Hanoi, the captivating capital of Vietnam, is situated in the northern part of the country.  With a more than a thousand-year history, diverse cultural traditions, and a rich identity, Hanoi has become a unique tourist destination that visitors cannot confuse with other capitals throughout the world.

In this article, VM Travel will take you on a journey to captivating destinations of Hanoi, where you can fully immerse yourself in unique cultural experiences. Join us as we explore the best things to do in Hanoi and  plan your unforgettable trip!

hanoi local life
Best things to do in Hanoi

Hanoi Highlights – A Traveler’s Guide to Unforgettable Experiences

1. Historical Landmarks

1.1 Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – The Great Leader’s Resting Place

One of the things tourists must do in Hanoi is visit The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Located in the heart of the capital, this mausoleum serves as the last resting place of President Ho Chi Minh and a place for people across the country and international tourists to visit the great leader of the Vietnamese people. 

The overall architecture of The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a solid square block, consisting of three levels with a height of 21.6 meters (70.87 feet). The initial part was built in the shape of three massive terraces. The  central core of the mausoleum is where President Ho Chi Minh’s body is kept. Atop is a mausoleum roof styled as a blooming lotus, with the words ‘President Ho Chi Minh,’ carved in red ruby stone. Many different varieties of trees have been planted around Uncle Ho’s Mausoleum, but the most notable of which are 79 cycad trees symbolizing each year of Uncle Ho’s remarkable life.

Ba Dinh Square, located in front of Uncle Ho’s Mausoleum, is a spacious area with vast grass. This Square is the setting for national rallies and key historical celebrations. Every day, the flag-raising ceremony takes place from 6:00 to 6:30 AM and the flag-lowering ceremony takes place at 9:00 PM.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Location: 02 Hung Vuong Street, Dien Bien Ward, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi

Entrance fee: 25,000 VND/person

Opening hour: 7:30 – 10:30 AM and closing on Monday and Friday for facility maintenance

1.2 Hoa Lo Prison – A glimpse into painful past

Hoa Lo Prison, often referred to as the “Hanoi Hilton”, is a haunting reminder of the city’s past. A visit to this museum gives visitors valuable insights into Vietnam’s history and the resilience of its people.Originally built by the French colonialists, they named this prison Maison Centrale at that time, meaning Central house. This is the central jails of both the Center and Northern Vietnam, detained both including those of political prisoners and patriots fighting against the French government from 1896 to 1954. Coming to the prison and witnessing the horrific procedures used by prison guards can help tourists understand why the dungeon in Hoa Lo Prison is called  “Hell on Earth”.

Hoa Lo Prison
Hoa Lo Prison

Location: 01 Hoa Lo Street, Tran Hung Dao Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

Entrance fee: 30,000 VND/person

Opening hour: 8:00 am – 17:00 pm

1.3 Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature, known as Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam in Vietnamese, is a symbol of Confucianism and education of Vietnam. The Temple was built in the 11th century during the reign of Emperor Lý Thánh Tông and is considered the country’s first national university. Coming to The Temple of Literature, visitors would be captivated by its stunning architectural features, including beautiful courtyards, the Well of Heavenly Clarity, and the House of Ceremonies. The exceptional feature that adds to the site’s historical significance is the stelae of the Doctorate candidates, inscribed with the names of successful scholars dating back to the 15th century. Wander through its tranquil courtyards, admire the traditional architecture, while learning about the country’s scholarly heritage.

Temple of Literature
Temple of Literature

Location: 58 Quoc Tu Giam Street, Dong Da Ward, Hanoi

Entrance fee: 20,000 VND for adults – Free for children under 15 years old

Opening hour: all day of week

2. Cultural Experiences

2.1 Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

Have you ever heard of water puppetry or been curious about what it is like? Don’t miss the chance to experience it at Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. Water puppetry, known as Mua Roi, is a unique and creative form of Vietnamese traditional art that originated from the wet rice agricultural traditions of the Red River Delta. Accompanied by live music, this art form tells captivating stories from Vietnam’s folklore and history. To prepare a fascinating show, behind the screen, puppeteers must coordinate seamlessly with the singers’ lyrics and voices on the stage. Each artist not only requires talent, passion but also the teamwork and solidarity of a collective of water puppet artists to create a successful show.

