How long should you travel in Hanoi?
Travelers often choose Hanoi as a transiting stop for the surrounding places such as Halong Bay Tour, Sapa Trekking Tour, Mai Chau Tour or Duong Lam Village Day trip. However, to know the locals is the best and the most exciting way to get on well with a place.
It’s generally assumed that the visitors only need spend one day and join the Hanoi City Tour to cover all the things to see in Hanoi. However, Hanoi is more than that when it’s ranked 5th of the top 10 most attractive cities in Asia in 2018.
First and foremost, let’s go through some fundamental information about Hanoi to know more about this city.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, also the second largest city that its populations comes to 7.68mil. This is hard to determine conclusively as there are dozens of people working in the cities.
To commute around, the local use the motorbike, public bus, taxi, private car rental with a driver, online transfer apps, etc. The main transportation type is motorbike (5.2 mil motorbikes in 2018; and predicted to reach 6.1 mil by 2020) as this means of transportation works for the narrow streets and alleys.
Great things to do in Hanoi:
Stroll around Hanoi Old Quarter
This could be done in 2 hours, half day or even a day if you feel really excited in wandering among the busy streets. The intersections of those streets make you feel like getting lost in a matrix. The houses here and there are small and narrow old colonial style houses, shopping stores appear similar to each other.
There are bunches of local food stalls on pavements with simple and low wooden or plastic chairs always fully filled up with local people.
Hanoi is beloved by many things, including food and drinks. While walking around, you could stop for cup of Vietnamese iced coffee (back coffee with condensed milk and ice), Vietnamese egg coffee (blacked coffee mixed with condensed and fresh milk and raw york), Vietnamese iced tea (Vietnamese tea with ice; could be served with sunflower seeds), Vietnamese iced tea with lemon (iced tea mixed with lemon juice and sugar), fresh tropical fruit juice and so on.
If you are hungry, stop at a restaurant (it’s advised to sit at a crowded place which means the food are delicious and favored by many locals) for Vietnamese bread (bread are stuffed with salad, chili sauce, either pate, roasted pork, fried egg, etc.), Pho (Vietnamese rice noodle with beef or chicken), Bun (another type of Vietnamese rice noodle, in rounded shape served with soup and topping of pork ball, pork ribs, duck, fried fish, etc.), Bun Cha (rounded rice noodle with barbecued pork with seasoned sauces; no soup), Bun Nem (rounded rice noodle with deep dried spring rolls with seasoned sauces, no soup), Hanoi grilled fish (a famous dish which fish are grilled; it will be stirred by you, and mixed with lots of dills and green onions, peanut, sauces and rounded rice noodle while eating), Hanoi sticky rice (the sticky rice is steamed and served with many toppings options of chicken, salad, sausages, steamed green beans and deep fried onions, etc.) Sweet soup (a type of dessert with well stewed beans cooked with starch powders. The sellers have their own way to make the sweet soup adapt with scorching hot summer and freezingly cold winter). If you concern on the food quality as well as best place to eat in Old Quarter, you could refer the Hanoi food tour for the guidance and sharing from a local expert on foodie.
Beside tasting Hanoi famous food and drinks, you also have chance to do shopping around old quarter with variable handicrafts such as Vietnamese lacquers, silk and embroidery products, post cards, clothes, shoes, coffee bean, weasel coffee, dried tea, pepper, cashew, etc. Be curios and reach the coffee street, or shoes street and see if you can get home some.
Explore the remained colonial buildings of Hanoi
Those colonial architecture buildings are not gathered nearby each other for your contemplation; but fortunately, they are not so far that you can get around even by walking.
To call out some of most prominent, let’s go with the Presidential Palace (This building is the venue where the country’s president works and receives distinguish and diplomatic delegators. To see this one, you can visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum with the Presidential Palace sited nearby); The Hanoi Opera House (built since 1901, an evidence for the development of Hanoi in terms of culture and social. The Opera House could be reached easily as it is located just 05 minutes walking from the Hoan Kiem Lake – the center of central Hanoi); The Hanoi Medical University (used to be Medical college founded in 1902; located in Le Thanh Tong Street these days); Cua Bac Church (an old church built by the French administrator in 1931. This church is only 5 minutes walking from Ba Dinh Square; additionally, the church is just 800m from West Lake); St Joseph’s Cathedral (a Gothic style French cathedral, sited right in the Old Quarter), Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel (this one is an old colonial building in south-east Asia which was opened in 1901. Located right in the heart of Hanoi, this hotel is still admired by its higher-end services, amenities, historical tunnel for bombing shelter which offer visiting tour twice a day with maximum capacity of 10 person each, an area displaying photos of well-known staying guests such as Charlie Chaplin, Angelina Jolie, Janes Fonda and chiefs of state and great delicacies).
