The 10 Best things to do in Hanoi

Vietnam suburb next to railway line with washing - back of Vietnam street

The bustling city that never sleeps is a unique blend of cultures, historical places, atmospheric night markets, and delicious street food. Hanoi’s charm lies in its past French and Chinese influences and mix of tradition and modernity. The capital city of Hanoi is a colonial gem that boasts tree-lined boulevards, French colonial architecture, tranquil lakes, and ancient pagodas and temples. is the second-most populous city in Vietnam. Despite the chaotic traffic with trillions of scooters honking for right of way, Hanoins will patiently let you cross the Street. Besides their friendly nature, the resilience of the Vietnamese people, who overcame isolation until the 1990s, is truly remarkable. Is Hanoi worth visiting? My resounding answer is yes. Here is a glimpse into the world of Hanoians and the best things to do in Hanoi.

You’re either Gonna Love Hanoi or Hate Hanoi

Where is Hanoi located? Situated on the Red River in northern Vietnam, the city has a rich history and boasts some of the top attractions in Vietnam. Hanoians love their coffee and beer, and each has dedicated streets. With approximately 8 million residents, Hanoi is densely populated and congested with cafes, bars, street markets, artisan workshops, and historical places. Hanoians enjoy their meals with big smiles, and it’s a vibrant scene that ignites your senses and leaves you craving to taste the local cuisine.

Hanoi’s Top Attractions and Things to Do

1. Explore Hanoi Old Quarter

The Old Quarter of Hanoi in Vietnam is a beautiful northern part of the city. It has 36 streets and is best explored on foot or through an Old Quarter Trishaw Cyclo Tour. It has an authentic Hanoian vibe and should be at the top of your to-do list in Hanoi. The Old Quarter is vibrant and lively, with ancient architecture, busy markets, and mouth-watering street food.

Walking down the bustling streets, you are surrounded by mouth-watering smells emanating from street vendors and pop-up kitchens with colourful small plastic tables and chairs for you to enjoy their food. The Old Quarter is perfect for indulging in Vietnamese street food or relishing Hanoian Cuisine.

The 36 Streets of Hanoi are a famous landmark dating back to the Ly and Tran dynasties. Each street specializes in a particular trade or craft and is named after the goods traditionally sold there. This unique feature has become essential to Hanoi’s cultural and commercial identity. 

For instance, Hang Bac Street is well-known for its silver jewellery, while Hang Gai Street specializes in silk products. Lastly, Hang Ma Street is famous for its festive decorations.

Bicycle with Vietnamese Flowers in Hanoi Vietnam
Vietnamese flowers in Hanoi

2. Wander Around Hoan Kiem Lake

Turtle Tower in Hanoi Hoan Kiem lake in Vietnam⁠
Turtle Tower in Hanoi Hoan Kiem Lake in Vietnam⁠

Hanoi has 20 lakes, the most famous of which is Hoàn Kiem Lake. It is also known as Sword Lake or Tả Vọng Lake and is located in the heart of the historical centre. It is a popular spot for locals to relax, enjoy street food, and exercise. Observe goatees playing chess while others practise t’ai chi or join them for an early morning run.

Hoan Kiem Lake is surrounded by three streets: Hang Khay, Le Thai To, and Dinh Tien Hoang. It is one of the most visited attractions for both locals and tourists. The Lake was previously known as Thuy Quan Lake and was used as a military water lake where marines were trained to fight. At night, musicians playing by the lake enhance the area’s charm.

3. Visit Hanoi Train Street

The famous Train Street is a narrow train bypass close to tall, compacted buildings, with the tracks taking up nearly the entire Street. Constructed by the French in 1902, the train is still active and runs a few times daily to Ho Chi Minh City. Entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the Street’s popularity, setting up cafes to serve the bustling tourists. Unfortunately, in October 2019, the closure of one of Hanoi’s most popular tourist attractions was closed due to an irresponsible tourist.

How To Get To Train Street Hanoi

Train Street in Hanoi is located at 5 Trần Phú, between Phùng Hưng and Lý Nam Đế Street, close to the Hanoi Old Quarter. It is only accessible to those who booked a tour. If not, wander around one of the entrances, hoping a cafe owner will spot you and let you in through their back entrance.

