Hanoi: 31 Top Things To Do (Ultimate Guide)

In this ultimate guide to Hanoi, Vietnam’s charming capital, we give you the top things to do, the best way to explore, where to eat and stay, and the many trips around you can do.
In this ultimate guide to Hanoi, Vietnam’s charming capital, we give you the top things to do, the best way to explore, where to eat and stay, and the many trips around you can do.
Hanoi Long Bien Bridge from air
Hanoi Long Bien Bridge from air
Hanoi Long Bien Bridge from air

Hanoi: 31 Top Things To Do (Ultimate Guide)

In this ultimate guide to Hanoi, Vietnam’s charming capital, we give you the top things to do, the best way to explore, where to eat and stay, and the many trips around you can do.
In this ultimate guide to Hanoi, Vietnam’s charming capital, we give you the top things to do, the best way to explore, where to eat and stay, and the many trips around you can do.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Arijana and Matej - Shipped Away
Hi! We're Arijana & Matej

Welcome & thank you for reading our blog. :) We love what we do and put a lot of work in our free articles. So if you find them helpful, please consider supporting us.

Arijana and Matej - Shipped Away
Hi! We're Arijana & Matej

Welcome & thank you for reading our blog. :) We love what we do and put a lot of work in our free articles. So if you find them helpful, please consider supporting us.

Disclaimer: We use affiliate links, so anytime you book something through them, we can earn a small commission with no extra cost to you.

About Hanoi

Hanoi, the charming capital of Vietnam, is famous for its narrow houses, important historical and cultural sites, and incredible food.

And Hanoi is the best place to start your journey to the fantastic locations of North Vietnam, like Sa Pa, Mu Cang Chai, Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Ban Gioc, and Ha Long Bay.

We were based in Hanoi for a good few months. And we keep returning there repeatedly. It’s right after Da Nang for our best places to stay long-term.

Somehow, the combination of the traffic, sounds, smells, taste, and all other senses being overloaded, keep bringing us back.

Skip ahead to:

Traveling to Vietnam soon?
Vietnam e-Visa 2022: How to enter Vietnam (Full Guide)

Sunset at Long Bien Bridge Hanoi
Sunset at Long Bien bridge in Hanoi

Did you know?

We explored Vietnam for more than 1 year and a half
and wrote 29 and counting detailed articles.

Did you know?
We explored Vietnam for more than 1 year and a half and wrote 29 and counting detailed articles.

Hanoi Travel Tips

Location: Hanoi is easy to reach through its international airport (Noi Bai – HAN), about 45 minutes drive away from Hanoi’s Old Quarter, countless buses from all over Vietnam, and trains from the south.

Transport: Going around Hanoi is usually easiest by walking, as most places in the Old Quarter are not too far. And for some further away locations, we recommend booking a Grab car/bike/taxi.

Getting to and from Hanoi: We highly recommend 12go.asia for booking buses/trains from and to most destinations in Vietnam.

Internet, calls: The easiest way to stay connected on your trip to Hanoi and Vietnam is to get an affordable local SIM card (at the airport or in one of the supermarkets/phone stores). You can also buy an affordable Vietnam eSIM online through Airalo or Holafly (perfect option for shorter trips).

Currency: The currency used in Hanoi and Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong, abbreviated as VND, and 1 USD is around 24.000 Vietnamese Dong.

Tours, activities, tickets: There are plenty of options for booking tours online and in many tour agency offices across the city, but the biggest selection of trusted ones is found on GetYourGuide, Viator, and Klook (Klook is especially great for tickets).

Insurance: We recommend both Heymondo (get 5% off for being our reader) and SafetyWing (which we personally use at the moment).

Laundry: Get your laundry done in WorldWash; it’s in the Old Quarter, super close to Hoan Kiem Lake, and offers affordable express service.

Hanoi Travel Map

Map thanks to Wanderlog, a vacation planner app on iOS and Android
Click here to see our map on Wanderlog

Top things to do in Hanoi

1. Visit the Temple of Literature

The most famous, picturesque, and worth-visiting temple in Hanoi is definitely the ancient Temple of Literature, built in 1070, home to the Imperial Academy, the first Vietnamese national University.

We loved exploring the gardens leading up to the Temple of Literature and all the details inside.

