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13 Best Things To Do In Hanoi

Step into the bustling capital of Vietnam, a city that pulses with life and heritage!
Hanoi is not just a destination; it’s a symphony of flavors, colors, and experiences waiting to be embraced.

Things to do in Hanoi

1. Wander around Hanoi Old Quarter

Hanoi Old Quarter is the best place to start exploring the Vietnamese capital! Get lost in the narrow hectic streets as you jostle for space with other pedestrians, street vendors, scooters, cars, and bicycles all at once. Hanoi has charming and unique architecture that blends French-inspired buildings, ancient pagodas, and traditional Vietnamese houses.

You will notice streets full of shops all selling a specific type of product. In fact Hanoi Old Quarter is home to 36 “craft streets” that sell only one specific craft work. There are entire streets dedicated to shoes, gold jewelry, lamps, even metalwork. There really is nowhere like Hanoi!

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Every weekend, a section of Hanoi’s old quarter is closed to road traffic, and the streets come to life with stalls selling clothes, food and souvenirs (every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 6pm). Most lively between the Hoàn Kiếm Lake and the entertainment district.

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2. Train Street of Hanoi

What is known as Train Street is a famous railway hidden in a back street and surrounded by colorful coffee shops and narrow houses. Although it is no longer an authentic experience, it remains a unique thing to do in Hanoi and a lovely spot for photos. You can sit and sip a delicious coffee while waiting for the train to speed through the narrow alley and feel the warm air.

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Train street schedule:
Monday – Friday: 7:00 PM; 7:45 PM; 8:30 PM; and 10:00 PM.
Saturday – Sunday: 6:00 AM; 9:00 AM; 11:20 AM; 3:20 PM; 5:30 PM; 6:00 PM; 7:00 PM; 7:45 PM; 8:30 PM; 9:00 PM; 11:00 PM.


Hanoi’s main Train Street was closed in 2019 for safety reasons, it reopened in January 2023. A guard now watches over the entrance and will insist on escorting you to a coffee shop of their choice. You do not have to follow their recommendation but beware as they shout at you if you walk on the tracks.

3. Hỏa Lò Prison

Located in downtown Hanoi, Hỏa Lò prison was a French colonial jail, first used for Vietnamese political prisoners.
It was later used by the Vietnamese to house American prisoners during the Vietnam War. Infamously also known as the Hanoi Hilton, the prison captures the darker side of Vietnam’s history. The display and artifacts provide a glimpse of the torture and struggle of those imprisoned there.

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  • Hoa Lo Prison opening hours: 8 am to 5 pm every day.
  • Entrance price: 30.000 VND – $1.20

4. Hanoi Street Food Tour

One of the best things to do in Hanoi is to go on an evening Vietnamese Street Food tour! Walk around Hanoi, you’ll soon realize that the street food scene is plentiful, super diverse and a huge source of cultural pride for the Vietnamese people.

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From the national dish Pho to the traditional Bun Cha or Banh Cuon, your local food guide will take you around the Old Quarter’s hidden backstreets to taste the most delicious food. As you sit on low plastic stools and sip a cold Saigon beer, your guide will share interesting anecdotes about Vietnamese culture.

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Some of the best street foods we tried: Vietnamese fried pancakes, Pho (noodle soup), Banh Cuon (steamed ravioli), Bun cha (grilled pork & noodles), Papaya salad with dried beef, Bún Cá (catfish soup), Banh mi and Egg Coffee

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5. Embrace the Hanoi coffee shop culture

Coffee in Vietnam is what wine is to France – a way of life. The coffee culture started when the French brought Robusta beans to Vietnam and has grown ever since. Vietnamese love to gather in coffee shops at any time of the day to chat and hang around with friends.

Hanoi coffee scene is probably the best in the country with its trendy coffee shops on every corner. Whether you like coffee or not, you should taste one of the unique recipes like the well-known Egg Coffee, Ca Phe Nau (with condensed milk) or even Coconut coffee. For the most adventurous, the salt coffee or cheese coffee are worth trying.

