September 2, 2016

Top Ten Things to Do in Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is one of the most beautiful cities in Asia. Despite the palpable economic boom, the city was able to preserve its traditional Vietnamese culture. It is an interesting mix of modern development and Vietnam’s old-world charm that entices first-time and return visitors.

You’ll never run out of interesting things to do in Hanoi and if you’re a first-time traveller, you might be facing the dilemma of how to fit everything into your itinerary. To help you, here are top ten things you can do while vacationing in Hanoi.

1. Visit Hanoi’s historical sights.

Hanoi has quite a number of historical places and we recommend a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Hoa Lo Prison. Both give visitors a glimpse of Vietnam’s complex past and are considered two of the country’s most important historical attractions.

2. Spend a few relaxing moments appreciating the beauty of Hoan Kiem Lake.  

Hoan Kiem Lake

Located right in the middle of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake is a symbol of peace and tranquility amidst the chaos that is modern Hanoi. After spending most of your day walking the busy streets of the city, a quick trip to the lake is a great way to recharge your batteries. Try visiting the lake before sunset or in the evenings for a more relaxing atmosphere.

3. Go on a street food walking tour.

Vietnamese cuisine is one of the top reasons why tourists flock to Vietnam. Pho, bun cha, goi cuon, banh cuon, and banh mi are just a few of the many Vietnamese street food you should try from Hanoi’s street hawkers. To enhance your Hanoi experience, go on a street food walking tour with a local guide for a sampling of the best pho or bun cha in town.

4. Walk around the Old Quarter.

The Old Quarter is a top favorite among Hanoi’s visitors. This area is bustling with activity and to make the most out of your trip, go on an unhurried walking or biking tour to appreciate the French Colonial and classic Vietnamese architecture as well as the Hanoian way of life. Expect to see vibrant streets lined with shops, café, restaurants, and teeming with motorbikes!

5. Watch a water puppet show.

Watching a puppet show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is a must-do in Hanoi, especially when you’re travelling with kids. Always fun and engaging, these water puppet shows highlight Vietnamese history and tradition through skillful puppetry and traditional live music performances.

6. Get a relaxing massage.

One of the best things about travelling to Hanoi is that you can get a relaxing massage for a fraction of what you would normally pay in Western countries. There are many spas and massage parlours that offer traditional full body or foot massages. A tip to travellers – male masseurs give the best foot massages!

7. Shop for souvenirs at Hanoi’s night markets.

If you are looking for lacquerware, silk clothing, accessories, and other souvenir items, you might want to check out the night markets along Hang Dao and Hang Giay streets. These markets are especially busy during weekends and if you have learned the art of haggling, you might just snag a deal or two.

8. Go on a full day excursion to Halong Bay.

Halong Bay

What’s great about Hanoi is that it is considered the gateway to many tourist destinations in Northern Vietnam, including Halong Bay. A UNESCO Heritage Site, Halong Bay features picturesque karst formations against an expansive backdrop of emerald-green waters.

9. Sample different types of Vietnamese coffee.

The world loves coffee and Hanoi is no exception. During your stay in Hanoi, sample the different types of Vietnamese coffee and be amazed at how Hanoi coffee tastes familiar, and yet so different, from the ones you’ve had elsewhere. For a more authentic experience, try any of the family-run coffee shops along Trieu Viet Vuong, Hanoi’s coffee street, and order a regular cup of brown coffee or ca phe nau. Feeling a bit adventurous? Ask for a cup of sua chua ca phe (yoghurt coffee) or ca phe trung (egg coffee) instead.

10. Join a Vietnamese cooking class.

Travel is all about experience and nothing beats immersing oneself in Vietnamese culture by learning the basics of Vietnamese cooking – from shopping for ingredients at a local market to the actual food preparation. A Vietnamese cooking class can run for hours so be sure to allot at least 4 hours of your Hanoi vacation for this fun cultural experience.

Planning your first trip to Hanoi? Check out the best private and group tours within and around Hanoi here.

By: Brendelyn Balaga

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