Hanoi’s Temple of Literature is very busy, and it’s one of the prominent locations for group tours. So if you’d like to avoid crowds, make sure to come early in the day

Tickets

The Temple of Literature ticket costs 30.000 VND ($1.25) and is open daily from 7:30 am to 6 pm from 15th April to 15th October.

And between 15th October and 15th April, it’s open from 8 am to 5 pm.

Entrance is free of charge for those under 15 years of age.

Beautiful pond and greenery at the Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam

Also, Hanoi students come to the Temple of Literature’s Courtyard of Sages to celebrate their graduation.

Students celebrating graduation at the Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam

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2. Stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake

A visit to Hanoi is not complete without strolling around the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s surrounded by lots of trees and a nice walking path.

During the weekend, the whole road around Hoan Kiem Lake is closed to traffic and becomes an excellent pedestrian zone. And that’s when it becomes really lively, especially at night when you can find dancing, playing games, karaoke and more.

There are a lot of stalls that pop up, and many times performances or shows are being held there. So definitely check it out if you’re in Hanoi on the weekend.

Turtle tower at the Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi, Vietnam

3. Cross the red bridge to Ngoc Son Temple

You can cross the iconic red bridge to reach the small island of Hoan Kiem Lake with the beautiful Ngoc Son Temple.

It’s definitely worth visiting, as it’s quite a cool-looking place. And you can snap some lovely photos of the bridge, temple, and next to the lake.

Tickets

The red bridge and Ngoc Son Temple ticket costs 30.000 VND ($1.3), and it’s open from 8 am to 6 pm daily.

Arijana Tkalcec on the red bridge at Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi

4. Explore Old Quarter

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is the historic old quarter of 36 busy streets traditionally lined with different shops and small factories, where each street specializes in a different craft.

So you have streets in the Old Quarter dedicated to selling shoes, metalwork, woodwork, appliances, and more.

5. Check out St. Joseph’s Cathedral

St. Joseph’s Cathedral is the oldest church in Hanoi, just a few streets away from Hoan Kiem Lake. And it’s one of Indochina’s first French colonial buildings.

Just a short walk from St. Joseph’s Cathedral, you can find the Collective Memory – The House of Curios shop, selling unique souvenirs from Hanoi’s outstanding artists.

St. Joseph's Cathedral in December with Christmas decorations, Old Quarter, Hanoi, Vietnam

6. Eat delicious Banh Mi

No visit to Hanoi or Vietnam is complete without eating some delicious Banh Mi. And Hanoi absolutely delivers in terms of delicious Banh Mi options!

Banh Mi 25

We frequented Banh Mi 25, Hanoi’s most famous banh mi spot, during our many months there. It’s the perfect place to grab a quick bite and drink in the Old Quarter.

Not long after opening in 2014, Banh Mi 25 became so famous that it’s now also a tourist attraction. And it’s among the top things to do in many travel guides online (like ours) and even guidebooks. Be prepared to queue up if you’re visiting during the busiest time.

Although the price is a bit higher than what you will pay at a regular banh mi stall, it’s rightfully so because Banh Mi 25’s sandwiches are really damn good and filling

It’s a very busy spot, so remember that this is Hanoi, Vietnam, so if all you’re left with is to sit on a small plastic chair somewhere on the side, take the opportunity to experience it!

We also met the friendly owner and co-founder, a really nice guy. He’s the face of the brand, and you can see him on the logo.

Banh Mi 25 restaurant in Old Quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam

Along with the “main” spot, they also had a “Work & Chill” spot not far from it. But as of September 2022, it was still closed as the number of tourists wasn’t high enough yet. We’ll update the article once it’s open.

Oh, and on our recent visit in September 2022, we also tried their delicious Banh Mi Chao. Amazing! If you have the chance, give it a go.

Vegan Banh Mi 

You can find the Vegan Banh Mi restaurant in a small alley not far from Hanoi’s Old Quarter, with excellent vegan banh mi and even vegan pho, summer rolls, and more.

We managed to squeeze in a visit to try their banh mi and spring rolls. And we would love to try their pho on our next visit! According to reviews, it’s supposedly fabulous.

The restaurant is quite small, with only a few seating options inside. And if it’s packed inside, you are offered to take away or do like us and sit outside on the street, true Vietnamese style. 

When you come to the address, simply walk into the alley where the sign is. It’s tucked inside one of the houses there.

If you read any of our Vietnam articles, you already know how easy it is to be vegan or vegetarian in Vietnam.

