Hanoi Travel: Ultimate Guide to Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, located on the banks of the Red River in the northern region of the country. Vietnam’s second largest city is one of the most ancient capitals in the world, which is now rapidly developing. In Hanoi you can find a nice combination of Sino-Vietnamese and French influences as the city boasts spiritual ancient pagodas and well-preserved colonial buildings.

Here is our comprehensive tourist guide to Hanoi, providing detailed information about what to do, where to stay, how to get to Hanoi, best ways to move around the city, etc.

Hanoi Attractions

There are plenty of things to see and do in Vietnamese capital. Top attractions of Hanoi are listed below.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi is an important historical attraction as it is the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh, revolutionary leader who has led Vietnam to independence and reunification. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a large building located in the center of Ba Dinh Square. Mausoleum is open to the public and the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh can be seen there.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Flag Tower of Hanoi

Flag Tower of Hanoi is one of the symbols of Vietnam’s capital built more than 200 years ago. Located in the center of the city, the 33 meter high Flag Tower is a historic attraction you shouldn’t miss while visiting Hanoi.

Flag Tower of Hanoi

Tran Quoc Pagoda

Tran Quoc Pagoda is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi. Tran Quoc Pagoda is located on a small island in West Lake of Hanoi. The temple complex is surrounded by greenery making it a very scenic place. The 15 meters high main pagoda made up of eleven levels is the highlight of Tran Quoc Pagoda.

Tran Quoc Pagoda

Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple

Hoan Kiem Lake is the lake in the center of Hanoi which is considered to be a symbol of Vietnam’s capital. Centrally located lake is a perfect place to get away from the noise of the bustling city. There’s a small island in Hoan Kiem Lake where Ngoc Son Temple is situated since the 18th century.

Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple

Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature in Hanoi is a Temple of Confucius built in 1070 and hosting the first university of Vietnam. The Temple of Literature is one of the most picturesque tourist attractions in Hanoi as the temple is very well preserved and is a superb example of traditional Vietnamese architecture.

Temple of Literature

Presidential Palace Hanoi

Presidential Palace Hanoi was built at the beginning of 20th century and housed the French Governor of Indochina. The palace is built in colonial French architectural style with nice gardens and pond surrounding it. Only surroundings of Presidential Palace Hanoi can be visited as the main building is still used for governmental purposes.

Presidential Palace Hanoi

Saint Joseph Cathedral of Hanoi

St. Joseph's Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church in Hanoi. It was built in late 19th century and is the oldest church in Hanoi.

Saint Joseph Cathedral of Hanoi

36 Streets Old Quarter

Hanoi Old Quarter is a must-see district for those who are visiting Vietnam. Hanoi Old Quarter is located right next to Hoan Kiem Lake and consists of up to 76 streets in total. There were 36 prominent trading streets among 76 streets of the old quarter so it is also known as 36 Pho Phuong (36 Streets) or the trading quarter. According to history of over 600 years, 36 streets have originated from 36 ancient different trades and the streets were named after the things sold such as Pho Hang Be (Bamboo), Pho Hang Bun (Vermicelli) and Pho Hang Bac (Silver).  Now, it has become the largest local product shopping district. There are a variety of items for tourist to shop, including clothes, shoes, souvenirs, and handicrafts. There are also many street food stalls and local restaurants. During Friday-Sunday, the night market opens making this area even more bustling with people from around the world. 

Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

If you want to indulge in the classic nightlife of Hanoi, it is recommended to visit Water Puppet Show. Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is the world-famous theater, located next to Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of Hanoi Old Quarter.  The water puppets originated 1,000 years ago in the rice fields of North Vietnam. At that time, the rice fields were heavily flooded. Farmers and villagers were making entertainment by standing in the water which was waist-deep and used the puppets to perform over the water. There are five Water Puppet shows per day, from mid-afternoon through late evening, with an additional morning show on Sundays.  The performance of water puppets is supplemented by Vietnamese orchestra and modern special effects. Water Puppet shows are very popular with tourists, so booking tickets in advance is a must, particularly on weekends or holidays.

Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

Water Puppet Show tickets are often sold in the combination with various Hanoi tours making the price very worthwhile. The most interesting Hanoi tours that include a visit to Water Puppet Theater are as follows:

Special Hanoi Night Out - tour that includes watching the water puppet show, eating a special authentic Hanoi dinner and ending the night with a cup of tea at some cozy street.

