Throughout the thousand years of its eventful history, marked by destruction, wars and natural calamities, Ha Noi still preserves many ancient architectural works including the Old Quarter and over 600 pagodas and temples.
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Famous sites include the One Pillar Pagoda (built in 1049), the Temple of Literature (built in 1070), Ha Noi Citadel, Ha Noi Opera House, President Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum… Ha Noi also characteristically contains 18 beautiful lakes such as Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake, and Truc Bach Lake…, which are the lungs of the city, with their surrounding gardens and trees providing a vital source of energy. Many traditional handicrafts are also practiced in Ha Noi including bronze molding, silver carving, lacquer, and embroidery. Ha Noi has many famous traditional professional handicraft villages such as Bat Trang pottery village, Ngu Xa bronze casting village, Yen Thai glossy silk…
The best time to visit Ha Noi
Summer in Hanoi runs from May to September and brings heat and humidity, with average temperatures reaching 32°C (90°F) accompanied by refreshingly short bouts of heavy rain. These tropical downpours generally arrive in the afternoons, and despite being wet, summer months have the highest number of hours of sunshine. Winter is cooler and can bring fog and clouds but little rain, and the average temperature is 17°C (62°F). The best time to visit Hanoi (Vietnam) is October and November, as days are not too hot with averages around 21°C (70°F) with less rain and plenty of sunshine.
Places to visit and things to do in Ha Noi
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long: The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is an intriguing relic of Vietnam’s history and, signifying its historical and cultural importance, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standing 40 metres high, the central flag tower is the most recognizable feature of the Imperial Citadel and is often used as a symbol of Hanoi. This was the centre of ancient Hanoi and served as the political centre for eight centuries. Located in Ba Dinh, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is close to many other tourist attractions
Water Puppet Show: The ancient art form of water puppetry has a long association with Hanoi and there are several theatres where guests can enjoy this uniquely Vietnamese take on Asia’s puppet tradition. The original – and widely regarded as the best – theatre in town is the Thang Long Puppet Theatre. Puppets dance and slide elegantly over the liquid stage, controlled by a whole troupe of puppet masters hiding behind a screen.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: Ho Chi Minh has left an indelible mark on Vietnamese history and he is revered in Hanoi as the country’s greatest leader. Nicknamed ‘Uncle Ho’ by locals, his preserved body is now laid to rest in a glass case in the Ba Dinh area of Hanoi. This is more than a tourist attraction, it is a part of living history and a visit here stays long in the memory. The sombre building was modeled after Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow
Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple: Hoan Kiem Lake (Turtle Lake) is a central feature of Hanoi and is a popular hangout spot throughout the day with locals and tourists. Ngoc Son Temple sits on a small island in the centre of the lake and linked by a bridge, makes a beautiful background for a few photos. Around sunset this area becomes especially busy with joggers and couples enjoying the relaxing views across the lake
Dong Xuan Market: Dong Xuan Market is the largest of its kind in Hanoi. This sprawling complex has several floors of fashion, apparel and souvenirs at some of the best prices in the city. Even if you’re not interested in printed T-shirts or cheap sunglasses, it is still fascinating to see the comings and goings of the local traders, and there is a wet market on the ground floor where the sights and smells of exotic produce assault the senses.
Hanoi Old Quarter: Hanoi Old Quarter is a fascinating area of the city where visitors can enjoy many fine examples of colonial architecture packed along narrow streets. Endless packs of scooters, motorbikes, bicycles and cars weave around traders selling fruit and souvenirs and narrow shop houses sell delicious Vietnamese food for pennies. The Old Quarter brings to life what many people imagine Hanoi to be, and exploring this area on foot is highly recommended for all visitors to Vietnam’s capital city.
Temple of Literature: The Temple of Literature is a charming temple complex in the centre of Hanoi that was originally built to be a centre of learning dedicated to the Chinese sage and scholar Confucius. Over the proceeding 1000 years many more buildings have been added and beautified o that now this large area is filled with ornate pavilions, shrines, and a rich garden. It has become a rite of passage for graduating doctors to visit The Temple of Literature and the whole place is steeped in Vietnamese history
Fine Arts Museum: Tuesday to Sun from 9:15am to 5pm. Only party-approved Socialist art is shown here and most of the rooms have an small board explaining the history, aesthetics, and techniques of the paintings in that exhibit in Vietnamese, French, and English. It is an interesting museum at any rate, with pieces such as the wonderful pictures of soldiers on boats depicted on prehistoric bronze drums, Buddhist art, and revolutionary art of the 20th century wars. Also some interesting silk paintings.
