Visiting Hanoi in 2019? Looking for the best things to do or places to visit in Hanoi today?? Check out my Hanoi Bucket List of 2019 which includes classic Hanoi tourist attractions and the latest trendy spots in Hanoi.
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Without a doubt, Hanoi Old Quarter is the busiest hub in the city and one of the best Hanoi things to do. In fact, no tourist coming here without visiting the Hanoi Old Quarter. Since it’s the center of the city, it’s easy to go everywhere from here.
The highlight of your journey to Hanoi for sure
Here you can find small streets with many street vendors, selling food and souvenirs on the street. The streets are packed with scooters, bicycles, and cars. It is truly a local experience that will give you an idea of what it is like to live in Hanoi. Here you can try some tasty street food as well.
A tip for you: if you go by yourself, you need a map as the streets are very narrowed and confusing. Better to go with a tour guide who knows the area as it saves your time and you can visit the most of it.
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You might be wondering who is the person that so loved by Vietnamese people and called by the name The Great Father. He is no one else but Ho Chi Minh - the first president of Vietnam after Vietnam declared its independence in 1945.
Ho Chi Minh was the one who had the most contribution to the independence of Vietnam and as an act of respect, Vietnamese Government decided to embalm his body, installed it in an imposing concrete-and-granite block that stands before a vast square with dim lights. By this way, people can always come to this place to visit the Great Father. Now, the embalmed body placed inside Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum - a privately guarded place.
Ho Chi Minh Complex - All famous Hanoi things to do in one place
One interesting fact is that you can rarely find any of the photos of the embalmed body itself and inside the mausoleum. You may hear about it but you can’t see it. This place is strictly guarded and you can’t take photos. If you want to see, you have to go there by yourselves.
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A fact that not many people know about is that Hanoi is among one of the most ancient capitals in the world. This city just celebrated its 1000th birthday in 2010. At the time when Hanoi was chosen as the capital of Vietnam more than a century ago, it was given the name “Thang Long” which means “the flying Dragon”.
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long that still remains today has become an intriguing relic of Vietnam’s history and, signifying its historical and cultural importance. It was the center of regional political power for almost 13 centuries without interruption. This site was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and worth paying a visit for anyone want to dig deeper into the history and culture of Vietnam - top Hanoi things to do indeed.
Artifacts in the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long will give you an image of the capital in the past
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As a country of wars, there’re many prisons scattered throughout the territory of Vietnam. Hoa Lo Prison or Hanoi Hilton is one of the most popular.
Described as “Hell On Earth”, Hoa Lo Prison can be creepy for the fainted hearts. This prison can inspire sorrow, disgust, and, depending on your politics, different flavors of outrage.
A 5-star Hilton Hotel or Prison on Earth?
Most exhibits relate to the prison’s use up to the mid-1950s, focusing on the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France. A gruesome relic is the ominous French guillotine, used to behead Vietnamese revolutionaries.
Hoa Lo Prison is truly a thought-provoking site and definitely worth things to do in Hanoi even if you’re not keen on history. This can be some scary things for some people and you’ve got my warning!
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What I’ve found interesting of Hoan Kiem Lake is that although located in the middle of chaos city with crazy traffic like Hanoi, it still remains the serenity and gives out this peaceful feeling. Hoan Kiem Lake is also a charming social and cultural center for Hanoi citizens.
Hoan Kiem Lake is considered as the heart of Hanoi
You can see people practice tai chi in the morning, couples take wedding photos around the lake. The lakeside offers an excellent opportunity to take in the local color, and it's an easy walk to the Old Quarter afterward.
While strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake, don’t forget to visit Ngoc Son Temple and The Huc Bridge.
Here is the thing: Asian culture really emphasizes education. We can see that from Chinese culture, Korean culture and Japanese culture. Vietnamese culture is not an exception.
Temple of Literature is the first university of Vietnam and has proven its historical and cultural importance. Nowadays, students always come here before exams or in Lunar New Year to wish for the best luck in their study.
