For the first time in Vietnam, having a few days in Hanoi is a must as this is not only the capital but also the political and cultural center of the country. As a more than 1000 years old city, Hanoi has more things to offer you more than your expected.
So why do people keep coming to Hanoi? It is a special city where has a slow pace lifestyle but is still very crowded. You can spend their day time on wandering through small streets and alleys in the Old Quarter, eat some world-known signature street foods, drink a cup of super-strong Vietnamese coffee or taste the fatty sweet mixed a little biter of the egg coffee, buy a few lovely souvenirs, see and listen to the noisy sound of locals and traders around you. You can also take a tour to visit some historical attractions, museums, temples, and pagodas to dig deeper into Vietnam’s history, culture, and religion.
When the night comes, you can join a night street food tour, shopping in the night market, enjoy the walking streets, get drunk in a crowded local bar, or just simply watch a cultural performance such as the Water Puppet show, Tu Phu show, The Quintessence of Tonkin, My Village, etc. In general, you cannot be bored when traveling to Hanoi, because even the locals cannot experience all the sides of this city.
When to visit Hanoi?
From September to April is the best time to visit Hanoi. However, the most beautiful and comfortable time to travel to this city is autumn (September - November). After August, the hot season in Hanoi with the temperature up to 45oC almost ends, the weather is cooler, rains stop and trees start to change their leaves. As most of the time you travel in Hanoi is outside, the fall weather here is very supportive to have the perfect trip as it is very dry, cool, and refreshing.
Meanwhile, other good times to visit Hanoi are winter and spring. If you cannot come to Hanoi in autumn, winter can also be considered as the second choice. From November to January, the weather is colder. You should come to Vietnam in the early winter as it is not so cold the humidity is still quite low. On the other hand, the weather of Hanoi winter in December and January is not suitable for people who have Osteoarthritis as it is cold and has high humidity.
From February to April is Hanoi springtime. It is warm and a little wet. If you have no pollen allergy and don’t mind to travel under the drizzle, springtime should be considered as a good time to visit Hanoi, especially this is the time of many events such as the Lunar New Year, spring festivals, Easter Day, etc.
Where to visit in Hanoi?
- Hanoi Old Quarter
If you come to Hanoi without visiting the Old Quarter means you haven’t been here. The Old Quarter is actually Hanoi of the last centuries when this city was still a very small metropolis built in the French colonial period. There are 36 streets here which each street was named by the products selling on it; for example, Hang Bac (Silver St.) had silver and jewelry stores, Hang Thiec (Tin St.) sold products made of tin, Hang Dong (Bronze St.) sold brazen products, Hang Ga (Chicken St.) sold poultry, etc. Some streets in Hanoi Old Quarter are still selling their traditional products but some are not anymore, but wandering through crowded trading streets with colorful stores selling different products is still very interesting and joyful. Besides, Hanoi Old Quarter is where you can find the best street food here. Not only the tourists, the locals in Hanoi usually come to the Old Quarter to enjoy tasty meals. In addition, if you are interested in Vietnamese religious life and ancient architecture, there are many temples and pagoda inside the Old Quarter (some have more than 100 years old) waiting for your visit and most of them are totally free to come.
Hanoi Old Quarter
On the other hand, Hanoi Old Quarter provides so many options for amusing activities, especially the nightlife here is extremely crowded. You can choose to watch a cultural show or chill in a bar/pub/lounge and then have supper at 2 a.m. at any vendor on the streets.
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
President Ho Chi Minh is the Vietnamese greatest leader who helped the country took back independence after about 100 years of being a colony. If you want to explore the history of Vietnam, you shouldn’t miss the chance to visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where the great president rested in peace and learn more about what he sacrificed to protect the country, his political path, and lifestyle, and spend a little time in Ho Chi Minh museum where is keeping many important artifacts belong to President Ho Chi Minh and the two resistance Vietnam’s wars.
- Hanoi The Temple of Literature
It is said that the Temple of Literature was the first university of Vietnam which was found in 1070 and became the most important educated center at that time. At present, this place is where to worship Confucius, Chu Van An – the greatest teacher in Vietnam history, and three Emperors who contributed to build the Temple of Literature and the development of Confucian education in Vietnam. This is also a place where locals come and wish for the best luck in the study; many students and their families come here before the important examinations to pray for success. Therefore, if you are a student, you should come here not only for getting more information about the history of Vietnam’s education but also to wish for your success and achievement.
