10 Things To Do in Hanoi

by - September 29, 2019

Recently embarked on my second visit to Hanoi with my boyfriend to visit his relatives who reside in Bắc Giang, a province outside of Hanoi. Bắc Giang isn't really your typical tourist destination, but we interestingly did drive past a mini Singapore Supertree Grove replica when we were there (apart from there were just 2 Supertrees). After a short stay, we went back to Hanoi, but only had one full day there, as we also squeezed in a trip to Ha Long Bay. This was my second visit to Hanoi, so here is a quick round up of a few things to do in Hanoi.

1. Visit Ha Long Bay

Technically it's not in Hanoi, but if you're there then you definitely need to take a detour to Ha Long Bay. This has been on my bucket list for the longest time and it did not disappoint. Well, the weather slightly did - fog cloaked the bay and it drizzled all day, but I guess it was March and the mist just made it more atmospheric and mystical. A mesmerising scatter of mountainous tropical islands, Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to million years of formation.

We booked a day tour with Genesis Cruises which included hotel pickup in Hanoi city centre with only a 2 hour drive to Ha Long via the new expressway. You can find cheaper tours on Tripadvisor that don't use the expressway if you're on a budget, but I would recommend paying a bit extra for a quicker journey if time is of the essence. Extra points for our tour guide who made everything funny and kept us entertained for hours with stories. We also explored the Sun Sot Cave, also known as 'Surprising Cave' which is the largest one in Ha Long Bay. In the summer, the temperature rises up to the 30s (°C) and I guess it's just as well we went in March, because even in the rain and low 20s, trekking the cave was hot.

2. Hoàn Kiếm Lake

The lake sits in the centre of Hanoi, in the Old Quarter. Enjoy a scenic view and cross the vivid, red The Huc Bridge to get to the Ngoc Son Temple. The area around the lake is bustling and vibrant with locals and tourists, and no shortage of motorcycles whirling around. Most hotels, shops and restaurants in the Old Quarter are all pretty reasonable walking distances.

3. Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Whilst visiting the lake, you can also see a show at the Water Puppet Theatre, which is what I did the first time when I visited Hanoi. Honestly, I had no idea what was happening and didn't really understand the storyline going on, but it was a cute show split into mini sketches with a Vietnamese orchestra and you can appreciate the artistry that goes into working the string puppets. There are multiple showings throughout the day which you can just buy at the ticket office, costing 100,000 VND (around £3.45 / $4.30).

57B Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

4. Eat Pho

Of course one must eat pho when in Vietnam. You can get it pretty much everywhere, but we tried a few popular spots. This included Pho Thin, which is on the dingier, not-that-aesthetic side, but I felt like a proper local and a bowl of beef pho costs around 60,000 VND (£2/$2.58). My favourite was Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su where again, I had beef pho - the broth was so good. We came quite late at night and it was still pretty busy.

10 Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

5. Spa

I love a good spa day in Asia because it's so much cheaper and better there. I've had quite a few massages in different Asian countries now and my favourite place is definitely in Vietnam because for some reason, I always feel so relaxed. We had a foot massage and head massage at Ciel Spa in the Tirant Hotel and I had the most blissful, can-this-please-never-end hour.

38 Phố Gia Ngư, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

6. Train Street

Train Street is an instagrammable spot with rows of local cafes and restaurants either side of the tracks where a train speeds through twice a day. We went during a time where we knew the train wouldn't be coming because I don't fancy almost dying just for the gram. There isn't a whole lot to do down this street, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Ngõ 224 Lê Duẩn, Khâm Thiên, Đống Đa, Hà Nội

7. Drink Coffee

Actually, I am not a coffee drinker, but if you are then you are in the right place. Every Youtube travel vlogger makes Vietnamese egg coffee sound amazing (although I have not tried because I just really hate coffee). But if you just want a break at a cute, instagrammable cafe, then make a stop at Post-It Coffee if you're by Hoan Kiem Lake.

The Note Coffee, 64 Lương Văn Can, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

8. Hanoi Night Market

Hanoi's Night Market is every weekend on Friday - Sunday nights with lots of food vendors and stalls selling clothes, handicrafts, souvenirs, counterfeits etc. Unfortunately we didn't get the chance to browse through properly and only made a quick stop at a stall to buy a hat before our spa appointment.

Hang Dao Street, Old Quarter, Hanoi

9. Eat Somewhere Fancy

Not fine dining per say (and also not particularly cultural activity), but I like to eat somewhere a bit 'nicer' when I'm on holiday, and especially in Vietnam where a mid to higher range restaurant is much cheaper than the UK. My restaurant of choice is The Gourmet Corner Restaurant in the Elegance Diamond Hotel for service, presentation and good food.

32 Lò Sũ, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

10. Temple of Literature

We came to the Temple of Literature the first time I visited Hanoi and it coincided with a graduation day so it was very crowded. Originally a university, the temple is dedicated to Confucius and reflects traditional Vietnamese architecture. Unfortunately we didn't really research before we came and realised we didn't meet the appropriate dress code (legs covered!) so we just admired from the outside.

58 Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa, Hà Nội

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