Hanoi is a dizzying blend of European and Southeast Asian influences. Lovers of food, art, Buddhism, and history all fall in love with this city - there's truly nothing like it anywhere else in the world.
No matter where you find yourself in Hanoi, there's sure to be a lake nearby - the city is full of them! With a backdrop of colonial-era French architecture and ancient universities, the city is also full of surprises.
Hanoi acts as a focal point for Vietnamese culture - here, in the capital, you'll find the country's most vibrant cultural events, its best museums, and many reminders of its political realities. No trip to Vietnam is complete without a walk through its winding alleys.
From delicious vegetable soups to scrumptious pork sandwiches, Vietnamese cuisine has something for everyone. Street food vendors complete the authentic dining experience.
From the city's 1,000-year-old university, to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, there truly is no shortage of fascinating stories in Hanoi.
While most people don't know it, Hanoi has over 100 lakes, each of which offer a bit of respite from the bustling urban capital.
Vietnamese people are renowned for their friendliness, and Hanoi is no different. Even in the capital you'll find good old-fashioned hospitality.
A high tax rate on car purchases means the primary mode of transport in Hanoi is the motorbike. In the city's old town, some streets are so packed with bikers that you could never hope to fit a car through.
A heady blend of eras and cultures is found at the heart of this northern city, owing as much to French colonial architecture as it does to Buddhist temples. The streets, which date back over 1000 years, are filled with traditional digs alongside contemporary bars, boutiques and galleries. Dong Xuan is the largest market in Hanoi with an unforgettable atmosphere. And don't miss the Hanoi Opera House, the Hoa Lo Prison, or the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater either.
Everyone's favorite spot in downtown Hanoi is this romantic lake, the centerpiece of the city. For centuries it has impressed locals and tourists alike with refreshing views and historic sights. Across the water, Turtle Tower seems to float on its tiny island as it lights up at night, glowing from every angle. Meanwhile, Huc Bridge - bright red and contemporary - leads you across to Jade Island, host to the 18th-century Ngoc Son Temple.
Overlooking Ba Dinh Square, this enormous memorial to Ho Chi Minh looms intriguingly. The Chairman of the Communist Party of Vietnam is interred deep within the heart of the structure, where visitors can file past the eerie but fascinating glass sarcophagus. Outside, be sure to walk the enchanting gardens and to catch the changing of the guards. To continue the historic tour, stop into the Hanoi Citadel and Presidential Palace as well.
The population of Vietnam has historically comprised 54 distinct ethnic groups, each with a different background - all of which are given a worthy platform in the unique Museum of Ethnology. A haven of national history, this immersive institution introduces visitors to a local diversity that would have otherwise flown under the radar. Deepen your trip through Vietnam with the perspective shifting exhibitions here.
Dedicated to Confucius, the age-old Temple of Literature is constructed upon the values of education and justice - not to mention that it's also gorgeous from tip to toe. From one flourishing courtyard to the next, discover the generations of scholars who studied here and the altars to their teachers and role models. Exhibitions now highlight a day in the life of students at the Imperial Academy, offering fascinating insights into the past. Nearby, the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum lets you continue your cultural immersion.
Winter months are temperate and dry (average temperatures in the 60s), making them the ideal time to visit the city. Summer is also enjoyable, but it can feature heavy rains.
Many visitors come to the city through Hanoi International Airport (HAN), or Noi Bai, which is located 28 miles north of the city across the Red River. An extensive bus service transports travelers to and from the airport complex, which also features a domestic terminal. Of course, taxis are also available for roughly ₫375,000.
Multiple train stations dot throughout the city, but most come into Hanoi Station near the city center. From Hanoi, you can travel to Ho Chi Minh City, or choose closer destinations such as Sapa. Tickets to Chinese destinations like Nanning and Beijing can also be purchased from Hanoi.
Vietnam's hectic roads pose significant challenges for foreigners, and it is very difficult for international drivers to obtain legal permission to drive in Vietnam. International Driver's Licenses are not recognized by police, so it is best to leave driving to the locals.
Buses criss-cross Vietnam from Hanoi, and are a fast and comfortable way to get into Hanoi. Most lines terminate at Giap Bat Station, which is located near the old quarter and many popular hotels and hostels.
There is perhaps no place to stay as exciting as the Old Quarter, which teems with activity. Popular hotels in this area include the Hanoi Old Quarter Hotel and the Thaison Grand Hotel. For a bit more peace and quiet, head to the embassy district, which includes such gems as the Hanoi Larosa Hotel.
Hoan Kiem - Hoan Kiem, or sword lake, is one of the largest in the city, and it's surrounded by some of Hanoi's most arresting attractions. The Old Quarter covers the northern half of the lake, while the other side features colonial French architecture and quiet streets and villas. Many great temples and cathedrals can be found in this district.
Ba Dinh - history buffs will be drawn to this area whether they like it or not. In addition to Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, it holds the French Quarter and the One-Pillar Pagoda.
Dong Da District - the Temple of Literature, an Imperial Academy founded in 1070, stands isolated from the progress of the city in this quarter. The area is mostly residential and gives a good impression of the city outside of the tourist areas.
Hanoi features an extensive public transportation system, although buses may not run on a regular schedule. Once visitors get the hang of the bus system, many aided by network maps given out at Trang Tien street, they have little trouble getting around for only ₫7,000 a ride. Asking the conductor when to get off is recommended, as most buses do not have announced stops.
Taxis are plentiful in Hanoi, but you'll want to be on your toes to look out for scams. Some drivers want to negotiate flat fees ahead of time, which might not be a bad idea if you know where you're going. Some meters are also 'fixed,' so remember that standard prices are approximately ₫15,000 for the initial pick-up fee, than ₫16,000 for every additional 0.62 miles.
As noted above, International Driver's Licenses are not recognized in Hanoi, and driving is not recommended to non-locals. It is possible to hire a car and driver for a day; prices vary but average ₫1,129,625.
Hanoi has many street markets throughout the city. A huge shopping mall can be found in Hai Ba Trung District, while the Cho Hom market sells a wide variety of local fabrics. The Night Market in the Old Quarter is a must, even if you don't plan on buying anything; a large selection of clothing, handicrafts, and food can be found there.
Buying groceries in Hanoi is a unique experience. Farmers bring produce into the city each day, and street market vendors are just as likely to sell fruit and spices as they are counterfeit goods. If you're looking for a supermarket, check out the Trang Tien Plaza mall at the southwest side of Hoan Kiem Lake. Also, be sure to check out local bakeries - the bread is fantastic. Apples can be had at about ₫40,000 per pound, and bread costs about ₫13,000 per loaf.
There really is no dining experience like that offered by Hanoi's Old Quarter. Street vendors line up plastic chairs and tables and serve up piping hot bowls of soup, rice, and both meat and seafood. For something more outside the box, try dog meat in the Tay Ho District. Popular restaurants in town include the Home Vietnamese Restaurant and the Hanoi Social Club.