Hanoi Temple of literature
- Hanoi West Lake
Only 7km from the famous Sword Lake (Ho Guom – Ho Hoan Kiem) is “the lung of Hanoi” – West Lake (Ho Tay). This is the biggest lake in Hanoi which is about 500ha large and nearby many sacred well-known temples and pagodas such as Tran Quoc Pagoda, Tay Ho Temple, Quan Thanh Temple, etc. Besides, as the West Lake is only 10 – 15 minutes driving to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum; therefore, you can easily add West Lake into your city tour in Hanoi.
- Hanoi Handicraft Villages
As being the capital for many dynasties, the outskirt of Hanoi gathers many famous handicraft villages which were the only suppliers for royal families and now being must-visit villages which have been keeping the traditional craft for generations and provide high quality and valuable handicraft products across the country and also overseas markets. A tour to visit handicraft villages in Hanoi is quite suitable if you are having a family holiday in Vietnam with your kids as they will have a large space to play, learn to make some interesting special handicraft products, and also get more new knowledge about life and exotic culture.
Hanoi handicraft village
Top things to do when traveling to Hanoi
- Riding motorbike in Hanoi
Motorbike is the dominated transportation in Vietnam that almost every family here has at least 1-2 motorbikes to serve their daily life not only as a vehicle but also as a livelihood with some people. To experience the city like a local, trying a Hanoi motorbike tour here is the best option. The choices for motorbike tours here are varied with half-day, full-day, or food tour follows different itineraries. The most popular route to travel with a motorbike in Hanoi is a half-day itinerary through Hanoi Opera House – Long Bien Bridge – Hoan Kiem Lake – Hanoi Old Quarter – The Temple of Literature – Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – West Lake and usually finished by a happy lunch with local foods. With people who love the nostalgic style, some Vespa tours allow tourists to travel around Hanoi and the outskirts on the Italian classic scooter. And please don’t worry too much about the safety of traveling by motorbike, you have a helmet and you are not the driver, a local guide will drive and take you throughout the city safe and sound.
- Hanoi Walking
Hanoi is big but the center of Hanoi is small and sometimes you just have to walk from this attraction to other ones. Most of the walking tours in Hanoi are operated in the Old Quarter as the streets here are narrow, crowded, and many attractions nearby each other; therefore, walking becomes the most convenient way to travel inside this area. Although the Hanoi city center is not large, the options for walking tour itinerary here are multiple. You can join a walking city tour through some most popular attractions, join a cooking class to learn how to shopping for foods in local markets and cook a few typical traditional dishes, or book a Hanoi street food tour and enjoy your dinner with some specialties and traditional food in Hanoi.
- Riding cyclo (bicycle rickshaw)
Appeared in Vietnam since 1939, cyclo or bicycle rickshaw was a symbol of wealth and power in the early 20th century in Vietnam which only the people from high class could afford. Time passed and the cyclo became a favorite vehicle for everyone in Vietnam. However, at present, cyclo is only allowed to work as transportation in tourism, therefore, if you want to try this old interesting vehicle, you have to join a cyclo tour and it will take you slowly throughout the crowded narrow streets in Hanoi Old Quarter.
Riding Cyclo in Hanoi
- Food Tours
Hanoi Street Food is world-known and you will regret it if come to Hanoi without joining a food tour here. There are 2 main types of culinary tours in Hanoi: street food tour and cooking class. And as the most popular tour type, there are many options for Hanoi street food tour like walking tour, motorbike tour, Vespa tour, or night street food tour. Meanwhile, most of the cooking classes take place in the early morning so that you can try to shop in a traditional market in Hanoi with the tour guide, learn how to buy the best ingredients at the best price, then come back to the class and learn how to cook them. There are also some short flexible cooking classes in Hanoi which you can choose to join the morning/afternoon/ night session and learn to make a simple local dish/drink in about 3-hours.
Hanoi local food
The Biking tour is not only operated in the countryside or mountainous area, right at the center of Hanoi, but you can also always book a cycling tour to travel around the city and visit the most impressive attractions here. Actually, comparing with other popular biking routes in Vietnam, cycling in Hanoi is the easiest route and maybe also the most interesting route as there is no obstacle on the way you bike and also can observe the daily life of the 2nd most crowded city in Vietnam.
Things to know before traveling to Hanoi
There are so many things to prepare before a trip to Hanoi, below is a note before your trip.
