Let’s have a look at Hanoi. This has been the Capital of Vietnam for over 1000 years. There are so many attractions to see and so much local life to explore. The atmosphere, attractions and best areas to stay are discussed. It is one place to stay when visiting Vietnam. Let’s look to see what suits you the most.
Each area has its own vibrant and unique atmosphere and attractions. Each has something to explore different from the other areas. Each has many hotels in Hanoi. Depending on your liking, there are a variety of accommodation options available to stay in Hanoi. Let this mini-guide help you to decide where to stay in Hanoi.
Hoan Kiem Lake
This is one of the oldest parts of Hanoi and one of the best neighbourhoods for sightseeing in the capital of Vietnam. Anyone visiting Hanoi for the first time is encouraged to stay here first.
A deluge of attractions is within walking distance of any best hotels here. So much which identifies with local Vietnamese life is based around the Old Quarter. This is the place to try Vietnam’s exceptional street food for the first time. This is the place for a newbie visitor to Vietnam to take their first steps.
The story of Hoan Kiem
Hoan Kiem means Lake of the Returned Sword. The narrative describes that the iron hand of the Chinese forces wanted to conquer Hanoi and the rest of Vietnam. Legend has it the Dragon King came to the Emperor’s Le Loi side and handed him a sword. Le Loi won the war and the sword came back to Hanoi Vietnam. He is a national legend, just like the Hai Ba Trung Sisters.
A turtle came to collect the sword, which changed the lakes name to Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. The turtle was seen as the protector of the sword. The turtle can be seen now, according to the locals. It is audacious and brings good fortune for those who find it.
The Lake of the Returned Sword
The lake is a wonderful stroll for all ages. At a mere 12 hectares, it is easy to walk around. The best time to wander around Hoan Kiem Lake is around the weekends. Hoan Kiem Hanoi is closed to all transport during this period.
The lake becomes a mini-festival. Hoan Kiem has a variety of activities taking place. Local and international musicians are seen busking amongst the trees. Local craftsmen produce an array of local bamboo and wooden figures, available to buy.
Traditional Clothing is adorned everywhere, with Ao Dai’s on display across the lake. Children’s games and dancing circles create a family atmosphere. Street food stalls pop up across the sidewalks. Everyone forgets about real life at the lakeside festival. This is a great place during the weekend in Hanoi city.
Around Hoan Kiem
Hoan Kiem Hanoi is located in the heart of the Old Quarter. Almost every part of the Old Quarter can be explored here. Ngoc Son Temple is in the north of Hoan Kiem Lake. Dedicated to the morals and ethics of Confucianism, the temple pays homage to the Great Tran Hung Dao, who defeated the Mongols back in the 13th century. The temple can be accessed via a vermillion adorned bridge, with carvings and scribes paying respects to various national heroes and the embracement of Confucianism.
The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
One major iconic attraction not to be missed is the Thang Long Water Puppet Show. A performance showing collaborators using this traditional and intricate performance art, dating back over some time. Farmers created a comical story to keep people in high spirits during great floods of the past.
The original performance was in a rice paddy field. The staging reflects the music, lighting and puppetry used in the old times throughout villages along the Red River.
The Long Water Puppet Theatre is a big attraction in Hanoi’s Old Quarter and tickets are cheap. This is one show that is accessible for those in Hanoi on a budget. For the more affluent visitor, the Hanoi Opera House comes recommended. Presenting shows from all over the world, this old French building is a must-visit for those culture vultures amongst us. The Hanoi Opera House is a spectacular sight and provides a wonderful photo opportunity.
The Old Quarter
This is seen as the old city centre. A mix of Vietnamese customs and French architecture make this place looks as if it were in medieval Europe. The Grand St Joseph’s Cathedral acts like the centre point for all staying in luxury hotels and any Hanoi hotels around. This is one of the best areas to see a slice of Vietnamese culture. Local life thrives in the old buildings around the French Quarter. This area has some of the best pho and egg coffee in the city centre.
