“Is Hanoi worth visiting?” is a question that every tourist ask when they visit Vietnam. As a local, my answer for you is “Yes”. Hanoi is not a place just to come across or to travel around in a few hours. It is worth spending a true holidays for a couple of days to explore every corner because, trust me, Hanoi deserves that!
Once visiting here, you will found that Hanoi is different from other Asia capitals. Unlike a modern Singapore with many skyscrapers, or Seoul with the animation of entertainment, Hanoi has a more than 1000 year history dominated in the Chinese invader and over 100 years struggling against the French colonist and the American empire and a present of developing and improving quickly.
After all those years, Vietnam have tried their best to keep the true value of precious tradition and culture as well as protected a wide range of historical monuments or architecture structures. You can easily find both traditional capital and modern city in Hanoi. Base on my experience of a tour guide for several years, 90 percent of tourists admitted that they loved Hanoi at the first sight. All the simple beauty of local streets and the hospitality of Hanoians have made them feel like home when they come here.
Now, I bet that you are more curious about Hanoi and are wondering coming here, right? Below we’ll introduce main reasons why Hanoi is worth visiting and if you agree with us, check out some most popular itineraries to Hanoi.
The first thing makes Hanoi worth visiting is Religion and Culture
There are no official religion in Vietnam but the most popular ones are Buddhism, Catholicism and Caodaism and most of Vietnamese follow Buddhism. However, as no religion are official, there are no rule of actions for tourists when they come to Hanoi.
However, it is suggested that you should wear shirt with sleeves and trousers under knees, when you go into sacred places such as pagoda, church or temple.
As most of Vietnamese follow Buddhism, they believe that there are two worlds existing at the same time. It also means that after you pass away, you will go to the other one and continue living. It explains why Vietnamese often do actions Western see weird like burning votive paper on special days in a month or setting an ancestral altar in every house.
If you want to have a deep insight in culture and belief of Vietnamese, there are some recommended sites you can possibly come like The Big Church, Tran Quoc Pagoda, Bach Ma Temple or Ngoc Son Temple.
- The Big Church: Erected by French in 1884 and opened for public in 1888, the Big Church has become one of image attached to routine life of Hanoi resident ad becoming symbol and pride of them as well. Originally the area was belonged to Bao Thien pagoda – one of the most important pagodas at that time – which was destroyed by French to build the Church. Located on 40 Nha Chung street in the Old Quarter, a few minutes walking by and enjoy a lemon juice is a good idea for tourists to contemplate its charming beauty.
- Bach Ma Temple: Considered as one of the oldest temples in the city, Bach Ma temple is known as a sacred place to honor a white horse that guided Ly Thai To king to the site, where he chose to construct his citadel walls. You can easily find the temple on Hang Buom street in the Old Quarter.
- Tran Quoc pagoda: Come into here, you will have the chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital and enjoy a peaceful, quiet space with a n unexpected spiritual aspect. In addition, the façade of it directs to the West Lake – the biggest lake in Hanoi and absorbs in first sun light in the early morning. Recommended you that you should take a taxi to travel here as it’s quite far from the Old Quarter.
- One Pillar Pagoda: It is admitted that One Pillar Pagoda is not a giant structure that make tourists overwhelmed when they visit, but its historic meaning and cultural value is invaluable. With architecture inspired from a lotus blossom, the temple stands on only one pillar in Thien Qang leak like transferring vitality and fertile for land. It has a lot of meaning to Vietnamese people since Vietnam was still an agricultural country at that time.
Not just for religion, Vietnamese culture are various with the difference of 54 ethnic minority groups inhabiting Vietnam, each of which has own customs and habits which has still been respected and preserved up to now. Exploring the characteristics of each Vietnamese ethnic would be a good choice for anyone wants to understand the Vietnamese culture. Not to miss precious knowledge of groups, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology and Women’s Museum will be the best places for you.
- Vietnam Museum of Ethnology: You will need from a half to full day to explore all the things in this 2000 m2 area. You will be definitely immerse in the thousands of lively exhibits and fabulous information as well as cultural identity about 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam. It is also a good place for researchers and people who want to learn about historic value and ethnography.
Vietnamese Women’s Museum: Although it is hard to find museums displaying and praising about women on the world, there are a museum in Hanoi which honors the role of women in war as well as their great contributions to build country nowadays. The museum was built to express the gratitude to the dedicated services Vietnamese women have sacrificed for family and nation, under the decision of Vietnam Women’s Union. All document is disposed according to each of periods and topics to highlight the role of them as well as serve for tourists visit more conveniently.