Hanoi City Day Tour with Water Puppet Show - tour that takes you to Hanoi’s most important landmarks in the morning and brings you to watch a traditional water puppet show in the evening.

Hanoi Street Food Walking Tour with Water Puppet Show - during this tour you will spend your time touring around the bustling Hanoi Old Quarter and trying a variety of local foods there and will end your day on a high note by watching Water Puppet Show. It is a perfect choice for food lover! 

Hanoi Train Street

In the middle of Hanoi Old Quarter, the old railroad tracks built by former French colonists became a popular place for tourists. Hanoi Train Street is a narrow train route that runs along Dien Bien Phu or Phung Hung streets with loads of small cafés and houses along the side of the tracks. The train passes this route several times a day. It good to stop at one of the local bars that line the tracks and watch the train pass while drinking a good egg coffee or cold beer.

Hanoi Train Street

Hanoi Train Street was officially closed due to safety reasons. However, some of the cafes along the track remain open so it's not impossible to visit. 

One Pillar Pagoda

One Pillar Pagoda is located behind Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in the center of Hanoi. One Pillar Pagoda is a Buddhist temple, which is about 400 years old. The original temple was built in the 11th century by the Emperor Ly Thai Tong for finally being blessed with a son, then destroyed by the French forces and later rebuilt. This temple is an outstanding example of architecture, constructed from wood on a single stone pillar with a diameter of about 1.25 meters. This structure represents the lotus flower, which is the symbol of enlightenment. This is also a place where local people come to visit and pray for the fertility and health. 

Vietnam Fine Arts Museum

Vietnam Fine Arts Museum is a good place to visit if you are interested in art and history. It is a national museum established by the Vietnamese government to preserve and present the country’s artistic treasures. There are more than 3,000 artworks on display, arranged chronologically from the prehistoric era to the present. The entrance ticket costs 40,000 VND.

French Quarter

French Quarter is the place where you can escape the congestion of the Old Quarter. French Quarter was built during the 19th century in the era when Vietnam was occupied by the French. Vietnamese buildings were destroyed and French colonial-style buildings were built instead. Nowadays, it’s a luxurious area which is home to five-star hotels, retro French style restaurants and cafes. Trang Tien Plaza, where Hanoi's most famous luxury department stores are set up, is also located in the district. Hanoi Opera House and the National Museum of Vietnamese History are the main attractions in French Quarter.

French Quarter

West Lake

Tay Ho Lake, commonly called as West Lake, is the largest freshwater lake in Hanoi. Located in the northwest of Hanoi, the lake has a perimeter of 17 km and covers an area of 500 hectares. You can rent a water bike or take a boat trip around West Lake. West Lake has become a place of relaxing for Hanoi people whether at dawn or sunset. The scenery of West Lake is one of Hanoi's most beautiful and romantic spots. West Lake is also home of important sights such as Tran Quoc Pagoda, the symbol of Vietnam Buddhism, and Quan Thanh Temple, one of Hanoi's ancient temples.

West Lake

Cua Bac Church

Cua Bac Church is one of the three major churches of Hanoi, together with Ham Long Church and Saint Joseph Cathedral. Cua Bac Church is an ancient Roman Catholic church which is located on Phan Dinh Phung Street. The church was established by the French colonial rulers in 1932 and originally named as Church of Martyrs. The church itself is beautiful and you can see the vibrant yellow-colored paintings all around the church.

Cua Bac Church

Long Bien Bridge

Long Bien Bridge has become a popular photography spot in the old city of Hanoi. Long Bien Bridge is simply an old steel bridge connecting Hoan Kiem District and Long Bien District of Hanoi. Long Bien Bridge is also a part of the most picturesque sites of the city that can be visited during Hanoi Instagram Private Tour

Phung Hung Street Art

When you are coming to Hanoi, don't miss a chance to visit creative frescoes to enjoy the arts of Vietnamese capital. Phung Hung Street is a famous place for mural paintings recalling memories of the old Hanoi. It was launched by Korean and Vietnamese artists. The murals expand for 200 meters with 19 paintings such as the images of the old Trang Tien department store, Long Bien Bridge, and flower vendors.

