Top 30+ Things to Do in Hanoi: A Specific Local’s Guide

IndochinaMotorcycleTour

Last Update 22 May 2024

Ha Noi, the dynamic capital of Vietnam, captivates visitors with its intriguing blend of ancient heritage and modern energy. This metropolis on the Red River has endured centuries of history, yet it buzzes with an utterly alluring contemporary vibrancy. In this insider’s guide, Indochina Motorcycle Tours will take you through the top 30+ things to do in Hanoi, ensuring you experience the best of Hanoi’s rich culture, flavorful cuisine, and iconic attractions like a true local.

Things to do in Hanoi: Iconic historical and cultural sites

Hanoi is a city deeply rooted in its rich cultural heritage, with iconic historical sites and ancient traditions that have withstood the test of time. These landmarks offer a glimpse into Vietnam’s fascinating past and a chance to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Nestled in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake is a tranquil oasis that symbolizes the city. This picturesque lake is surrounded by lush gardens, ancient temples, and the iconic Huc Bridge, which leads to the Ngoc Son Temple. Strolling around the lake or joining the locals for morning exercises is one of the top things to do in Hanoi.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake

Ngoc Son Temple – One of the top things to see in Hanoi, Vietnam

Perched on a small island in Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple is a stunning example of Vietnamese architecture and a revered spiritual site. Dating back to the 13th century, this temple is dedicated to the scholar Van Xuong and the legendary Turtle Tower, offering peace and serenity amidst the bustling city.

Ngoc Son Temple Ha Noi

Ngoc Son Temple Ha Noi

Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature, also known as Van Mieu, is a captivating complex once Vietnam’s first national university. Built in 1070, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a testament to the country’s rich scholarly traditions. Visitors can wander through the stunning courtyards, admire the intricate architectural details, and pay homage to the stelae that honor the names of Vietnam’s brightest minds.

Van Mieu Ha Noi

Van Mieu Ha Noi

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – Things to do in Hanoi

No visit to Hanoi is complete without paying respects at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This monumental marble edifice houses the embalmed body of Vietnam’s revered leader, Ho Chi Minh. This iconic site is a solemn tribute to the man who led the country’s struggle for independence and is considered one of the most significant things to do in Hanoi.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Ha Noi

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Ha Noi

One Pillar Pagoda – A highlight among the many things to see in Hanoi city

The One Pillar Pagoda, or Chua Mot Cot, is a unique architectural marvel and a must-see among the many things to do in Hanoi. This iconic pagoda, built in 1049, symbolizes Vietnam’s independence and features a striking design with a single stone pillar supporting the entire structure. Its serene ambiance and beautiful gardens make it a highlight for visitors exploring Hanoi’s cultural treasures.

 Chua Mot Cot Ha Noi

Chua Mot Cot Ha Noi

Presidential Palace – Things to do in Hanoi

Step into the heart of Vietnam’s political history at the Presidential Palace, a significant landmark and one of the top things to do in Hanoi. Originally built as the residence for the French Governor-General of Indochina, this imposing yellow building now serves as a museum, offering insights into the lives of Vietnam’s leaders and the country’s struggles for independence.

Presidential Palace

Presidential Palace

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

Nicknamed the “Hanoi Notre Dame” for its resemblance to its Parisian counterpart, St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a captivating landmark in the heart of the city. Built in the late 19th century during French colonial rule, this imposing neo-Gothic church features twin bell towers, stained glass windows, and a peaceful interior. Visitors can admire the intricate stonework and learn about the history of Catholicism in Vietnam.

St. Joseph's Cathedral

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

Ha noi Opera House

Take a step back in time at the Hanoi Opera House, a grand cultural gem inspired by the Palais Garnier in Paris. Construction began in 1901 and was completed a decade later.

Hanoi Opera House

Hanoi Opera House

This architectural marvel boasts a Beaux-Arts style with a grand facade, a majestic dome, and an opulent interior. The opera house is a popular venue for prestigious performances, including ballet, opera, and traditional Vietnamese dance. Even if you don’t catch a show, you can still admire the building’s architectural beauty and soak in the atmosphere.

Long Bien Bridge – One of the must-see sights in Vietnam

Towering over the Red River, Long Bien Bridge is an iconic landmark and a significant part of Vietnamese history. Built by the French at the turn of the 20th century, it was initially called the Paul Doumer Bridge.

Long Bien Bridge

Long Bien Bridge

This cantilever bridge offers stunning panoramic views of the city and the river. While it’s no longer the main traffic artery for vehicles, it remains open to pedestrians and cyclists, offering a unique vantage point and a glimpse into Hanoi’s industrial heritage. You might even catch locals enjoying a stroll or coffee on the bridge, as it’s one of the top things to do in Hanoi.

Hoa Lo Prison

Amidst Hanoi’s vibrant and bustling streets lies a sad reminder of the city’s turbulent past – the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton.” This former prison, which once housed Vietnamese revolutionaries and American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War, is now a museum and a poignant stop on the list of things to do in Hanoi.