One more thing in Vietnam attracting tourist when they wonder is Hanoi worth visiting is Vietnamese holiday. It will be a special memory if tourists have the chance to experience the holidays in Hanoi
- Lunar New Year: Occurring in late January and early February and lasts for around 2 weeks, Lunar New Year or known as Tet is a traditional holiday of nation because it contains a significant meaning. It is not only a period of transition from old year to new one but also an opportunity for family reunion. If you have the chance to be invited to stay your Vietnamese friend’s home, you will be surprised with various types of cake or fruit laying on altar. Chung cake is the most popular with Vietnamese people because it is the symbol of gathering and wealth. In Vietnamese house during Tet, there are kumquat or cherry blossom as a part of decoration as well as a symbol of money and luck. One more tradition during Tet is burning votive paper to see 3 saint off returning sky.
- Mid- Autumn Festival: A festival held on August 15th of lunar calendar, corresponding to late September to early October. This is a holiday Vietnamese children wait for because they can joy with interesting activities and receive a lot of presents from their parents. While traveling around the streets on this day, you will see many star lanterns, funny masks and colorful toys decorated on the street making it brighter than ever. As a form of delicacy on this day, Moon cakes are the dish that everyone prefer to eat.
There are another good way to explore the variety of Vietnamese culture is joining water puppet show in Hanoi.
It is a traditional art of Vietnam dating back as far as the 11th century. From wood and bamboo, the artists, with their clever hands and creative brain, make puppets and control them at their discretion on water with colorful light system.
With a 2 hour performance, you will be presented lively all activities of peasants happening in routine days. Sometimes it gives negative problems in social, sometimes praises or satirized or somebody in history. It you will need to learn a little bit about Vietnam culture before engaging stories and rhythm of show.
Is Hanoi worth visiting? Yes, because of its historical relics
Vietnam is sadly known as a nation of war or an aggressive country through two resistances against French colonists and American empires producing a stir in world. However, those were unjust wars full of bloods and tears which dyed the color of national flag red. Those wars also the evidence of a Vietnam with all efforts to maintain the independence. You can see it in the 5 wing star in the middle of our flag which represents the confidence in the day nation is totally independent.
There are some war historical relics recommended for tourists:
- Hoa Lo prison: Constructed by French colonist in 1896 to detain Vietnam communists, patriotic soldiers and political prisoners, Hoa Lo prison was one of the largest and most heavy-duty structures in Indochina at that time. It is also known as the hell on earth or Hanoi Hilton. You must be wonder why there are two contrary names? At the same place, however, how the French treated Vietnamese prisoners and how the Vietnamese treated the American pilots were absolutely different. Two stages, two periods and unknown stories behind harsh war will come out when you spend a little time visiting it.
- Vietnam Military History Museum: All the war antiques such as airplanes, weapons, missiles… will definitely fascinate you when you come to visit here. Moreover, brilliant tactics and strategies of Vietnam will help you understand why a poor nation struck against powerful enemies. I highly advise you that you shouldn’t miss such an attractive site containing lots of historical values.
- Ho Chi Minh Complex: Coming here, you will have the chance to explore the whole of Ho Chi Minh’s life and process of finding the way to save Vietnam from the yoke of slavery of French colonists and American empires. In each place such as Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh Museum, presidential palace and historical relics, you will be able to see many different historic artifacts and document and understand the struggle of Vietnamese as well as his great sacrificed for the independent and free dome of Vietnam’s country.
- The Imperial of Citadel: if you want to visit one of the longest running continuous seats of power in the world, the Imperial of Citadel would be a good suggestion. Existing for more than 20 centuries with under control of 13 dynasties, Thang Long Imperial will show you the striking strategies and tactics of leaders in the past. You can also discover ancient royal palaces of the King and princesses, the ruins and secret tunnels, which will keep you exciting in the whole visit.
- Hanoi Flag Tower: Used to be the symbol of the city during the French colonial rule (1885 – 1954), Flag Tower is a remaining relic without being devastated by French before withdrawing. Nowadays, with red flag and yellow stars, it has stood as a pride of an independent country.
Tourists can get impressed with stunning views of many attraction in Hanoi.
