20 Things to Do in Hanoi, Vietnam: A COMPLETE Guide

Tran Quoc Pagoda - Things to Do in Hanoi

If you’re wondering what to do in Vietnam’s capital city, here are all the best things to do in Hanoi!

I only spent three days in Hanoi at the tail end of my 2 1/2 week trip through Vietnam one February. After spending most of the trip with my friend, I was actually back to traveling solo.

I split my days with one major walking and photography day, one souvenir shopping and relaxing day, and one day for meeting up with a new friend. It was actually a nice pace as Hanoi is incredibly walkable, and I stayed in the fairly central  Old Quarter! I thought I’d go into all that I got up to as well as some things I’d like to do if I get a chance to return.

Check out our quick guide to Hanoi, Vietnam's capital and an important city throughout its history, from the dynastic times to present times.

Why Hanoi?

Throughout Vietnamese history, Hanoi has played a major role. Perhaps its most notable role was as the communist headquarters during the Vietnamese war with the US.

Nowadays, Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and one of its major hubs. The city is incredibly walkable, and the whole vibe is quite laid back even with bustling traffic. The weather is much cooler than central and southern Vietnam, especially in February, so pack accordingly before you arrive.

Quick Tips for Visiting Hanoi

How to Get There

Since we were coming from Halong Bay, I took a series of modes of transportation to get back to Hanoi that I’d probably nix if I did it all over again. Depending on where you’re coming, you can fly into Hanoi or take the train. Just check Baolau for the train.

If you’re flying, the airport is called the Noi Bai International Airport, and it’s about 40 minutes from the Old Quarter. You can get a SIM Card there and, of course, book a pretty cheap private transfer to your hotel ahead of time.

How to Get Around

Like I said, it’s super easy to get around! I basically mapped out where I wanted to go and got a taxi to drop me off at the furthest point. I don’t even think I had a SIM card at the time!

However, if you’d rather not risk getting lost in a new city, I always recommend doing some sort of tour on your first or second day! You can try these:

  • Half-Day Small Group Tour – A pretty classic tour to take you around the major sites of Hanoi.
  • Hanoi Street Food: Small Walking Tour – 3 hours and goes through the Old Quarter. It’s also in the evening, so you might be able to fit it in on the same day you arrive!
  • Film Photography Tour of Hanoi – Is this not such a fun tour You get to use a film camera to check out some lesser known spots around Hanoi and learn more about photography in relation to the city.

Check out our quick guide to Hanoi, Vietnam's capital and an important city throughout its history, from the dynastic times to present times.

Where to Stay

The absolute best area to stay is in the Old Quarter as it’s central to everything. I stayed at New Vision Palace Hotel, and I was quite happy with the location, services, and prices. If that’s not up your alley, here are some others:

Budget

Mid-Range

Luxury

Honestly there are SO many beautiful hotels with 9+ ratings and crazy cheap prices in the Old Quarter. You can compare even more here.

Airbnbs

There are also some nice locally-owned Airbnbs if you’re staying longer and want something more home-y feeling. You could try this gorgeous studio owned by Alex, who was born and raised in Hanoi, or this super cool tiny house owned by Dung, who also lives in Hanoi. And if it’s your first time signing-up, click here to get a discount.

A Note on the Weather

Don’t be fooled by Vietnam’s southeast Asia location — its northern areas can get quite chilly in the winter! When I went in February, I was sweating in HCMC and Hoi An, but Hanoi was around 60F (16C) in comparison! I had been lugging around a light jacket to get to and from Korea’s winter, and I actually wore it the whole time!

20 Fun Things to Do in Hanoi

And now, here are all the different things to do in Hanoi while you’re here!

1. Catch a show at the Hanoi Opera House (or just admire its architecture from the outside).

If you’re still interested in French architecture within Vietnam, definitely make time to stop by Hanoi’s Opera House. Built in the early 1900’s, its design is based on the Palais Garnier in Paris but with warm yellow and white colors. Check out their performance schedules here.