Hoa Lo Prison

Hoa Lo Prison

Stepping through Hoa Lo Prison’s gate, visitors will immediately be transported back in time to an era of political oppression and struggle. The prison’s stark architecture, with its high walls, narrow cells, and heavy iron bars, creates an atmosphere of palpable tension. As you explore the different sections of the prison, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the harsh realities faced by Vietnamese prisoners.

Bustling markets and streets – the top things to see in Hanoi Old Quarter

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a captivating labyrinth of narrow streets, each bursting with energy, vibrant colors, and the aroma of authentic Vietnamese cuisine. This historic district is a must-visit destination for those seeking to immerse themselves in the city’s vibrant street life and experience the true essence of Hanoi.

Dong Xuan Market

Nestled in the heart of the Old Quarter, Dong Xuan Market is a bustling marketplace that offers an authentic glimpse into Hanoi’s daily life. This sprawling indoor-outdoor market is a sensory overload, with vendors selling everything from fresh produce and spices to clothing, accessories, and souvenirs. Navigating through the crowded aisles and bargaining with the friendly vendors is an exhilarating experience and one of the top things to do in Hanoi.

Dong Xuan Market

Dong Xuan Market

Hang Da Market

For those seeking a more specialized market experience, Hang Da Market is a standout spot among the places to see in Hanoi, Vietnam. Nestled in the Old Quarter, this market is dedicated to locally crafted products and traditional Vietnamese art. Visitors can marvel at the intricate lacquerware, colorful silk paintings, and intricate wooden carvings, all showcasing the skilled artistry of local artisans.

Hang Da Market

Hang Da Market

Hang Bac Street

Hang Bac Street, located in the heart of the Old Quarter, is a captivating destination for those seeking to experience Hanoi’s vibrant culture and history. This narrow street is renowned for its abundance of silver shops, where skilled artisans craft exquisite jewelry and intricate silver pieces using traditional techniques passed down through generations. Strolling along Hang Bac Street is a delight for the senses, with the glimmer of silverware in shop windows and the sound of hammers delicately shaping precious metals.

Hang Bac Street

Hang Bac Street

Hang Gai Street

Hang Gai Street is famous for its numerous shops selling beautiful silk products. Visitors can browse through the vibrant displays of silk clothing, accessories, and home decor items, all skillfully crafted by local artisans. The street’s lively atmosphere, with the aroma of delicious street food mingling with the colorful silk wares, creates a truly immersive sensory experience.

Hang Gai Street

Hang Gai Street

Ta Hien Street

Ta Hien Street is a lively and atmospheric hub that showcases the vibrant nightlife of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. This narrow street, lined with cozy bars and lively beer gardens, comes alive after dark as locals and travelers gather to socialize, sample local brews, and soak up the electric atmosphere. Ta Hien Street is a beloved spot for people-watching, enjoying live music performances, and experiencing the city’s infectious energy, making it a must-visit destination among the many things to see in Hanoi.

Ta Hien Street

Ta Hien Street

Other highly recommended things to see in Hanoi, Vietnam

While Hanoi’s historical sites, bustling markets, and vibrant streets offer a wealth of experiences, the city has much more to explore for those seeking diverse activities and attractions. Here are the other highly recommended things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam, that should be on your bucket list.

Nature and Green Spaces – A Moment of Tranquility

Hanoi boasts many green spaces, perfect for escaping the urban buzz and reconnecting with nature. Here are a few havens to explore:

  • Hoan Kiem Lake: This picturesque lake in the city’s heart is popular with locals and tourists. Rent a paddle boat and explore the calm waters, or relax on the lakeside and soak in the peaceful atmosphere.
  • Thong Nhat Park (Reunification Park): This sprawling park is one of the largest in Hanoi. It offers a variety of activities, including strolling through gardens, renting bicycles, or visiting the Ha Noi Zoo.
  • Hanoi Botanical Gardens: Discover a diverse collection of flora and fauna at the Hanoi Botanical Gardens. Wander through themed gardens, explore greenhouses filled with exotic plants, or simply enjoy a peaceful picnic under the shade of a tree.
Hanoi Botanical Gardens

Hanoi Botanical Gardens

Museums and Galleries – A Journey Through Time

Hanoi is a treasure trove of museums and galleries, offering fascinating insights into the city’s history, culture, and art scene. Here are a few must-visits:

  • Vietnam National Museum of History: Delve into Vietnam’s rich history, from prehistoric times to the present day, through a captivating collection of artifacts, exhibits, and displays.
  • Hoa Lo Prison Museum: A former French colonial prison, now a museum, offers a poignant reminder of Vietnam’s tumultuous past. Explore the prison cells, learn about the experiences of Vietnamese prisoners, and gain a deeper understanding of the country’s struggle for independence.
  • Ethnology Museum: Experience the diverse cultures of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities through exhibits showcasing traditional clothing, tools, and artifacts.
Ethnology Museum

Ethnology Museum

Sacred sites –One of the best things to see in Hanoi

Beyond the city’s iconic landmarks and cultural attractions, Hanoi has numerous sacred sites that glimpse the country’s rich spiritual heritage. These sites are among the best things to see in Hanoi, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of Vietnam’s religious traditions and beliefs:

