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Top 10 Best Authentic Things to Do in Hanoi – Discover the real Hanoi!

December 14, 2023 - 14388 views

You’ve found yourself in the fast-paced city of Hanoi, Vietnam. Motorbikes are flying at you left and right. Now, what are you going to do while you’re here? Maybe you’ve got two days, maybe you’ve got three. 

You are ready to pack in the sights, sounds, and delectable tastes. This is a place to be experienced rather than seen, and this list will help you accomplish just that.

1. Have a Walking Tour

Book a half-day or a full-day tour and have the first-hand experience from a local about the Old Quarter and the major sights of Hanoi. While walking, you will have more time to watch and enjoy many attractive street foods. Most importantly, your guide will teach you how to cross the roads in heavy traffic. Worth every penny of his tip!

Walking around old quarter

Walking around the Old Quarter

2. Go Sightseeing

It is easy to find the nearest place for you in the Old Quarter, including Hoan Kiem Lake, the lovely old Opera House, old streets, etc. Or a bit away is the Ho Chi Minh Complex, One-Pillar Pagoda, the Temple of Literature, and the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. In addition, many museums in Hanoi will be ideal places for tourists who are interested in history and culture like Hoa Lo Prison Museum, Museum of Ethnology, Vietnamese Women's Museum, Fine Arts Museum, Vietnamese Air Force Museum, etc.

Visit Tran Quoc Pagoda

Visit Tran Quoc Pagoda

3. Discover the Old Quarter

While at first sight, it is hectic, with many scooters, people, and narrow streets it is beautiful. Some travelers only see how beautiful it was at second sight, but yep: it is definitely beautiful. You probably will not have enough time, eyes, and ears to see the Old Quarter completely. But you will come a long way in a couple of days. Exploring the streets, shops, markets, bars, and street food and you will fall in love with the Old Quarter. If you fancy a rest for your weary feet and a bit of a novelty, hop on a “xich lo” - cyclo (bicycle rickshaw) for a quick spin. Make sure to negotiate your ride first.

Hanoi Old Quarter - Ta Hien - Luong Ngoc Quyen Corner

Ta Hien - Luong Ngoc Quyen Corner in Hanoi Old Quarter

4. Watch a Water Puppet Show

In a couple of theaters in Hanoi, you can watch a water puppet show. A show where you will see puppets in the water perform Vietnamese traditions complete with Vietnamese talks and music. This ancient old art and form of entertainment is a Vietnamese unique traditional performance and therefore it will be something that you do not want to miss. It is not too expensive and time-consuming then easy to fit into your busy travel schedule as well! You can find the venues for the water puppet show in Hanoi below:

  • Thang Long water puppet theatre (57B Dinh Tien Hoang): 5 shows/day (15:10, 16:10, 17:20, 18:30 and 20:00), ticket price: 100,000 – 200,000 VND
  • Vietnam Puppetry Theater (261 Truong Chinh): 2 shows/day (17:00 and 18:30), ticket price: 80,000 VND
  • Bong Sen Water Puppet Theater (16 Ly Thai To/79 Hang Trong): 3 – 4 shows/day (15:30, 17:00, and 18:30), ticket price: 80,000 – 100,000 VND.
  • Dao Thuc Water Puppetry Guild (Dao Thuc Village, Dong Anh District): Only one show/day, please book in advance, price up to the number of groups.

Read more about other shows must-see in Vietnam

5. Explore the night market

Hanoi is a completely different city at night compared with the daytime. Many scooters disappear backpackers and locals go into the old quarter to dine and enjoy their night and more bars, shops open their doors than they do during the daytime. While the streets are more crowded with people, it feels calmer because scooters are banned in the Old Quarter on weekend nights. The night market is more than just seeing a market and you definitely should not miss a quick stroll through the center at night!

6. Enjoy the street foods

Hanoi, just like other big Asian cities, is filled with small little street food stalls and vendors. In addition to the fact that it is amazingly cheap, it is like the most delicious Asian food you have ever tasted in a while. As there are so many street food vendors, you should follow your nose and ask your hotel/hostel’s staffs which places they adore!

