Hanoi, the beautiful cultural capital of Vietnam, has many things to see and do. A few days in the city doesn’t do 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 between the old and new. Make sure to visit as many of these attractions as possible to fully enhance your experience in Hanoi.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site, often used as a symbol of Hanoi, stands at 40 meters high. The complex comprises of the royal enclosures built during the Ly Dynasty. Close to many other attractions in Hanoi. Closed on Mondays.
The ancient art form of water puppetry has long been associated with Hanoi. Watch as puppets dance elegantly, controlled by a whole troupe of puppet masters, telling a story of the famous Legend of the Restored Sword of King Le which is about Hoan Kiem Lake and the giant tortoise.
Ho Chi Minh is one of the most important leaders Vietnam has ever seen. In the mausoleum, his body is preserved, laid to rest in a glass case for visitors to pay their respects. Please behave and dress respectfully.
Hoan Kiem Lake (Turtle Lake) is a popular hangout spot for locals and foreigners alike. On an island in the center lies Ngoc Son Temple, linked by a graceful red bridge. This serves as a beautiful background for photos, and perhaps you may even catch couples doing their engagement photoshoots.
Dong Xuan Market is the largest market in Hanoi. Four storeys tall, 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 practice some bargaining here as it is a popular tourist market, and prices quoted may be slightly inflated.
Hanoi Old Quarter is a lively area where travelers can enjoy many fine examples of colonial architecture packed along narrow streets. This is the city’s ultimate shopping spot and full of cafes and restaurants to indulge in some delicious Viet cuisine.
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. A little far from Hanoi, about 60 kilometers, but definitely worth the trip.
Located around 2 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. Spend a whole day here to explore. Meals can be had in the restaurant near the entrance.
Built in 1911, this is one of the most elegant buildings in all of Hanoi. Visitors can enjoy opera and dance performances to this day. It was modeled after the Paris Opera House, and the intricate design is even more beautiful at night when the cream-colored floodlights get turned on.
This charming temple complex hosts the Imperial Academy, the oldest university in Vietnam. It was originally built in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong’s dynasty to serve as a center of learning, dedicated to the Chinese scholar Confucius.
This prison was built by the French in the 1880s. American POWs sarcastically named this as the “Hanoi Hilton.” “Hoa Lo” literally means “stove”; it was surely no Hilton. Senator John McCain was held here after his capture, and his uniform is on display.
This pagoda is built on a single wooden pillar of 1.25meters in diameter. The story is 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 in 1054 to express his gratitude to the event.
This was one of the first structures built by the French colonial government in Indochina. Construction began in 1882 and ended in 1886, and the whole church was built in neo-Gothic style, modeled after the Paris Cathedral. Mass is still held inside, several times a day.
This is one of the seven national museums in the country and is perfect for those interested in wartime artillery. There are both, indoor and outdoor displays of military-related artifacts. The exhibitions depict times as far back as the Huong Vuong Era, which is considered the start of Vietnam as a country.
This is the biggest freshwater lake in Hanoi. Located right in the center 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.
This museum is dedicated to the late Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, or referred to lovingly as “Uncle Ho.” His life is chronicled in eight different sections, 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. Closed on Mondays.
This is a narrow street in the Old Quarter, where train tracks run right down the middle, allowing trains to pass terrifyingly close to the houses. The daily life of the locals that live there have to be packed up multiple times a day when a train is scheduled to pass. Similar to Maeklong Railway Market in Thailand.