The vibrant city of Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and is the second biggest city in the country. Hanoi encompasses an interesting mix of the East and the West with visible traces of the country's rich history. Vietnam was invaded by the Chinese for a long time, later by the French and also by the Americans in the 20th century.
Hanoi was named the 8th most popular destination in the world in 2016 by TripAdvisor and is a highly sought after destination for visitors from all over the globe due to its rich historical and cultural heritage, breath-taking scenery and delicious cuisine. Hanoi boasts a myriad of places to see and things to do, so we've compiled our top 10 suggestions on the best things to do in Hanoi.
Hanoi's Old Quarter is famous for its charming colonial architecture, Buddhist temples and pagodas. The Old Quarter is situated near Hoan Kiem Lake and is Hanoi's main commercial district. Its fascinating history is reflected in the ancient commercial streets whose namesakes are derived from the original businesses dating back to over 1,000 years ago. Visitors can browse and appreciate some of the unique goods sold in this buzzing epicentre as well as get a feel of ancient Vietnamese culture. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of restaurants, bars, cafes, art galleries and boutiques in this historical area of Hanoi.
Situated in the Ba Dinh area, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a must-see attraction during a visit to Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh was the first Communist leader of Vietnam and is famous for defeating the French in the 1950's. As a highly respected leader in Vietnam, locals often refer to him as "Uncle Ho". The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is modelled after Lenin's Mausoleum in Moscow and visitors can see the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh in a glass case.
Dong Xuan Market is the largest of its kind in Hanoi. Boasting four storeys, Dong Xuan Market is housed within Soviet-style building. This fascinating complex is home to an extensive array of souvenirs, fashion apparel and printed T-shirts. On the ground floor, you can see a fish market, where you can see all sorts of species - not recommended for those with sensitive noses. The best part about Dong Xuan Market is that it offers the best prices in arguably the whole city.
Vietnamese cuisine boasts a complex array of delicious flavours and learning how to cook it will help ease your food cravings once you return home. Learn how to master the art of Vietnamese Noodle Soup, Summer Rolls and many more of the amazing Vietnamese dishes that are guaranteed to appease your tastebuds. Most of the cooking classes in Hanoi incorporate a market tour where you will be able to source the freshest ingredients and learn all about local life in Hanoi.
The Hoan Kiem Lake(also known as Turtle Lake) is situated in the center of the city and it is a popular hangout spot for tourists and locals alike. It is a magnificent spot to watch the sunrise or sunset. Visiting the temple costs VND 20, 000. Alternatively, you can opt to bike ride or take a leisurely stroll around and enjoy the views of the lake.
Situated in the epicentre of the French Quarter, the Hanoi Opera House is one of the most opulent buildings in Hanoi. The Opera House is modelled after the Paris Opera House and was built in 1911. This historical landmark exudes Parisian charm, boasting ornate balustrades, Gothic architecture and elegant ivory coloured columns. Visitors can enjoy an array of performances ranging from Vietnamese opera and dance performances to sketches and concerts from internationally renowned artists.
Built in the 15th century, The Perfume Pagoda is a temple complex which features a series of Buddhist temples. The temples are built into a mountain range in a network of alleyways carved into the rock. This beautiful complex is backdropped by rich forests and beautiful flowing streams. Situated roughly 60km south of the city of Hanoi, the journey takes roughly two hours by car or bus but is a must-see as the journey is packed with scenic beauty.
There are numerous theatres in Hanoi where visitors can enjoy a uniquely Vietnamese puppet performance. The most iconic theatre which features water puppet performances is the Thang Long Puppet Theatre. Here, visitors can enjoy a uniquely authentic Vietnamese puppet dance where the puppets slide across a liquid stage and are controlled by an experienced puppet masters. Many of the performances feature stories involving traditional Vietnamese folklore, such as Hoan Kiem Lake and the giant tortoise.
The citadel of Hanoi is a UNESCO World Heritage site and former center of ancient Hanoi. For 13 centuries the citadel was the political center of Vietnam. More so, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long served as the capital of Vietnam for 8 centuries. Standing 40 metres tall, the flag tower of the citadel is a symbol of Hanoi.
Ba Vi National Park is a beautiful nature reserve situated 48km from Hanoi. It takes around two hours to journey to the park from downtown Hanoi. Famous for its three-peaked mountain that dramatically protrude into the sky. Ba Vi National Park boasts a diverse range of jungle plants and animals. At the summit of the tallest mountain is an 11th century temple where visitors can enjoy expansive views of the surrounding countryside. More so, on the forest floor are natural hot springs which visitors can relax around and soak up the scenery.
Hanoi offers a broad range of activities to suit each individual traveller. Whether you would like to learn about the city's rich historical heritage, attend a theatre performance or learn how to cook a few delicious Vietnamese dishes and immerse yourself in the food markets, Hanoi has something for everyone. If you are interested in visiting Vietnam, browse through our range of Vietnamese tours.
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Gavin is one of the travel consultants in the Encounters sales team.