  • Address: 1 Trang Tien St, Hanoi, Tràng Tiền, Hoàn Kiếm

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

2. Get to know more about the Vietnam War from Vietnam’s perspective.

There are a few places in Hanoi to check out if you’re interested in learning about the Vietnamese War. Keep in mind, just as I’m sure coverage of the war in US history books is tinged with bias, so are these tourist sites. However, if you, like me, were only vaguely taught about the war in high school, this is a good way of seeing the other side of it.

Here are some of the places:

Hoa Loa Prison

In a seemingly innocuous building with the words Maison Central, Hoa Loa Prison was used by the French first for political prisoners and later by the North Vietnamese for American POWs. If you meet a U.S. POW veteran, you may even hear it sarcastically referred to as “Hanoi Hilton.”

  • Open: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Address: 1 Hoả Lò, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

An imposing structure, this mausoleum was built to commemorate Ho Chi Minh. Interestingly, he was opposed to is creation, wishing for the land to be used for agriculture instead. It’s massive and heavily guarded.

Ho Chi Minh Museum

Right across the street from the mausoleum, this museum covers all of Ho Chi Minh’s life in great detail.

  • Open: 8:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. + 2:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • Entrance Fee: 10,000 VND
  • Address: Hùng Vương, Điện Biên, Ba Đình

Vietnam Military History Museum

If you’re interested in the war this is the museum for you. It displays a lot of the different equipment used during Vietnam’s wars.

  • Open:  8:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. + 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m., closed Monday and Friday
  • Entrance Fee: 30,000 VND
  • Address: 28A Điện Biên Phủ, Điện Biên, Ba

Yellow exterior o the National Museum of Vietnamese History

4. Learn more about Vietnamese history at Hanoi’s different museums.

Beyond the war decades, this country has centuries of rich culture and history and learning about is one of the best things to do in Hanoi. Here are three of the most notable museums:

National Museum of Vietnamese History

As the name might imply, this museum has exhibits covering Vietnam’s long history. Its architecture is also interesting, combining elements from both Chinese and French influences. Sadly I got here after closing, so I couldn’t go in!

  • Open: 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. + 1:30 p.m.-5:00 p.m., closed first Monday of each Month
  • Entrance Fee: 40,000 VND
  • Address: 1 Phạm Ngũ Lão, Tràng Tiền, Hoàn Kiếm

Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

This museum looks at all the different ethnic groups in Vietnam and celebrates their diversity and contribution to Vietnamese culture. It’s definitely on my future return trip itinerary!

  • Open: 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., closed Monday
  • Entrance Fee: 25,000 VND
  • Address: Nguyễn Văn Huyên, Nghĩa Đô, Cầu Giấy

Vietnamese Women’s Museum

This museum is for those interested in the lesser publicized history of Vietnam–the history of its women. From familial relations to general history to fashion, this museum aims to educate visitors on these women.

  • Open: 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
  • Entrance Fee: 30,000 VND
  • Address: 36 Lý Thường Kiệt, Hang Bai ward, Hoàn Kiếm

Hoan Kiem Lake around sunset

5. Meander around Hoan Kiem Lake.

If you’re ever lost, look for this lake to refigure out where you are. It’s also just a lovely place to sit, relax, and enjoy the scenery and all the people strolling about. If you can, I’d make a little lunch and have a small picnic lakeside. In the center of the Old Quarter, it’s hard to miss.

  • Address: Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Hoàn Kiếm

Ngoc Son Temple

6. Visit Ngoc Son Temple.

This temple is located on a little islet in Hoan Kiem Lake and is accessible by a beautifully intricate red bridge. It gets pretty busy, so try and get there earlier in the morning to avoid crowds.

  • Open: 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
  • Cost: 20,000 VND
  • Address: Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm

7. Visit the Quan Thanh Temple.

From the 11th century in Truc Bach Lake, this Taoist temple is one of the four sacred temples of the capital. If you’re interested in Vietnamese religious architecture, definitely check it out.

