Things to do in Hanoi
Hoan Kiem Lake
An early morning visit to Hoan Kiem Lake allows you to see this beautiful scene before it gets busy with tourists and while locals are practising tai chi. Join them, or continue your walk across the famous red bridge that leads to a small island where you'll find Ngoc Son Temple. As you walk, keep an eye out for turtles. Locals believe that seeing one will bring you good luck.
Huc Bridge at Hoan Kiem Lake
Built by the French on the site of a Vietnamese Buddhist temple in 1886, the Roman Catholic Saint Joseph Cathedral of Hanoi is the oldest church in the city. While the outside is typically French in design, the inside is decorated in Vietnamese style and colours. A trip here will reveal more about its colourful history.
Ho Tay Water Park
If the tropical weather becomes too much for you, visit Ho Tay Water Park, located inside West Lake Park. This swimming pool complex has slides, pools, and a lazy river to enjoy. After a day playing in the pools, stick around the West Lake area to enjoy a beautiful Hanoi sunset.
Lotte Tower Observation Deck
A must-see in Hanoi, the Lotte Tower Observation Deck is at the top of a 65-storey skyscraper that also houses a hotel, spa, and department store. The Observation Deck offers the best panoramic views of the city. There are four themed zones to enhance your experience, each offering something a little different depending on whether you visit during the day or at night.
Birds-eye view from Lotte Center Observation Deck
Bach Ma Temple
Bach Ma Temple is the oldest structure in Hanoi's Old Quarter. This small building has a rich history dating back to 1010. Legend has it that a white horse showed the reigning king where to build the walls of his citadel. In gratitude, the king dedicated Bach Ma Temple to the wise creature. Visit the pagoda and you'll see a statue of the white horse and a shrine to Confucius.
The red lacquer entry to Bach Ma Temple
Quan Thanh Temple
While Bach Ma is the oldest temple in the Old Quarter, Quan Thanh Temple is the oldest in all of Hanoi. This Taoist place of worship has statues of its many deities, including the God of the North. He's a patron of martial artists, so expect to see martial arts classes held on the temple grounds when you visit.
Quan Thanh Temple
Ha Long Bay
No visit to Hanoi is complete without a day trip to Ha Long Bay. Dramatic islands with limestone cliffs emerge out of emerald waters. Hop on a boat designed to look like a traditional Chinese treasure ship (a junk vessel), or a small private cruise houseboat and explore nearby caves and floating villages.
Sunrise over Ha Long Bay
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
Vietnam is home to 54 different ethnic groups. Many of these groups are situated in the north of the country, not far from Hanoi. The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology gives you the chance to learn more about their cultures. Displays include clothes, jewellery, and everyday artefacts that demonstrate the way of life in North Vietnam. Outside, there are replicas of houses for you to explore.
Hanoi Opera House
Built from 1901 until 1911 by the French, the Hanoi Opera House became an important part of Vietnamese political history. Today, it's also an important part of the country's cultural scene. Local and international artists take to the stage to perform in front of the 600-strong audience. You can catch ballets, classical orchestrations, Vietnamese opera, and traditional folk music in this beloved venue.
Motorbikes going past the Hanoi Opera House
Hoa Lo Prison
Stepping inside a French Colonial building with the words ‘Maison Centrale' by its entryway will give you a grim but necessary glimpse of the Vietnam War. This building is Hoa Lo Prison, where Vietnamese revolutionaries and American prisoners of war were kept. Today, it's a museum that commemorates the fate of these prisoners.
Entrance to Hoa Lo Prison
Vietnam Military History Museum
If you're interested in history and the military, you should visit the Vietnam Military History Museum in Hanoi. It houses a large collection of tanks, fighter planes, weapons, and other war relics. There are also accounts by former soldiers who fought in the Indochina wars. Drop by Huu Tiep Lake after your museum visit to see a B-52 plane that was downed during an air raid.
Flag tower of the Vietnam Military History Museum
Temple of Literature Hanoi
When it was built in 1070, the Temple of Literature Hanoi became Vietnam's first university and was dedicated to the Chinese philosopher, Confucius. Today, this beautiful place still attracts students from around the country who want a bit of good luck during exam time. Although you can't explore the whole campus, you can walk around its many courtyards and pavilions, enjoying the quiet atmosphere and rich history.
Temple of Literature, Hanoi
Vietnamese Women's Museum
The Vietnam Women's Museum is dedicated to promoting gender equality through education. It exhibits items relevant to women's lives such as traditional attire, pottery, and other everyday objects. Moreover, it showcases the roles that women played throughout Vietnam's rich history. The museum has five floors, each with a different theme, and is definitely a must-see when visiting Hanoi.
Fine Arts Museum of Vietnam
The Fine Arts Museum of Vietnam has a collection that spans two buildings, which were formerly used by the French Ministry of Information. Now you'll find information about paintings, sculptures, and other fine art pieces by Vietnamese artists. Some of these artworks draw on themes of patriotism and military strategies, while others are more recent abstract pieces that are well worth a look.