Water Puppetry
Water Puppetry

Location: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hang Bac Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

Entrance fee: 100,000 – 200, 000/person (depending on the seats)

2.2 Hanoi Street Food Tour

No visit to Hanoi would complete without trying Hanoi’s favorable street cuisine. For decades, Hanoi food has been passed down from generation to generation, developing its own distinct flavor. Begin your adventure by wandering to the food streets and small staff street vendors on bustling Hanoi streets to sample flavorful Hanoi dishes. You’ll not only satisfy your taste buds but also learn more about the local way of life. Don’t miss these must-try street foods such as: Pho, Bun Oc (Snail noodles), Bun Cha and Xoi Xeo (Sticky rice with mung bean).

hanoi street food tour
Hanoi street food tour – best things to do in Hanoi

2.3 Traditional Handicraft Villages

Discover the time-honored traditions of Vietnamese craftsmanship by visiting the traditional handicraft villages surrounding Hanoi. Paying a visit to two of Vietnam’s most famous ancient handicraft villages, Bat Trang Pottery Village and Van Phuc Silk Village will surely bring unforgettable memories. Many workshops and studios at Bat Trang and Van Phuc will offer visitors a glimpse into the meticulous process and even try your hand at these ancient arts. Furthermore, you may bring home stunning decorative goods such as ceramic lanterns, statues, and wall art, as well as purchase an elegant Ao Dai.

Pottery and Ceramic Art
Pottery and Ceramic Art

3. Natural Wonders

3.1 Hoa Binh Lake

Hoa Binh Lake, the largest artificial lake in Southeast Asia, stretches over 70 km across several districts, including Cao Phong, Tan Lac, Mai Chau, Da Bac, and Hoa Binh city.  Inside this vast lake, there are 47 large and small islands scattered across its surface, creating a spectacular and majestic landscape. Beyond the enchanting natural beauty, the area around the lake is rich in the unique cultures of ethnic minorities, including the Muong, Tay, Dao, and Thai communities. Hoa Binh welcomes visitors throughout the year, each season offering its distinct experiences. Many tourists from Hanoi prefer to visit Hoa Binh during the summer when destinations like Mai Chau and Thung Nai offer cooler temperatures to escape the heat.

hoa binh lake
Relax at Hoa Binh Lake

3.2 Huong Pagoda

The Perfume Pagoda, nestled amidst limestone karsts, is a sacred pilgrimage site and a natural wonder. To reach Huong Pagoda, visitors can take a boat ride along the Yen River. A boat ride will help visitors have a serene experience of the surrounding dramatic limestone karsts and stunning natural scenery. Huong Pagoda is a Vietnamese cultural-religious complex which houses numerous Buddhist temples, shrines worshiping gods and agricultural beliefs. This sacred pilgrimage site is not only spiritually significant but also provides stunning views of the natural surroundings. Every year, the Huong Pagoda Festival begins on January 6 and lasts until the end of the third lunar month, attracting thousands of visitors from across the country.

huong pagoda
Huong Pagoda

3.3 Ba Vi National Park – Nature’s Oasis Near Hanoi

Located less than 60 Km from the center of Hanoi, Ba Vi is an ideal destination for tourists who enjoy the cool, fresh mountain air and the majestic scenery of nature. A hike to Ba Vi Mountain’s summit offers panoramic views of the countryside and Hanoi in the distance. Besides the poetic natural beauty, go into the forest and you will see the historical Ba Vi French Monastery, dating back to the early 20th century, adds more mysterious beauty to the park.

ba vi national park
Ba Vi National Park

4. Old Quarter Wandering

4.1 Walking Tour of the 36 Streets – Exploring Hanoi’s Old Charm

A walking tour of the “36 Streets” is a must-do activity for those looking to soak up the city’s authentic atmosphere. The Old Quarter of Hanoi is a labyrinthine network of narrow streets and alleys, each specializing in a particular trade or craft. Explore shops selling silk, traditional medicine, bamboo products, and more would give visitors insights about traditional products and authentic local people’s lives.

