If you are planning on visiting Vietnam, then Hanoi is probably near the top of your list. The city is over 1000 years old and packed with interesting things to do and learn about. It is the capital of Vietnam and due to its age, it has a rich history. Exploring this city is fun and exciting but it can be overwhelming. Deciding what to do so you don’t miss out on anything can be quite stressful. To make your decision easier, here are our top 10 things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Top Things to do in Hanoi Vietnam
1. Take a day trip to Ninh Binh while in Hanoi
Ninh Binh is a must-visit when in Hanoi. This breathtaking place is located about 100 kilometres from Hanoi and has some of the most spectacular landscapes in Asia.
The best way to explore Ninh Binh is by doing a one-day tour from Hanoi. This one-day tour can cost between $42 to $48 per person depending on the type of tour you pick. Ninh Binh is an extremely popular tourist destination so there are many different tours. So look around and pick the tour that best suits your style and pocket.
On our tour, we went to Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Mua cave and Trang An and enjoyed cycling through the mountains after an interesting buffet lunch.
➔Tip: Trang An is breathtaking, so try to book a tour that takes you past there too. Also remember to pack an umbrella, sunscreen, and water when you take these tours in the summer. The sun can get deadly. Carry these items with you the whole time.
2. Go on a Ha Long Bay cruise
Ha Long Bay is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in Vietnam and for a good reason. This amazing bay has 1969 islands and islets, which will take your breath away.
You have the option of a one, two or three-day tour. With the two or three-day tour you stay on a boat on Ha Long Bay that allows you to explore more and see more. It’s an extremely beautiful and peaceful place to visit.
A one-day tour costs around $52. A two-day or three-day tour can cost anything from $180 to $300 depending on the cruise you pick. Most of the overnight cruises are 5 stars.
➔ Tip: If you don’t have the funds to stay a night or two, do the one-day tour. The day tour is stunning, and you won’t be rushed. You will just miss out on the sunrise and the luxurious rooms, but all the activities will still be top-notch.
3. Take a stroll through the Old Quarter of Hanoi
The Old Quarter is the hub for tourism in Hanoi. With tree-lined roads, cafes, bars, coffee shops, markets, and beautiful architecture. This part of the city is one of the busiest as well.
Some streets are so small that cars cannot pass through, only bicycles and scooters are allowed. The bars and restaurants also take over the roads, especially during nighttime. All of this just adds to the crazy atmosphere of the place and its nightlife. With beer only 5000 Dong ($0.22), the streets fill up fast when the sun goes down.
There are also many shops for you to go shopping at for clothes, electronics, and souvenirs. With so many things to see, this is the perfect part of the city to explore.
4. Watch the World-Famous Water Puppet Show of Vietnam.
Water puppetry is a tradition that comes from Northern Vietnam and dates back to the 11th century.
The Thang Long Water Puppet show has been performed all over the world. This is one of the best water-puppet shows that you can go to. The theatre is located in the Old Quarter, across the road from Ho Hoan Kiem Lake.
The only downside to the show is that it’s mostly in the Vietnamese language so it’s hard to follow the story. However, it’s still really enjoyable to watch this traditional Vietnamese show.
Ticket prices range from 100 000 to 200 000 Dong depending on where you want to sit. If you buy a ticket for 150 000 Dong or more, you will receive a small souvenir with your ticket.
5. Admire the massive Ceramic Mosaic Mural Street
If you are looking for something different and unique to do in Hanoi, head over to the ceramic mosaic mural. This mural was created to celebrate the city’s 1000th birthday.
You can walk along the pavement and admire this beautiful wall which runs for 6.5 km. It’s the world’s largest ceramic mosaic according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
The murals are based on different periods in Vietnam’s history. Few people walk along this wall so you can stop anywhere to take some beautiful pictures.
❥Also Read: 6 Things To Do in Da Nang, Vietnam.
6. Take in the beautiful St. Joseph’s Cathedral
The St. Joseph’s Cathedral opened in 1886 and is the oldest church in Hanoi. With its architectural style, it’s said to resemble Notre Dame de Paris. This Cathedral is a beautiful old building that is a must-see and so easy to get to. It’s located in the Old Quarter, close to Ho Hoan Kiem Lake.
7. Learn some history at Hoa Lo Prison Memorial
Vietnam has a very rich history, where the French and Americans play a huge role.
There is a Memorial at Hoa La prison where people were held prisoner from around 1901. The prison has been maintained well, and you can see first-hand the living conditions, prisoners’ cells, relics and the terrible things they had to endure.
It costs 30 000 Dong per person to enter. Once inside, you can rent an audio guide for 50 000 Dong each. We highly recommend that you get the audio guide as this will give you a lot of information about what you are looking at as well as some prisoners’ testimonials and events that happened.
It is an eye-opening and fascinating experience. It will take around 2 hours to walk from the beginning until the end.
8. Pose for some creative pictures at the Street Murals of Hanoi
On Phung Hung street there are many murals painted on the wall showing old memories of Hanoi such as the Mid-Autumn festival, the Trang Tien Department store and an old street corner.
These murals bring back old memories for many locals, and it’s interesting to see how things looked back then. As for the art, it’s brilliantly done and looks so life-like.
These murals aren’t on many people’s lists of things to do and are a bit of a hidden gem in Hanoi. It’s a perfect place to take some beautiful and creative pictures.
❥Also Read: 6 Ways to Beat the Heat While Traveling.
9. Take a walk around Ho Hoan Kiem Lake
Ho Hoan Kiem Lake is located in the Old Quarter and is a very popular place to sit and relax for foreigners and locals. It’s a beautiful lake in the middle of the city, and there’s a small island that has a temple on it called Jade Mountain which you can get to by crossing a bridge. The entry cost is around 15 000 Dong.
This lake is well known for the Turtle Tower that you can only see from the land. There’s a walkway around the whole lake with many benches where you can sit and take in the beauty that’s all around you.
There are many little gems all around the lake, and it’s a massive landmark in the Old Quarter.
At night, even more, people set up shops around the lake, and as the lights come on around the lake, the city comes alive, making it even more beautiful.
10. Have lunch at the Railway tracks
This is also an even lesser-known spot in the city and we would have missed it if it wasn’t for some last-minute plans to see some friends.
What makes these railway tracks so amazing is that the tracks run right through the city. Peoples shops, cafes and even barbershops are right next to the tracks, if not on the tracks. When the train comes through, everyone quickly moves off the tracks allowing the train to pass and when the train passed they move back to their original spot.
It’s such a fun thing to witness. This was never planned to be an attraction but over time it has grown in popularity among locals and thus attracts foreigners as well.
Simply put “Hanoi street train” into Google Maps. It’s on either side of Tran Phu main Road in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
❥Also Read: 10 Unique Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City
How many days do you need in Hanoi?
To us 3 to 5 days is the perfect number of days to spend in Hanoi, however, this number will depend on how many things you want to see and do.
Anything less than 3 days will make it feel too rushed because there are many things to see, do and experience.
There are some great day trips from Hanoi such as Ha Long Bay and Ninh Binh which we highly recommend. Having 5 days in Hanoi will allow enough time to do some day trips and explore Hanoi.
Is Hanoi worth visiting?
Yes, Hanoi is worth it. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and arguably the most popular and well-known city in Vietnam.
It is an interesting city with so many things to do and see. It’s also packed with history, culture and beautiful architecture from the past 1000+ years. You will also find some of the best food in this city and a vast variety to fit any budget and preference.