Updated: Feb 19
Ranked 12th of 25 top places to visit in 2018 by TripAdvisor, Hà Nội is one of the must-visit cities in Vietnam. So which is the best things to do in Hanoi? When should you visit Hanoi?
Before exploring best things to do in Hanoi, let's write down an overview about the weather of this antique city.
There are 4 seasons in a year: Spring (February-April), Summer (May-July), Autumn (August-October) and Winter (November-January). Although its weather is not so jolly as it is in the South of Vietnam, you can feel the differences of Hanoi in different seasons.
The weather is jolly and chilling in Spring. Visiting Hanoi in Spring, visitors might have a chance to enjoy how Vietnamese people in the North prepare for Tết holidays. However, don’t be surprised why the streets are empty during Tết holidays because everybody has to come back home and it is left behind. Peach blooms flourish everywhere making it drown in pink-colorful streets.
In Summer, although sometimes it reaches the hottest degree, buildings are shined and colored. People do some activities in Summer, especially in the early morning, so if you can get up early, you might enjoy a peaceful and shiny Hanoi.
When the night comes, you might feel the Winter coming thanks to the chilly weather. And when the Winter comes, everything gets cold, even the city is blurry due to the cold air. Gathering around, sitting on the walk side, drinking a cup of tea or coffee, and chatting are what Vietnamese people do during the Winter season.
Generally, you can visit Hanoi all seasons in a year.
Things to do in Hanoi
It is considered as the ancient and traditional city in Vietnam; therefore, traveling around here, you will have chance to learn about the historic buildings, traditions, cultures and folklores.
Hoàn Kiếm Lake
It is also known as Hồ Gươm or Turtle Lake and located right at the city center. This place is considered as the place where people gather around and play some activities. During the day, you can enjoy the slow moving of the river compared to the hasty moving of the city. At night, when lights are on, you can enjoy the enthusiasm of the young generations hiding from the daylight. Moreover, you can visit Ngọc Sơn Temple thanks to the bridge leading from the riverside to the middle of the river where the temple is located. It is charged 30,000 VND for each person to visit the temple. There, you can view the sunrise or sunset while visiting the traditional features and objects in the temple. It should be noted that you can try to do the walking trip or bicycle trip around the lake during the day or at night.
Bát Tràng Pottery Village
From the city center, you can take bus No. 47 from Đồng Xuân market to Bát Tràng Pottery Village, the traditional porcelain and pottery village within 7 centuries. The bus takes around 20 mins to get there. Otherwise, you can rent a motorbike and do the trip or do some combined tours. There, you can try to make potteries by yourselves with the guide of local people. You can make a bowl, a cup, a bottle... what an interesting experience. Or you can buy some souvenirs for your friends and family with colorful and multi-shaped potteries.
Old Quarter makes it so-called the antique city thanks to its old French architect in narrow streets. There, you can experience some modern houses dotted among the old houses and buildings. In the past, the streets were named after some specialized products, but now they are expanded. You can also try some traditional street foods which are very famous.
Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long
The Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2010. The entrance fee to visit the citadel is 30.000 VND, opening from 08:00 to 17:00. One of the notable reasons why you should visit this citadel is the central flag tower where you can enjoy the view of Ba Đình Square and City Center.
Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum
One of the most attractive destinations you should visit is Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum, where Uncle Hồ rested in peace. There, visitors might have a chance to see the preserved body of Uncle Hồ in a glass case. There, you should not make noise, wear suitable clothes and follow the rules of the mausoleum. This is not only the tourist attraction but also a part of the country, the living history making Vietnamese remember the bloody past and the patriotism of the country. It should be noted that the Mausoleum is closed on Monday and Friday.
Tuesday - Thursday: 7:30 - 10:30
Saturday - Sunday: 7:30 - 11:00
Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature was built in 1070 under the Lý Dynasty. This was where the very first university of Vietnam “Quốc Tử Giám” was located thanks to the Lý Dynasty around 1076. Although the temple was added some buildings and reconstructed, it still remains the old historic houses from the past. Vietnamese believes that if you touch the head of the turtle located at the steles of Doctors (PhD - from 1425 to 1779), you will pass the examinations or graduation. It should be noted that because this place is solemn so you should wear suitable clothes.
Address: 58 Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu Ward, Đống Đa District
Opening hours: Monday - Sunday: 8:30 - 17:30
Ticket: 30.000 VND
Water Puppet Show
The North is where the water puppets were originally created; therefore, taking time to watch this lively and interesting performance is a need when you visit Hanoi. There are several theatres showing the water puppet performances, but you can choose Thăng Long Puppet Theatre which has 5 shows a day with good quality. You can buy tickets directly at the ticket booths or online, or combine it with other city tours. The price depends on how and where you want to watch it.
Đồng Xuân Market
This is one of the biggest typical local markets in Vietnam in general, and in the North in particular. The typical local markets used to be where everything can be found. However, due to the development of technology and life, people increasingly go to the supermarkets and convenience stores instead. Shopping here, you can buy some souvenirs or fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, seafoods. Especially in the early morning, where you can have a chance to learn about the Vietnamese tradition of “Đi chợ” meaning go to the market and buy things for a day.
