20 Must-Visit Attractions in Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam, has a vibrant nightlife scene
Hanoi, Vietnam, has a vibrant nightlife scene | © dave stamboulis / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Piumi Rajapaksha
7 August 2020

Hanoi, the beautiful cultural capital of Vietnam, is full of things to see and do. A few days in the city doesn’t do it justice, but luckily, most attractions are located within walking distance of one another. You can easily map out an itinerary for yourself and enjoy a day of wandering around, taking in the contrasting beauty of the old and new. Make sure to visit as many of these attractions as possible to fully enhance your experience in Hanoi.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

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Ho Chi Minh mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam | © Elizaveta Galitckaia / Alamy Stock Photo
Ho Chi Minh was one of the most important leaders in Vietnamese history. His body is preserved in this mausoleum, laid to rest in a glass case so that visitors can pay their respects. Modest dress and quiet reverence are prerequisites while you’re inside.

Dong Xuan Market

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Dong Xuan Market is the largest market in Hanoi. Four storeys high, you can find all sorts of apparel, electronic items and food. Great for some shopping or to just experience the day-to-day life of the locals, you can practise bargaining here as it is a popular tourist market, and prices quoted are likely to be inflated.

Hanoi Old Quarter

Hanoi Old Quarter is a lively area where travellers can enjoy many fine examples of colonial architecture packed along narrow streets. This is the city’s ultimate shopping spot, and is full of cafés and restaurants to indulge in some delicious Vietnamese cuisine.

Perfume Pagoda

Buddhist Temple
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Vietnam Perfume Pagoda river highlights Hanoi
Perfume Pagoda | © Inaki Olavarrieta Moro / Alamy Stock Photo
Built in the 15th century, this series of Buddhist temples are built into a mountain range in a maze of alleyways carved into the rock, with rich forests and flowing streams all around. It’s a little way from Hanoi – about 60 kilometres – but definitely worth the trip.

Ba Vi National Park

Forest, Park
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Located around two hours from Hanoi, Ba Vi National Park is a nature reserve famous for peaks, viewpoints, waterfalls, old French colonial churches and prisons. You can even find natural hot springs on the forest floor. It’s easy to spend a whole day here exploring before enjoying a meal in the restaurant near the entrance.

Temple of Literature

Buddhist Temple
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Lotus pond and main gate of the Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam
Lotus pond and main gate of the Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam | © Keith Mundy / Alamy Stock Photo
This charming temple complex hosts the Imperial Academy, the oldest university in Vietnam. It was built in 1070 by Emperor Lý Thánh Tông’s dynasty to serve as a centre of learning, dedicated to the Chinese scholar Confucius.

One Pillar Pagoda

Buddhist Temple
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This pagoda is built on a single wooden pillar that’s just 1.25 metres in diameter. The story goes that heirless emperor Ly Thai Tong dreamt that he met Quan The Am Bo Tat, the Goddess of Mercy. Soon after, he married a young peasant girl who gave him a son. The pagoda was built between 1028 and 1054 to express his gratitude to the goddess.

West Lake

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Hanoi, Vietnam - February 22, 2016: Bridge at West Lake and Temple in Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi, Vietnam
© Roman Babakin / Alamy Stock Photo
This is the biggest freshwater lake in Hanoi. Located right in the centre of the city, it makes for a perfect evening walk. You can easily get to other places nearby and there are plenty of restaurants, bars and shops here to explore. Great photo opportunities await.

Ho Chi Minh Museum

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This museum is dedicated to the late Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, referred to lovingly as Uncle Ho. His life is chronicled in eight different sections, running from his upbringing and youth to his travels, ideologies and ultimately what led to the founding of the Vietnamese communist party. English descriptions are available, and it’s closed on Mondays.

Hanoi Train Street

This is a narrow street in the Old Quarter, where train tracks running right down the middle allow trains to pass terrifyingly close to the houses. The daily life of the locals have to be packed up multiple times a day when a train is scheduled to pass. It’s somewhat similar to Maeklong Railway Market in Thailand.

These recommendations were updated on August 7, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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