Why is Hanoi worth visiting? Here is the most 3 attractive destinations in Hanoi you must visit:
- Long Bien bridge: As the oldest bridge in Vietnam, Long Bien bridge will help you to get out of the bustle of busy street in the Old Quarter, to step in space of past and wild nature outside of Hanoi Old Quarter. Built by the French at the end of 19th century, it has existed for thousands of years and witnessed the ups and downs of history of Vietnam nation. Tourists will be impressed mostly at twilight when the bridge is the most beautiful with the light from the whole city, intensive heat of sun is less and everyone is returning home in a hurry. You can enjoy a beer can, try some BBQ corns and take some memorial photo here. It would be such a good experience for you to remember Hanoi.
- Temple of Literature: Known as the first national university in Vietnam to educate the King’s son and then extended to teach the nobles and royalties, Temple of Literature has become an attractive site for both foreign tourists and Vietnamese. Built in 1076, the site is the symbols of educational traditional as well as the fondness of study of Vietnam. Though 5 courtyards, you will feel delighted as though each of history pages was opening ahead of your eyes.
- West Lake: It is the largest lake in Hanoi with a romantic street dividing it into two parts. At night, the lake becomes colorful and mysterious with floating restaurants on the water and entertainment activities. West Lake will help you to have a good mood while walking here in breezing wind and enjoying some ice-cream.
Hanoi has a wide choice of amazing foods.
If you are a food lovers and you are still find the reason for question “Is Hanoi worth visiting”, we will help you to find out the answer now:
- Hanoi local foods/ Street foods: if you have the chance to travel around the Old Quarter, I’m sure that your satisfaction for food will be at the climax as here is the paradise of cuisine. You can see that nearly all first floors of house here selling something from dishes for breakfast and dinner or local specialties to nosh. If you are in need of fresh food, just ask a local and they will show you the nearest local markets and you can easily find what you want. All ingredients are available and safe for hygiene. Specially, if you have a tight budget but still want to try local food, Hanoi will help you with a lot of cheap food sold in the Old Quarter such as in night market – an ideal place for food. You can find a wide range of local food from famous dishes such as Pho , Bun Cha, Banh Mi or mixed sweeten fruit…to many unnamed ones.
Drink: One more reason of Hanoi worth visiting is the diverse beverage here. If you once have the chance to try some types of drinks here, you can see how Vietnamese are creative and eager to create those amazing beverage. Egg Coffee is such an example, which was invented in the late 19th If in the past, just because of shortage of sugar so they use egg yolk instead, now, it has become one of best beverages any tourist should try at least one time in Vietnam.
- Fruit: As a tropical nation with monsoon climate, Vietnam has a diversity of fruit. There would be some kinds of fruit that you have never seen before in any countries on the world. Each of seasons has its typical kinds of fruits. For instance, in summer, we have longan, lychee, custard apple or mango, whereas in winter, you can try pomegranate, guava and orange. Fruit sometimes becomes a reason for your traveling in Vietnam.
Last but not least Hanoi worth visiting because tourists can get many interesting local experiences while visiting here.
- The Old Quarter: As the heart of Hanoi, the Old Quarter has turned into the cultural center and a must-see place in Hanoi. As designed chess model by French, you will get exciting as you went astray in maze of 100-year-old houses and a great variety of products while wandering here. One more interesting here is that, if you are attracted with the dark and narrow appearance of houses here, there would be a different world behind these houses which can surprise you, Sometimes, you are into the way local people sitting in the short chairs to drink coffee in the morning or interested in routine activities around the lake. Meeting people here, visiting house in the Old Quarter, you will get a lot of interesting stories which can make you astonish.
The Sword Lake: Hoan Kiem lake has hundreds of stories from the past to now, and it would be completely interesting if you have a local guide to tell you all of those. They are sensational factors which fascinate you and keep you exciting all the time. You can gain a lot of useful knowledge of meaning of architecture, reliefs as well as Vietnamese’s history. At the weekend, the street around the lake becomes a sidewalk for pedestrian and no traffic can annoy you. You will be able to enjoy many traditional games with your partners or simply with many other tourists and locals. If you come here in weekend, the night market is opened to welcome everyone to the world of food and souvenir. Join the line of crowded people, you will feel an animated night in Hanoi.
- The weather: Hanoi is a place with four specific seasons but fall is the best one. You will find Hanoi with cool climate is similar to London or Paris. However, if you come to Hanoi during winter, eating an ice-cream in wind freezing would be a good memories for any tourists.
With all these recommendations, have you found out whether Hanoi is worth visiting or not? I’m sure that you would say Yes
So, if you want to have more information and recommendations, feel free to contact us – AZ Local trip – to get the best experience in Hanoi.