Hanoi at a Glance
Vietnam’s capital City Hanoi is one of the most frenetic and highly charged places in the country.
I love Hanoi. It’s one of my favorite cities in the whole world, and it has a special place in my heart. Hanoi is a blend of ancient oriental style and elegant French architectural works centered around Hoan Kiem Lake.
The buildings are painted dusty yellow with orange rooftops, temples are cutely tucked in every corner. It’s easy to get helplessly lost in a maze of backstreets, you’ll be whipping out google maps in no time.
That’s all right because everywhere you look there are tasty street food stall and coffee shop of your choosing!
Where to stay
HANOI LA SIESTA HOTEL TRENDY & SPA
A gorgeous hotel that has a peaceful and homely feel. The hotel embodies pure luxury promising a warm welcome and personal service at an affordable price.
Hanoi’s most cozy hotel has got everything covered! From lovely rooms, facilities to packaged tours, Cinnamon hotel will take care of your every need at a very affordable price.
HANOI ANTIQUE LEGEND
If you wish to escape Hano’s bustling scene, this hotel is the place to be. Comfortable, friendly staff and a really nice hotel.
HOTEL & SPA
This place truly captures what it means to be a boutique hotel. The contemporary communal spaces create an inviting and intimate ambiance to be enjoyed.
Wander through the Hanoi Old Quarter and here you will experience the rare sense of timelessness and see glimpses of previous generations.
For a feel of old Vietnamese culture, stroll along ancient commercial streets surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake, which are named after their original businesses dating back about 1,000 years. At the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Old Quarter’s is where you’ll see mostly Buddhist shrines, street markets, and traditional Vietnamese arts.
The prison is a reminder of Vietnam’s dark past. You can walk through the cells that where POW (locals and Americans) had suffered. The walls of some cells on the dark had been cut away and replaced with glass so that you can peer into the tiny, dark and even dirty solitary confined cells. It’s the site where Senator John McCain had been imprisoned in 1967 for 5 years. You can actually see McCain’s flight suit displayed along with many photos of his comrades. Cost: 40’000 vnd.
Don’t be Shy. Meet the locals!
I love mingling with the locals. It’s a great way to gain insight into the local culture. From my experience, the Vietnamese area tad shy but very curious and welcoming. Vietnam has many hidden gems clouded by tourist traps and having a local friend can be an invaluable source of information as they can advise you where to go and the best phở in town.
Hanoi is like the New York of rush hour traffic. If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. No, really. It’s chaotic, crazy, noisy, fascinating, hectic, nightmarish, even makes veteran travelers feel anxious.
Every time I make it to the other side, I feel grateful to be alive! “Stick with the crowd” locals say. Mimic the behavior of locals, and you’ll be amazed how quickly you assimilate to the chaos.
Watch the whole Hoan Kiem Lake and the bustling streets from a high viewpoint, I suggest you to try City View Café. As the name suggests, this place offers a great outlook of the center of Hanoi on the 3rd floor.
City View Cafe – 1-3-5 Dinh Tien Hoang St, Hoan Kiem Dis, Hanoi 10000
Skyview Bar- 14 – 16 Thanh Ha St | Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam
The lake view has a peaceful atmosphere, no wonder locals frequent there. Hoan Kiem Lake is more than a place to relax: A little like the legend of King Arthur, King Le Loi had a magical sword which he returned to a mystical turtle in Hoan Kiem Lake.
There are other structures such as the Temple of the Jade Mountain and the Tortoise Pagoda. The Ngoc Son Temple is the star attraction, reached by the bright red Huc Bridge. At night the lake atmosphere is quite a sight and very romantic!
There’s so much going on around the lake, you can find a lot of bars, boutiques, restaurants, local entertainment which can be fun and exciting for tourists to experience. Don’t be surprised to find yourself spending hours perusing all of the different stalls and all of the cute trinkets and lanterns.
The Water Puppet Show brings to life Vietnamese myths and traditional customs. There’s no English translation, but seeing the art form and colorful puppets in action speak volumes about Vietnamese culture. See here for tickets.
The Hanoi Opera House: A stunningly, beautiful building in Hanoi modeled on the Palais Garnier in Paris, is a must go. The interior is even more stunning than the exterior. And of course, you can also get tickets to ‘Lang Toi’, or ‘My Village.’ Check out acrobats, dancers, and jugglers bring a rural Vietnamese village to life on the stage as you hear live music on classic Vietnamese instruments. Why not see one of the spectacular shows. See here.