If not, check our Vegan and Vegetarian Guide to Vietnam.

7. Visit Hidden Gem Coffee

Visit Hidden Gem Coffee, found in one of Hanoi’s narrow streets, to see the work of the creative owner that transformed trash into treasure by creating unique furniture and decorative pieces.

Arijana Tkalcec and Matej Span on an old motorbike at Hidden Gem Coffee in Hanoi, Vietnam

You can find beautiful murals of people along the upper walls of the Hidden Gem Coffee. And one of them is even the owner’s grandma!

We truly loved the vibe there, and our coconut coffee was delicious.

The team at Hidden Gem Coffee also organizes the Hanoi Backstreet Tours. And you can also visit their cafe as part of one of the tours.

8. Visit The Note Coffee

Visit The Note Coffee next to Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake to experience a cool cafe concept where you can leave a note for others to read. And not only that, you receive a note from the staff with your drinks.

All the rooms in the cafe are filled with notes from thousands of visitors. So make sure to check some of them out. You never know what you will find.

Arijana Tkalcec and Matej Span enjoying a cup of coffee at The Note Coffee, Hanoi, Vietnam

9. Visit Street Murals

You can visit the Hanoi Street Murals on Phung Hung street, where the arches under the train tracks are decorated with beautiful murals showing Hanoi’s tales and history.

Although some of the murals are no longer looking as good as in some photos. It’s been a few years since they were put up. But they are still pretty and worth visiting!

Note: The murals are right across the street from a few dog meat vendors. So don’t be surprised if you see that.

10. Visit Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural

Along the walls of Hanoi’s Red River dike is the Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural, the Guinness World Record holder for the longest ceramic mural, at 6.5 kilometers.

The Ceramic Mosaic Mural is made of ceramic squares from the nearby Bat Trang village, known for its porcelain.

We loved driving along the road and observing the countless beautiful art pieces. And it indeed stretches for so long that it seems like there’s no end. 

And as far as we have seen, they seem to keep adding new sections to the mosaic mural. We’ve seen it go far into the Tay Ho (West Lake) area and even further north towards the Red River.

Although you can, in a way, visit the mural with a motorbike, it’s a very busy road. So it’s pretty dangerous to park on the side to observe it. So we highly recommend going on foot.

Tip: We highly recommend starting underneath the Cầu Chương Dương bridge and making your way north towards Long Bien bridge.

We loved that part.

Ceramic Mosaic Mural in Hanoi, Vietnam

11. Watch a sunset on Long Bien Bridge

Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi is the perfect spot to watch a sunset, and we did it on a few occasions. We loved the view of the banana plantations, the city, and the river below.

Many photoshoots are always happening at Long Bien Bridge, as it’s regarded as one of the most romantic spots in the city. Hence, it’s often jam-packed with couples.

Arijana Tkalcec at sunset on the Long Bien Bridge, Hanoi, Vietnam

Note: People sometimes climb over the fence onto the tracks to take those great photos you might have seen online. And even though we really wanted to get that photo ourselves, we decided not to. 

Honestly, we’re not quite sure why it would be such a big deal to step on the tracks because the train rarely passes over that bridge, the same as through Hanoi Train Street.

Train crossing the Long Bien Bridge over the Banana Plantations, Hanoi, Vietnam

12. Try Hanoi’s cuisine

Hanoi offers delicious local food and all kinds of different world cuisines, from the food of neighboring countries to Italian, Mexican, and more.

Although we must agree with many others in saying that the central part of Vietnam has the best food in general.

But don’t worry, Hanoi is full of incredible food. And you will definitely be more than satisfied with the options and taste of its cuisine. You can count on that!

Hint: Some of the best Hanoi food is found at small street food popup stalls.

Local street food spot at Ba Dinh area of Hanoi, Vietnam

13. Try egg coffee

Egg coffee is Vietnam’s specialty coffee made with, you guessed it, egg! It’s like an espresso shot that’s topped with a creamy egg mixture.

We visited the famous Cafe Giảng, the cafe owned by the son of Nguyen Giang, the original creator of the egg coffee during the milk shortage in the 1940s due to the French War.

Arijana tried it and actually enjoyed it after questioning it for a short while! There is a hot and iced version, and the iced one is great on a hot day.

