How do I even begin to describe Hanoi…
I’d like to think I’m a pretty experience traveller. I’ve been to 22 countries on 3 different continents. I’ve lived in Asia for about 6 months now. But DAMN, nothing prepared me for how f#@^#$g crazy the streets of Vietnam’s capital would be. Don’t believe me or think I’m exaggerating? Check out this video to see what I mean.
Okay now that you’ve watched it and have a better appreciation for the chaos that is Hanoi, you’ll either be repelled or be even more excited about going there. I was obviously the latter. So I’m here to tell you that yes, you could spend your days just walking around and have fun, but there are also tons of other awesome things to do in this city. Here they are:
1. Explore the streets of Old Quarter
In my opinion this is where all the good stuff is. You’ll find tons of great restaurants, shops and coffee shops. Plus, like I mentioned earlier, you’ll have a ton of fun just trying to cross the street without getting hit by a motorbike.
2. Take a stroll along Hoàn Kiếm Lake
If you’re looking for a quiet place among all the chaos, this is the place to be. You can stroll along the lake, grab some fruit (just make sure not to buy those doughnuts they sell ’cause they are naaasssttyyy). If you’re here on a weekend be sure to check out this part of Hanoi since locals come here to play games and hang out.
3. Learn more about Vietnamese history at Hỏa Lò Prison
An amazing place to learn more about Vietnamese history. I’m not going to give you a bunch of facts about this place, you’ll just have to come here and see for yourself. 😉 I will say this, I really enjoyed this place because everything is contextualized – you’re actually standing in the very place where these things happened. I don’t know about you but I always prefer that so much more than walking through the halls of some pristine museum. It makes everything just seem that much more real to me.
Admission to the prison is ₫30 000 VND (about $1.75 CAD). They also have a student discount so bring a valid student card for even more savings!
4. Reflect at the Temple of Literature
Another great place to visit if you’re in need of a little peace and quiet from the city’s busy streets. I would recommend reading up about this place before coming or going with a guide since there isn’t really much information around the temple. We went on a walking tour with Hanoi Kids and found this to be the best way to learn about the temple’s rich history. We highly recommend booking a tour with Hanoi Kids since you can get to know locals, help them practice their English and learn more about the city. Just be sure to book a tour as soon as possible since they fill up quite quickly!
Admission to the temple is ₫30 000 VND (about $1.75 CAD).
5. Eat your way through the city on a DIY food tour
Make a list of all the foods you want to eat and walk around the city until you’ve found/tried them all! This is one of our favourite ways to discover a new city since not only are you able to taste all of the local cuisine, you also get to see areas that you may not have gone to otherwise. Click here for a list of awesome foods to try in Hanoi! My favourites were egg coffee, bun cha and bahn mi.
6. Seek hidden train streets throughout the city
Another by-product of us just randomly walking around the city – finding really cool s!#t. We first found these awesome hidden train streets while walking around with our Hanoi Kids guides, and then once more when just walking aimlessly through the city. If you don’t want to risk missing out on these cool streets, check out the map at the bottom of this post.
7. Chug a 30 cent beer at Beer Corner
Basically the liveliest street corner in all of Hanoi on any given night, you’ll find tourists and locals alike sitting on small (child-sized) plastic stools sipping on 30 cent beers. Grab a seat at any of the ‘bars’ at this intersection and you’ll be served with some locally brewed beer (it kinda tastes like Coors Light for those of you wondering). We were there on a Monday night and it was super lively! I can only imagine what this place looks like on the weekend.
8. Shop your heart out (or window shop)
Even if you’re broke, Vietnam is a place where you’ll be able to shop ’til you drop. You can find everything from North Face jackets to designer purses all for under $30 CAD! Just be warned, though I couldn’t tell initially, all the things I bought are definitely fakes lol.
9. Taste Vietnamese coffee (and all the other amazing flavours!)
Though I personally prefer yogurt coffee (ommgggg soooo amazziinnggg) and egg coffee (it’s like drinking a cup of delicious fluffyness), drinking some Vietnamese coffee is still a must do. Gotta check it off the ol’ bucket list! Be warned: it’s super bitter and sweet all at the same time so it’s an, ummm, acquired taste.
10. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Honestly one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. As you may or may not know, Ho Chi Minh is Vietnam’s national hero, and as such, his remains were impeccably preserved. In comes the mausoleum where you can actually come see Ho Chi Minh’s remains in person, free of charge. Just be sure to come early since the mausoleum closes around 11AM.
BONUS: Be amazed in Halong Bay
Halong Bay is about 4 hours away from Hanoi and thus the capital is the perfect jumping off point to seeing this marvel. Visiting Halong Bay was one of the highlights of our time in Vietnam and we highly recommend making the time to visit it. We splurged a little and went on a luxury overnight cruise (and it was AWESOME!).
A handy map to help you find all of these amazing places!
Have I convinced you to come to Hanoi yet?
Have you been to Hanoi? What would you add to this list?
If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam, please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have and we’ll do our best to help!
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