Hanoi Old Quarter travel
Walking Tour of the 36 Streets

4.2 Dong Xuan Market

Located in the heart of the Old Quarter, Dong Xuan Market is the largest indoor market in Hanoi and is a treasure trove of goods.  Here, visitors can find a diverse range of items, from clothing and electronics to fresh produce and local snacks. The market is renowned for its vibrant and dynamic atmosphere, making it an excellent place to not only shop for souvenirs but also to observe the daily life of Hanoians.

dong xuan market
Dong Xuan Market

Location: Dong Xuan Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

4.3 Train Street – hot trend in Hanoi

Train Street is one of the unique things to do in Hanoi that allows you to get up close and personal with passing trains. This narrow residential street is lined with houses that are just inches away from the train tracks. Visitors can witness the thrill of seeing the train pass through while enjoying a cup of coffee or a meal at one of the nearby cafes. When visiting the Train Street, visitors should keep in mind to pay close attention to any warnings or signals indicating an approaching train. Keep a safe distance from the tracks and do not stand or sit on them. And always prioritize your safety when capturing photographs or observing the trains.

checkin train street
Checkin Train street

Location: Tran Phu and Phung Hung Street, Hoan Kiem Ward, Hanoi.

5. Temple & Pagoda

5.1 One Pillar Pagoda

The One Pillar Pagoda is a tiny but iconic structure in Hanoi. Built in the 11th century, it stands on a single stone pillar resembling a lotus blossom emerging from the water. The pagoda is not only architecturally fascinating but also holds deep religious significance. It’s a tranquil spot for contemplation amid the city’s hustle and bustle. One Pillar Pagoda also lies in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum so you can explore the Presidential Palace, pay your respects at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, as well as marvel at the beauty of the One Pillar Pagoda.

One Pillar Pagoda
One Pillar Pagoda

Location: Tran Phu and Phung Hung Street, Hoan Kiem Ward, Hanoi.

Entrance fee: 25.000 VND/person

Opening hour: 07:00 AM – 18:00 PM

5.2 Tran Quoc Pagoda

Tran Quoc Pagoda is a more than 1500-year-old pagoda, located on the west of West Lake (Ho Tay in Vietnamese). Once the Buddhist center of Thang Long under the Ly – Tran dynasties, Tran Quoc Pagoda has now become an attractive spiritual destination in the capital, drawing many tourists for visits and worship each year. Notably, in 2016, Tran Quoc Pagoda was ranked among the 16 most beautiful pagodas in the world by the British Daily Mail newspaper.

tran quoc pagoda
Tran Quoc Pagoda

Location: 46 Thanh Nien Street, Truc Bach Ward, Tay Ho District, Hanoi.

Entrance fee: Free

5.3 Quan Thanh Temple

Quan Thanh Temple, dedicated to Tran Vu, the God of the North, stands as a testament to Vietnamese spirituality and history. Quan Thanh Temple offers a unique glimpse into Vietnam’s religious heritage, with its combination of Taoist and Buddhist elements. It’s a place where visitors can not only admire the craftsmanship but also gain insight into the country’s spiritual traditions and cultural history, all while enjoying the serene and harmonious ambiance of the temple grounds.

Quan Thanh Temple
Quan Thanh Temple

Location: 190 Quan Thanh Street, Quan Thanh Ward, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi.

