Hanoi is the vibrant and mesmerizing capital of Vietnam. Located in the northern region of Vietnam, the city has long been a hub for curious tourists looking for a getaway. With a long history, dating all the way back to the 3rd century CE, Hanoi has fascinated everyone that passes through its streets. From its bustling markets and delicious street food to its pagodas, architecture, rich culture, and history, Hanoi provides a spectacular and unforgettable holiday for visitors.
10 things to do in Hanoi
With that said, let’s take a look at the top 10 things to do in Hanoi.
- Hanoi Old Quarter
The historic Old Quarter of Hanoi is one of the most popular areas in the city. Also called 36 streets because of the 36 merchant guilds that once lived here, the Old Quarter is where you go if you want to get a feel of this energetic city. You can find plenty of street vendors selling their wares along the narrow alleyways with stunning French colonial architecture in the background. You’ll also find plenty of hip cafes, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, bars, and hotels.
- Temple of Literature
Temple of Literature or Van Mieu is one of the top tourist sites in Hanoi. Built in 1070, the temple is dedicated to Confucius. The temple complex was based on the temple of Confucius in Qufu, Shandong in China. This magnificent temple has beautiful pavilions, courtyards, halls, and statues. It was also home to the first university in Vietnam. The Temple of Literature is an important piece of Vietnam’s culture and history and is a must-see for any visitor.
- Hong Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake is a peaceful escape in the middle of the chaotic energy of Hanoi. Locals come here to hang out and chill with family and friends. You’ll also find plenty of people jogging and practicing Tai Chi early in the morning. Legend has it that Emperor Ly Thai To was gifted a magical sword by a golden turtle who lived in the lake. You can also find the 13th-century Ngoc Son temple right in the middle of the lake. During the evening, people flock here to witness the stunning sunset reflecting on the glimmering lake.
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh or Uncle Ho, as he was affectionately known as, is one of the most famous and important people in Vietnam. A revolutionary and the first president of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh is beloved by the people of Vietnam. So much so that, after his death, he was embalmed and a mausoleum was built to honor his life and achievements. The granite gray mausoleum serves as his final resting place. Every year thousands of Vietnamese descend upon the mausoleum to pay their respect to the man who brought them their independence.
- Thang Long Imperial Citadel
The Thang Long Imperial Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a complex of imperial buildings first built by Emperor Ly Thai To of the Ly Dynasty in the 11th century. Since then, it has been subsequently built upon by different rulers with new additions added every time. The citadel has played an important part in Vietnam’s history and has witnessed some of the most prominent historical events including independence and the Vietnam war. There is also a small museum located within its walls where you can learn more about its history.
- Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Water puppetry is a famous traditional theatre art in Vietnam that dates back to the 11th century. Water puppetry is the art of storytelling with puppets in a shallow pool of water accompanied by traditional music. The theme of the stories is usually based on Vietnamese folklore and historical stories. You can still witness the fascinating show in Hanoi at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. The theatre is open to visitors every day of the week.
- Hoa Lo Prison
Hoa Lo Prison has a notorious history. It was once used for imprisoning political prisoners by the French colonialists during the French Indochina war and was also later used by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Once considered one of the most brutal prisons in Vietnam, the prison was torn down in the mid-1990s. Only the gatehouse remains which has been turned into a museum.
- One Pillar Pagoda
Considered one of the most iconic pagodas in Vietnam, the One Pillar Pagoda is famous for its unique architecture. This pagoda was built on one single stone pillar and was designed to resemble a lotus blossom. It was originally built in 1049 by Emperor Ly Thai Tong as a way of expressing his gratitude to the Goddess of Mercy who blessed him with a son. The temple was destroyed during the First Indochina War but was recently restored by the Vietnamese government.
- St. Joseph’s Cathedral
St. Joseph’s Cathedral is one of the most famous landmarks in Hanoi. Named after St. Joseph, the patron saint of Vietnam, it was one of the first buildings constructed by the French colonialists. The cathedral was built to look like the famous Notre Dame Church in Paris. The church’s most prominent features are its two impressive twin bell towers and its glass stained windows depicting the life of Christ. The church has become a popular place for couples to take engagement and wedding photos.
- Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
Another top 10 thing to do in Hanoi is to visit the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. This museum is a great place to stop by and learn about the 54 officially recognized ethnic minorities in Vietnam. Each of these fifty-four tribes has its own culture and history and the museum showcases this rich diversity. There are more than 15,000 artifacts including photographs, audiotapes, and other multimedia. It also showcases clothes, jewelry, and household items of the different tribes. The museum also has life-sized replicas of different tribal houses as well as a section dedicated to Southeast Asian cultures.
Hanoi, the bustling capital city of Vietnam, has many sights and experiences to offer and enables visitors to fully immerse themselves in the culture of Vietnam and learn more about this amazing country. However, in order to experience Hanoi in its full glory, you will need to apply for a Vietnam visa. Which you can do online at a government-approved resource like BDATrip or if you are from Italy, you can directly apply for a visa here.