Hanoi Travel Guide and Itinerary

Hanoi stock

Immerse yourselves in the rich culture and history of Vietnam’s ancient capital city: top tips on where to stay, where to eat and what to do in Hanoi.

About Hanoi 

Heads up, culture vultures. As Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi is a commercial, cultural and educational hub that can rival glitzy Ho Chi Minh City. Here, northwest of the Red River Delta, you’ll find a city that is able to keep one foot in the old world even as it makes great strides into realizing a progressive urban future.  

The buzz of constant traffic provides the soundtrack to a cityscape consisting of contrasting styles of French colonial-era architecture, traditional Vietnamese buildings and gleaming skyscrapers. This hodgepodge of architectural influences is a testament to Hanoi’s storied past, which stretches as far back as the 11th century and has seen it become the capital city during very different eras: first when it was known as Thăng Long and founded as the capital of Imperial Vietnam in 1010; then again from 1902 to 1945 during the French occupation; and finally as the capital of a reunified Vietnam in 1976.

 

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The French occupation has left its imprint everywhere in modern-day Hanoi: see the Hanoi Opera House in the French Quarter, with its iconic yellow façade, high arches and grand balconies; or the ubiquitous bánh , which are essentially baguettes stuffed with paté, Asian-style barbecued meat, and Vietnamese herbs and vegetables.  

If you’re already planning a trip to Hanoi, be sure to visit during spring (February to April) or autumn (October to November). Hanoi has a subtropical climate, which means hot and humid summers punctuated by rainfall not ideal for anyone planning a roster of outdoor activities. Another important thing to note is Vietnam’s ever-changing visa regulations. It’s common practice for authorities to constantly revise the rules, so it’s best to get your visa sorted out in advance. Finally, here’s a tip for those unsure of Hanoi’s infamous traffic: keep your eye on the motorists and be assertive when traversing the road. 

Hanoi stock
Photos on this page via Shutterstock.com

 

Highlights for the Traveler 

It should come as no surprise that Hanoi’s teeming with historical landmarks, some of which date back almost a millennium. One of the most significant structures is the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, a Unesco World Heritage Site located in the city center. It was the political seat of Imperial Vietnam from 1010 to 1810, until the relocation of the capital to Huế by the Nguyễn Dynasty. In 2004, archaeologists unearthed a large number of ancient artefacts, some of which are showcased in the display room today.  

Want a glimpse of local life? Then head over to the Old Quarter, a maze of streets representing 36 guilds that specialized in a specific trade. This was where merchants sold their wares from around the early 13th century look out for street names such as Hàng Đồng (copper), Hàng Bac (silver), Hàng Tre (bamboo) and more. To further explore the area, you can sign up for a street food tour where you can sample bites like bun cha former US president Barack Obama tucked into this spread of grilled pork and rice noodles during his visit to Hanoi in 2016 bánh cuốn (grilled Vietnamese sausage, cucumber and bean sprouts rolled in thin rice sheets) and, of course, pho. Other highlights include the Weekend Night Market that stretches from the Old Quarter to Dong Xuan Market just 450m away, and Bia Hoi Corner, which is lined with beer and snack stalls spilling out onto the street.  

If the city gets too overwhelming, you can always take a breather at Hoan Kiem Lake in central Hanoi. This lush, tranquil enclave, which means “Lake of the Returned Sword”, measures a staggering 12ha and boasts towering trees circling its serene waters. Oh, and don’t forget to grab a selfie at the 18thcentury Ngoc Son Temple on Jade Island, a small islet on the northern shore of the lake; it’s connected to the shore by the striking red Thê Húc Bridge.  

For those who have time to spare, we recommend taking a day trip to Ha Long Bay. Located nearly three hours away in Quảng Ninh Province, this Unesco World Heritage Site features around 1,600 monolithic limestone islands scattered across a picturesque bay. End the day here by staying around for the sunset your Instagram feed will thank you.   


Recommendations list to be updated.

Recommendations list to be updated.

Recommendations list to be updated.

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