Food and drink
You’re in Hanoi, the birthplace of Pho, Vietnam’s fabled noodle soup. Maybe you’re well versed in Vietnamese cuisine, aware of all the options before you. Or you could be new to Hanoi’s culinary scene, only hip to the most widely exported dishes. Whether you’ve tasted it all, have only eaten Pho or are lost in the choices, we’re here to help.
Start with the shacks, the street vendors who beckon with makeshift signs and plastic stools in lieu of chairs. They might not look like much to write home about, but if you find the right food vendor, their heavenly fare transcends their unassuming appearance. Shop around, make sure that hygiene and service are accounted for, but most of all, enjoy.
Delving further into Hanoi’s cooking scene, you’ll find a number of high-class restaurants serving northern specialties in luxurious settings far removed from the noisy streets. Discover modern culinary updates and international fusion cuisine that share space with strict tradition, a wide spread of fresh, local eats.
If you’re missing the tastes of home or are curious about the Vietnamese spin on imported recipes, pop in for a bite of French, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Indian, Western and just about every other national palate that you can think of. With this much good food around, and with such variety, you will never go hungry in Hanoi.
The nightlife and drinking scene in Hanoi is not as wild as in Ho Chi Minh City, but there is more than enough to keep you busy at night. Whether you are out for a date or with a party of friends, we will help you find the perfect café, bar or club or lounge.
After a long day of sightseeing and a relaxing meal, travelers will find no better way to unwind than to share a cocktail on one of Hanoi’s numerous rooftop lounges. While your hotel’s in-house bar may do the trick, don’t settle for a less than spectacular view, especially when soaring vistas are often de rigueur in Hanoi.
Hanoi’s Old Quarter features elegant spots that offer panoramas of Hoan Kiem Lake and the surrounding bustle. Try another waterfront locale, West Lake, for a more relaxing atmosphere and decks that extend over the water. In this part of Hanoi the excitement may be more of a slow glow than a pulsating blue flame, but that’s part of this area’s draw. Most venues close around midnight or shortly after; don’t wait too long before hitting the town.
Scattered throughout the city you’ll discover packed clubs, swanky jazz bars and inviting lounges, a diverse mix of nightlife with something for everyone to love. Of course, no trip to Hanoi would be complete without a stop for bia tuoi, fresh beer from the street side served by tireless vendors to legions of locals and travellers perched on tiny plastic stools.
Cooking Class in Ha Noi: Learn to cook Vietnamese food at a hands-on cooking class in central Hanoi. You will be picked up from your city center hotel for the transfer to the workshop. Here, you will be welcomed with a special La Han Vietnamese tea. Get a brief introduction to Vietnamese cuisines, highlighting the contents of a traditional meal. Then, walk around Chau Long Market, where your chef will help you select the freshest produce. Return to your classroom for the start of your cooking class. Sleeves rolled up, learn how and when to use the various herbs and spices rooted in Vietnamese culture. Prepare and cook under the watchful eye and close instruction of the chef. You will also be given the recipes to take away, so that you can amaze your friends and family back home. Then, it’s time to sit down and enjoy the meal you have prepared, while chatting to your chef about the food culture of Hanoi and Vietnam. Vietnamese spices, tools and books are available to purchase to recreate your meal back home. And every guest will receive a gift as a memory of their day.
By Taxi: Taxis are the best way to travel long distances, but the cyclos, or pedicabs, are a cheap way to make shorter trips. Taxi fares are not always consistent, and the rates for each taxi company have not been standardized. For lone travellers, rides on the back of motorbikes (actually low-powered scooters) are popular too (known as xe om, literally meaning motorbike-hug). Uber has also launched in Hanoi, and while they has a few districts they operate on, they do offer more consistent pricing than taxis.