14. Try Hanoi’s famous ice cream

The Kem tươi Tràng Tiền shop has Hanoi’s most famous ice cream, which generations have come to know as the “original ice cream shop” since its opening in 1958.

The ice cream is simple yet very tasty, but make sure to eat it very fast. Hanoi’s hot weather will start melting it in seconds!

The Trang Tien ice cream is an icon of Hanoi, and unlike some places, the price is still an affordable 12.000 VND ($0.5) for one stick.

15. Visit Hanoi Train Street

Hanoi’s Train Street is the latest and greatest tourist attraction in Hanoi. But, unfortunately, its quick rise to fame also brought problems, as they already closed it for the first time in 2019, then reopened shortly in 2021 and 2022. And then, they closed it again in September 2022 for the supposedly final time.

Train passing through Hanoi's Train Street

There was a way before, and supposedly also now, where you could contact a cafe owner and arrange to come with them to the train street. But we don’t have any first-hand info on who to contact.

We have a complete guide and YouTube video about it. So you can read or watch it to learn more about this iconic spot in Hanoi.

Guarded, barricaded and closed famous Hanoi Train Street, Hanoi, Vietnam
The entrance to the Hanoi Train Street is now barricaded and guarded. (Photo taken in October 2022)

16. Visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum in Hanoi is one of the most “interesting” attractions, as it houses the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh, the so-called “father of Vietnam.”

Visiting tip: You can not bring any camera or phone inside the actual Mausoleum building and have to leave them at the entrance.

Also, no skirts, tank tops, or similar are allowed inside.

You are permitted to take photos outside in the park area, though. And if you visit the One Pillar Pagoda, which you enter through the Mausoleum grounds, you can also take pictures there.

If you’re lucky, you can witness the change of guard that is supposedly happening every hour on the hour, so at 8 am, 9 am, and so on. Unfortunately, we’re unsure of the exact schedule as none is officially posted. Still, the mornings seem the best time to witness the ceremony.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum building and park in Hanoi, Vietnam

Yearly preservation: From around October to November/December every year, you can’t see Ho Chi Minh’s body in the Mausoleum, as the body is transported to Russia for preservation/upkeep.

17. Visit the imperial and colonial heart of Hanoi

The whole area around Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum is full of historical buildings, royal residences, and colonial mansions like the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House, Flag Tower, and the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.

Flag Tower, historical landmark in Hanoi, Vietnam

The whole area is regarded as high-security and is heavily guarded by guards with big guns. It makes sense as it’s also where most of the embassies are, like the ones of Korea, Sri Lanka, China, Morocco, Spain, Malaysia, and Canada.

And we think Hanoi’s embassies have the coolest buildings, as they all seem to be inside these beautiful villas/mansions. We have no photos, though; you’re quickly told not to take any by guards.

18. Visit the Hoa Lo Prison Relic

The French colonial government built the Hoa Lo Prison in the late 1800s and used it as a prison for Vietnamese revolutionaries and anti-colonial fighters.

Those who were imprisoned were also often executed by the French. And later, it’s also where US prisoners of the Vietnam War were held. And that’s how it got the iconic name of Hanoi Hilton.

The Hoa Lo Prison was demolished in the 1990s, and now only the gatehouse remains, which serves as a museum.

You can visit the Hoa Lo museum by yourself, with a tour guide, or get an audio guide. Most people recommend the audio guide, as you get the most information that way.

Tickets

The ticket for the Hoa Lo Prison Relic costs 30.000 VND ($1.25) and it’s open daily from 8 am to 5 pm.

19. Ride in a cyclo

Vietnam is famous for cyclo rides, and you can do one in Hanoi’s Old Quarter as well.

Remember that although the cyclos are now used purely for tourism, they were used as an actual mode of transportation up until the 1990s. However, they were used mainly by the wealthy, not so much by the working class.

We didn’t go for a cyclo ride, as for us it’s not that much of a fun experience. But maybe you’d like it!

Family on a cyclo ride in Hoi An, Vietnam
This one is from Hoi An, but they’re pretty much similar. Maybe the Hanoi ones are a bit more vintage. 😀

20. Shop at the markets

Among the many markets in Hanoi, the Dong Xuan Market in the Old Quarter is the biggest and most famous one. And not because it caters to tourists, but because it’s a wholesale market visited mostly by locals for actual shopping.