Walk through Long Bien Bridge over the Red River
Long Bien Bridge is an old bridge of more than 10 decades old crossing Red River. With its narrow lanes, Long Bien Bridge allows train, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrian only.
Just walk on the bridge for artistic photos, enjoy the breeze, look over Red River or coming down to the river bank and discover agricultural farming of local people with some still live on the floating houses right in the country’s capital.
Long Bien Bridge is just right at the outer of Hanoi Old Quarter that you could reach easily.
Attractions in Hanoi to gain your understanding on Vietnam:
+ Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
This attraction with introduce to you the most important in Vietnamese’s heart called Ho Chi Minh who was the very first president of the country; who devoted his whole life for the independence of the nation and who is the greatest person for all to learn from. Ho Chi Minh or the national hero whose significance could be compared to importance of Mao Zedong of China, Vladimir Lenin of Russia or Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, etc.
His embalmed body is still kept inside the mausoleum in the crystal case shine by glim lights. The mausoleum will be closed in Sep or Nov annually so that they could conduct some special method to preserve Ho Chi Minh’s body.
+ Temple of Literature
Built in early 11th century, Temple of Literature is the very first University of Vietnam which initially the school for princes only. These days, it’s remained with 82 stone turtles bearing steles on the shell with names of Doctorates. This attraction, then is highly recommended for students and family.
Additionally, there is another part for Confucius worship that also highly recommend for whom interested in culture and nice photos.
+ Hoa Lo Prison
This prison was built on the land of Phu Khanh Pottery Village which makes the place named Hoa Lo (or burning kiln). Being well-known as a notorious prison built by the French colonial, Hoa Lo Prison introduce to visitors the evilest torture as well as execute ways.
On the other hand, the Hoa Lo prison was once captured the American POW including famous senator of the United States – John McCain. As each prisoner received one single room and being treated so well that this place was then named “Hanoi Hilton” (Hilton is a very famous hotel brand to American).
+ Vietnam Women Museum
Once voted as the most attractive museum of Vietnam in 2012, this attraction exhibits lots of images as well as material about Vietnamese Women through each period along country’s history.
+ Museum of Ethnology
Being opened recently, in 1997, this museum showcases very informative and interesting information of 54 ethnic groups of Vietnamese. There are two parts of the indoor for its visitors to learn about the culture, costumes, customs and the outdoor of the real houses being moved here for the practical outlooks and understanding.
+ Tran Quoc Pagoda
Sited on an island on West Lake – the biggest lake in Hanoi, Tran Quoc is the oldest pagoda of Hanoi built in 548. The pagoda is also a center of Vietnamese Buddhism Association. Above all, the pagoda is set up with full system of Buddha statues and other typical symbols. It’s highly recommended for whom are interested in Vietnam’s religion.
+ Vietnam National Museum of History
The beautiful colonial style building displayed very helpful study as well as collections on the history of Vietnam since the bronze and older time. This place is suggested to explore at your own as you could get around and contemplate one by one, period over period.
+ Dong Xuan Market
The biggest wholesale market in Hanoi with variable choices of goods where mainly gathered by the sellers coming up for the big product volume.
However, the owners still receive the retails buyers and tourist and it should be expected with slightly higher offer than for the wholesale deal.
Apart from this, a night market right in front of Dong Xuan Market stretching straight to Hoan Kiem Lake is organized every weekend.
All above places could be done at your own or refer the Hanoi City full day tour here. The program is very flexible and could definitely customized and adapted to your interests.
+ Visit Hanoi Handicraft Villages
Vietnam, generally, is famous with dozen handicraft such as lacquer painting, silk weaving, embroidery, bonze casting, pottery making, wind-paper picture making, etc.
There are 02 handicraft village of Hanoi that you could consider:
+ Bat Trang Pottery Village
Located on Red River’s bank, Bat Trang Village sited app 15 km from Hanoi center, is an old pottery and ceramic village since 15th century. You’d better get a local guide to learn more information about the products, designs as well as detailed processes as well as history how do local make the pottery.
+ Van Phuc Silk Village
Located in Ha Dong District of Hanoi, Van Phuc Village is 12 km distanced to Hanoi city center. The Van Phuc Village is also situated next to a river named Nhue. Having been formed for around 1200 years, it is well-known with premium quality silk with fine elegancies, smooth and soft and very light weight.
Around 60% of villagers’ main job and income weaving silk; though most of them do not continue with old manual weaving method but having machine instead. They not only open store providing goods to domestic consumers but also export to the world.
It’s worth a visit to see the processed of making the silk. Plus, the village is also a typical northern Vietnam village with banyan tree, communal house, etc.