Try Vietnamese local coffee
You should not leave Vietnam without trying the local coffee! Here, the coffee culture is everything. The classic iced coffee poured over with creamy condensed milk will leave your mouth with a smooth sweet taste and yourself coffee drunk.
For more on Vietnamese Coffee, why not read Why you Should drink Vietnamese Coffee
You probably have tried spring rolls and Pho soup in your hometown, but nothing beats authentic Vietnamese food. And it’s cheap! Dishes like pho and bun bo, you’ll not want to eat anything else!
Find locals and travelers of all walks of life even President Obama sitting at a corner of a grubby open-air restaurant on low plastic stools, enjoying freshly made dishes with cold beers in hand.
Most of the best dining in Vietnam is still done on the streets.
Bun Cha / Bun Cha Ta Hanoi -21 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiem, Vietnam Also, head to 67 Hang Dieu for some of the best bun bo nam bo in town.
Banh Cuon /Bánh Cuốn Gia Truyen -Visit 14 Hang Ga, where a family has been serving this specialty for generations.
Pho – Two great spots for pho are Pho Gia Truyen (49 Bat Dan) and Pho Lam Nam Ngu (7 Nam Ngu).
Com Binh dan – Translates roughly to “commoner’s rice.” Tiem Com Vinh Thu (14 Ly Thuong Kiet).
Banh Mi (Baguette Sandwich) Banh Mi 25
Banh Tom Ho Tay– 1 Thanh Nien, Truc B_ch, Ba Dinh District
While budget street eateries are found everywhere, Vietnam’s culinary scene has been jazzed up its local dishes taking it to the fine dining ranks.
French food – Cousins restaurant – 3 Quảng Bá, Quảng An, Tây Hồ
Duong’s Restaurant – 27 Ngõ Huyện, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm,
Hanoi Serene Cuisine Restaurant – 16 Bat Su, Hanoi
Duong’s 2 Restaurant – 101 Ma May st, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiem,
ThangLong Deli Restaurant – 122 Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiem
Da Paolo Westlake – No. 32, Quang Khanh, Tay Ho District
There’s plenty to see after the sun sets. Lively bars and glitzy nightclubs are conveniently based around Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter, where you can enjoy all sorts of booze as well as mix and mingle with fun-loving locals and expats.
However, a night out in Hanoi is not complete without sitting back on plastic stools and enjoy Bia Hoi (Vietnamese draft beer) along the bustling streets.
If you’ve got more energy after your day trip, there are several amazing nightclubs. From eccentrically themed venues to exclusive clubs with Western pricing, you’ll find a bit of everything here.
Bia Hoi Beer Corner at 1A Duong Thanh Street
Bia Hoi Junction – an intersection of Luong Ngoc Quyen, Ta Hien, and Dinh Liet Streets There, a cold one can cost 7,000 VND.
The 100 Beer Garden – Go here for a drink outside and enjoy the cool night air at 68/238 Au Co
Binh Minh Jazz Club – see the country’s finest jazz musicians, including Vietnamese jazz pioneer Binh Minh himself.
Savage – A very hip and happening place in the West Lake area of Hanoi.
A hip and happening venue in the West Lake area of Hanoi, Savage is one of the city’s most popular nightclubs.
Hero Club Hanoi – Be wowed by its cool decoration made up of old propaganda posters and images of superheroes, stop by Hero Club Hanoi at 42M Yên Phụ (Lớn).
Hanoi Rock City – For a mix of culture and partying, Hanoi Rock City at 27/52 Tô Ngọc Vân is the perfect place. They offer an eclectic mix of DJ nights, live musicians, art exhibitions, and a whole lot more.
Use Grab App or uber for a cheap Taxi ride.
Don’t get ripped off by Licensed like Taxi Mai Linh, Taxi Airport and Taxi Van Xuan.
The Three-wheeled bicycle will give you front row seats to the charms of Hanoi as your peddler navigates you leisurely around the Old Quarter.
Catch a local bus if you don’t mind getting lost.
Other things to do in Hanoi
Choosing a tour
Use Hanoi as a base to explore Sapa, Ha Giang and other attractions, such as Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Island. There are heaps of travel agencies in every corner begging you to book a tour with them. Be warned though, because you get what you pay for. Always book with a quality tour for a good experience! If the price is cheap, then it’s already telling.