Vibrant, chaotic, historic, and downright mesmerizing. Those are just some of the few words that can be used to describe Hanoi. The city might be hard to love for some but once you fall in love with the city, there’s no going back. And what’s not to love about a city where every street corner has something fascinating to do and explore.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 things to do in Hanoi
One place in Hanoi that you cannot miss out on is the Old Quarter. This iconic and historic neighborhood is in the heart of Hanoi. Walk around its narrow streets and you’ll feel the city’s energy pulsing through you. You’ll find street vendors selling their wares next to scooters parked along the narrow roads with stunning french colonial architecture in the background. Though it can get overwhelming at times, the Old Quarter is unlike any other place in Hanoi. Nowadays, you are likely to find more cute cafes, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, bars, and hotels with enthusiastic tourists.
Check out this blog if you want to find out more about the streets of the Old Quarter.
Hoan Kiem Lake is a peaceful escape in the middle of a chaotic city. Locals come here to relax, meditate, jog, or just to hang out with family and friends. Legend has it that Emperor Ly Thai To was gifted a magical sword by a golden turtle who lived in the lake. The lake is famous for the turtles who live here and occasionally come out of their slumber to check out the humans. You can also find the 13th-century Ngoc Son temple right in the middle of the lake. If you are lucky, you might just get to witness a stunning sunset with the temple and sun reflecting on the glimmering lake.
Vietnamese street food is amazing and something you should never miss out on. Each city or town has its own specialties and versions of more famous dishes. That’s why eating delicious street food is one of the top 10 things to do in Hanoi. You will be able to find streets lined up with vendors selling all kinds of food. It was actually in one of these streets where the world-famous pho is said to have been invested. Along with pho, banh mi, and banh bao are the three most popular Vietnamese dishes. However, you can also find many more amazing dishes if you search like bun oc or snail noodle soup, banh cuon or steamed rice rolls, nem cua be or crab spring rolls, xoi or sticky rice, and more.
The historic Hanoi Opera House is one of the most beautiful pieces of French architecture in Hanoi. Built between 1901 and 1911 by V. Harley and Broyer under the patronage of the French government, it was heavily inspired by the Palais Garnier, a famous Opera House in Paris, France. It was used by wealthy French officials to host tantalizing performances, operas, and even balls. Nowadays, you can watch traditional Vietnamese opera or even attend concerts being held at the Opera House. You can buy tickets for the performances online.
Read more about French architecture in Hanoi here.
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi is a great place to stop by and learn about the 54 different ethnic tribes present in Vietnam. Each of the tribes has its own culture and history. The museum attempts to showcase the rich diversity of each tribe. There are more than 15,000 artifacts including photographs, audiotapes, and other multimedia. It also showcases clothes, jewelry, and household items of the different tribes. The museum also has life-sized replicas of different tribal houses as well as a section dedicated to Southeast Asian cultures. You can expect to learn a great deal about all the unique tribes that have made Vietnam a rich country in terms of culture.
Another top 10 thing to do in Hanoi is to go to the third tallest building in Hanoi, the Lotte Tower. This impressive skyscraper in the middle of the Bai Dinh district has 65 floors with dedicated spaces for a luxury hotel, offices, apartments, and stores. Despite all that it has to offer, most people go to Lotte Tower, for one thing, the observation deck on the 65th floor. It gives visitors a panoramic view of the entire city of Hanoi. One of the highlights of the observation deck is the glass skywalk which is not for the faint of heart since it juts out of the building but provides the best unrestricted 360-degree views of Hanoi.
Popularly known as ‘Uncle Ho’, the famous revolutionary leader and president Ho Chi Minh is a household name in Vietnam. After his death, to commemorate his life and achievements, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was built. Fashioned after Lenin's Mausoleum, but with distinct Vietnamese influence, the granite gray mausoleum serves as the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh. His embalmed body is on display inside the mausoleum. Every year thousands of Vietnamese descend upon the mausoleum for a glimpse of the man who brought them their independence.
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long or the Hanoi Citadel is an important UNESCO World Heritage Site in Vietnam. Construction of the citadel began as early as the 11th century by Emperor Ly Thai To of the Ly Dynasty. Since then, it has been subsequently built upon by different rulers with new additions added every time. The citadel has played an important part in Vietnam's history and has witnessed some of the most prominent historical events including independence and the Vietnam war which is evident when you take a tour of it.
While traveling or exploring a new place, the best way to get to know what life is truly like is to go to the local market. Hanoi has so many markets you can go shopping at but the one market you cannot miss out on exploring is the Dong Xuan Market, the largest indoor market in Hanoi. Here you'll find some of the best and freshest local produce, seafood, household goods, clothes, and handicrafts. There's even a section which sells pets and fresh flowers. There's also a massive dining hall where you can get cheap tasty Vietnamese food such as bun cha, banh tom, congee, pho, che, and more.
Vietnam is the second-highest coffee-producing country and as a result, you will find good coffee anywhere in the country, especially so in the capital. So, if you like cafes and coffee, you’ll be in for a treat in Hanoi. The city is filled with trendy cafes serving amazing coffee and mouth-watering food. Places like Ca Phe Duy Tri, the oldest cafe in Hanoi, which has been operating since 1936, and Cafe Giang are unmissable gems. The coffee street in Nguyen Huu Huan is also a great place to check out good coffee.
Read more: A guide to Hanoi
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