Locals Eating Hanoi Street Food

Eating on the street like the locals

7. Take a cooking class

You will find a lot of cooking classes in Hanoi so you can learn how to make the most delicious Vietnamese recipes. A lot of fun and rewarding as you can go home with some Asian recipes for your kitchen!

8. Join a biking tour to the surrounding areas of Hanoi

Leaving the noisy and crowded atmosphere in the city center, you can join a biking tour to fully enjoy the fresh air and tranquility of the suburb.

Bat Trang Village

Bat Trang pottery village is in the suburb near Red River that belongs to Gia Lam District and just about 10 kilometers from Hanoi city center. You will have a chance to experience the typical countryside of Vietnam in this beautiful attraction. A trip to Bat Trang will give you a chance to watch how skillful workmen make ceramic bowls, cups, vases, or classic tea sets. Especially, you can experience how to create a pottery item from the clay by your own hand and bring your products home.

Duong Lam Village

Duong Lam is called the Two Kings Land because this is the birthplace of two great kings of Vietnam who are Phung Hung and Ngo Quyen. It is an ancient village with the traditional architecture of North Vietnam hundreds of years ago. The village gateway, the communal house, and the laterite walls will help you understand more about this.

Around Hanoi, Red River Delta

No need to go too far, you can cycle through the Long Bien Bridge - the history witness of Hanoi and visit several villages situated next to the Red River. You will see the cornfields, paddy fields, peach flower gardens, kumquat gardens, etc. (seasonally); there are not many foreign tourists who have ever enjoyed this scene. Besides, low-roofed floating houses on the Red River will make you have a different perspective on your life.

Biking tour to Hanoi's suburb

Biking tour to Hanoi's suburb

9. Go Shopping

Shopping in Hanoi is fun and easy. The 15th century Old Quarter of Hanoi is the perfect place to soak up the atmosphere of the city: it’s delightfully exotic and is the place to go to buy Hanoi’s best handicrafts including the famed Vietnamese hand embroidery, silver carving, lacquerware, and bronze molding. Markets in Hanoi are an amalgamation of tradition and modernity. You can shop in Dong Xuan Market in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem District and then visit Trang Tien Plaza (Hai Ba Trung) and VinCom City Towers (Ba Trieu) to witness the changing face of the city. You can purchase silk and indigenous clothes in Hang Gai (also known as Silk Street) and Hang Bong along with checking out some more shops in Nha Tho.

10. Chill out at “bia hoi” beer corner

This is probably the most exciting and culturally fun activity to experience in Hanoi. Ta Hien Street is a popular spot for locals as well as tourists. Many of the shops brew the beer daily on their premises, so if they run out, that’s it for the day. And do not expect any award-winning quality here either. The spot comes alive at night, and even more, packed on weekends. There are other great little restaurants and bars spilling onto the side streets around it.

Bia Hoi Ta Hien - Ta Hien Beer Street

Ta Hien - the most famous beer street in Hanoi

Now, what are you going to do while you're here? Let's discover the amazing sights and smells of our graceful capital city on one of our Hanoi tours.

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Questions & Answers (3)

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Hi, is it true that the train street is closed off? does the train come at 7 p.m and 9 p.m?


Actually, the government only bans people to do any activity on the railway. Thera are still many coffee shops opening beside the railway. You can sit in those coffee shop and watch the train runs through right in front of your eyes. Usually, there are some trains come or depart from 7 p.m. till midnight.

1 Reply

Hi, are there any night markets open during the weekdays. thanks

@Lawrence Schreiber:

The night markets in weekdays is really small and less crowded. You can get to Dong Xuan markets, there are some local stalls selling around that area in weekdays. Also, most of shops in the Old Quarter are opened at night during weekdays, you can go shopping there, some good shops are on Hang Bac St., Hang Gai St., and Hang Ma St.

1 Reply

Can I use credit cards in the night market, or should I bring cash?


You should bring cash, they have bank transfer by QR code there but it only apply for customers who own Vietnamese bank account.

1 Reply