Phung Hung Street Art

Phung Hung Street Art is located along the north end of Phung Hung Street under the railway from the corner of Hang Huong to Han Luroc.

Cafes

Vietnam is also known as the 2nd largest coffee exporter in the world. Therefore, indulging in Vietnamese coffee culture is a must-do thing during a trip to Hanoi. Check out the 10 Popular Cafes in Hanoi that you should visit. 

Hanoi Book Street

An ideal place for "bookworm". Hanoi Book Street is a very new tourist attraction in Hanoi. Previously, this area was simply a road with few people walking by but once the bookstores came into existence, the space suddenly became bustling. If you are a book lover, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Hanoi Book Street and choose a new book for yourself.

Hanoi Book Street

Lotte Center

Lotte Center Hanoi is a skyscraper in Ba Đình, Hanoi, which is the 2nd tallest building in Vietnam after Bitexco in Saigon. The building gives you an opportunity to admire the view of entire capital from above. The best time to go there is in the evening when the city lights up. Book Admission Ticket for Lotte Observation and enjoy the view of Hanoi from 65th floor.

Where to Stay in Hanoi?

There are many areas in Hanoi that are good to stay for tourists and each of them has different advantages and disadvantages. If you are looking for accommodation in Hanoi and need help choosing the area that meets your needs the best, check our Guide to Hanoi Best Areas.

There is no shortage of hotels in Hanoi so you can easily find a hotel suitable for your budget. Some of the best rated hotels in Hanoi are listed below.

Luxury hotels for the best relaxation:

Nice hotels for a reasonable price:

Suggested budget friendly hostels in Hanoi can be found here: 9 Best Hostels in Hanoi.

Hanoi hotels we were staying at recently: Golden Moon Suite Hotel [Review] and Hanoi Luxury Hotel [Review].

Hanoi Nightlife

Hanoi nightlife is very lively as there are many activities for everyone to enjoy after sunset, from watching authentic Vietnamese performances and tasting local food to partying at famous Hanoi’s nightclubs and bars. Let's find out what you can do and what places to visit in Hanoi at night.

Hanoi Nightlife: Places to Visit in Hanoi at Night

Hanoi Transportation

Flights to Hanoi

Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) in Hanoi can be quite easily reached from Thailand. Direct flights from Bangkok to Hanoi are offered by full service carriers Vietnam Airlines, Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Qatar Airways and low cost carriers AirAsia, Vietjet Air, Thai Lion Air. Flight deals for this route can be found here:

Flights from Bangkok to Hanoi 

From Hanoi Airport to City Center

Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) is located about 25 km north of the city center. Traveling from Hanoi Airport to City Center is easy.

Taxi: There are many taxi companies waiting at the airport and taxi fare for a trip from the airport to city center is about 300,000 VND.

Bus: To save more, you can take a bus from the airport to Hanoi tourist area as currently there is 1 express bus and 4 local buses routes running between Noi Bai airport and the city center:

  • Express Bus No. 86: Noi Bai Airport → Hanoi Railway Station, ticket price 35,000 VND
  • Public Bus No. 07: Noi Bai Airport → Cau Giay Bus Station, ticket price 8,000 VND
  • Public Bus No. 17: Noi Bai Airport → Long Bien Transit Station, ticket price 9,000 VND
  • Public Bus No. 90: Noi Bai Airport → Kim Ma Bus Terminal, ticket price 9,000 VND
  • Public Bus No.109: Noi Bai Airport → My Dinh Bus Station, ticket price 8,000 VND

Private Transfer: Many people think that taking a private transfer from the airport is expensive but it's not like that in Hanoi as booking a private transfer here is more affordable. Various private transfer options can be found here: Private transfers from Hanoi Airport (HAN).

Airport shuttle buses: These buses are operated by the airlines and offer higher quality service but lower frequency than public buses (ticket price is about 40,000-60,000 VND):

  • Vietnam Airlines shuttle: Noi Bai Airport → Hanoi Old Quarter
  • Vietjet Air shuttle: Noi Bai Airport → Hanoi Old Quarter
  • Jetstar shuttle: Noi Bai Airport → Quang Trung Bus Station

For more details about all the ways for getting into the city check our detailed guide How to travel from Hanoi Airport to City Center that will help you choose the type transportation that is the most suitable for you.

