What to do and see in Hanoi

What to do and see in Hanoi

Located in the north of Vietnam, the capital of country is one of the main destinations for visitors. With a history that reveals periods of French and Chinese occupation, Hanoi is a fascinating place to explore offering a mixture of Eastern, Colonial and French styles. With spectacular street food, a large variety of regional cuisines, historic gems, a tsunami of scooters riding around the city, religious heritage and a new wave of artistic manifestations, you won't get bored in Hanoi.

Apart from the touristic sites, you can see a show at the theatre, go shopping or relax in the parks. There are other activities you can pursue such as cycling and swimming.

You will also have a range of vibrant festivals to choose from, which will open a windows into the culture and religious spirit of the city. An unmissable festival for culture lovers, if you get the chance, is the Co Lao Festival; the highlights of the festival are traditional cheo theatre performances, wrestling competitions and cockfighting. If you visit the city in spring, you will see yourself immersed in the annual elephant festival.

Old Quarter

Riddle with a maze of streets, Hanoi's Old Quarter is the right place to soak in the local culture and experience Asia at its raw. This is also the place where you want to base yourself if you are on a tight budget, as there are plenty of cheap places to eat and reasonably priced rooms here. As you stroll through the historic streets of the Old Quarter, get your eyes ready to see a number of buildings that date back more than 2,000 years, such as Joseph's Cathedral and Huyen.

Vietnamese Women's Museum

Another highlight of the city is this surprising museum which celebrates the strength and sensuality of women. A collection of propaganda posters, costumes, tribal basketware and fabric motifs from the country's ethnic minorities showcase women's role in Vietnamese society and culture, particularly the contribution of heroically brave women during the Vietnam War.

Hoan Kiem

Situated around the colossal Hoan Kiem Lake (in photo), this district houses some of Hanoi's most outstanding attractions, including temples, museums, theatres and restaurants. One of the favourite activities in Hanoi is to walk at dawn with the t'ai chi buffs along Hoan Kiem Lake.

This neighbour also houses Ngoc Son Temple, a quaint temple in the heart of tranquil grounds. This temple is a great place to learn more about Vietnamese history and get a glimpse of gigantic turtles.

West Lake

If you are into that kind of activities, you might want to visit West Lake, which features some excellent restaurants and bars. Located to the north of Hoan Kiem, West Lake is very popular among expats and it houses some great tourist spots such as the Tran Quoc Pagoda and the Museum of Ethology, which pierces together Vietnam's cultural pot of ethnicities.

Ba Dinh

South of West Lake lies Ba Dinh, which used to Hanoi's French administrative centre. Here you can visit one of Hanoi's highlights, the Temple of Literature, where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the world to enter the mystic world of books. This neighbourhood also houses the One Pillar Pagoda and the Botanical Gardens.

Hai Ba Trung

Steeped in tradition, the neighbourhood of Hai Ba Trung is the best place to soak in the local culture and see the real Vietnam. While you admire the traditional Vietnamese life, you can also relax by Thien Quang Lake or take a stroll in Lenin Park. If you are up for some action and you want to indulge your inner shopaholic, there are a myriad of colourful markets and shops in this neighbourhood.

Guided Tours

Some tourists prefer to discover a city through the eyes of a tour guide, and fortunately, there a many different travel companies in Hanoi to cater to every taste and need. These tours are a great way to get your bearings and tick all the major sightseeing attractions from your itinerary. These daylong tours include sides such as Ngoc Son Temple, the Dong Xuan market, the Old Citadel, the Quan Thanh Temple and Tran Quoc Pagoda, the Ethnology Museum, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum, the One Pillar Pagoda, the Literature Temple and Quoc Tu Giam.