Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is one of the most interesting places to visit in the country. There are many unmissable things to do in Hanoi. Some are simply unmissable, others are pure fun. It’s a typical Asian metropolis, with traffic, chaos and noise that can at times be overwhelming. Yet, it can be a lot of fun, not to mention a great place to get at least some understanding of Vietnamese culture, way of life and spirit. The city has a lot to offer to visitors, and there are many incredible things to do in Hanoi that will keep you entertained for days. 

I recommend spending at least 3 days in Hanoi. It’s a good amount of time to explore all of Hanoi attractions at a slow pace, and get to appreciate its vibe. This post highlights the unmissable and the most fun things to do in Hanoi, and gives you some tips on how to make the most of the city.

Explore Hanoi Old Quarter

As soon as you get to Hanoi, make sure to head to the Old Quarter. Visiting the Old Quarter is one of the unmissable things to do in Hanoi. This is the historic heartand commercial center of the city, where there are lot of interesting attractions – think temples and pagodas. Still, I find that rather than going through all the temples and pagodas, one of the best things to do in Hanoi is to actually just walk around. This way, you’ll be able to appreciate the architecture and enjoy the incredible vibe of Vietnam’s capital.

TIPS: If you are thinking of buying a guided tour of Ha Long Bay or Sapa Valley in one of the many agencies located in Hanoi Old Quarter, make sure to take online reviews with a pinch of salt. Some reviews are blatantly fake!


Walk along Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son

Taking a walk along Hoan Kiem Lake (also known as Turtle Lake) is one of the unmissable things to do in Hanoi. The best part of it is that there are no cars and no scooters there, so it’s a nice break from the terrible traffic of Hanoi. Make sure to cross the bridge that leads to the island at the center of the lake, as this is where the lovely Ngoc Son temple is located. It costs 20000 Vietnamese Dong (VND), which is less than $1 USD, to visit the temple.

TIPS: Make sure to go to Hoan Kiem Lake at night. That’s when the bridge to Ngoc Son gets illuminated and the sight is truly beautiful.


Visit the Temple of Literature


Photo by: Vu Anh Duong

If you are a fan of traditional architecture, visiting the Temple of Literature is one of the unmissable things to do in Vietnam. Dedicated to Confucius, the temple was built in 1070. It then became a university for Mandarin students. Around the temple there are stelae which are dedicated to the students.

Explore Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex and its surroundings


Photo by Chine Liu

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is (obviously) dedicated to Ho Chi Minh, the political leader of Vietnam. Paying a visit is one of the ultimate things to do in Hanoi. Close to that, there also is Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House and the One Pillar Pagoda, which are two of the most famous Hanoi attractions.


Visit the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Known as the citadel of Hanoi, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the nicest things to do in Hanoi is exploring this site. This used to be the political center of Hanoi. The citadel is located in Ba Dinh and it opens every day from 8:00 and to 7:30 pm.


Go to the Water Puppet Show

One of the most touristy yet interesting things to do in Hanoi is attending the Water Puppet Show. In a small theater in the heart of the city, puppets are moved from under the water in a show that showcases the pillars of Vietnamese way of life, culture and even religion. The show lasts about one hour and it costs around $10 USD.

TIPS: The Water Puppet Shows is one of the most famous Hanoi attractions. Make sure to get your ticket in advance, either online or at the theater. There are several shows daily.


Do a street food tour

Eating in the streets for a real steal is a must in this part of the world, and one of the nicest things to do in Hanoi is taking a street food tour, which will give you the chance to learn more about the local dishes and will explain how to pick a good place from one that isn’t as good. It’s a fantastic way to get introduced to what’s a huge part of Vietnamese culture, and to eat a lot of delicious food for a real steal!

Learn to cross the road

Ok, this is mere survival more than anything else. But literally, one of the things to do in Hanoi is getting a hang of the traffic and learning how to cross the crazy road. The thing is, this is a huge city – almost 10 million people live there, and traffic in Hanoi is daunting. Each and every person that lives in Hanoi owns a scooter, a car or both.

Walking around is difficult because, on top of all the traffic caused by scooters, bikes, cars and small trucks, there are all the scooters parked on the pavement, the shops that exhibit whatever they are selling on it, and all the small tables and stools of the street food places. Basically, you are forced to walk in the middle of the street and must avoid being hit.

-Backpackers Vietnam-


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