Train Schedule Hanoi Train Street

Generally, the train passes Hanoi Train Street a few times daily on weekends but only twice a weekday. The schedule can change, so to ensure you don’t miss out, Book a Hanoi Train Street tour with an English Hanoi tour guide.

When can I see the train in Hanoi? Book the Old Quarter Small Group Tour or Hanoi Train Street tour to ensure you don’t miss out on this unique experience.

Hanoi train street in Vietnam Hanoi with cafes and colourful lanterns is a must in any Vietnam Travel Planner #trainstreethanoi #tahienhanoi
Hanoi Train Street Vietnam Hanoi

4. Shopping At Don Xuan Market 

As one of the largest markets in Hanoi, the Dong Xuan Market sells a wide range of products at reasonable prices. Bargaining is common in Vietnam, and vendors ask for high prices. It is expected that you negotiate for a better price. Make sure to take loose change, as some vendors may not have change for large bills. Traditional Vietnamese products include silk, ceramics, lacquerware, bamboo, accessories, clothing, household ware, and electronics.

Hanoi Dong Xuan Market hours and location: Vendors open daily from 6:00 a.m. Although most vendors close at 7:00 p.m., some stay open until 10:00 p.m. The market is in the Hoan Kiem District, north of the Old Quarter, on Dong Xuan Street. One floor has a fresh produce section that sells a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and spices. In addition to local goods, there are also imported items. Take care of your bags and watch out for pickpockets.

Dong Xuan market history: During the Vietnam War, Dong Xuan Market was a transportation hub for weapons and supplies for the North Vietnamese.

5. Visit Beer Street

The famous Ta Hien Beer Street, Hanoi Old Quarter, is where locals, backpackers, and tourists from all walks of life gather for an unforgettable experience. Besides the boisterous music that adds to the ambience and fun. This is also where one gets Bia Hoi Hanoi, a locally brewed beer often referred to as Vietnamese street beer straight from fresh beer kegs.

No visit to Hanoi is complete without a visit to the lively Hanoi Beer Street Hanoi Old Quarter in Vietnam’s northern region. A unique drinking culture involves serving beer on the streets for as little as 0.30 USD, making it the cheapest beer in the World. However, it’s much more than just a cheap drink. Part of Vietnamese culture and daily ritual, from 4 pm, locals gather on small, colourful plastic chairs on street corners to enjoy locally brewed beer. Besides the nightlife around the Lake, the bustling markets, and the incredible vibe at night on Beer Street.

People enjoying Bia Hoi Ha Noi Beer Hanoi in Beer St Hanoi
Bia Hoi Ha Noi Beer Hanoi in Beer St Hanoi

This fresh beer is unique as it is brewed daily and must be consumed within 24 hours. It contains no preservatives, which makes it spoil quickly. Furthermore, the rice content adds to its golden colour and light and airy taste. Low in alcohol, the beer is distributed in a traditional Vietnamese way, and it is transported on the back of a motorbike to the bia hoi bars in the city.

How to get to Ta Hien Beer Street: It is only 250 meters from Hoan Kiem Lake and about 500 meters from Dong Xuan Market in Hanoi Old Quarter. If you can’t walk there, call Grab or take a taxi.

6. Water Puppet Show

Water puppet shows are a unique form of entertainment that originated in Vietnam in the 11th century. During the show, skilled puppeteers use bamboo poles to control the puppets from waist-deep water. You must experience it for yourself to decide if it’s for you. Interested? Book a Hanoi Puppet Show to secure your place. The venue is at at 57b Dinh Tien Hoang in Hoan Kiem. Performances daily: 3:30 pm, 5 pm, 6:30 pm, 8p pm, 9:15 pm, and Sundays at 9:30 pm.

7. Insence Village Hanoi

“Visit the Quang Phu Cau Incense Village to observe the art of incense making. Learn about the significance and the incense-making process, as well as the history and importance of incense in Vietnamese culture. You can visit local workshops and watch artisans making incense sticks by hand.

The most affordable way to reach the Incense Village is by taking bus 91 from Hanoi, which takes about an hour. Alternatively, you can book an Incense Village Hanoi tour with a guide and transportation.”