Entrance fee: 10,000 VND/person

Opening hour: 08 AM – 17 PM

6. Hanoi Nightlife – Things to Do in Hanoi at Night

6.1 Ta Hien Street (Beer Street)

Exploring Ta Hien Street, also known as ‘Beer Street’ is one of the best things to do in Hanoi at night. Ta Hien Street is a bustling street, extending from Ta Hien – Luong Ngoc Quyen – Hang Bac to Hang Ngang – Hang Dao. The unique feature in Ta Hien that cannot be ignored is the vibrant pubs and bars offering a wide range of beverages. Whether you prefer local beer, craft brews, or cocktails, you’ll find a spot to relax, enjoy a drink and engage in conversations with fellow travelers and locals. Besides, Ta Hien Street also offers a wide variety of delicious street foods. Sidewalk dishes that capture junk food lovers include fried spring rolls, lemongrass and chili chicken feet, French fries, and cheese sticks. Don’t forget to try the delicious honey-grilled quail only available in Ta Hien.

hanoi night life
Ta Hien Street – best things to do in Hanoi at night

6.2 Hanoi Opera House – Symphony in the Heart of the City

For a more refined evening, attend a performance at the Hanoi Opera House. The Hanoi Opera House was constructed during the French colonial period between 1901 and 1911, making it over a century old as of 2023.This magnificent building hosts a variety of cultural events, including opera, ballet, classical music, and traditional Vietnamese performances. It’s an opportunity to experience the city’s cultural scene in a grand setting.

Location: 01 Trang Thi Street, Trang Thi Ward, Hoan Kiem District.

Entrance fee: 120.000 VND/person.

Opening hour: From Monday to Sunday (Closes on Friday)

6.3 Hanoi night market

Hanoi’s night markets are not only famous to tourists from around the world but also beloved gathering spots for the Hanoi people. As you wander through Hanoi’s night markets, you’ll discover an abundance of exquisite handmade products, showing how skilled and talented the Hanoian are. Besides, you can take on a culinary adventure by trying a variety of tasty street foods that truly reflect Hanoi’s rich culinary heritage. Find out more best Night Markets in Hanoi in our article!

Night Market In Hanoi Old Quarter
Night Market In Hanoi Old Quarter

7. Day Trips from Hanoi

7.1 Ha Long Bay cruise 1 day

Ha Long Bay, known as the “Bay of Descending Dragons,” is one of the most mesmerizing natural wonders in Southeast Asia. Taking Ha Long Bay one-day cruise allows you to witness breathtaking sceneries up close that has made this bay famous worldwide.

halong cooking class
Ha Long Bay cruise 1 day

7.2 Ninh Binh Tour 1 day from Hanoi

Ninh Binh is a captivating province, known for majestic limestone mountains, lush rice paddies, and ancient architecture. Experience a Ninh Binh Day Trip and create unforgettable memories by exploring its best destinations:

  • Take a relaxing boat trip to Tam Coc – Bich Dong to enjoy its majestic caves and picturesque countryside landscapes. 
  • Visit the ancient architecture of Hoa Lu – Vietnam’s first centralized feudal state.
  • Visit Cuc Phuong National Park – the largest nature reserve of Vietnam.
  • Enjoying a breathtaking panoramic view of Mua Cave.
mua cave in ninh binh
Ninh Binh day trip from Hanoi

7.3 Sapa Trip from Hanoi

Sapa is a mountainous region located in the northwest of Vietnam, known for its stunning natural scenery and diverse ethnic communities. Taking a Sapa Trip from Hanoi will give visitors an opportunity to admire emerald green rice paddies, surrounded by misty mountains and lush and allow visitors to learn about the local culture and way of life.

vietnam sapa
Sapa trip from Hanoi

In summary, Hanoi is more than merely a destination; it’s a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and flavors that create an unforgettable tapestry of exploration and discovery. So, let your senses guide you, and let Hanoi’s charm leave an indelible mark on your travel memories. Join us in a 1-day Hanoi Private Tour to have an authentic experience of Hanoi.