Without being the largest city in Vietnam, Hanoi has still taken the title of the capital of the country. This means that there are numerous things to do in this incredible city. You will find delicious street food on every corner you pass and be able to experience the hectic traffic of Vietnam – including the incredible sight of watching trains squeeze in between narrow streets. There are so many things to do and below we have gathered 7 amazing things to do in Hanoi.
1. Wander around Hanoi’s Old Quarter
You cannot say you have been to Hanoi if you have not visited its Old Quarter. This area dates back 2000 years, making it one of the city’s oldest areas. Here you will be able to watch the everyday life of the Vietnamese go by. It is a perfect way to experience the local life in Hanoi. Inside the quarter you will see that the street names indicate which types of shops you will find down the street. For instance, Hang Gai is the street where you will find silk shops. With its narrow alleys, traffic grossing from every possible street, local life, and quirky houses, a visit to the Old Quarter is simply a must-do when in Hanoi.
Tip: Make sure you walk slowly and directly across when crossing the street. This makes it possible for the traffic to move safely around you.
2. Hanoi Night Market
Every weekend the Old Quarter of Hanoi turns into an incredible night market. Here you will find everything from clothing, ceramics, and delicious street food. To get the perfect price you must haggle your way, which is very common in the northern parts of Vietnam. Hanoi Night Market is open from around 18:00 to midnight on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
3. The famous Train Street
The Train Street of Hanoi has become world famous over the last few years – and we definitely understand why. Squeezed between two rows of quirky cafes and houses you will find a railway where the trains of Hanoi speed through twice a day. This street will make you astounded by the power of man.
Previously, it was possible to visit and sit outside the cafes when the train came by. Due to safety measures from the local government, it is no longer allowed to sit in the cafes along the train tracks. It is still possible to see the train as it drives through the narrow street.
The train times vary a lot. Therefore, it can be a good idea to ask about the times at your accommodation. During our visit the times were as follows:
Monday to Friday: 6:00 and 19:00
Saturday to Sunday: 6:00, 9:00, 11:20, 15:20, 17:30, 18:00, 19:00, 19:45, 20:30, 21:00, and 23:00.
We recommend you plan your visit so that you will see a train pass by as it is an incredible view. But make sure you stay around for a walk along the rails afterward.
4. St Joseph’s cathedral
St Joseph’s cathedral is the oldest church in Hanoi and a stunning site to visit when in the city. This cathedral stands out in the townscape of Hanoi and there is a good reason for that. It was built in 1886 by the French Colonial government to mimic the Parisian Notre Dame. The architecture of the cathedral is of gothic style which makes it a very impressive building. You may also take a look inside the cathedral for a medieval European feel. With its free entry, it is an amazing thing to do in Hanoi.
5. Take a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi is one of the things you must visit. The name of the lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) comes from an old legend. In the ancient times of Hanoi, a wivestales claimed the Heaven-sent Emperor Ly Thai To a sword with magical qualities. He then used the sword to banish the Chinese from Vietnam. By the end of this war, it is said that a giant golden turtle took the sword and escaped down into the depths of the Hoan Kiem Lake – thus earning its name as the Lake of the Restored Sword.
Hoan Kiem Lake is the perfect place to end a day in the hectic city of Hanoi. Take a walk along the lake, watch a beautiful sunset, or enjoy watching the locals. If you visit in the morning, you will be able to see them doing tai chi or yoga. Hoan Kiem Lake feels like a haven right in the center of Hanoi.
6. Temple of Literature
One of the most famous things to do in Hanoi is to visit the Temple of Literature. It dates back to 1070 and has become one of the most visited tourist attractions in Hanoi. The temple serves as a tribute to education and literature and has most of Vietnam’s finest scholars. When you visit this stunning temple you will find an abundance of literature, the Well of Heavenly Clarity, as well as turtle steles. The biggest tribute for the most successful scholars was to have their names engraved onto these steles.
Bonus Tip: If you are a budding writer, it is customary to pray at the temple in hope of one day publishing a masterpiece.
7. Explore the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The citadel was built in the 11th century and expanded during the following centuries until it was abandoned in 1810 when the capital of Vietnam was moved to Hué. A visit to this incredible place is perfect if you want to know more about Vietnamese history.