8. Vietnam speciality coffees

Park yourself in one of Hanoi’s Coffee shops and order the famous Vietnamese speciality egg coffee. It was first created in 1946 in Hà Nội and is still enjoyed today. In Vietnamese culture, coffee is served with condensed milk and vanilla.

You can visit one of the many street cafes to enjoy a cup of Vietnamese egg coffee or coconut coffee while watching the people passing by. Another favourite to book is a Hanoi Cycling tour and Egg Coffee experience.

Vietnam the art of incense making at Incense Village Hanoi
Incense Village Hanoi

9. Visit Historical Places

With so much to experience, it can get quite overwhelming. Don’t complicate things, book a tour to experience the best places to visit in Hanoi. Another way to explore the top attractions in Hanoi is to go on a Sightseeing Hop-on-Hop-Off City Tour. This way, you can experience attractions like the Hoa La Prison, the Temple of Literature, the Vietnam Ethnology Museum, and the Independence Palace at your own pace.

  • If you’re planning a trip to Ho Chi Minh City, visit the Independence Palace, also known as the Reunification Palace. It is a must-visit for any historical enthusiast, of its beautiful architecture and to see Ho Chi Minh’s body.
  • Visit Hoa Lo Prison, used during the Vietnam War for a fascinating, although sad, glimpse into the past. 
  • Explore the Vietnam Ethnology Museum and learn about the diverse ethnic groups, their traditions, and ways of life.
  • The significant cultural and historical Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu) in Hanoi, Vietnam, was constructed in 1970 during the reign of Emperor Lý Thánh Tông to honour Confucius and later became Vietnam’s first national university.
  • The Ho Chi Minh Complex is where Ho Chi Minh lived periodically from 1958 to 1969. The simple house in a well-maintained garden next to a pond filled with carp fish has been preserved strictly as he left it many years ago. You can see the cars he owned and his office during a visit. Currently used for official receptions, it is not open to the public, although you can still explore the grounds filled with fruit trees.

10. Long Bien Bridge

The Hanoi Long Bien Bridge is a cantilever bridge of historical importance that spans the Red River (song Hong), linking the Hoàn Kiếm and Long Biên districts of Hanoi, Vietnam. Originally named the Paul Doumer Bridge, it played a pivotal role in connecting Hanoi to the major port of Haiphong during the Vietnam War. 

Despite being heavily bombed, with the first attack in 1967, the bridge remained operational until 1972. The centre span was destroyed by 20 United States Air Force F-105 fighter bombers on August 11th that year.

The more than 100-year-old Long Bien Bridge is a popular tourist attraction in Hanoi, particularly during sunrise or sunset when fishermen can be seen casting their nets.

Hanoi Long Bien Bridge in Vietnam
Hanoi Long Bien Bridge, Vietnam

Hanoi Travel Guide

When to Go

The best time to visit Hanoi is between November and April, when temperatures average around 25C. Summertime gets very hot and humid between June and August, with temperatures reaching 35C, although it is also rainy.

Day Trips and Tours

Depending on your time in Hanoi, here are recommended Hanoi Day Trips and Half Day trips from Hanoi.

Hanoi Travel Tips

  • Laundry Hanoi: We use Hanoi Laundry Service, which also picks up and delivers laundry to your hotel. You can contact them at +84 913 556 357. They are also available on WhatsApp.
  • Contact lenses: Looking for a Contact lense solution in Hanoi? I bought some at a shop on the Corner of Phô Trang Thi and PhôQuán Street. You can also buy some at the shops on Trang Tien Street, a famous optic street in Hanoi.
  • Pharmacy in Hanoi: Nguyen Luan Pharmacy, 3 P. Tràng Thi, Tràng Tiền, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội.  +84 24 3826 8644. You can also ask your hotel or hostel for the nearest pharmacy (tiệm thuốc).

Where To Stay In Hanoi, Vietnam

The Old Quarter, the Hoan Kiem District, is the best area to stay in Hanoi.

Best Things To Do In Hanoi At Night

If you are a fan of nightlife, you will love the lively markets, bars, and restaurants around the lake and the exhilarating vibe of Beer Street at night. Although Hanoi boasts centuries-old architecture, it also features modern high-rise buildings and is home to exclusive rooftop bars. One of the best things to do in Hanoi is to visit the exclusive rooftop bars.