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Here are our favorite coffee shops in Hanoi:

  • Café Giang: original recipe of the Egg Coffee
  • The Note Coffee: cute and touristy coffee place where you can leave a handwritten note on the wall.
  • Cafe Dinh: not easy to find behind a long corridor, this place serves an excellent egg coffee.
  • Vintage 1976 café: local coffee shop north of Old Quarter
  • Bancông Cafe & Restaurant: beautifully decorated cafe serving great coffee with a nice view from the terrace.
  • Ro Coffee: steps from Train Street, great little coffee shop – we tried the yogurt coffee.
  • Xofa Café & Bistro: close to Train Street, well known for the food & coffee.

6. Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoàn Kiem Lake is a serene and picturesque spot right in the middle of the bustling city center. It is also very popular with locals doing stretching workouts and tai chi early in the mornings.

You can reach Ngoc Son Temple in the middle of the lake, the most visited temple in Hanoi, by crossing the picturesque red bridge.

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See the Hanoi Water Puppet Show where enchanting puppets perform traditional legends and historical tales on a pool of water at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.

Shows are played 5 times per day
Ticket price: 100K – 250K VND / $4.20 – $10.50

7. Vietnamese Massage in a Spa

After some days in chaotic Hanoi, taking a break from the noise and dust is always a good idea. You could opt for a quiet and relaxing beauty treatment or a massage in one of Hanoi’s best spas. We went to the famous Hanoi Serene’s Spa in the Old Quarter which was amazing and super relaxing!

We found the massages in Hanoi to be the best quality and price in all of Vietnam.

Massages in Vietnam are very cheap compared to Europe or America. (60 to 90min treatment cost between 600K to 800K VND / $25-35).

8. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square is a significant historical building and attraction in Hanoi. Built between 1973 and 1975 on the site where Ho Chi Minh presented the Declaration of Independence in 1945, the mausoleum is an important pilgrimage site for the Vietnamese.

It is the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s most popular leader, known to the people as “Uncle Ho”. His embalmed body is in a glass box inside the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum guarded by the military.

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It is open to the public for free. To go inside, you must dress respectfully in clothes covering your knees and shoulders.

9. Night out in Beer Street Corner – cheapest beer in Hanoi

No trip to Hanoi is not complete without trying the cheapest beer in Asia. Make your way to any small bar on Beer Corner and ask for an ice-cold Bia Hoi. This light lager beer brewed daily, popular with locals and travelers, is refreshing and very cheap – 10K VND ($0.42) for a glass or 25K VND ($1.06) for a keg!

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Before French colonization, the Vietnamese only drank rice wine. The French opened the first brewery in Vietnam in the 1890s. Today, Vietnam is one of Asia’s biggest beer-drinking countries.

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10. Temple of Literature

Considered one of the best historical landmarks in Hanoi, the Temple of Literature is a well-preserved example of ancient Vietnamese architecture.

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The temple was built nearly a thousand years ago by Emperor Le Thanh Tong in honor of Confucius and Vietnam’s finest scholars and sages. Later, it became the first university in Vietnam, the Imperial Academy. The beautiful calm gardens, the main gate, and the five courtyards are great for photography.

Today, the temple is still popular with Vietnamese students seeking good grades and blessings.

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  • Hanoi Temple of Literature Opening Hours: 8 am to 5 pm every day
  • Ticket price: 30,000 VND / person – $1.27

The Temple of Literature is depicted on the 100,000 dongs note.

11. St Jospeh Cathedral

Just minutes from Hoàn Kiem Lake stands the majestic St Joseph Cathedral. Built during the French Colonial period, this beautiful cathedral remained intact throughout two wars. St Joseph’s is the oldest church in Hanoi and it is similar to Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon in that both bear a striking resemblance to Notre Dame de Paris.

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The lively streets around the Cathedral are full of hostels, souvenir shops, and yummy restaurants. For a tasty snack, we particularly liked Quán Gốc Đa, a local favorite serving fried donuts and spring rolls, and the excellent banh mi from Banh My Mama stall.