The temple is laid out in a sequence of five courtyards from south to north, spanned by three pathways running through the Temple's length. This things to do is surely for anyone who wants to dig deeper into the history and culture of Vietnam.
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The first university of Vietnam
Vietnamese art performances don’t win a point in fanciness or complexity. In fact, the performances are normally seen in small stages. However, each performance is unique in its own way. Water Puppet Show is a one-of-a-kind performance you cannot see anywhere else.
The most unique show you have ever seen
Water Puppet Show is truly a unique form of art. It’s not plainly a music show or a play. It somehow a mixture between two of them and with storylines of Vietnamese folktales.
The main actors are puppets controlled by artists. The whole performance happens to be on the water. Sounds interesting, right?
If you’re curious enough, note down on your list of Hanoi things to do to come and figure out how they perform it!
If you thought Europeans were the world’s coffee connoisseurs, try to taste the authentic Hanoi coffee will make you reconsider. Just like Banh Mi, coffee was introduced here by the French colonists in the late 19th century. However, the Vietnamese quickly started to modify and make their own recipes and create a unique taste.
In my experience, to taste the really delicious and authentic Hanoi coffee you should check out the street pavement coffee shop instead of drinking the coffee at your hotel or a big restaurant.
An absolute must-try is the local egg coffee (ca phe trung) - the very very very delicious and famous coffee of Hanoi. For the best and original egg coffee, come to Giang Cafe, 39 Nguyen Huu Huan Street. This things to do won’t disappoint you, just trust me with that!
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A brand new way to enjoy coffee
Finding some Vietnamese goods? Dong Xuan Market is a good consideration.
Dong Xuan Market is housed within a four-storey Soviet-style building on the northern edge of Hanoi Old Quarter. This is the largest indoor market in Hanoi and you can find almost anything here. The market offers a wide range of goods such as fresh produce, souvenirs, accessories, and clothing, as well as electronic and household appliances.
Dong Xuan Market - the biggest indoor market of the capital city
The French colonists used to build many sites and constructions in Hanoi. All of them has this unique French architectural style which is really easy to spot.
If you are still wondering about things to do in Hanoi, pay a visit to St.Joseph's Cathedral, one striking example of French architecture. The cathedral is said to be a smaller version of the Notre Dame de Paris. Familiarly called by the locals as “The Big Church”, St. Joseph Cathedral is the headquarter of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi for more than 4 million Catholics in the country.
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The Little Paris at Hanoi center
Weekday: 5:30 am and 6:15 pm
Saturday: 6:00 pm
Sunday: 5:00 am, 7:00 am, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 4:00 pm, 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm
A special ceremony is on 19th March every year.
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Where to find the best view of Hanoi from above? Lotte Observation Deck is the answer without hesitation!
Lotte Observation Deck Hanoi offers beautiful panoramic views of the city as it is located on the 65th floor of the Lotte Center. From this height, you can observe Hanoi skyline and take gorgeous pictures.
West Lake is known to be the best spot to watch the sunset in Hanoi and the best time to watch sunset during summer time. Before sunset, many people come here including professional photographers with the hope of catching the picturesque sunset scenery.
Sunset in West Lake is very romantic and peaceful. I feel blessed only looking at such a breathtaking view.
Seeking for the peacefulness at West Lake Hanoi
And yes, here comes one of my favorite things to do among all. Leaving out a Hanoi street food tour would be the biggest mistake! Even if you don’t have much time in Hanoi, just don’t skip a street food tour. Why?
Because all the street food is such a blessing to your taste buds! I’ve tried all of the street food that I could and none of them was even close to average. The thing that I like the most about the food is the balance of all the taste and ingredients when mixed together.
However, remind that most of the dishes will taste better if you follow the right way to eat them. For example, only how to put in the sauce and herbs to enlighten the taste varies among different dishes. And unfortunately, only the locals know how to eat the food properly so you can enjoy it the most.
