Hanoi is a historic city like non-other in Vietnam. There are so many things to do in this whirlwind of a city that going without a guide guarantees you will miss a few things. When visiting Hanoi, some of the best things to do require a little local knowledge from 'Hanoians' - local people from Hanoi. 

With the advice of our community, here are the best things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam's capital city; from sightseeing to eating and everything in between. 

Sightseeing in Hanoi

1. Go to the Hanoi Old Quarter

The Hanoi Old Quarter is the center and the heart of Hanoi. There are many ancient buildings, street food, local stores and lovely little coffee shops in this area that you shouldn't miss out on!

Hanoi's Old Quarter
Woman wearing the traditional Vietnamese hat cycling in a street of Hanoi's Old Quarter // Photo by DrimaFilm / Shutterstock

Hang Gai street

It's a small tranquil alley located near Hoan Kiem lake. This street has been around for centuries and is well-known for its high-end silk shops. If you're looking to buy some souvenirs, this is the place to go!

Hoan Kiem lake (Turtle lake)

It is in the center of Hanoi and you can find many locals and tourists here, especially in the evening. The peaceful lake is surrounded by restaurants, shops and tourist traps - but it's still worth a visit!

There are also many street food vendors around the lake, so it's a great place to try some local delicacies! Visiting this place is one of the "must things" to do in Hanoi.

What to see there? You can go to Ngoc Son temple, The Huc bridge and the Turtle Tower.

Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake is the perfect spot for a weekend stroll, to hang out with locals and spot turtles.

2. Visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

This is the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh, the father of modern Vietnam. If you're interested in Vietnamese history, Ho Chi Minh mausoleum is a must-see!

Visitors should dress respectfully (no shorts, sleeveless tops, or miniskirts) and must deposit any bags and cameras before entering. They are not allowed to stop and hold the constant queue up as the place is constantly busy. Also within the complex is the Ho Chi Minh Museum, which has an eclectic collection containing Ho Chi Minh's personal memorabilia as well as plenty of information on the history of the Vietnamese Revolution.

The remains of Ho Chi Minh are sent yearly to Russia for maintenance therefore the mausoleum is closed usually from October onwards. It’s best to recheck with your hotel tour desk before visiting. Admission is free but donations are accepted.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

A sombre place to pay respect to Ho Chi Minh himself.

3. Visit amazing temples

Vietnam is home to many beautiful Buddhist temples that date back hundreds of years, with architectural styles differing from region to region. Here are just a few places in Vietnam worth visiting for their unique beauty.

The Temple of Literature

The temple of Literature is dedicated to Confucius and was built in 1070 AD. It's a great place to learn about Vietnamese history and culture. Today, the Temple of Literature stands as a tribute to the nation's scholars

Temple of Literature
Temple of Literature

This former University is where students pray to Confucius for excellent results in their studies.

The Temple of Ngoc Son

This temple is located on Hoan Kiem Lake and is dedicated to the God of Literature, Van Mieu. It's a beautiful temple with a red bridge leading up to it.

Ngoc Son Temple
Ngoc Son Temple

A Temple with a beautiful bridge dedicated to men of honour.

The Imperial Citadel

The Imperial Citadel is the most important historical site in Hanoi and was once the home of the Vietnamese royal family. The site achieved UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition in 2010 for its long role in Hanoi's past, and the area's 1,000 years of history are highlighted by archaeological work that has unearthed the foundations of various palaces that once stood on this spot.

Imperial Citadel
Imperial Citadel

UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Imperial Citadel, was the center of regional political power for almost 13 centuries, and it bears historical and cultural importance.

4. Experience Hoa Lo prison

This is a part of Vietnam's history where many political prisoners were held during the French occupation. Nowadays, it's a museum that has exhibitions about Vietnam War and the wars against the USA.

The French guillotine, which the colonists employed to kill Vietnamese revolutionaries, is one of the macabre attractions on display. You'll also find mementoes relating to American pilots who were imprisoned in Vietnam during the course of the Vietnam War.