  • Quan Thanh Temple: Dating back to the 11th century, this temple is dedicated to the God of Literature and is the oldest operating temple in Hanoi. Its serene atmosphere and historical significance make it a worthwhile visit.
  • Tran Quoc Pagoda: Located on the shore of West Lake, Tran Quoc Pagoda is Hanoi’s oldest pagoda, built in the 6th century. Explore its serene courtyards, admire the beautiful pagodas, and experience this historic site’s tranquility.
  • Huong Pagoda (Chùa Hương): Located outside the city center, Perfume Pagoda is a complex of Buddhist temples nestled amidst stunning limestone formations. Take a boat ride on the scenic Yen Stream, explore the various pagodas scattered throughout the caves, and experience the unique spiritual atmosphere. This excursion offers a delightful combination of religious exploration and a captivating natural setting.
Huong Pagoda

Huong Pagoda

Entertainment places for fun things to do in Hanoi

While Hanoi is rich in cultural and historical attractions, the city also offers a vibrant entertainment scene for those seeking fun and excitement. From lively music venues and theaters to amusement parks and water parks, Hanoi has something to cater to every visitor’s interests:

  • Thrill-Seeking Adventures: Embark on a thrilling water puppet show, a unique Vietnamese tradition where colorful puppets perform on a water stage, accompanied by traditional music. For a more modern adventure, head to Ho Tay Water Park, offering a variety of slides, pools, and activities for all ages.
  • Family Fun: Take a nostalgic ride on a traditional cyclo (rickshaw) through the bustling Old Quarter, or enjoy a puppet show performance perfect for entertaining children.
  • Culinary Delights: Immerse yourself in Hanoi’s vibrant street food scene. Sample delicious local specialties like Pho, Banh Mi, Bun Cha, all at affordable prices.
Ha Noi Water Park

Ha Noi Water Park

Traditional villages

Visitors should venture beyond the city limits and explore the traditional villages surrounding Hanoi to glimpse into Vietnam’s rural life and traditions. These charming villages offer a stark contrast to the bustling metropolis and are among the best places to see in Hanoi for those seeking an authentic cultural experience:

  • Bat Trang Ceramic Village: Immerse yourself in the art of traditional Vietnamese ceramics. Explore workshops, watch artisans create beautiful pottery pieces, and even try your hand at throwing a pot on the wheel.
  • Duong Lam Ancient Village: Step back in time in this beautifully preserved 1,000-year-old village. Explore traditional houses with thatched roofs, communal spaces, and ancestral temples, offering a glimpse into rural Vietnamese life.

Things to do in Hanoi for nightlife

Hanoi’s nightlife scene is as diverse as its daytime offerings, catering to various preferences. Whether you crave a vibrant club atmosphere, a cool cocktail bar, or a unique cultural experience, Hanoi has something for you after dark. Here’s a glimpse into some of the exciting options:

  • Bar Hopping on Bia Hoi Corner: Immerse yourself in the local scene at Bia Hoi Corner, a lively area known for its rows of tiny plastic chairs and street-side bars. Grab a refreshing glass of Bia Hoi (freshly brewed draft beer) for a mere pittance, and soak up the animated atmosphere as you mingle with locals and fellow travelers.
  • Live Music at Binh Minh Jazz Club: For a sophisticated evening, head to Binh Minh Jazz Club, a Hanoi institution renowned for its intimate setting and talented local and international jazz musicians. Sip on a classic cocktail and let the smooth sounds transport you to another era.
  • Dance the Night Away at a Nightclub: If you’re looking to party, Hanoi has a selection of nightclubs catering to different musical tastes. Head to trendy clubs like HERO Club for a pulsating EDM experience, or choose a venue with live DJs spinning everything from hip-hop to house music.
  • Catch a Water Puppet Show:  For a unique cultural experience, attend a traditional water puppet show. Often accompanied by live music, these captivating performances feature puppeteers skillfully manipulating colorful puppets on a water stage, telling folktales and legends.
  • Rooftop Bar Views:  Indulge in stunning cityscapes and a sophisticated ambiance at one of Hanoi’s many rooftop bars. Sip on handcrafted cocktails while overlooking the sparkling cityscape – a perfect way to end a memorable day in Hanoi.
Nightlife of Ha Noi

Nightlife of Ha Noi

Ha Noi offers a variety of nighttime activities beyond bars and clubs. Stroll around the scenic Hoan Kiem Lake, illuminated with colorful lanterns at night. Explore the vibrant Hanoi Night Market, where you can find various street food, souvenirs, and local crafts.

No matter your preference, Hanoi’s nightlife guarantees an unforgettable experience. So, grab a drink, explore the bustling streets, and discover the magic of Hanoi after dark!

Hanoi is a city that pulsates with life, where ancient history collides with modern energy. Whether you crave cultural immersion, culinary adventures, or historical exploration, this local guide to the best things to do in Hanoi has equipped you with the knowledge to unlock Hanoi’s hidden gems and create unforgettable memories. So, pack your bags, Let’s go and join North Vietnam motorcycle tours with us.

Read more: Top 24 Best Restaurants in Hanoi

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