By “Xe Om”: Motorbike drivers (“Xe Om” in Vietnamese) can be found on virtually every corner, especially in the Old Quarter. Expect to be offered a ride every half-block (or more). You should absolutely negotiate a fare in advance. As a general rule, a reasonable fare should cost around 10,000 dong per kilometre of travel for a motorbike (possibly varying 10,000 dong in either direction), so know the distance you are travelling or understand that you have no real basis for negotiating a fair rate. Walk away towards the next street filled with motorbike drivers if you don’t like their offer, as this is an incredibly reliable bargaining technique. There are far more drivers than tourists, and they know it – your fare could be the only one they get all day.
By Cyclo: Negotiate first or avoid using the cyclos services, they can demand 200,000 dong (USD10) for a short ride of less than 100m (330 ft). At the end of the journey, a few men will come over to translate, and they will pretend to help and later insist that you pay the demanded amount. (VND100.000 for 1 hour is good price, included tip – you have to agree this beforehand.)
Be aware that it is common for cyclo drivers to agree to a price, then take you to a different place, pretend to be confused and hit you up for more money when you reach your destination.
If you chose to travel by cyclo, be clear on your destination, negotiate your fee first (100,000 dong is more than fair for a 30-34 minute ride in any direction), be willing to get out and walk away (if your driver tries any monkey business), also be willing to walk away at the end of the journey if the driver won’t stand by your original agreed price.
Motorbike rental: Motorcycles can be rented for around USD5-6 a day, and can be arranged by most hotels. A typical bike will be given with 1 litre of fuel, so top up at the nearest petrol kiosk. Queue up with the other bikes, unscrew your fuel cap and hand over your money (USD1 per litre) to the attendant who will top up your bike for you.
This is good for making lots of trips around the city for individuals or duos, but be careful: Hanoi is a great place to sharpen motorbike skills, provided you emerge alive. Park on the sidewalk with other bikes, and be sure to lock the front wheel. Locals will help arrange the bikes near their stores. Many shops that have bike attendants will give you a ticket in exchange for parking your bike. This may or may not come with a fee (typically ranging from 2,000-5,000 dong). However, parking at Hoan Kiem lake on a weekend can go up to 10,000 dong. The ticket will either have your license plate number written on it, or the ticket itself will be numbered, with that number subsequently chalked somewhere on your bike. In such cases (where you’ve been given a ticket), the attendants may ask that you NOT lock the steering column or front wheel of your bike so that they can rearrange the bikes as customers come and go.
Riding outside the city is a refreshing change. Winding through the alleys and through the local markets inaccessible by cars allows you to see Hanoi from a different perspective. Google maps are rather useless once you leave the city due to the number of small lanes, forked roads and roundabouts that do not show up on the map. Stop and ask locals for directions, so be sure to brush up on the correct pronunciation of your destination!
By bus: Scam free, cheap but a bit difficult to comprehend at first, the buses in Hanoi are relatively fast and surprisingly comfortable. Pick up a map with printed bus lines at the Trang Tien street (the book street by the Opera house) and spend a few minutes to identify the more than 60 bus lines, find your bus stop, wait for the bus, get on and off you go. On the bus you pay the 7,000 dong to the conductor who will come to you. If you are unfamiliar with the city, make sure to tell the mostly helpful conductor where you want to get off. Stops are often unannounced and do not have signs with their names on them, although there are now some newer buses with LED displays and lilting voices announcing the next stop. It’s best to ask the driver or conductor when to get off.
There are plenty of internet cafés all over the city. Most are used by Vietnamese teens playing online dance or battle games. Rates vary, but can be as low as 3,000 dong/hr. Some of the better cafés, particularly in the Old Quarter, have computers that are Skype-capable for international phone calls. Close to Hanoi Youth Hostel there is a cybercafe that charge tourist ten times the actual cost. It is next door, and has no name. If you are not in a hurry use another one.
The cafes that charge you for using the Internet usually provide desktop computers. There are also cafes where they have free wireless. All you have to do is order something from their menus and use their wifi for as long as you want. The wifi cafes are usually concentrated around Hoan Kiem lake area.
There are restaurants and cafes with W-Fi hotspots everywhere in the city. Most restaurants and cafes that offer Wi-Fi readily advertise their Wi-Fi password.