Hoa Lo Prison Museum
Hoa Lo Prison Museum

A correction house full of torturous stories, colonial exploitation, with a few good and bad men.

Food experiences in Hanoi

5. Try the famous "Bun Cha Obama"

Bun Cha
A delicious bowl of Bun Cha from the infamous ‘Obama Bun Cha’ restaurant // Photo on Vietnam Is Aweosme

If there's one dish you must eat when you visit Hanoi, it's bun cha. This dish is made up of grilled pork patties and vermicelli noodles, and is served with a delicious sauce on the side.

If you're looking for bun cha, then there are many restaurants that serve this dish. One of the most famous places is bun cha "Obama", which is located on Le Van Huu Street. This restaurant is known for its pork patties that are grilled to perfection. If Obama has been to this place, you should list it as one of the things to do in Hanoi too!

Address: 24 Lê Văn Hưu, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội.

6. Enjoy Pho Bat Dan

Pho Bat Dan
One of Hanoi's most popular places to try pho is Pho Bat Dan // Photo by Julie Mayfeng / Shutterstock

One of Vietnam’s best-known dishes is Pho, so you can’t leave Hanoi without sampling a bowl. It is made up of rice noodles, beef or chicken broth, and herbs. It's a very healthy and tasty dish, and you can find it all over Hanoi.

One of Hanoi's most popular places to try pho is Pho Bat Dan, which is located in the lovely Old Quarter of Hanoi. Pho Bat Dan spends hours simmering their bone broth to produce a great soup, and you may customize it as you like by adding fresh herbs and peppers.

Address: 49 Bát Đàn, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội.

7. Have a taste of the Vietnamese sandwich in Banh Mi 25

Banh Mi 25
Banh Mi 25 // Photo on FB banhmi25

Banh Mi, or Banh My as it is known in Hanoi and should not be missed when in Vietnam, is one of the most well-known sandwiches in the world.

The fusion of the different elements is simply delicious and Banh Mi 25 is one of the most famous spots in the city to sample a toothsome sandwich.

Address: 25 Hàng Cá, P, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

8. Try Egg Coffee at Cafe Giang

Cafe Giang
Delicious egg coffee at Cafe Giang - established almost 80 years ago! // Photo on FB cafegiang.vn

If you're looking for something sweet, I would recommend trying egg coffee at Cafe Giang.

This cafe is famous among locals and expats alike, so it makes for a great pit stop to grab some snacks. The egg coffee is made with an espresso shot that has been mixed with lightly whipped eggs and condensed milk.

Address: 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

Shopping in Hanoi

9. Shop at the Old Quarter

If you're looking for some souvenirs, the best place to go is this place. Located next to Hoan Kiem lake, this area is full of small shops where you can find all sorts of Vietnamese souvenirs.

You can buy anything from handicrafts to clothing, and they're all good quality, or you can have a food tour. Also, the sellers are usually quite friendly and helpful when it comes to customizing orders.

One small problem though, you will have to master the art of bargain shopping in Hanoi. For example, if the sellers say 100,000 VND (~ 4 dollars), it's probably worth somewhere between 40,000-60,000 VND (2 dollars)

Some of the streets include: Hang Gai, Hang Bac, Hang Ma, Ma May… Of course, some stores are more expensive than others, so it's best to shop around, and most importantly - have fun!

10. Take a shopping tour at Dong Xuan Market

Dong Xuan Market, which was founded in 1889 and is located on the northern outskirts of Hanoi's Old Quarter, is a four-story Soviet-style structure.

As the city's biggest indoor market, it has a large selection of items including fresh food, souvenirs, accessories, and clothing as well as electronic and household appliances.

Like most markets in Southeast Asia, the place has a vibrant wet market on the ground floor where people buy fish, meat, and vegetables, as well as fresh flowers from across Vietnam. If you're shopping for souvenirs, head to the upper levels of the building, where you'll find a number of stalls selling T-shirts, textiles, school uniforms, handbags, handicrafts, and other items at wholesale prices.