The night market is a must-visit, selling a variety of good which assist travel needs in addition to some local handmade goods and exquisite jewellery. The local food should be tasted across the street stalls adjacent to the night market. It is a true culinary experience. Anyone looking to party like a local can head to Bia Hoi Corner. Local snack, fresh beer and karaoke machines pop up in abundance around this area. Make sure you have your hotel address. It can get messy here at night!
Hoa Lo Prison (Maison Centrale)
When considering hotels in Hanoi, try to avoid staying overnight at the old Hanoi Hilton! The Maison Centrale is an old prison used to detain and torture enemies of the state throughout time. It’s worth a visit though and is just on the fringes of the Old Quarter.
The Hanoi Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem are the locations for some of the best hotels in Hanoi. A variety of petite boutique and mid-range hotels allow for some memorable stays in Hanoi. Some of the best places to stay in the area can be found here:
Where to stay in Hanoi – The Old Quarter/Hoan Kiem
Oriental Jade Hotel & Spa- A five-star hotel situated at the heart of the best neighborhoods and major sightseeing areas across the Old Quarter
Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel – Stay in a neoclassical building offering incredible services on a road lined with trees and boutique shops
Hilton Hanoi – A stately hotel next to the Opera House, this place is inspired by the architecture of the French Quarter.
Melia Hanoi -An excellent contemporary hotel, with top-class facilities, located conveniently between the Old Quarter and the Temple of Literature
Peridot Grand Hotel – This five-star hotel provides a luxurious rooftop pool and bar, along with enclosed rooms, offering peace in the middle of the bustling Old Quarter
Movenpick Hotel – Adorned with European architecture, with services to match, this hotel provides a touch of class to your stay in Hanoi
The place to visit
This is a popular tourist area and the local’s weekend spot. There are a plethora of activities areas to explore, all within walking distance. This is a great place for those who visit for the first time, or those revisiting and passing through to touchdown on familiar experiences from the past. The Old
The Old Quarter is the spirit of Hanoi. It is the heartbeat of the city and one area that has to be seen while on a trip to Hanoi.
The West Lake (Tay Ho)
Head to West Lake, or Tay Ho. This is the place to stay in Hanoi, Vietnam. This is a big ex-pat area in Hanoi. People spend time around Truc Bach Lake. Foreign residents who stay here, usually eat and drink here and generally settle here. A place with a homely feel and still predominately authentically Vietnamese, this suits both the traveller and the business visitor.
There are a variety of hotels, restaurants and cafes around the lake, which creates a vibrant yet mellow atmosphere within the West Lake. Restaurants serve a range of Vietnamese cuisine, including the famous Bun Cha and Banh Mi in Hanoi. Local eateries also serve street-side hotpot around the area.
For the traveller looking for home comfort, there are lots of restaurants serving dishes and snacks from all areas of the globe, such as Mexico, India and the USA. There are plenty of vegan places and steak houses which cater to foreign tastes.
What can people do at Tay ho/West Lake?
Tay Ho has a blend of local life, business people and tourists. There’s something for all of them here. Within walking distance of most hotels are supermarkets, bars, restaurants and shops. The places to stay around the area offer their attractions for people in Hanoi city. It’s quite a remarkable area and a challenging yet rewarding walk around.
There are lots to experience here. The Tran Quoc Pagoda is close by. The One Pillar Pagoda, Old City Gate and Dong Xuan Market are within walking distance of any hotel in Hanoi around here. It’s a big place. West Lake is a monster size in comparison to the lake of the returned sword.
Truc Bach Lake
A variety of cafes and restaurants can be sources around Truc Bach Lake. This is part of Ho Tay Lake cut off by a pathway. The famous Highland Coffee is located in Truc Bach, along with some ice cream parlours and restaurants. It is located close to a few luxury hotels and is frequently visited by tourists and people here on business. Truc Bach is like the smaller sister to Ho Tay but is seen as the nest area to stay for a relaxing evening drink and view of the wonderful sunset around.