12. Vietnamese Women’s Museum

The Vietnam Women’s Museum focuses on the role of women in Vietnamese society throughout history. The three main sections (Women in Family, Women in History, and Women’s Fashion) cover marriage, birth rituals, family traditions, and the museum includes a great display of traditional costumes from across Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups.

Our favorite part was the stories and photographs of the heroic local women during the independence wars.

  • Women’s Museum Opening Hours: 8 am to 5 pm every day
  • Entrance price: 40.000 VND – $1.55
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13. Visit Hanoi’s Markets

Dong Xuan Market: Hanoi’s largest indoor market in the Old Quarter where you can find everything from souvenirs, food, textiles. Open everyday from 6 am to 6 pm. Every weekend, the market is open at night too.

Quang Ba Flower Market: located in Tay Ho District, in the north of the Old quarter, you’ll see colorful daisies, roses, orchids. This market is open from midnight to midday.

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Best restaurants & bars

  • Bún chả Hương Liên – iconic restaurant where Obama and Anthony Bourdain shared a Bun Cha
  • Hoang’s restaurant –  great restaurant in the Old Quarter – lots of vegetarian dishes
  • Pizza 4P’s – best pizza in south-east-Asia!
  • Banh Mi Paté – banh mi sandwich
  • Banh My Mama – tasty ans crispy banh mi near the Cathedral
  • Bun Cha Dac Kim – oldest restaurant selling delicious Bun Cha
  • Long Vi Dung – Nom Thit Bo Kho –  green  papaya salad with dried beef
  • Bun Ca Sam Cay Si – excellent catfish noodle soup streetfood in an alley
  • Nha Hang Mr Bay Mien Tay – Banh Xeo – best crispy sizzling pancakes
  • Banh Mi 25 – touristy but delicious banh mi
  • Duong’s 2 Restaurant & Cooking Class – lovely restaurant for a fancy Vietnamese dinner
  • Quan Goc Da – best pillow cakes, crispy spring rolls, and savory donuts
  • Banh cuon nong small street food stall selling excellent rolled steamed pancakes
  • Banh Cuon Gia Truyen Thanh Van rolled steamed pancakes stuffed with pork and mushrooms
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Where to stay in Hanoi

If it’s your first time visiting Hanoi, staying around the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake is the best option.

There are so many options for hostels, and hotels in Hanoi. We have tested and approved the below options:

  • L’Hotel du LAC $$$
  • Hanoi Emerald Waters Hotel & Spa $$
  • The Flower Boutique Hotel Hanoi $
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How to travel to Hanoi Old Quarter

Nội Bài International Airport is located 30km north of Hanoi – you can take a taxi or the bus n86 that will drop you off near the Old Quarter.

  • Taxi or Grab: 40 min – 250K VND / USD10
  • Bus: 1h15 – 45K VND / USD 1.88

If coming from further south, there are many direct buses from Hoi An, Hue, Ninh Binh or Phong Nha.
There is no UBER in Vietnam, the only available taxi app is Grab.

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Getting around

Without a doubt, the best way to soak up the crazy atmosphere in Hanoi is by walking. Get lost in the narrow alleys of the Old Quarter to see the best of Hanoi. You can take a grab to visit the attractions outside Hanoi Old Quarter.


We would not recommend renting a scooter in Hanoi as the roads are small and busy.

Best time to visit Hanoi

The best time to visit Hanoi is from November to June. Hanoi is very festive from December to February, with many holidays. In general, winter in Vietnam is much drier and cooler whereas summer is rainy and humid.

How many days do you need

Hanoi was one of our favorite cities to visit in Vietnam. We spent in total 6 days discovering the Vietnamese capital. We didn’t have time to visit all the sites because we enjoyed walking around to try street food and all the nice coffee shops. To see most of Hanoi, we recommend to spend at least 2 to 3 full days.

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