliers, elegant furnishings, and stunning paintings, showcasing the opulence of the era.

Similar to Sapa, day trip to Tam Đảo

Overview of Tam Đảo

Tam Đảo is a serene mountain retreat located in the Vinh Phuc Province of Vietnam, known for its cool climate, lush landscapes, and picturesque vistas. The town is situated at the foot of Tam Đảo Mountain, offering a peaceful escape from the bustling city life.

Experience the cable car ride

One of the highlights of visiting Tam Đảo is taking a cable car ride up the mountain. As you ascend, you'll be treated to panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, cascading waterfalls, and dense forests. The cable car ride is an exhilarating experience that offers a unique perspective of the area.

Explore Tam Đảo National Park

Tam Đảo National Park is a vast nature reserve encompassing the mountain range and surrounding area. The park is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, offering hiking trails, dense forests, and vibrant flora and fauna. Embark on a trek and discover hidden waterfalls, serene lakes, and exotic wildlife.

Immerse in the tranquility of Tam Đảo town

The town of Tam Đảo itself also offers a tranquil retreat. Explore the streets lined with charming French-style villas, visit local markets to savor the region's delicacies, or simply enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and escape the crowds. A day trip to Tam Đảo provides a refreshing respite from the city.

Pay tribute at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Ba Dinh Square

Best Things to Do in Hanoi : Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Best Things to Do in Hanoi : Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum - (Source: Collected) 

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam is a significant historical and cultural landmark. It is the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh, the revered leader and founder of modern Vietnam. The mausoleum is located in Ba Dinh Square and attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Ba Dinh Square

Ba Dinh Square is a large public square in Hanoi, Vietnam, where many important historical events have taken place. It is named after Ba Dinh Hall, which is located at one end of the square and served as the palace of the colonial French administration. Today, the square is a popular gathering place and a symbol of national pride.

Find peace in nature at Hanoi’s Parks

West Lake

West Lake is the largest lake in Hanoi and offers a serene escape from the bustling city. The lake is surrounded by lush greenery and is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Visitors can rent a boat and explore the lake, visit the numerous pagodas and temples, or simply relax in one of the lakeside cafes.

Hoa Lo Prison Memorial

The Hoa Lo Prison Memorial, also known as the "Hanoi Hilton," is a historical site that offers a glimpse into Vietnam's turbulent past. Originally built by the French colonial administration to detain political prisoners, it later became a notorious prison during the Vietnam War. The memorial showcases the harsh conditions and hardships endured by the prisoners.

Escape the Hanoi hustle in Ninh Binh

Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex

Nestled in the Ninh Binh province, the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular day trip destination from Hanoi. The complex features spectacular limestone karsts, lush rice fields, and winding rivers. Visitors can take a boat tour to explore the area's caves, grottoes, and temples.

Tam Coc - Bich Dong

Tam Coc - Bich Dong is another breathtaking natural landscape in Ninh Binh province. Here, visitors can enjoy a scenic boat ride along the Ngo Dong River, passing through rice paddies and limestone karsts. The highlight of the area is the Bich Dong Pagoda, built into a mountainside, offering stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Get educated at Ho Chi Minh Museum

Exhibits and Artifacts

The Ho Chi Minh Museum is dedicated to the life and achievements of Ho Chi Minh. The museum houses a vast collection of exhibits, artifacts, and documents that depict various aspects of his life, from his early revolutionary activities to his role in the struggle for Vietnamese independence. Visitors can learn about the history and culture of Vietnam through multimedia displays and interactive exhibits.


The Ho Chi Minh Museum is an architectural masterpiece, designed to resemble a lotus flower, which is a symbol of purity and enlightenment in Vietnamese culture. The museum's unique design and landscaped gardens make it a must-visit attraction in Hanoi.

Step back in time at the Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long

Historical Significance

The Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long, also known as Hanoi Citadel, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 11th century. It served as the political and cultural center of the Vietnamese capital for over a millennium. The citadel's ancient buildings, gates, and archaeological relics provide a glimpse into Vietnam's rich history and architectural heritage.

Thang Long Imperial Citadel Archaeological Site

The Thang Long Imperial Citadel Archaeological Site is a fascinating excavation area within the citadel complex. Discoveries made here have shed light on the ancient capital's layout, including structures such as palaces, temples, and the royal staircase. Visitors can explore the site and learn about the city's past through guided tours and exhibitions.


Top Things to See in Hanoi: Train Street in Hanoi, Vietnam

Top Things to See in Hanoi: Train Street in Hanoi, Vietnam - (Source: Collected) 

In conclusion, Hanoi offers a plethora of incredible experiences for visitors. Whether you are looking for historical landmarks, cultural attractions, or delicious cuisine, this vibrant city has it all. From exploring the Old Quarter's narrow streets to visiting iconic sights like the Hoan Kiem Lake and the Temple of Literature, there are plenty of must-see things in Hanoi.

A food tour in Hanoi is a must-do activity if you want to immerse yourself in the local gastronomy. From tasting authentic pho and bun cha at street stalls to enjoying the unique flavors of egg coffee and banh mi, Hanoi offers a food lover's paradise.

For a more immersive cultural experience, consider taking a Hanoi street tour. This will allow you to wander through bustling markets, sample local street food, and interact with friendly locals who are always happy to share their stories and traditions.

If you have the time, make sure to venture outside of Hanoi and explore the nearby attractions. From the scenic beauty of Halong Bay and Ninh Binh's breathtaking landscapes to the historical significance of the Perfume Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, there are many things to see around Hanoi.

The best time to visit Hanoi, Vietnam is during the autumn months of September to November when the weather is mild and pleasant. This allows for comfortable exploration of the city's attractions and outdoor activities without the intense heat and humidity of summer or the chill of winter.

In summary, Hanoi truly has something for everyone, offering a perfect balance of history, culture, and culinary delights. Whether you are an adventure seeker, a history buff, or a food enthusiast, Hanoi is sure to captivate your heart and create unforgettable memories.

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