Traditional food and beverage
One of the best cities to enjoy Vietnamese cuisine in the North is Hanoi. It should be noted that Vietnamese cuisine along the country is different from the North to the Central, from the South to the Mekong Delta. Therefore, trying Northern cuisine is a must for travelers. This is the list of typical traditional food and beverage of Hanoi. Although nowadays you can easily find them everywhere in Vietnam, it is considered as the best place.
Phở Hà Nội
The name reveals itself, Phở in Hanoi is different from the South of Vietnam, where the taste of soup is sweeter and stronger. You can find Phở everywhere in this city with different prices, from street vendors to luxurious restaurants.
Phở cuốn (Rolling Phở)
Well, you can only find this rolling Phở in Hanoi where it was originally created. It is made from Phở, fried meat, and salad rolled together. You eat it with the fish sauce, which is not so strong and not so light suitable for both locals and foreigners. You should also try Phở Phồng (Fried Phở), making its cuisine different from others.
Actually, although Bánh cuốn originally comes from the North of Vietnam, there are different ways of eating Bánh cuốn in distinct cities. You can easily find Bánh cuốn everywhere there, especially food vendors on the streets with reasonable prices, and some of them started their businesses a long time ago.
Talking about Hanoi, we cannot forget Bún Chả, its typical cuisine. Bún chả includes bún (made from rice), chả (grilled chopped meat) and sauce, the most important thing of Bún chả, and vegetables.
Chả cá Lã Vọng
People like to eat it thanks to the special way it is made and displayed. Chả cá Lã Vọng is also considered as the soul of the city which food lovers cannot miss. Actually, Chả cá is the original name of the food; however, people get used to calling it Chả cá Lã Vọng thanks to its history. The most famous restaurant where Chả cá was originally created is 14 Chả cá, Hàng Bồ Ward, Hoàn Kiếm District thanks to their secret recipe to make Chả cá, and the recipe, of course, is the secret of Đoàn family. Lã Vọng was the name of a man fishing and this symbol has become the way people call Chả cá Lã Vọng.
In Vietnamese, xéo means the way you ask someone to go away very seriously. However, this steamed rice is one of the attractive and famous cuisine in Hanoi, and today you can also find it in Hồ Chí Minh City. The yellow steamed rice is considered as the sunlight in the early morning hidden from the green color of the covers of lotus leaves, or banana leaves. This cuisine is usually made for breakfast with a very cheap price and convenient as you can find it on the street vendors.
Bún đậu mắm tôm
This Vietnamese fermented shrimp paste noodle is the most complicated arrangement ever of Vietnamese cuisine. The most important is whether people can eat this smelly sauce or not, even Vietnamese or foreigners. At first, you might go away or can’t stand its smell, but for people who can eat it, they love it. The name “Bún đậu mắm tôm” is combined by 3 ingredients making this food so-called complication. Bún is rice noodle. Đậu is fried tofu. And mắm tôm, the smelly sauce, is a fermented shrimp sauce. It is also eaten with some kinds of herbs. Moreover, people also add pork meat or Chả Cốm, Chả Mực, Lòng Dồi. Eating it the first time, rolling all together and dipping into the shrimp sauce, you can feel something strong, something smelly running from your throat to your brain and knocking you out.
Do you like drinking beers? If the answer is yes, don’t hesitate to try Beer Hanoi and enjoy the way people there drink beers. According to some travelers, beer Hanoi (or you should try to say “Bia hơi Hanoi” in Vietnamese) reveals the soul, mind and the living style of the people there. Sitting on the small restaurants or on the walking sides, closely to each other and drinking beers during the cold or hot days are the best activity ever for beer-lovers.
In Vietnamese, it is Cà Phê Trứng. The name itself reveals, making from egg and coffee. The history is in the subsidy period, when people had no money to buy milk to mix with coffee, they tried to mix egg with coffee. The greasy taste of egg, the sweet of scream and coffee are mixed together making it distinguish from other coffees.
Vietnamese people, especially the old generation, have a habit of drinking tea when talking. Tea in Vietnamese is Trà. Actually, it is not the unique beverage in Hanoi or everywhere else on the planet. But the way people drink tea in Vietnam is quite different. Tea is simply made and served in a very simple way. People sit around, watch the moving of the city, talk to each other and focus their eyes somewhere very far away and enjoy the atmosphere. You might think something different, something makes you mature.
This is for the younger generation. This is also made from tea, but with lemons. Old generation drinks tea while young generation drinks lemon tea. Sitting around together on the walking sides in Old Quarter, you can feel the youth of Hanoi which is hidden from the busy days and prepares to grow up.
Whether you visit Hà Nội anytime during the year, don’t forget to visit these attractions and try traditional food and enjoy the lifestyle of this old and young city.