Explore The Best Bars In Hanoi

  • The uniquely structured Lighthouse Sky Bar is a place you have to visit. Besides being on the top floor of a historic building in Hang Be Street, its ancient history sparked the idea for a boat theme. Styled on a boat and moored over three rooftop floors, the bow (bar) overlooks the Street, and the back stern faces the Red River. Location: La Sista Premium Hang Be, 27 Hang Be Street, Ha Noi. Lighthouse Sky Bar contact no +84 24 3929 0011.
  • Indulge in a romantic sunset and astonishing view from the 65th floor of the luxury Lotte Hotel. The contemporary hotel, only 3 km from the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum at 54 P. Liễu Giai, Cống Vị, Ba Đình, Hà Nội – contact no. +84 24 3333 1000.
  • The opulent Terraço Sky Bar offers a breathtaking 360-degree view and boasts an extensive selection of drinks. It is located on the Rooftop at 35 P. Hàng Dầu Street, Hoàn Kiếm. Lotte Hotel contact no. +84 969 085 788.
  • The Northern Soul Rooftop Bar is a hidden gem away from Beer Street’s chaotic hustle and bustle. Besides being peaceful, we had a lovely view, and the cocktails were reasonably priced with good service.

Visit the Best Restaurants Hanoi Old Quarter

Besides a street food tour, here are some of the Best restaurants in Hanoi’s Old Quarter; check out Duong’s Restaurant, located on May Street in the vibrant Hoan Kiem district of Hanoi. It’s a must-visit spot for delicious food and a great atmosphere. Book at Tel: +84 2436364567.

Join a Hanoi Cooking Class

Discover the top-rated Hanoi Cooking Class, according to Tripadvisor! Duongs Hanoi Cooking Class is held at Duong’s Restaurant in the heart of the Old Quarter. It’s just a short stroll (300m) from Hoan Kiem Lake and 1.5 kilometres from the Dong Xuan fresh food market. Chef Duong, a top Vietnamese chef, runs the cooking class. 

When you participate in our Cooking Class, Chef Duong will share his secrets and take you on a culinary journey. The location is 101 Ma May Street, Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. For bookings, contact +84 2436364567.

Hanoi Itineraries

If you have enough time, a 4-day itinerary would be great, but 3 days is still worth visiting Hanoi.

What to do in Hanoi for 3 days

  • Day 1: After you’ve settled in at your hotel or wherever you’re staying, walk or take a taxi to Hanoi’s Old Quarter and end the night at Hanoi Beer Street, or book one of the Street food tours in Hanoi.
  • Day 2: Visit the best highlights of Hanoi on a city tour with a Hop-on, hop-off Bus Tour. This way, you can visit the top attractions in Hanoi at your own pace or book a 4-hour Hanoi motorbike tour. After that, visit the market or see a Vietnamese water puppet show. To secure your place, book a Water Puppet Show ticket in advance.
  • Day 3: Book a visit to the iconic Train Street with a local guide. The tour includes a street food tour in the Old Quarter. Experience a short Cyclo Tour Hanoi, around the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake. And if you haven’t tried a famous Vietnamese egg Coffee, this is your chance.
Busy streets of Vietnam with Vietnam traffic
Busy street of Vietnam

Hanoi Itinerary 4 days

For 4 days in Hanoi, add one of the following:

5 day Hanoi Itinerary

Add one of the following trips:

After a few nights in Hanoi, explore Vietnam further? Good idea! Visit the Comprehensive Guide to best places in Vietnam, and for more Adventurous vacations for families, couples and solo-travellers:

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  1. amazing place with friendly people. worth visiting.

  2. To be honest, visitors either love Hanoi or Hate Hanoi.

  3. Dankie! Daar is beslis geleenthede. Dit kom nog in een vd volgende posts 🙂

  4. Ideal for city lovers!

  5. Wow, so interesting learning about a different place, culture and its uniqueness.

  6. Wel gedaan Miemie …. Jy het deur gedruk en jou visie is wonderlik …. Wat van hiking trips daar vir ons stappers