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The Vietnamese Women’s Museum delivers a beautifully presented tribute to the women of Vietnam across the ages. There are plenty of historical contexts alongside a wealth of information on today’s more modern Vietnamese woman.
This museum features displays across five floors delivered over three sections – women in a family, women in history and women’s fashions. There are more than 1000 artifacts on display depicting the many faces and changing roles of Vietnamese women.
If you have an interest in museums, don’t leave out Women’s Museum. It’s a very modern museum with unique architecture and one of the popular Hanoi things to do.
Are you tired of walking around? Then taking a cyclo is a good choice to explore the Old Quarter. Cyclo is unique transportation of Vietnam and I think it’s really fun to give it a try!
Cyclo is like a bicycle but with 3 wheels and 1 seat in the front. You will seat in the front and the peddler will ride you around the Old Quarter really slowly. By this way, you can discover all 36 streets which is something you can’t do by just walking around.
However, some tourists have said that this could be a scary experience because of the crazy traffic in Hanoi. But that's just worrying because accidents rarely occur.
Take The Challenge And Book A Hanoi Cyclo Tour Around Hanoi! via Hanoi Tours
Remember I talked about taking a Hanoi street food tour and how delicious the food taste?
If you wonder how Vietnamese people make their food, why not attending a cooking class? It sounds like a great idea and lots of fun you will have. A cooking class with local chef will give you detailed instructions and tips. Some classes even allow you to go to the local wet markets to buy the ingredients yourself. What a great way to experience local life!
Explore the Vietnam cuisine on your own
If you’re lucky enough to stay in Hanoi at the weekend, visiting Hanoi Night Market is definitely one of things to do you cannot miss. The market runs through the Old Quarter district from 7 pm onwards, starting from Hang Dao Street and running north to the edge of Dong Xuan Market.
Pedestrian streets and historical sites within the area are illuminated with decorative lights, making this a popular spot for traveling photographers. You will find many things in the market at cheap price. If you’re not keen on shopping, you can stroll along the market to enjoy the local atmosphere.
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Another way to come down the streets and join in the traffic is by taking a Hanoi motorbike tour. In my opinion, this is the most local and fun experience that you can ever have in Hanoi.
You might never ride a motorbike before and this could be your chance. In Hanoi Motorbike Tour, you will seat behind the driver and she/he will take you around the city, visit the famous attractions, taste local food and give you some insights and stories about this beautiful city on the way.
The must-try local activity while in Hanoi
I know that Hanoi’s traffic can be hard but don’t worry, these tours are safe. And trust me, give it a try and you won’t regret the experience.
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When the sun goes down, then it’s the perfect time to explore Hanoi Nightlife. Hanoi Nightlife has much to offer with a multitude of things to do, from relaxing, chilling activities to fun and dynamic activities. One of the top things to do in Hanoi you would love!
>>> See more in Things To Do in Hanoi at Night
Ta Hien Street is known as the first street where the majority of foreign tourists set foot on when coming and before leaving Hanoi. Therefore, everyone is familiar to call Ta Hien Street with the name "Pho Tay" (Foreign Street).
Ta Hien street is super famous for beer, from Vietnamese traditional beer to luxury foreign beer. Not only for beer lovers and night owls, Beer street Hanoi is a paradise to discover Vietnamese cuisine. All the best Hanoi street foods are here! If you are a food enthusiast, don't miss this delicious chance to savor it all!
There is no proper pub here, not even a proper table in Ta Hien Street. Customers will sit on small stools around a little taller plastic or wooden stools on which food and beer bottles are placed. If you have a night in Hanoi, just don’t miss the chance of going to Ta Hien and grab some beer!
If your trip to Hanoi lasts more than 3 days, you might consider a day trip to outside of Hanoi. The famous destinations are Bat Trang Ceramic Village, Ninh Binh, and Halong Bay. These are all destinations that are suitable for a day trip.
Recommended Day trip
If you want to escape from the bustling Hanoi, Check out Hanoi Day Tours!
If you are planning your trip to Hanoi soon, make sure to get things ready beforehand!