If you will need cash for getting into the city, you can exchange money at Hanoi Airport.

Domestic Travels

The most popular domestic routes from Hanoi:

From Hanoi to Sapa

From Hanoi to Halong Bay

From Hanoi to Ninh Binh

From Hanoi to Hue

For more transportation options for traveling to/from Hanoi, use this search form.

Transportation within Hanoi

Walking: Most tourists explore Hanoi on foot, especially central areas around Hoan Kiem Lake and the nearby Hanoi Old Quarter.

Cyclo: This vehicle is now quite popular with tourists visiting attractions around the old town. The cyclo should cost you around 200,000 VND per hour. This type of Hanoi’s transportation can also be experienced on Hanoi Street Food Walking Tour with Cyclo Ride for exploring Hanoi.

Motorbike: This is a good choice for its convenience as by a motorbike you can go everywhere you want in Hanoi while enjoying true local experience. The motorbike rental price is about 100,000 - 200,000 VND per day.

Taxi: Taking a taxi is much safer than riding a motorbike for tourists even if taxi ride is more expensive. The taxi fare ranges from 10,000-12,000 VND to 13,600-17,000 VND per kilometer.

Public Bus: Public bus is another good option to get around Hanoi if you are familiar with Vietnam. Public bus tickets are very cheap as the ticket price is only from 7,000 to 10,000 VND. However, Hanoi has terrible traffic jams during rush hour so the journey by a bus can take a lot of time.

Hop On Hop Off Bus: Taking a Hop On Hop Off Bus is the best choice if you are travelling in Hanoi for the first time as it is an easy way to go to most of the attractions. There are 2 main companies providing this service:

Weather in Hanoi

The weather in Hanoi is defined by 4 distinct seasons with every season bringing its own beauty.

February - April

Spring is a good time to travel to Hanoi. The season of growth and vitality gives you opportunities to admire the beauty of many blooming flowers. The weather is also starting to get warmer.

May-July

This is the summer time in Hanoi so the weather becomes very hot and humid and it often rains at the end of the day so it can be uncomfortable to travel. The temperature at the daytime can rise up to over 40 degrees Celsius. However, this is a good time to organize picnics on the outskirts of Hanoi or enjoy time at the lake.

August-October

Autumn in Hanoi is an ideal time for exploring the dreamy beautiful capital. At this time of the year, the rainy season in Hanoi usually ends. The temperature is moderate, the sky is clear and not too sunny. The trees leaves across the streets begin to change color making it a perfect time for photography lovers.

November-January

For those who prefer colder weather when traveling, this is the best time to visit Hanoi. The weather is dry and sometimes temperature can be below 10 degrees Celsius. The city is quieter and less lively than during other seasons.  You might see the capital city hidden in the fog on some days.

Food in Hanoi

Hanoi cuisine is one of the reasons why this city attracts many local and foreign visitors. If getting familiar with Vietnamese cuisine is included in your must-do list, you can join this popular food tour around Hanoi's Old Quarter to experience local delicacies.

Food in Hanoi

The best of local dishes in Hanoi are as follows:

Pho: It is said that if you came to Hanoi and didn’t try local Pho, you have never been here. Pho Hanoi is different from other places, with the sweetness of beef bones, clear noodles, thin and soft noodles. Famous beef noodle dish is Pho Ly Quoc Su.

Bun Bo Nam Bo: A noodle salad made with rice vermicelli noodles, stir-fried beef strips, vegetables, fried onion, roasted peanuts.

Bun cha: A small piece of grilled chopped pork with a strong aroma of marinated spices, served with sweet and sour soup, cool noodles and raw vegetables.

Cha Ca: A traditional specialty grilled fish with turmeric marinade and heaps of fresh dill. The best place to try this dish is Cha Ca La Vong restaurant.

Banh Cuon: A rolled rice flour pancake with ground pork and mushrooms. You can easily find it on any street of Hanoi.

Banh Mi: Vietnamese bread sandwiches filled with any meat and sauce. It can be considered as the symbol of Vietnamese street food because you can find it everywhere. 

Shopping in Hanoi

Hanoi is also one of the shopping hubs of the country. There are many places for tourists to shop, from traditional markets, boutiques shop to luxurious department stores. The best area for shopping in Hanoi is in the Old Quarter. The souvenirs can be bought at the night market.

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