Sport on the lake
There are gyms and swimming pools around the Tay Ho Lake area for those into fitness. Yoga classes are available. Anyone into golf can hit balls into the West Lake on the impressive golf driving range at the Club Hanoi Hotel. The lake is generally accessible by foot. This is good for running or even playing games, like the local Da Cau.
Things to see in the area
There are several tourist attractions to be seen in districts very close to West Lake Hanoi:
Dong Da District
This is one of the four districts of Old Hanoi. This place is one of the areas to stay for those interested in the older history of Hanoi. The Hanoi hotels in this area offer a great place for exploration. Most of this can be done on foot. The Temple of Literature is on the south side of Tay Ho lake and West of Hoan Kiem lake. This is one place for all teachers and students to pray for success.
The architecture and history of the place are mesmerising and dates back to the 12th century. The Temple of Literature is known by everyone in Vietnam. Don’t come during exam periods, or you may find yourself drowned out by the crowds of praying students!
The Ba Dinh District
Closer to Ho Tay Lake south side is Ba Dinh District. You will stumble upon some of Hanoi’s most renowned and prominent landmarks. At Ba Dinh Square you can find Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the legend who made modern-day Vietnam. Homage and respects can be paid to Uncle Ho every morning.
Further insight into the great leader can be explored at the Ho Chi Minh Museum close by. This place gives a narration of his life and holds a variety of memoirs, photographs and important artifacts surrounding Uncle Ho’s life.
Looking at history
Adjacent is the old Presidential Palace, showing the Vietnam of old. This is in the Ba Dinh district. Any visitor, either for work or pleasure, should take time to explore the Ba Dinh district. It is one of the best areas to visit in Hanoi. Ba Dinh is best seen on foot and requires a whole morning.
A worthwhile visit for your stay in Hanoi, Ba Dinh shows the people and power and overall presence of the entity that makes up modern-day Vietnam. The One Pillar Pagoda, with origins dating back to the 12th century, is incredible.
Where to stay in Hanoi – The Tay Ho/West Lake area
The south side of the lake leads to a footpath that allows pedestrians to navigate the lake. Ho Tay lake is surrounded by Temples and Pagodas, all dedicated to a variety of Buddhist and Taoist gods and Vietnamese war heroes.
Tran Quoc Pagoda, at the edge of Truc Bach Lake, is a grand temple to see in Tay Ho Hanoi. The Hanoi West Lake is quite a size, around 17km all the way around. Most rent bicycles or motorbikes to explore during their stay in Hanoi. The Hanoi West Lake has a lot of things to do, much to eat and offers some incredible spots for a drink.
One notorious spot is the Summit Lounge, on the 20th Floor of the Pan Pacific Hotel. There are lots of luxury hotel options available in addition to some well-kept and comfortable mid-range hotels. Boutique hotels are around though more are available around the Old Quarter. As far as hotels in Hanoi go, there are some recommended hotels here:
Where to stay in Hanoi – Tay Ho/ West Lake and Ba Dinh Districts
Pan Pacific Hotel – This is five star luxury with five-star service with a five-star Summit Lounge
Sheraton Hotel – An elegant lakeside hotel, with four incredible restaurants and some amazing views
Hanoi Daewoo – Located in the Korean area just south of Tay Ho, this hotel offers all the luxury and pampering required from an upmarket tourist
Pullman Hotel – Located close to Ba Dinh District, this is the hotel to use when extensively exploring the history of Hanoi.
Where to stay in Hanoi – West Lake / Ba Dinh
The West Lake is extensive enough to have neighbourhoods that are vibrant yet quaint, local and international, for both tourists and business executives alike. There’s a lot to explore if desired, yet still, an area to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life around Hanoi.
Closely situated to Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the West Lake is generally for those who wish to come in and out of the main tourist areas or are looking to be at a lake with lots of dining options. Truc Bach is a place to relax. If you are considering a place to stay in Hanoi, come here. Tay Ho is big enough for all visitors to Hanoi.
