Things to do
You will never be stuck for something to do in Hanoi, the city is huge, but most of the interesting places are located in the Old Quarter or around it. Hanoi is actually over 1000 years old so the wealth of history here is mind boggling: temples, ancient citadels, unique theatre and stunning wilderness just outside the city all offer fun-filled days in Vietnam’s capital. Now, what are you going to do while you’re here? Keep reading this writing to know more about the top of things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam so that you will not feel regret when your holiday is over.
1. Go to early morning markets
Hanoi is a city full of markets worth exploring. As early as 4.00am, wholesale markets in Hanoi are crowded with sellers and buyers. If you go to some of the markets like Long Bien wholesale market or Quang Ba Flower market, you will see that Hanoi is not only active during day time, but is also animated at night. Walking in these early morning market, you will see the main products here are vegetables & flowers, which are as fresh as when they are in the gardens. You will certainly also can find some of fruits here at the very good price, which is just half of the price on streets. Markets may open almost all-night. Visit these markets, not only buyers, sellers, but also many visitors who want to find a different perspective on culture in the life of Hanoi people.
2. Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake
Walking around Hoan Kiem Lake is also one of the top of things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam. Hoan Kiem Lake in early morning is the most wonderful & peaceful place to visit in Hanoi. Hoan Kiem Lake is now situated inside a complex of Ngọc Son Temple, The Huc Bridge, and Pen Tower in the surroundings that make a sparkling colorful natural picture. It is a great place to enjoy the local life. It's an ideal place for an early strolling to enjoy the interesting Hanoi lifestyle. For Hanoians, this is the centre of their day. Visitors not only see the beauty gentle, loving nature, but also the routine of Hanoi people, doing morning exercise, regardless of winter or summer. Besides, enjoy the fresh & cool air while walk around here, visitor can rest by sitting in one of the benches to observe & even join in the group of people doing aerobics, playing badminton… you will know how Hanoians enjoying around the lake.
3. Taste street food at street vendors
Hanoi is famous for street food and street stalls on the sidewalks. Hanoi cuisine reflects the agricultural culture and tradition of a thousand years in Vietnam. Hanoi Culinary is delicate, delicious and fresh, clean, sophisticated processing with high-art, fully spices for each dish brings a unique characteristic, in which, fish sauce is the most important spices make food Hanoi. Come to Hanoi, you will be surprised when see lots of foods are sold here, from Pho with Vietnamese flavor to dishes such as fried fermented pork, cheese sticks, sugarcane juice, and even the dishes that made the soul of Hanoi as rolled Phở or Bun cha (grilled pork vermicelli ) …
Visit Hanoi at any time of year, visitors will be able to choose for themselves the delicious food. Especially, when enjoy a big bowl of Phở Bò in the morning, you will be attracted by the good flavor of the food that they never miss a chance to enjoy it. Many visitors even said that Phở Bò made Hanoi special in their eyes, and whenever thinking about this city, they thought about that food. Be observant to find delicious seasonal dishes to feel the full-beauty of Hanoi cuisine on the sidewalk stalls. You could do this activity in our street food tour.
4. Drink coffee on the pavements
Sai Gon has coffee on high floor, and underground, etc., whereas Hanoi has street coffee and traditional cafeteria. Drink coffee on the pavement is one among the top of things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam. Sitting on the pavement with a cup of coffee in hand, you can not only enjoy the most typical drink of Vietnam, but also watch the sunlight, and see people traveling on the streets. Besides the standard four coffee drinks — hot black coffee, iced-black coffee, hot coffee with milk and iced coffee with milk — available in any café, there is hot coffee with a raw egg beaten into it, with or without milk, which tastes a bit like flavored meringue. With sugar, it is practically a meal. This will make you miss Hanoi when you come back to your country.
5. Enjoy sunset at Wesk Lake
Watching the sunset in West Lake is one of the top of things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam. Located in the Northwest of Hanoi, West Lake is a destination which attracts tourists, this is the largest lake in Hanoi and it is so much bigger than Hoan Kiem Lake. In the afternoon, the lake is immensely large, the sky is limitlessly large, both of which are in blue and orange, makes West Lake becomes magical dye till the horizon as well as making a spectacular moment by the end of the day.
In order to do not miss the chance to watch the sunset in West Lake, you should choose one of the coffee shops around here or sitting by on the most beautiful road in West Lake to watch the sunset is Thanh Nien – Co Ngu road. From here you can buy ticket to yacht to roam on the water of West Lake.
The distance from Old Quarter to West Lake is just around 2 – 3km. You can walk, rent a bike or take a taxi to there.
6. Enjoy green rice flakes from Vong village
Green rice flakes from Vong village is one of many delicacies in Hanoi. The job of making green rice flakes originated from a legend that thousands of years ago, when rice bunches were still green, it rained dog and cat, along with strong wind making even the highest rice paddy fields be drowned. In that case, Vong villagers had to reluctantly harvest their young rice bunches home, roast them to eat to avoid starvation. Surprisingly, the roasted young rice had such a special flavor that the people here usually made as an extra food to eat when the autumn comes. Each time of making the roasted young rice, Vong villagers had more experiences and creativity that make the current green rice flakes, a feature of the village.