Another market worth checking out is the Quảng Bá Flower Market. It’s a bit away from Old Quarter, next to Tay Ho – West Lake, which sells various flowers from around the world.

We suggest visiting the flower market in the evening, after 10 pm, up until the early morning. That’s the period with the most flowers on display.

Motorbike full of beautiful fresh flowers for sale, Hanoi, Vietnam
Flowers sold on the streets that possibly came from the flower market.

21. Eat and shop at the Night Market

Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 6 pm to 11 pm, you can visit Hanoi’s Old Quarter Night Market to eat and shop around.

The almost 3 kilometers long night market in Hanoi’s Old Quarter is filled with nearly 4000 stalls with street food, souvenirs, and cheap goods. It stretches from Hang Dao Street to the entrance of the Dong Xuan Market.

Close to the market’s beginning is Hoan Kiem lake’s pedestrian zone, where you can find performances, people dancing, playing games, karaoke, and more.

Jumping rope on the weekend at Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

22. Get clothes Tailored

Hanoi is a great place to get clothes tailored.

Although the most famous Tailoring in Vietnam is done in Hoi An, you will still be able to find excellent tailors with great deals in Hanoi.

We got a pair of linen pants tailored at Gian Don at West Lake. And they turned out great and were actually very affordable. You can also buy some ready-made things there, especially for women.

23. Drink Bia Hoi at Beer Corner

Have a beer the Hanoi style, called Bia Hoi, translated to “fresh beer,”  for only about 10000 VND ($0.4) per glass while sitting on tiny plastic chairs along the streets of Hanoi’s Ta Hien Beer Street.

Drinking Bia Hoi is a very social activity. And it’s one of the most popular ways for people to hang out in the evenings.

The price of Bia Hoi in Hanoi will vary, and you can pay as little as 5000 VND ($0.2) and as much as 15000 VND ($0.6). So for many, it’s often a game of finding the cheapest one.

24. Learn about pottery

Hanoi’s nearby villages, like Bat Trang, are famous for their pottery, and you can visit them or join a pottery class in the city.

We found two cool tours, one with a pottery class in the Old Quarter and one that takes you to the Bat Trang village on a motorbike.

25. Join a cooking class

Join a cooking class to fully experience Hanoi’s local cuisine and what goes into preparing these wonderful dishes.

And the good news for all veggies is that they are also vegetarian-friendly!

Klook.com

26. Visit the Vietnamese Women’s Museum

The Women’s Museum in Hanoi is a museum that celebrates the role of women in Vietnamese society and provides knowledge about the cultural and family background of Vietnamese women from 54 different ethnic communities.

Tickets

The ticket to the Vietnamese Women’s Museum in Hanoi is 40.000 VND ($1.7), and it’s open daily from 8 am to 5 pm.

27. See a Water Puppet Show

Hanoi is famous for the Water Puppet Show performances, dating back to the 11th century, with the most famous being held at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.

We didn’t end up visiting the puppet shows, but others seemed to love it.

28. Walk around West Lake

Walk around the West Lake (Tay Ho), the big lake not far out from Hanoi’s Old Quarter lined with excellent cafes and restaurants.

And on the northern side of the lake is where most ex-pats in Hanoi are based and hang out. It’s also where you can find countless international restaurants and shops.

Man with a Vietnamese conical hat (Non La) inside the water of Tay Ho (West Lake), Hanoi, Vietnam

It’s one of our favorite areas in Hanoi because of the big lake, restaurants, cool cafes, and chill vibe. And Tay Ho is also a great place for watching the sunset.

Sunset at Tay Ho (West Lake) in Hanoi, Vietnam

29. Visit the Tran Quoc Pagoda on the West Lake

On the way from the Old Quarter to the Tay Ho area, you will surely pass by the Tran Quoc Pagoda on a small island on the West Lake. It’s a cool place that’s worth a short visit.

Tran Quoc Pagoda on the island at Tay Ho (West Lake), Hanoi, Vietnam

And very close to the Tran Quoc Pagoda is the Quan Thanh Temple, one of Hanoi’s four sacred temples. You can’t miss it, as the beautiful gate is right next to the road.

30. Cycle through Banana Plantations on Banana Island

The Banana Plantations or Banana Island is more of a hidden gem of Hanoi and is such a great place to cycle, ride or walk through.

It’s an oasis in between two parts of the bustling city. And we love the countless banana trees and vegetable gardens along the narrow path leading through the fields.