The Urban Area / Business District
These are the modern zones that contrast sharply in vision to old Hanoi. These districts are full to the brink with skyscrapers, shopping malls and spanking brand new buildings which are increasingly bringing Hanoi into the 21st century and beyond. It is stretching out indefinitely. What you see today won’t be the vision that tomorrow will bring to this part of Hanoi.
Business development areas
Above all else, convenience for business and trade is what brings visitors to hotels in Hanoi around here. Restaurants, convenience stores and shopping areas are plentiful. A lot of business development zones are within easy reach. This area isn’t saturated with tourists and street sellers. This is the place where business gets done. Hotels in Hanoi around here serve the corporate demand. It is Hanoi, the best area to meet for investments or trade.
Can I see anything around here?
Although it is the Urban District, there are places to be seen in the area. The Landmark 72 Building is the central point of this area. Go to the higher floors of the building to see an aerial view of Hanoi, the best views in the city.
The Hanoi Museum is also located in the area. Here you can learn more about the history of Hanoi, along with taking a peek at its current development and the plans for the future of Hanoi.
The Museum of Ethnology, looking at various ethnic groups living in Vietnam, is located here. This is one spot popular with tourists.
The Urban Area extended
A couple of prominent educational institutes are located in the area. The National University has its main campus here. The University of Education can be found in the area. In Hanoi, the best Universities are now looking to be located close to areas with economic gain. It is Hanoi if you want connections in business or education.
Hai Ba Trung District
Further south is Hai Ba Trung District. This area is named after the heroic Hai Ba Trung sisters. Hai Ba Trung has the famous Hoang Lien Bun Cha stop (where Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate) in the area. Hai Ba Trung has fashion shops, wine bars and an underwater aquarium.
Where can I stay around here?
There are a variety of hotels to stay in around the Urban Area. It is a 4-5 star hotel guests usually look for in the area, though the odd boutique hotel can be found and there are some mid-range hotels around. Here are some to consider:
Where to stay in Hanoi – The Urban Area
Intercontinental Hanoi Landmark 72 – This is the place to have an incredible view, creature comforts and razor-edge corporate facilities at your disposal. This is wining and dining at its best.
JW Marriott Hotel – This sleek and burnished hotel is positioned over a lakeside and provides cutting edge business facilities. The convention centre is close to the hotel.
Grand Plaza Hanoi – This is a solid business hotel to stay. It has five restaurants and is conveniently located close to green spaces in Hanoi, such as a park.
Wyndham Garden – Located a little bit out from the central urban district, this hotel offers five-star facilities for reasonable nightly rates. Currently used as a luxury quarantine facility for traveller’s entering Vietnam.
Hilary Hotel – This is a hotel north of the central business district. It is a budget business option and offers great value for money for the services provided.
These accommodation options will take you to the heart of the urban area. This suits any visitor looking to avoid any heavy traffic coming from Tay Ho or Hoan Kiem early morning.
Where to stay in Hanoi – the best area to stay
The main districts have the most hotels in Hanoi. The Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem lake are, in Hanoi, the best place for the visitor new to Vietnam. There are many hotel options, lots of attractions and traditional shopping areas, such as the night market. Travel agents and
Embassies are located here. You can sort out visa extensions and your ticket to
Halong Bay easily in the Old Quarter area.
Tay Ho, or the West Lake, is a place for more seasoned tourists or for the travellers looking to escape the evening and weekend crowds usually present at the Old Quarter. West Lake Hanoi has nice places to stay and is located in some prominent areas, such as the Ba Dinh District. This is a place to experience comfort yet be close enough to visit the historical spots around Hanoi.
The Urban Area is where people come to experience modern Hanoi. Booking a hotel in Hanoi here allows you to stay close to the heart of business, trade and investment. You at the pulse of major business deals taking place across Hanoi.
What is your purpose when visiting Hanoi? This determines where you are going to stay. Just make sure you stay in luxury and don’t forget to pamper yourself.
Be sure to also take a look at our comprehensive listing of top hotels in Hanoi!