What To Do In Hanoi and How to Get Around

Monday, August 27, 2018

If you’re wondering what to do in Hanoi, you will find that there are actually so many things that are waiting for you to explore in the city. A trip to the capital city of Vietnaminfo-icon offers a blend of mystery and adventure, something that you’ll not find in any other Asian cities.

The city of Hanoi is dotted with countless museums and ancient colonial buildings with Asian and European influences. In the busy streets, you could hear the sound of motorbikes zooming around and witness a never-ending sea of chattering locals going about their day-to-day life. 

Then there’s the inviting smell of Vietnamese coffee and a piping hot bowl of Pho in the background.  Hanoi might be overwhelming at first, but you’ll get used to it eventually and learn to appreciate the city in a different perspective. 

So, here are the things to know about the city, including tips on what to eat, how to get around, and what to do in Hanoi.

Overview of Hanoi

Hanoi is full of districts for you to indulge yourself into.

Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital city and the second largest city in the country. The city is divided into districts, but the most popular of all Hanoi districts is the Old Quarter, where there is the most significant concentration of the city attractions. 

Old Quarter is also the area famous for backpackers and budget travelers because there are plenty of budget and mid-range Hanoi hostels in the area. The Old Quarter is also lined with hawker stalls and shophouses in French colonial buildings.

Read more: Experience Saigon The Right Way

The Ba Dinh District is another district that you’ll most likely to visit because there are also a number of attractions in the area, such as the Ba Dinh Square, Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, and the One Pillar Pagoda. 

Dong Da District is right next to Ba Dinh and where you will find the Temple of Literature.

How to Get Around Hanoi

Motorbikes are the most common mean of transport in Hanoi.

Getting around Hanoi is fairly easy since most of the attractions are located close to each other.

Most of the shopping districts, night markets, restaurants, and hotels, are only walking distance away. 

But the most common transportation used by the local Hanoi people is a motorbike.  If you’ve been to Vietnam before, then you’ll understand why the country is dubbed the motorbike capital of Asiainfo-icon.

Some tourists who have an International driving license would choose to rent a motorbike in Hanoi get around the city with it. There are also motorcycle taxis that can take you from one place to another. 

However, unlike the regular taxis where you get charged per meter, you’ll be charged a fixed rate for this Hanoi transport. It’s therefore important that you negotiate the price ahead before you hop into one. 

Aside from motorbikes, there are also regular taxis that you can hire when going around Hanoi. It’s more expensive than the motorbike taxi, but it’s definitely safer. 

Public buses also run the streets of Hanoi and most of the bus routes would pass by the city’s famous attractions. The only problem with traveling by bus is that it could take a lot of time especially during peak hours when the traffic is worse.

Read more: Some Vietnam Highlights To Experience

Also, I would add another great option to get around Hanoi that is called Grab. It's similar to Uber, but it's a more popular variant here in Vietnam, and it's plain simple to arrange a ride to any preferred destination for a much lower price than a regular taxi!

What To Do In Hanoi

Hang Dao is one of the many Hanoi street markets buzzing with life and activity, and many spices in the air!

If you’re staying at a Hanoi Old Quarter hotel, then you can simply walk around the area to discover some of the most famous tourist attractions in the city. So here’s a guide of what to do in Hanoi.

Explore the Old Quarter - you can grab a map from your hotel and explore the Old Quarter by foot starting at the Hoan Kiem Lake. Then head over to the Huc Bridge, Ngoc Son Temple, Hanoi Opera House, Hoa Lo Prison, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, and the Long Bien Bridge. 

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum - after you’re done with exploring the Old Quarter, you can go to the Ba Dinh District and visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where the mummified body of Vietnam’s most loved president, Ho Chi Minh, is kept. His embalmed body is stored in an air-conditioned glass case and guarded heavily by security. To avoid the crowd, get there early in the morning where you can also take part in the flag raising ceremony happening at the Ba Dinh square, just outside of the mausoleum.

Temple of the Jade Mountain - head back to the Hoan Kiem Lake where you’ll find a famous red bridge that will take you to an island where the temple of the Jade Mountain is erected. Also known as the Ngoc Son Temple, this Buddhist temple dates back to the 18th century.

Wander around the French Quarter – just a few minutes walk from the Old Quarter is the French Quarter, which has a totally different vibe from the busy and chaotic streets of the Old Quarter. This street is lined with buildings in the French colonial architecture. In case you didn’t know, Franceinfo-icon ruled Vietnam for a long time, which explains the various French influences in the country. This is clearly evident in the French Quarter of Hanoi, where the grand boulevard reminds you of the streets of Paris. It’s also where you’ll find the Hanoi Opera House that has some resemblance to the Palais Garnier of Paris.

Visit a Hanoi night market - there are plenty of night markets in Hanoi and it is a great way to visit one of these to learn more about the Hanoi culture and the local way of life. The best night markets to visit are the Dong Xuan market, Cho Hom market, Hang Da market, Quang Ban market, and the weekend night market at the Old Quarter that consists of an endless row of food stalls and shops selling almost everything you can think of! So if you’re wondering what to do in Hanoi on a weekend, be sure to check out this weekend market at the Old Quarter.

There are so many places and things to do in Hanoi, but if you're determined, you can even explore Hanoi in one day! Plan your visit and enjoy.

What to Eat in Hanoi

Fresh, light, and full of nutrients, Pho Noodle Soup is one of the best food you can try in Hanoi.

Surely, your journey wouldn't be complete without trying out the best Vietnamese food in Hanoi.  The best street food in Hanoi can be found at the main city streets of the Old Quarter. 

The area is packed with local restaurants and food stalls selling almost every Vietnamese food you can think of.

Some of the best food to eat in Hanoi is:

Pho - this noodle soup is Vietnam’s most beloved dish so you can find it being sold almost everywhere in Hanoi. 

Xoi - this is sticky rice flavored with bean paste and topped with meat slices. 

Bun Cha - this is rice noodles topped with grilled pork and seasoned with fresh herbs and spices, including papaya slices, chili, and garlic.

Banh Mi - this is Vietnam’s version of a baguette sandwich. Just like the Pho, you’ll find Banh Mi being sold all over Hanoi and it’s in fact, the best street food in Hanoi Old Quarter.

Gỏi Cuốn - this is a spring roll with fillings of pork, prawns, and vegetables.

Che - if you’re craving for a dessert after feasting on some of the Vietnamese dishes above, then this dessert is highly recommended. Served in either hot or cold, Che is made from a wide range of ingredients, including different kinds of beans, tapioca, and some fruits.

Ca Phe Trung - Hanoi is famous for ca phe trung or the egg coffee. Condensed milk, sugar, and egg yolks are added to the coffee, giving it a unique taste that’s similar to the tiramisu.

You have so much to see and do in Hanoi. From the vibrant culture, fascinating colonial architectures, and delicious street food, there’s seemingly nothing that this city doesn’t have. So if you’re planning a trip to Vietnam and wondering what to do in Hanoi, these tips should serve as your guide.

Carolyn Boston freelance content writer for aSabbatical.com
Travelling the world on a budget for several years without having a hefty savings account.