- International Flight to Hanoi
Hanoi, as the capital, has the biggest international airport in Vietnam which means you can easily book a direct flight to Hanoi. Normally, the direct international flights to Hanoi depart from some big cities such as Paris, Berlin, Doha, Beijing, Guang Zhou, Hongkong, Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, etc. and are provided by many airlines from the luxury to the budget ones such as Emirates, Air France, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, All Nippon Airways, Singapore Airlines, Korean Airs, Air Asia, Thais Airway, Vietnam Airlines, etc. The price for international flights is diverse based on the quality of airlines, the travel distance, travel duration, and fly time; however, the cheapest international flights to Hanoi are for flights from nearby countries such as China, Thailand, or Singapore. Please note that, as the surcharge fee for overweight luggage of international flights is really high, you should double-check your luggage’s weight at home before check-in at the airport.
- Taxi in Hanoi
Like other big cities in Vietnam, Hanoi provides a wide range of taxi brands with competitive prices. Some of the most popular taxi brands in Hanoi that can be listed are ABC, Group, CP, and Mai Linh with good services, nice drivers, new and clean cars. On the other hand, you can use the Grab app (similar to Uber) to book a car and travel around with no worry of being overcharged as the price of each drive is public on the app.
- Public Bus in Hanoi
The public bus system is not the strength of any city in Vietnam and Hanoi too. Normally, these buses are overloaded every day as people who used them regularly are students and pupils; meanwhile, most of the buses are not cared for and cleaned elaborately. In addition, there is no fixed time for the bus, sometimes you have to wait 45 minutes or more to catch a bus in the city center, which means your travel plan will be broken if just stand there and wait for the bus. Also, the public bus doesn’t seem like safe transportation, you may have to face the pick-pocket at the bus stop or on the bus, drivers drive recklessly when they are late for the schedule, etc.
On the other hand, there is a solution if you still want to travel by bus and save the money instead of hiring a private car or traveling by taxis all day, you can buy a 1-day pass of Hanoi Hop On Hop Off Bus which cost only US$ 20/ticket to travel unlimitedly in Hanoi city center for one day (from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. These buses are not really like a public bus (more like a tourist bus) which follow the special route in the city center through the most famous attractions as in the following:
- Hoan Kiem Lake
- Le Thai To Statue
- Joseph’s Cathedral
- Hanoi Flag Tower
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
- Quan Thanh Temple – Tran Quoc Pagoda
- Cua Bac Church
- Thang Long Imperial Citadel
- One Pillar Pagoda
- The Temper of Literature
- Hoa Lo Prison Relic
- Museum of Vietnamese Women
- Hanoi Opera House
- Hanoi Post Office
Popular transfer route in Hanoi:
- Halong Bay to Hanoi
Travel distance: 170km
The most popular way to get to Hanoi from Halong Bay is by using shuttle buses. Most people choose to book the highest price Dcar Limousine to travel from Halong Bay to Hanoi as it is not so expensive (only from US$12/turn), the car is new, has large seats and there is a new car every 15 minutes which is very flexible and comfortable. Besides, if you choose to book a seat on Dcar Limousine provided by a luxury 5-star cruise, the car may be more convenient with large seats included massage function, TV, complimentary mineral water, and wet tissue.
- Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi
Travel distance: 1700km
There are many ways to travel from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Hanoi. However, with the long-distance between these 2 biggest cities in Vietnam, flying seems like the best way. Traveling by air between Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh City is so popular that dozens of fights between those 2 cities operated every day, but sometimes the air transfer is still being overloaded.
Another favored option to get to Hanoi from Ho Chi Minh City is by train. Although sometimes traveling by train is a little more expensive than going by air, many people still choose to have a few days on the train to experience the beauty of Vietnam from North to South and enjoy the slow pace of traveling by railways. There are 4 options for seats on Saigon – Hanoi train: hard seats, soft seats, 6-bed rooms, and 4-bed rooms. As the travel duration is quite long (at least 34 hours), 6-bed rooms and 4-bed rooms are the most preferred option for travelers. You can always book the train tickets online or contact us to buy them easier.
- Da Nang to Hanoi
Travel distance: 770km
As there is no train between Da Nang and Hanoi, the airplane becomes the most popular transportation to get to the capital from Da Nang. Although the density of flights from Da Nang to Hanoi is not as busy as from Ho Chi Minh City, the number of departure from Da Nang airport is dozens per day which helps your trip become much more flexible and convenient. Besides, twice a year, all the 4 domestic airlines: Vietnam Airlines, Bamboo Airways, Vietjet Air and Pacific Airlines, release a huge number of promotion tickets which makes the fee to travel by air from Da Nang to Hanoi much cheaper (usually from about US$13 – exclude the tax & service fee).