Cultivated vegetable gardens surrounded by banana trees, Banana Island, Hanoi, Vietnam

2022 Update: There are plans to further urbanize the Red River, and it’s likely that the Banana Island will be built out in the near future. We truly hope it won’t happen, as it’s one of our favorite spots in Hanoi.

Staircase from Banana Island to Long Bien Bridge

You can actually get up to the Long Bien Bridge at one point of the Banana Island, as there’s a convenient staircase and a motorbike/bicycle ramp.

Motorbike tip: We even managed to get up on our motorbike, which was quite exciting. But be extra careful, as the Long Bien Bridge is almost always very busy. So don’t take too much time getting up, as others will be waiting to get up or down. You also need to get on the road and move as soon as you’re up.

So we recommend parking your bicycle/motorbike under the bridge, walking up the stairs, and onto the bridge.

31. Day trip to Ba Vi National Park

A less-known nature spot to visit near Hanoi is the Ba Vi National Park, about a 2-hour drive from Hanoi by car/motorbike.

We visited Ba Vi National Park with two friends and did the most tourist visit possible. We drove to the top point with our motorbikes and then did a short walk up to the temple.

Bao Thien Tower in the clouds at Ba Vi National Park near Hanoi, Vietnam

You can get there by yourself or go on a day or overnight tour.

The entrance ticket for the Ba Vi National Park costs 60.000 VND ($2.5).

Accomodation

A popular place to stay is the Melia Ba Vi Mountain Retreat.

You can also go hiking in the Ba Vi National Park, and most people go on organized tours. We want to go again on another visit as it seems like a nice place to experience a bit of the jungle and see some waterfalls.

Trips from Hanoi

Hanoi is the best starting point for trips to the many extraordinary locations of North Vietnam, like Ha Long Bay, Sa Pa, Ninh Binh, Ha Giang, and more.

Klook.com

1. Ha Long Bay Cruise

Going on a cruise in Ha Long Bay is a super fun experience and definitely a must-do thing in Vietnam.

The journey to Ha Long Bay usually starts by getting picked up by your cruise operator in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. And then you drive to Ha Long Bay, where you board your cruise.

So definitely book a cruise with transport included if you don’t plan to visit Ha Long city or the area.

We went on an overnight Ha Long Bay Cruise with Capella Cruise, which was an incredible trip. Depending on your budget, you can also join a daily one or even a multi-day one.

Spectacular Ha Long Bay 2-day 1 night Cruise at Capella

2. Sa Pa

Sa Pa is a great destination to visit on a few days trip from Hanoi, as it’s easily reachable with frequent buses, the most reliable one being the Sa Pa Express.

Bus Ticket

Book your bus: Sa Pa Express from Hanoi.

Mountainous landscape of Sa Pa, North Vietnam

And if you’re interested in a more funky bus to take you to Sa Pa, you can get aboard the Sa Pa Valentine or Mickey Mouse bus by Interbus.

It also has double beds for couples (or you book a double for yourself to be extra comfy). We booked a Valentine/love-themed one for our trip to Sa Pa, which was an interesting experience. 😀

3. Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is only 100km south of Hanoi, easily reachable by daily vans (called limousines), buses, trains, and private cars in about 2 hours.

Ninh Binh is a fantastic place to visit, and we highly recommend it to everyone. It’s definitely in the top spots for us in Vietnam.

Read more: 📖 Ultimate Ninh Binh Guide.

Watch our YouTube video: 🎥 Ninh Binh Travel Guide

Arijana Tkalčec at Am Tien Cave, Ninh Binh

4. Mai Chau

Among the less visited but equally worthwhile places in North Vietnam is Mai Chau, just 4 hours away from Hanoi. It offers beautiful rice fields for cycling through, a waterfall to explore, and a great local market to visit.

Read more: 📖 Mai Chau Travel Guide.

Watch our YouTube video: 🎥 Exploring Mai Chau Valley – Travel Guide

Arijana Tkalčec and Matej Špan cycling Mai Chau

5. Mu Cang Chai

One of the places we love the most in North Vietnam is Mu Cang Chai, an absolute masterpiece in itself. The locals in Mu Cang Chai are masters of rice farming, and their terraced rice fields are an incredible site to observe!

Although we explored Mu Cang Chai on our own, there are trekking tours that can take you around the indigenous villages and beautiful rice terraces.

