You are ready to pack in the sights, sounds and delectable tastes. This is a place to be experienced rather than seen, and this list will help you accomplish just that.
1. Have a Walking Tour
Book a half day or a full day tour and have first-hand experience from a local about the Old Quarter and the major sights of Hanoi. While walking, you will have more time to watch and enjoy many attractive street foods. Most importantly, your guide will teach you how to cross the roads in heavy traffic. Worth every penny of his tip!
2. Go Sightseeing
It is easy to find the nearest place for you is the Old Quarter, including Hoan Kiem Lake, the lovely old Opera House, old streets, etc. Or a bit away is Ho Chi Minh Complex, One-Pillar Pagoda, the Temple of Literature, and Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. In addition, many museums in Hanoi will be ideal places for tourists who are interested in history and culture like Hoa Lo Prison Museum, Museum of Ethnology, Vietnamese Women's Museum, Fine Arts Museum, Vietnamese Air Force Museum, etc.
3. Discover the Old Quarter
While at first sight it is hectic, with many of scooters, people and narrow streets it is beautiful. Some travellers only see how beautiful it was at second sight, but yep: it is definitely beautiful. You probably will not have enough time, eyes and ears to see the Old Quarter completely. But you will come a long way in a couple of days. Exploring the streets, shops, markets, bars and street food and you will fall in love with the Old Quarter. If you fancy a rest for your weary feet and a bit of a novelty, hop on a “xich lo” - cyclo (bicycle rickshaw) for a quick spin. Make sure to negotiate your ride first.
4. Watch a Water Puppet Show
In a couple of theaters in Hanoi, you can watch a water puppet show. A show where you will see puppets in the water perform Vietnamese traditions complete with Vietnamese talks and music. This ancient old art and form of entertainment is a Vietnamese unique traditional performance and therefore it will be something that you do not want to miss. It is not too expensive and time consuming then easy to fit into your busy travel schedule as well! You can find the venues for water puppet show in Hanoi as below:
Thang Long water puppet theatre (57B Dinh Tien Hoang): 5 shows/day (15:10, 16:10, 17:20, 18:30 and 20:00), ticket price: 100,000 – 200,000 VND
Vietnam Puppetry Theater (261 Truong Chinh): 2 shows/day (17:00 and 18:30), ticket price: 80,000 VND
Bong Sen Water Puppet Theater (16 Ly Thai To/79 Hang Trong): 3 – 4 shows/day (15:30, 17:00 and 18:30), ticket price: 80,000 – 100,000 VND.
Dao Thuc Water Puppetry Guild (Dao Thuc Village, Dong Anh District): Only 1 show each day, please book in advance, price up to the number of group.
Read more other show must see in Vietnam here.
5. Explore the night market
Hanoi is a completely different city at night compared with the day time. Many scooters disappear backpackers and locals go into the old quarter to dine and enjoy their night and more bars, shops open their doors than they do during daytime. While the streets are more crowded with people, it feels calmer because the scooters are banned in the Old Quarter at weekend night. The night market is more than just seeing a market and you definitely should not miss a quick stroll through the center at night!
6. Enjoy the street foods
Hanoi, just as other big Asian cities, is filled with small little street food stalls and vendors. In addition to the fact that it is amazing cheap, it is like the most delicious Asian food you have ever tasted in a while. As there are so many street food vendors, you should follow your nose and ask your hotel/hostel’s staffs which places they adore!
7. Take a cooking class
You will find a lot of cooking classes in Hanoi so you can learn how to make the most delicious Vietnamese recipes. A lot of fun and rewarding as you can go home with some Asian recipes for your kitchen!
8. Join a biking tour to the surrounding areas of Hanoi
Leaving the noisy and crowded atmosphere in the city center, you can join a biking tour to fully enjoy the fresh air and tranquility of the suburb.
Bat Trang pottery village is in the suburb near Red River that belongs to Gia Lam District and just about 10 kilometers from Hanoi city center. You will have chance to experience the typical countryside of Vietnam in this beautiful attraction. A trip to Bat Trang will give you a chance to watch how skillful workmen make ceramic bowls, cups, vases or classic tea sets. Especially, you can experience how to create a pottery item from the clay by your own hand and bring your products home.
Duong Lam is called as the Two Kings Land because this is the birthplace of two great kings of Vietnam who are Phung Hung and Ngo Quyen. It is an ancient village with traditional architecture of the North Vietnam hundreds years ago. The village gateway, the communal house and the laterite walls will help you understand more about this.
Around Hanoi, Red River Delta
No need to go too far, you can cycle through the Long Bien Bridge - the history witness of Hanoi and visit several villages situated next to the Red River. You will see the cornfields, paddy fields, peach flower gardens, kumquat gardens, etc. (seasonally); there are not many foreign tourists who have ever enjoyed this scene. Besides, low-roofed floating houses on the Red River will make you have a different perspective on your life.
9. Go Shopping
Shopping in Hanoi is fun and easy. The 15th century Old Quarter of Hanoi is the perfect place to soak up the atmosphere of the city: it’s delightfully exotic and is the place to go to buy Hanoi’s best handicrafts including the famed Vietnamese hand embroidery, silver carving, lacquer ware and bronze molding. Markets in Hanoi are an amalgamation of the tradition and modern. You can shop in Dong Xuan Market in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem District and then visit Trang Tien Plaza (Hai Ba Trung) and VinCom City Towers (Ba Trieu) to witness the changing face of the city. You can purchase silk and indigenous clothes in Hang Gai (also known as Silk Street) and Hang Bong along with checking out some more shops in Nha Tho.
10. Chill out at “bia hoi” beer corner
This is probably the most exciting and culturally fun activity to experience in Hanoi. Ta Hien Street is a popular spot for locals as well as tourists. Many of the shops brew the beer daily on their premises, so if they run out, that’s it for the day. And do not expect any award-winning quality here either. The spot comes alive at night, and even more packed on weekends. There are other great little restaurants and bars spilling onto the side streets around it.
Now, what are you going to do while you're here? Let's discover the amazing sights and smells of our graceful capital city on one of our Hanoi tours.