7. Have lunch at Trang Tien Lane
Trang Tien lane is not very long, but it serves many kinds of foods for lunch. You can choose fish rice noodles (bún cá), beef rice noodles (bún bò), fried rice (cơm rang), soy cheese rice noodles (bún đậu), kebab rice noodles (bún chả), or many others. All the foods smell good and look very attractive.
8. Enjoy Trang Tien ice-cream
EatingTrang Tien ice-cream is considered one of the top of things to do in Hanoi. If you have a chance to visit Hanoi, you will never forget a flavor of ice cream, especially it only had in Hanoi. It is Trang Tien ice cream, which is famous for the wide variety of flavors including bean, chocolate, young glutinous rice, and milk, which are sweet and delicious. Despite its fame, the price is very reasonable —everyone can enjoy it.
Not only Hanoians, but also people from other provinces and foreigners have a habit of eating ice cream when dropping in on Trang Tien Street”. There are no chairs; people eating ice-cream on Trang Tien Street have to stand and enjoy the cool and delicious flavor melting on their tongue. In spite of the inconvenience, a lot of people come here to enjoy. In summer when it is hot, if you have a Trang Tien ice-cream to eat, you will feel cool from inside out, and totally forget the hot weather. If you come to Hanoi, do not miss the chance to enjoy Trang Tien ice-cream.
9. Enjoy grills & porridge in winter
In cold winter, it is interesting to have a bowl of porridge, or enjoy grills with friends. These foods will make you feel warmer.
10. Buy flowers from a peddler
In Hanoi, you can easily find a peddler who is selling beautiful bunches of flowers on streets. If you go with your girlfriend or your wife, buy her a bunch of flowers there. She will be very happy that way.
11. Ride a motorbike in Phan Dinh Phung street
Phan Dinh Phung Street is one of the most peaceful and romantic places in Hanoi. In spite of sunny, rainy, or windy weather, riding a motorbike in the shadows of big trees in this street will make you feel relaxed. You can even walk on the pavement here to watch yellow leaves falling and compose a poem about nature or love. It is quite peaceful.
12. Drink ice tea on West Lake shore
In hot weather, you can sit on Hanoi West Lake shore to have a glass of ice tea, and enjoy the beautiful sight of the lake. Life is so restful that way.
13. Visit Nha San Collective
Founded in 1998, Nhà Sàn Collective (Nha San Collective) is an artist run space and gallery, featuring experimental contemporary art, by local talent. Both established and emerging artists exhibit here. This is also is an interesting exhibition room for young people who love art and creation and run as working studio where international artists work to improve the quality of the products made by local artists. If you want to have a good understanding about young Vietnamese people’s art tendency, you should visit Nhà Sàn Collective once.
• Address: 24 Lý Quoc Su
14. Enjoy fried fermented pork roll
Fermented pork roll is a specialty of Vietnam. It is such a delicious food that if you try once, you will certainly want to eat more. The food is made from pork, garlic, and pepper, so it has a special flavor that cannot be confused with other foods.
15. Drink beer on the pavements
Hanoi has been named one of the cheapest and best places to drink fresh beer in Asia by travel guides and journalists, thanks to its lively drinking culture. It has become a magnet for tourists who enjoy drinking beer, which is readily available at local pavement shops as well as in luxurious bars.
Tasting “bia hoi” (fresh beer) is one of the top things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam. In the afternoons when the sun has set, many people in Hanoi gather at beer halls to drink beer with fried nem chua (fermented pork roll), chili sauce, roasted peanuts is the hobby of them. There are also tables on the pavements for clients who want contemplate the Hanoi Old Quarter while chatting each other. Drinking beer on the pavement helps cool your body after long hours of traveling.
“Bia hoi” is one of things you should not miss when you come to Hanoi. Visitors should taste Vietnamese beer and learn how local people drink. “Mot, hai, ba…zo!!” (One, two, three …go!!) and “Tram phan tram!” ("100 percent" or "bottoms up") are common chants that accompany a drinking session in these local.
16. Drink ice tea on any pavements
On a pavement in Hanoi, where many things are sold, iced tea is one among many refreshing beverages in summer. It helps cool your body and stop your thirst immediately. In Hanoi, you can easily buy a glass of iced tea on any pavement, under the shadow of big trees. Sitting on the pavement to drink iced tea and watching people moving are some good ways to relax.
17. Watch lotus in West Lake
In summer, young people in Hanoi often get up early and go to West Lake to enjoy the slight wind, watch sunrise and beautiful lotuses. The odor of lotuses, the pink and white colors of lotuses mixed with the green color of leaves making such a great picture in the lake that many girls and women often come here to take photos for their albums.
18. Go to flower markets on Lunar New Year
Every year when Spring arrives, Hanoians eagerly visit flower markets to buy their favorite flowers and plants to decorate their homes. A variety of flowers are transported to Hanoi from other provinces and cities but kumquat trees, peach blossoms are still the most popular flowers for Tet holiday. About two weeks before Tet, flowers markets in Hanoi start being crowded with sellers, buyers, and foreign tourists. If you’re in Hanoi this period of time, you should go to 3 below traditional flower markets to enjoy Tet atmosphere here.
