5 Best Places to Visit in Hanoi – Vietnam

Discover a variety of architectural styles influenced by Chinese, French, and Vietnamese cultures, adorned with ancient Buddhist temples and pagodas. Immerse yourself in the captivating charm of Hanoi, which showcases cultural museums, war memorials, and the enchanting Old Quarter, offering a wide range of attractions for everyone’s preferences.

Best places to visit in Hanoi Vietnam

Embark on a journey through Vietnam’s rich history, vibrant traditions, and aromatic cuisine as you explore the capital city. Treat yourself to the hot and delicious pho served by street vendors, marvel at the captivating art of traditional water puppetry, and enjoy lively bargaining experiences at local markets. However, remain cautious in the bustling traffic of Hanoi.

Here, Let’s Discover Vietnam presents a selection of our favorite and highly recommended destinations in Hanoi that you should include in your sightseeing plans. These locations offer an excellent introduction to the essence of Vietnam, complemented by top-notch accommodations in Hanoi, serving as a convenient base for your explorations.

  • Hanoi’s Old Quarter (Hoan Kiem District)
  • Hanoi’s French Quarter (Ba Dinh District)
  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum
  • Hanoi Opera House (Nha Hat Lon)

1. Hanoi’s Old Quarter (Hoan Kiem District)

In the heart of Hanoi, you will find the Old Quarter, a historically significant area where Hoan Kiem Lake holds the spotlight.

Surrounding Ngoc Son Temple, also called the Temple of the Jade Mountain, Hoan Kiem Lake offers a charming setting. The temple rests on a small island and is connected to the mainland by the Huc Bridge. The lovely gardens along the lake’s edges attract both locals and tourists. Here, you can witness people enjoying leisurely conversations with friends, jogging or taking a leisurely walk around the lake, playing badminton

Top Tip

Experience the enchanting atmosphere of Hoan Kiem Lake in the evening, when Ngoc Son Temple and Huc Bridge are beautifully lit, and couples leisurely stroll together around the lake. We highly recommend visiting during this time, and be sure to take a moment to enjoy a cup of coffee, sweetened with condensed milk, at one of the delightful lakeside kiosks.

For a truly immersive encounter with the alluring spirit of this fascinating city, we suggest embarking on a cyclo tour—a three-wheeled bicycle ride through the lively streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter—where you can fully immerse yourself in the captivating sights, sounds, and aromas.

Hoan Kiem Lake

The calmness of Hoan Kiem Lake is a striking contrast to the vibrant atmosphere of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The Old Quarter is known for its intricate and narrow pathways filled with shops, art spaces, cozy cafes, and enticing restaurants, alongside popular street vendors.

Best places to visit in Hanoi Vietnam

However, be prepared for the busy traffic in this area, as thousands of motorbikes, scooters, and cyclos maneuver through the ancient streets of the Old Quarter.

While staying in Hanoi, it is highly recommended to wake up early one morning and explore the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake. Experience the liveliness as vendors set up their stalls and locals participate in tai chi or exercise classes in the nearby parks and gardens.

2. Hanoi’s French Quarter (Ba Dinh District)

The French Quarter, a historic district in Hanoi, is located west of the Old Quarter. It features wide streets lined with French-style villas, mansions, sidewalk cafes, upscale restaurants, and elegant hotels.

This area holds significant historical importance as it was where the Ly kings established the Imperial City in the 11th century. Within the French Quarter, you can explore Hanoi’s notable cultural and historical landmarks, such as the revered Temple of Literature and the One Pillar Pagoda. Both sites have a rich history dating back to the time of the Ly kings and provide valuable insights into the region’s early past.

Best places to visit in Hanoi Vietnam

The remaining 11th-century architectural remnants were removed by the French colonial government to make room for their administrative buildings. Among these structures, the Presidential Palace, once the residence of the Governor-General of Indochina, stands out as particularly impressive. The nearby Botanical Gardens have been meticulously preserved and offer a serene escape from the city’s busy atmosphere.

Temple of Literature

Established in 1070, the Temple of Literature is a sacred site devoted to Confucius and houses Vietnam’s first university, known as the Imperial Academy. You might recognize this renowned landmark, as it is prominently featured on the 100,000 Vietnamese đong banknotes.

Best places to visit in Hanoi Vietnam

During Tet, the festive Vietnamese New Year, calligraphers gather outside the temple to inscribe wishes using Han characters. These artistic calligraphic works are distributed as gifts and cherished as household decorations.

One Pillar Pagoda

Hanoi’s One Pillar Pagoda is an old Buddhist temple constructed in 1094 by an emperor to honor the birth of his child.

According to a popular legend, the emperor, who had been unable to conceive, dreamt of a bodhisattva granting him a baby son atop a lotus flower. This extraordinary vision motivated the creation of the temple, which includes a peaceful pond with a single pillar at its center.

Best places to visit in Hanoi Vietnam

3. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum

Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum is located in the historic French Quarter and holds great significance for those interested in Vietnam’s complex political history and its present-day ideology. Drawing inspiration from Moscow’s Lenin mausoleum, this architectural tribute symbolizes the influence of the former Soviet Union on the Vietnamese communist party.

Best places to visit in Hanoi Vietnam

Inside the central hall, the revered leader’s preserved body is displayed under an honor guard’s watchful eyes. Foreign dignitaries often receive invitations to pay their respects to Uncle Ho, who continues to shape Vietnam’s ideology.

A visit to the mausoleum and the accompanying museum provides a captivating glimpse into the history and the profound reverence with which the Vietnamese people regard Ho Chi Minh.

Top Tip

Be aware that staff and guards strictly enforce rules on dress and behavior. Ensure your legs are covered (no shorts or miniskirts), refrain from putting hands in pockets, maintain silence, and avoid photography or consuming food/drinks inside.

4. Hanoi Opera House (Nha Hat Lon)

During your extended stay in Hanoi, make sure to catch a performance at the Opera House. It’s an extraordinary experience that will transport you to the past.

Best places to visit in Hanoi Vietnam

After being fully restored in 1997, the Opera House serves as an impressive representation of French architecture in the city. It takes inspiration from Paris’ Palais Garnier, the older of the two opera houses in the city.

At the Opera House, you can delight in Vietnamese and Western opera, ballet, and musical performances put on by local and international companies. Experiencing a local musical or theatrical show is an engaging cultural immersion.

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