6. Ha Giang

Visiting Ha Giang is a must-do thing in Vietnam, as it’s home to Vietnam’s most fascinating landscape and is easy to reach from Hanoi.

You can start a Ha Giang tour from Hanoi or book a bus to Ha Giang City. And then rent a motorbike and make the Ha Giang loop yourself. Or you can also get an easy rider (they drive, and you enjoy the views).

Shipped Away on the Ha Giang Loop with QT Motorbikes

7. Ban Gioc waterfall

Before coming to Vietnam for the first time, one of our biggest wishes was to see the majestic Ban Gioc waterfall in the far north, right on the border with China. 

The easiest way to get to Ban Gioc waterfall is either on tour or by booking a bus from Hanoi to Cao Bang, the nearest city. And then, taking the local bus directly to the waterfall or renting a motorbike and driving there yourself.

Read more: 📖 Ultimate Guide to Ban Gioc Waterfall

Watch our YouTube video: 🎥 Ban Gioc Waterfall

We highly recommend staying in the Ban Gioc area for at least a night or two if you have time. It’s so serene and beautiful and our favorite place in all of Vietnam.

Aerial view of Ban Gioc waterfall.

Best time to visit Hanoi

The best time to visit Hanoi is during the autumn months of September, October, and November, and in spring, from February to April, as in these periods, it’s not too hot, and there isn’t as much rain.

And October to April is also the busiest time of the year in Hanoi (tourist-wise).

Autumn in Hanoi is truly beautiful. And we love it the most out of all the other seasons we got to experience throughout the year.

Experiencing a cold winter in Hanoi

We were unlucky to experience Hanoi’s super cold winter in December 2020 and January 2021, when the temperatures dropped far under 10 degrees Celsius. And we were totally shocked and without any warm clothes. So we booked a flight to Phu Quoc and went there for a few weeks.

Usually, temperatures don’t drop that low in Hanoi, maybe down to 15 degrees Celsius. But in 2020, it got really, really cold, and everyone was shivering!

Where to stay in Hanoi

Hanoi offers plenty of great accommodation options for any budget, and the best place to stay is in Old Quarter or just outside of it.

Staying in the Old Quarter while in Hanoi will allow you to visit most attractions on foot. Though walking around is not the most excellent activity in Hanoi, it’s the best way to feel the city.

Note: It’s common that many hotel/hostel rooms come without any windows in Hanoi, especially in the Old Quarter. Once you visit, you will understand why (narrow houses, closely together). So make sure to check when you’re booking a room. So that you will get what you want and not feel cheated for no reason.

In addition to our experience, we also did extensive research to find the best options.

We’ll give you the best-reviewed and trusted places to stay according to different budgets.

Luxury stays

Mid-range stays

Hanoi budget stays

View of the lake from Lakeside House hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam
The view from our apartment at Lakeside House in Hanoi.

Hanoi hostels/dorms

We tried to find a well-reviewed, well-managed, clean hostel with a shared dormitory that we could trust and recommend. But we were quite disappointed in the choice.

And covid left its mark on some accommodations as well. So at the moment, we would recommend booking a room in a private room rather than a hostel. The price of a private room is maybe a few dollars per night higher, but worth it.

Note: For some reason, Hanoi was the worst out of all cities in terms of budget accommodation. On numerous occasions, we had to request cleaning upon check-in because some places were obviously not properly cleaned in ages. So if that happens to you, simply request cleaning and don’t ignore it.

In other cities, the budget accommodations were mostly quite clean.

Locals playing Vietnamese chess on the street in Hanoi's Old Quarter

Where to eat in Hanoi

There are so many great places to eat in Hanoi, as it offers something for every taste and hosts restaurants of many different cuisines.

Many new international restaurants are found in the Tay Ho (West Lake) area. And it’s easy to get there with a Grab/taxi ride.

Some places we highly recommend (some are vegan/vegetarian as that’s what we eat):

Best Hanoi local food spot (our favorite)

The best local food in cities in Vietnam is often found far away from the tourist areas, which also holds true for Hanoi.

So we are finally ready to share our favorite place to eat local Vietnamese food in Hanoi!

It’s located by the Hồ Hữu Tiệp lake in the Ba Dinh area, a 15-minute ride from Old Quarter. They start selling food in the evening, with many small street food shops opening between 5 and 6 pm. And they usually sell out around 10-11 pm, so the sweet spot is around 7 pm.

