10 THINGS TO DO HANOI, VIETNAM
If you ever have the chance to visit Hanoi, make sure you give yourself plenty of days to explore this wonderful city. You will always find something to do or see in this diverse city.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, and the second biggest city in Vietnam. It is a perfect place to explore the traditional side of Vietnam, mixed with traces of the French & communist influences. You can spend hours exploring the streets, or organising day trips from here – there will always be something to do!
Hanoi was the first city I visited in Vietnam, it was a mix of chaos & culture. I spent just under 3 days here, and still don’t feel like I got to see half of it. I would love to return one day and explore more.
Here are my options for the best things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Dong Xuan Market
Want to explore four storeys of a market in Hanoi? This building offers a range of fashion, fresh produce, material & souvenirs, everything you could think of. Established in 1889, it’s found on the edge of Hanoi’s old quarter. There’s also a wet market on the ground floor, selling fish, meat & other goods. Open from 6am-7pm!
Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s definitely worth a visit to see all of the colours, all of the local traders, and experience the busy hustle and bustle of a market – then this is the place to go.
Visit Train Street
You’ll have certainly seen this place on Instagram. Train street is notoriously busy, and full of people aiming to get their Instagram selfie. Train street is famous for having a functioning 117-year-old railway track making it’s way through a street that is full of homes and cafes. The train passes through a few times a day, where people gather to watch the train pass through.
In October 2019, the authorities closed down parts of the tracks due to the busy and dangerous. When we visited the most popular part in January 2020, there were police officers everywhere, constantly monitoring the tracks, making sure no one walks near or on them. We were later taken by a local photographer to a bit of the tracks outside of town, it still gave the same feel, but the tracks were much wider & it wasn’t busy as or dangerous! This one is a bit of a difficult one, you would have to just find the right area, and be respectful of the rules and regulations!
Go for a run
I know it’s probably not your first thought when you are travelling, but for me, I find this is a great way to keep healthy, and really get a feel of local life early in the morning. Set out around 5-6am, and watch the world wake up. I managed to find some great views and routes running around Hanoi, and also got to see the morning markets. Whenever I run in a new country, it really gives me a chance to just explore the local area and streets, or to find the nearest green space!
You’ll definitely be able to see everyone else getting out for their daily exercise at this time in the morning to avoid the heat, why not try it?
When we travelled through Vietnam, we knew we were going to be coming back to Hanoi at the end of our trip. So we picked our favourite shops & returned to get what we wanted at the end of the trip. There streets are full with market stalls, shops, vendors, selling anything and everything you could think of. I always love just browsing the shops anyway as it’s all so bright and colourful – I even managed to nab myself a great North Face rucksack that is still giving me life to this day. You might find yourself a little trinket, or a knock off jumper, or just anything you would love. You could get yourself lost in the streets!
Try out egg coffee & watch the world go by at the Note Coffee Cafe
Now, I’m going to be honest, the main reason I wanted to go to this cafe was to take pictures after seeing it on Instagram, the visit was so much better than I had imagined. Placed on the edge of Hoan Kiem Lake, you are immediately greeted by waving and big smiles, calling you into the cafe. I know it’s part of their selling tactic, but it didn’t seem fake, it felt like genuine happiness, that really pulled you in.
As you walk in, you are met by the stunning colours all around the 3 levels of the cafe, all the post it notes placed everywhere around the building. With love notes, quotes, people just putting their name out there, drawings, anything you could think of, it was all on a post it note!
We ordered two fruit shakes and spent the next hour just sitting, taking photos and watching the world go by. It tasted amazing as well! Totally worth the visit!
Grab yourself a Banh Mi
You can’t come to Vietnam and not try a banh mi! In Hanoi, you will be inundated with places to grab yourself one, and they taste amazing! You could pop yourself inside one of the restaurants, or grab a plastic stool on the street and watch the world go by!
If you’re looking for places specifically in Hanoi, check out the blog here!
Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake is perhaps the most famous spot in Hanoi and is also believed to be a mystical body of water. The reason for this is that the lake is said to have a mythical resident turtle who is the hero of a Vietnamese legend. Locals will tell you that the turtle still swims in the lake, although you will also spot many other real-life turtles here when you go to visit.
The main draw now, is that it’s one place in Hanoi that gives you a breather, a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and to just sit or stroll around. This lake is such a refreshing section of Hanoi!
Hanoi Old Quarter
You can spend hours exploring the Hanoi Old Quarter. You will be met with old colonial buildings, packed narrow streets, endless packs of scooters, motorbikes and bicycles, and vendors selling all of their goods. You could go shopping here, history spotting, explore the local cuisine! It’s so easy to get around on foot here, you don’t need to worry about transport.
Each street is named in order to tell you what types of shops you will find there as well! It’s definitely one of the prettiest and most traditional parts of the city.
Watch the magic of the water puppets
Dating back to the 11th century, water puppet performances are perfect for an evening activity, and to give you an insight into Vietnamese folklore. Met with bright colourful costumes and puppets, the puppeteers operate in waist-deep water, holding onto bamboo poles as they tell stories of Vietnamese life. You have live singers and musicians, and it really is an amazing spectacle that shouldn’t be missed!
Where to find: We visited the most famous water puppet theater – Thang Long. You can book your tickets online or earlier in the day.
Saint Joseph’s Cathedral
Saint Joseph’s Cathedral (also known as Hanoi Cathedral), was built on the site of the Bao Thien Tower, which was the most famous landmark in the capital during the Ly Dynasty. It was inspired by the style of Notre Dame in Paris – which when you first arrive, you can really see the resemblance. Depending on the time of year, you might see the church decorated!
It’s also located in a lovely square full of cafe’s and restaurants, so you can just sit and enjoy the sun, whilst you look at the amazing architecture.
In all honesty, there are just so many things to do in Hanoi, the list could go on and on. We were only there for a few days and this is what we managed to fit in during the time. I can’t wait to go back as I don’t feel like I managed to see everything!
Are there any other places you would recommend?
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