  • Address: Quán Thánh, Ba Đình

St. Joseph's Cathedral at Sunset

8. Visit St. Joseph’s Cathedral.

If you choose to see this Roman Catholic cathedral, you’ll notice its Neo-Gothic architecture strikes a close resemblance to a certain Parisian cathedral. That’s because its architects were heavily inspired by the Notre Dame as they created St. Joseph’s. You might be a bit disappointed by its damaged appearance, but it’s still quite striking, especially when it’s last on your list of a long day walking around Hanoi.

  • Address: Quan Hoan Kiem, Hoàn Kiếm

9. Get close to a highspeed train at Hanoi’s Train Speed Track.

I had absolutely no clue about this street until long after I left Vietnam! Right in the middle of Hoan Kiem is what’s known as a train street. In what would otherwise be a regular, tightly packed alleyway runs a fully functional train track. Each day people must hop to the side and watch as mere inches away a train comes speeding through! My friend over at So the Adventure Begins wrote a quick guide if you want to visit for yourself!

Hanoi Flag Tower

10. Check out the Flag Tower.

At 33 meters high, this flag tower is one of the major symbols of Vietnam. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to the franchise coffee shop right below it. I was actually looking for this when I came across the Imperial Citadel (below).

  • Address: Lê Hồng Phong, Điện Biên, Ba Đình

11. Take in a view of the city from the Lotte Observation Deck.

For an awesome view of the city, head to the Lotte Deck.

Tran Quoc or One Piller Pagoda

12. Visit the One Pillar (Tran Quoc) Pagoda

This beautiful pagoda was built in the 11th century and is a great starting place if you want to walk around Hanoi. This is where I had the taxi driver drop me off! Since it’s by the lake and in its own pond, it’s a lovely view.

  • Open: 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
  • Address: Chùa Một Cột, Đội Cấ

bright yellow Hanoi Presidential Palace

13. Walk by the Presidential Palace.

Not actually open to visitors, it’s hard to miss this palace from the street. Bright, bright yellow, it stands out. You’ll probably see it as you’re walking around this district, but it’s definitely worth noting for its color and grandeur.

  • Address: Hùng Vương, Ngọc Hà, Ba Đình

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Check out our quick guide to Hanoi, Vietnam's capital and an important city throughout its history, from the dynastic times to present times.

14. Wander around the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, this citadel served as the capital of Dai Viet from 11th-18th century. I actually visited here by accident while looking for the flag tower! It was both a residence and workplace of the Ly Dynasty, the Tran Dynasty, the Le So, the Mac, and the Le Trung Hung. While there, you can also visit one of the bunkers used during the Vietnamese war.

Graduates posing at Temple of Literature in Hanoi

15. Catch graduation celebrations at the Temple of Literature.

Built in the 11th century,  the Temple of Literature was dedicated to Confucius. If you go in, you can walk around and learn all about the different intellectuals. It’s a beautiful temple area, and if you go around graduation time (February), you’ll catch all the recent college graduates posing for their photos.

  • Open: 8:30-11:30 + 1:30-4:30closed Mondays
  • Entrance Fee: 10,000 VND
  • Address: 58 Quốc Tử Giám, Đống Đa

frozen coconut drink from Cong Caphe in Hanoi

16. Get a coffee at Cong Caphe.

By far one of my favorite places is Cong Caphe! It’s a mini-franchise in Vietnam. I went to the one on the Bah Dinh district as well as grabbed out by St. Joseph’s Cathedral. It’s decorated with war memorabilia and has the most delicious drink. I can’t remember the name, but it was drip coffee over frozen coconut yogurt. I loved this place so much I even went when I discovered they opened up one in Seoul!

  • Open: 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.
  • Address: 15 Trúc Bạch, Ba Đình
Bun Bo Nam Bo

17. Eat yourself to a food baby or two!

Truthfully, the best food you’re going to eat in Vietnam is the food you order sitting on a little plastic stool along one of the busy streets. It’s cheap and absolutely delicious. Keep these foods in mind, and prepare to eat your weight!