18.1. Quang Ba flower market
This is the biggest flower market in Hanoi. It opens every day from early in the morning until midnight. An widest variety of flowers are bought here & are regarded as the most beautiful & freshest of all. Quang Ba market becomes more crowded and busier than ever on the yearly Tet Holiday.
18.2. Hang Luoc – Hanoi’s oldest Tet flower market
Founded in the 1920s, the Hang Luoc flower market is located on Hang Luoc Street (in Hanoi Old Quarter) and extends down nearby alleys. This market only appears from 23rd to the 30th of the Dec lunar month. In the past, it only sold flowers for Tet, but nowadays, flowers are just one of various items offered at Hang Luoc flower market. Visitors can choose their favorite flowers and enjoy the beauty of flowers, while coming here. Visiting the flower market is a special part of culture for every Hanoians.
18.3. Nghi Tam flower market
The Nghi Tam flower market was named after flower village & considered as the centre of flower market in Hanoi. As the traditional lunar New Year festival is drawing near, the market is more crowded than ever.
There are many kinds of flowers originating from temperate regions like the peach blossom, daisy, violet and lily, and particularly the kumquat, peach and white apricot. From winter to spring, with the drizzling rain and the cold wind, the temperature is suitable for the growth of these flowers. Every morning, Nghi Tam flower market is busy.
19. Watch yellow leaves falling
Yellow leaves in Hanoi usually fall at the end of April. During this time, Phan Dinh Phung Street and its pavements are very beautiful with dracontomelon leaves. Tran Phu Street and Dinh Tien Hoang Street are also covered with yellow leaves that attract many visitors. Walking on the pavements which are full of yellow leaves will make you feel good and relaxed.
20. Exercise in the park
When you come to Hanoi, you should not miss the chance to do exercises in the park as this is one of the top things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam. In the early mornings and the late afternoons, the parks, street corners and lakesides are a hive of activity as keep fit classes, Tai Chi and personal exercise regimes are seen in abundance around the city with people of all ages. Many of them are running, or walking. Some students are trying to learn something by heart. Couples are chatting on park benches or grass. Children are excited about riding kids’ bikes. Exercising in the park will not only make you feel stronger and more relaxed, but also help you know more about Vietnamese culture.
21. Visit pagodas
Hanoi has many temples and pagodas present a Buddhist background developed in Vietnam, with unique architecture. Many of them were built centuries ago. If you come to Hanoi, you should spend time to visit some famous pagodas and temples such as Perfume Pagoda, Quan Su Pagoda, Tran Quoc Pagoda, Quan Thanh Temple, One Pillar Pagoda,….
22. Shopping in Hanoi Old Quarter
Now you are in Hanoi, Vietnam, you do not know where is the most popular place for shopping, buying Vietnamese traditional souvenirs, Hanoi Old Quarter is the best choice for most travelers when they visit Hanoi, Vietnam. No other places will a shopaholic’s dream get fulfilled as in these ancient alleys. Each street used to be dedicated to one particular ware.
Tourist easily will find the traditional souvenir shops in the Old Quarter such as Vietnam traditional long dress, silk shops or night market where selling many of souvenirs, clothe, shoe,… and just get lost in the various products spread out.
Vietnam in general offers great value on silk. Lower prices and cheap labor go hand in hand to offer unbeatable bargains on meticulously-crafted silk dresses, trousers, even shoes.
For fabulous buys in Vietnam, here's the link.
23. See Long Bien bridge
Long Bien Bridge, which goes over the Red River and connects two parts of Hanoi, has an interesting history. The bridge was built when France occupied Indochina. It used to be one among the longest bridges in this area with special architecture.
24. Experience pottery making at Bat Trang village
Bat Trang Village is a place where people produce china from clay. When you come here, you can experience making your own pottery product like a bowl, a cup, or a vase, and bring it home after it is fired.
25. Enjoy a Water Puppet show
Water puppetry is a traditional art in Vietnam. The water puppet performance is mainly about the farmers’ routines and cultivation. Water puppetry “puppets that dance on water” is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century CE when it originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. Today’s Vietnamese water puppetry is a unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition.
The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered. The shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other using this form of puppet play. Traditional legends and historical tales are among the enchanting puppet plays performed at this popular theatre
26. Take cyclo around the Old Quarter
Taking a cyclo around the Old Quarter is one of the top things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam. Sitting in the cyclo, you can see everything on the streets well without having to worry about the traffic as the cyclist often drive slowly and very safely.
27. Lear how to prepare Vietnamese dishes
An easy thing to do for a morning at any of the cooking classes advertised in Hanoi. There are many restaurants offers classes on site.
28. Weekend night market
Starting around 7pm on Friday through Sunday, the streets starting at Hang Dao going north shut down for the night market. I love any and all markets. Vendors set up and sell trinkets like phone covers and gadgets. It may not be what you’re looking for but it’s fun to people watch and snack around the market.