Another way to travel from Da Nang to Hanoi is by shuttle bus which is really cheap and quite fast (about 10 - 14 hours). However, due to the safety condition and service quality, it is not recommended to travel in this way with that far distance.
- Ninh Binh to Hanoi
Travel distance: 95km
As Ninh Binh is nearby Hanoi, book a tour with shuttle bus transfer is so convenient as you can not only have a full-day tour to Ninh Binh with a professional guider but also don’t have to worry about the meals and transportation, all included in one tour at a reasonable price (only from US$ 58). You can also book the shuttle bus on your own and self-traveling, however, the quality of buses cannot be guaranteed and it is also not easy to travel by yourself in Ninh Binh. Another option for transfer between Ninh Binh – Hanoi is the private car which is preferred by tourists who come with family or a group of friends as it is comfortable and not so expensive with a returned car traveling in a short distance.
- Sapa to Hanoi
Travel distance: 320km
There are 2 most popular ways to travel between Sapa – Hanoi: shuttle bus and train. If you are traveling on a budget, the shuttle bus is the best choice for your Sapa – Hanoi trip. There are many choices for traveling by shuttle bus; however, you should book the sleeping bus as you can travel safely in a big size bus (normally the size of 45-seat buses) and also have a comfortable sleep during 5-hour traveling on the road with a large seat like a single bed, a small pillow, and a soft blanket.
The train is a little more expensive way to travel from Sapa to Hanoi and vice versa. However, obviously, traveling by train is much safer than by shuttle buses, especially when you travel to a mountainous area like Sapa. In addition, 1 night in a sleeping cabin on a train is much more comfortable than a sleeping bus. Besides, there are also options for soft seats and hard seats on Sapa – Hanoi trains which are highly recommended for people who want to travel by train and save the money at the same time.
- Airport – Hanoi
Travel distance: 30km
It costs about 45 minutes to travel from Noi Bai International Airport to Hanoi City Center and there are 3 main ways to travel between these sites: bus, taxi, and private car. Using buses is the most saving way, you can choose to use the public bus or the private bus. However, it is highly recommended that you should not use the public bus as to reach the city center, the transfer itinerary is very complicated and to reach your accommodation you may have to change the bus at least twice; besides, public bus is not suitable with people traveling with much luggage. On the other hand, shuttle buses are provided by airlines which may take you to the city center with a limited amount of luggage, more comfortable and convenient than the public bus, while the fee is only higher a little. However, in general, if you plan to have a long day trip to Vietnam, carry a lot of luggage, traveling by bus here is not a good option.
Taxi and private cars are the best ways to get to Hanoi Center from the airport. If you travel by yourself and have less than 5 people travel along, taxi is a good option with the fee from the airport to Hanoi City Center is around US$ 20 – 25. On the other hand, if you book a package tour, normally the private car transferring with a professional tour guide pick you up at the airport is included which is more comfortable and convenient, you also don’t have to worry about getting taxi scams here.
There are some common things you should bring along to Hanoi:
- Phone and camera
- Credit card and cash
- Medicines for common diseases (such as flu, sore throat, headache, stomachache, an eyesore, etc.)
- Medicines for your personal diseases (if need)
- Basic skincare and make-up set (if need)
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Hanoi at a Glance
Questions & Answers (16)
Hello, I will visit Vietnam next month and plan to stay in Hanoi for 4 days. Can you recommend me an itinerary in Hanoi? I love sightseeing and learning about foreign culture
You can do one day City tour, one day in Ninh Binh and one day in Halong Bay and one free day will be very suitable with your trip
hello, should i choose walking foodie tour or food tour by motorbike? in the motorbike tour, do we have to ride the motorbike, or there will be drivers driving for us?
It's up on your desire, if you want to try also the crazy traffic in Vietnam, you should choose a motorbike tour, there will be a driver will help you to drive
just landed in Hanoi. I'm a vegan and also cannot eat sreet food as my stomach is weak, any good restaurant recommendations to eat vegan that is located near Hoan Kiem Lake? I want to walk from my hotel to the restaurant without booking any transfer
You can go to some restaurant like Cai Mam Bistro - Signature Vegan or Vi Lai Restaurant
Can I change dollars at any gold shops in the Hanoi Old Quarter
Yes there are many place for you to change the money in the old quarter
any cheap accommodations for budget travelers located in Hanoi Old Quarter? pls give me some options with prices via email. thanks a lot
You can have a look at some hotel like Hm Boutique Hotel, Mina Hotel, Carrilon Hotel will be very suitable with budget tourist