Dong Xuan Market
Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi // Photo by Cesare Palma / Shutterstock

Best areas to stay in Hanoi

11. Find the best place to stay

Make your trip more memorable by choosing a good place to stay in Hanoi. There are many things to do in Hanoi, so what's better than having a great place to stay that's near all the incredible places that you could go to.

Here are 5 areas with some of the best accommodations:

Hoan Kiem Lake, the Old quarter, the West Lake, Dong Da district and Ba Dinh District

Find out more about the best places to stay in Hanoi.

Entertainment

12. See A Water Puppet Show

A Water Puppet Show is something that should not be missed when in Hanoi.

The show is a traditional Vietnamese art form that tells stories using wooden puppets that are manipulated and floated on the water.

There are two theaters in the city that offer this experience: The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater and the Hanoi Puppetry Theater. Both shows have English descriptions to help with understanding the story, but I recommend seeing the show at the Thang Long Theater as it is said to be more authentic.

The live music plays a vital part in the show with singers yelling out words of encouragement to the water puppets. This is something specific to the Vietnamese culture, a highlight not to be missed!

Address: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

Price Range: VND 100,000

Water Puppet Theatre
Water Puppet Theatre

A traditional show which dates back to the Red River Delta of the old days.

13. Make Your Own Pottery at Bat Trang Ceramic Village

If you're looking for a more unique and cultural experience in Hanoi, I would recommend making your own pottery at the Bat Trang Ceramic Village. The village is located about 15 km outside of the city center and is known for its high-quality ceramics. You can choose to either watch or participate in the pottery making process.

After you create your own ceramic product (cup, pot, and bowls are easiest to make) it takes an hour to dry and then you can decorate it with available colours.

Price Range: VND 100,000 - VND300,000

Nightlife

14. Go to Bia Hoi junction

This is the place to go if you want cheap drinks! There are many street-side bars around this area that sell beer for as little as VND 15,000. The atmosphere here can be a lot of fun and it's definitely worth checking out!

Plastic chairs spill out onto the roadways, with beers costing as little as VND10,000 (less than $1) and street vendors offering steamed peanuts, beef jerky, and other foreign delicacies. The beer is rather mild in comparison to European standards, but it's a lot of fun all the same. A great place to go with your friends!

15. Go to Hanoi's best bars and pubs

Dragonfly Bar Lounge

Dragonfly Bar and Lounge Hanoi is a longstanding night spot in the Old Quarter of Hanoi that attracts a fairly even mix of young Vietnamese and youthful expats.

The music ranges from hip-hop to party pop, and if you get in the mood, there's room to dance. However, most individuals prefer to mingle and mix than dance alone.

Large cocktails are popular here, and they are definitely worth the money. To try a shisha pipe with a variety of tastes, go up to the second floor.

Address: 15 Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

King Pirates Pub

The King Pirates Pub is a great place to visit in Hanoi , with a decent selection of rum-based beverages, local beers, and house wines. The owners are kind and talkative, bringing in both tourists, locals, and expats.

King Pirates Pub offers local beers for only VND 20,000 while signature cocktails cost between VND 60,000 and VND 140,000.

Address: 24b Hàng Giầy, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

Lighthouse Sky Bar

The top three floors of La Siesta Premium Hang Be Hotel are home to the Lighthouse Sky Bar. The term "Lighthouse" came from an incredible story about Hang Be Street.

A varied selection of well-made and distinctive signature cocktails, as well as classic ones, local craft beer, and premium spirits are all available.

From 4 PM until 6 PM, you can enjoy a lovely afternoon cup of tea while soaking in the stunning sunset over Hanoi's cityscape at this tranquil retreat. Alternatively, during the night hours, immerse yourself in the stylish al-fresco ambience with soothing background music.

Address: 27 Hàng Bè, Old Quarter, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

Conclusion

Vietnam is a country with many diverse and unique cultures. This article has provided you with 15 things to do in Hanoi to explore this culture! From live music, pottery making, beer-drinking, to dancing the night away at clubs, there's something for everyone. Just make sure you visit Hanoi at the right time of year!