We don’t know this restaurant’s exact name, as it’s a very local, simple place. However, it’s the first and second house when you enter the path around the lake.

There are also other small restaurants all along the path around the lake and in the area. And according to our friend who lives nearby, they are also great.

🍺 Note: When you sit down, you will each be served a glass of Bia Hoi (fresh Hanoi beer). Automatically, without even asking for it. That’s how food is enjoyed there, with a glass of beer. If you don’t like beer, just say you don’t want it.

🗣 Also, they don’t always speak English, so try to use Google Translate if in doubt.

⭐ Dishes we highly recommend here:

  • Đậu hũ sốt cà chua (tofu in tomato sauce)
  • Ngô chiên (crispy fried corn kernels)
  • Rau muống xào tỏi (the famous dish “morning glory” – water spinach with garlic)

➕ Other dishes you can also find here:

  • Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese crepe/pancake, usually filled with pork, shrimp, and veggies – if you want vegetarian, ask if they maybe have Bánh Xèo Chay)
  • Fried rice
  • Sauteed veggies
  • Fried Corn
  • Satay/BBQ meat

Read More

Read all about vegan/vegetarian food in Vietnam:
Vegan and Vegetarian Guide to Vietnam – Surprisingly Easy

How to get to Hanoi

The easiest way to get to Hanoi is to fly into the Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) or by train and intercity buses from Ninh Binh, Hue, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City.

Ninh Binh train ride
Photo from our 26 hours train ride from Ninh Binh to Nha Trang. (click for YouTube video)

How to get around Hanoi

Going around Hanoi is usually the easiest on foot, and when visiting a few locations further out from the Old Quarter, it’s best to book a Grab car/taxi.

Although walking in Hanoi is not the most pleasant thing in the world due to the lack of sidewalks, or those that exist being filled with bikes. But you quickly get used to it.

We also recommend getting a Grab bike ride if you’re solo; it’s faster and cheaper.

Grab bike rider taking a passenger with a backpack and suitcase, Hanoi's Old Quarter, Vietnam

Renting a bicycle in Hanoi is another option to experience the incredibly busy traffic fully. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the chance to do it. But we saw some tourists on bikes, so it is definitely a thing.

You can, of course, also rent a motorbike and explore Hanoi like that, and that’s also our preferred method. We love crisscrossing Hanoi’s main streets and back alleys.

How many days in Hanoi is enough?

The perfect time for most short-term visitors to Hanoi is two full days to see all the city highlights.

Though we do recommend adding a few more days to fully experience this wonderful city that we once called home.

Street fruit seller passing the Tam Phu Linh Tu temple in Hanoi's Old Quarter

Prices in Hanoi

Hanoi is not an expensive destination at all and is great for any budget, as it offers various accommodations, restaurants, and activities in addition to affordable attraction tickets.

And while you can definitely splurge and enjoy the luxury part of Hanoi, you can also go the backpacker/local way and keep it simple.

AccommodationFoodTransport
Hotel: $20 – $50 / nightInexpensive meal: $1 – $2.5Taxi 1km: $1 – $2
Hostel: $5 – $10 / nightMid-range meal: $5 – $10Motorbike rental: $5 – $10
Hanoi budget overview

Is Hanoi a safe destination?

Like all of Vietnam, Hanoi is a safe destination for any traveler. 

Health Insurance

No matter the general safety situation, we always advise against traveling outside your country without valid travel insurance.

We recommend the following for Vietnam:

Man getting a shave on the streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter, Vietnam

Is Hanoi worth visiting?

Hanoi is definitely worth visiting for its charming streets, historical buildings, cultural sites and temples, and delicious food.

We hope we have inspired you to visit Hanoi and hope you will love it as much as us.

Arijana & Matej
Arijana & Matej

We thrive while slow-traveling and focus on experiences, meeting locals, and immersing ourselves in the cultures we stumble upon. And we want to share this all with you.

So if you like our work, and would like to support us, you can tip us a coffee.

Arijana & Matej
Arijana & Matej

We thrive while slow-traveling and focus on experiences, meeting locals, and immersing ourselves in the cultures we stumble upon. And we want to share this all with you.

So if you like our work, and would like to support us, you can tip us a coffee.

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