  • Bun Bo Nam Bo – I tried this with Laura (@_lauracollins) and her boyfriend for dinner. So delicious! I’m almost certain the place we ate at was here at 67 Hàng Điếu
  • Bun Rieu – This soup is made of different kinds of meat and thin rice noodles in a tomato broth.
  • Banh Xeo – Similar in appearance to a French crepe, Banh Xeo is a savory fried pancake. It’s stuffed with vegetables, meat, and often turmeric powder.
  • Ca Phe Trung – Also known as egg coffee, it’s like drinking dessert. So delicious. When I met up with Laura, she took me to a little place called Cafe Pho Co at 11c Hang Gai Street.
  • Che – This dessert soup is totally sweet and made of different ingredients seeped in sugary broth. The one I tried had was soft tofu.
  • Goi Cuon – Spring rolls!
  • Mi Vit Tiem – This dish is roasted duck in an egg noodle soup. It’s definitely a savory soup, and perfect for cooler days.
  • Pho – I mean, this is probably the most classic of Vietnamese dishes! Even people who have no concept of Vietnamese food, know pho (pronounce f-uh, not f-oe).
  • Xoi Xeo – This dish is made of sticky rice, thin slices of beans, and fried shallots.
  • Xuan Xuan (Vietnamese BBQ Restaurant) – “It is similar to Korean bbq but instead served with a tub of butter and french baguettes to dip in the grease & butter! We were regulars at this place during our month stay in Hanoi!” – Megan of Bobo and Chichi (47 Mã Mây, Hàng Buồm, Hồ Hoàn Kiếm)

*Bonus: Eat at the same restaurant as Obama and Anthony Bourdain.

I actually have only had Bun Cha back in Korea at a Vietnamese restaurant here, and I’m pretty sure it’s not quite the same as eating it in Vietnam. If you go to Hanoi, stop over at  Bun Cha Huong Lien to eat at the same place Obama and Bourdain dined at!

  • Address: 24 Lê Văn Hưu, Phan Chu Trinh, Hai Bà Trưng

For a more guided foodie experience, try these tours:

18. Meet up with some expats in Hanoi!

Sometimes I’m so sociable, I don’t really know who I am! For whatever reason, though, I reached out to Laura on Instagram for some advice about Hanoi, and we wound up arranging to get coffee and something to eat during one of my days there. It was fun meeting up with a likeminded person, and she took me to two eateries I wouldn’t have known to visit on my own!

Hanoi is a big hub for expats, especially those teaching English, so try meeting up with someone. Connect on Instagram or also just try putting it out there in Digital Nomad or expat groups. In our Female Digital Nomads group, Milou posts something every week for people to write where they’re at.

19. Buy ethical souvenirs at Chie Handmade

One of the places I looked at before going to Hanoi was A Pair & A Spare’s guide to Hanoi. I went to two of her shopping suggestions, and Chie Handmade was easily my favorite. Everything is handmade from natural materials, and the shopkeeper was so lovely. It all looked quite unique to other souvenir shops around the city, and the prices were quite fair. I walked away with a new passport case and a few scarves because it was a little chillier than I had anticipated!

  • Address: 70 Hàng Gai, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm

20. Take a tour from Hanoi

Hanoi is great as a hub for different day and overnight trips.

Halong Bay

Halong is one of the New Seven Natural Wonders, and it’s incredible. I know it gets a bad rep as it often feels littered with tourist boats, but when I went it was peaceful and mostly empty. Granted, we were there in the off-season, so maybe that’s why!

Sapa

Go trekking in Sapa! I didn’t go while I was in Vietnam because it was winter, and the photos I saw of the area just didn’t make me want to add it into an already (for me) packed itinerary. Everyone I know who’s gone has recommended a local tour company, Sapa Sisters.

Ninh Binh

If you want a lesser known area to visit besides Halong Bay, check out Ninh Binh!

And there you have it! A list of incredible things to do in Hanoi. Let me know if you have anything to add!

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Here are all the best things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam + tons of travel tips for your visit!

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