Hanoi Tourism Information
The capital of Vietnam is an excellent place to start your visit to the country as the city is full of history and culture. The city gives a sense of exploration and intrigue, manageable all by foot. Hanoi is worth exploring for its uniqueness, immense markets, buzzing nightlife and it's rich history.
It's no surprise that you will find much influence from the french in the wide avenues and open parks with a colonial feel. Hanoi was founded in 1010, and became the centre of government for the Indochina Union under French rule in 1888. In 1954 it became the official capital of independent Vietnam.
Today ancient crumbling buildings dating from the 11th century lie scattered among grand French colonial residences, while shrines and monuments to Vietnam's first president, Ho Chi Minh, sit in the shadow of modern high-rise buildings. The streets of the Old Quarter preserve age-old customs, where trade takes visitors back half a century, and temples, pagodas and monuments reflect the historic character of Vietnam.
Hanoi is a city of historical importance, but it's far slower and less developed than Ho Chi Minh City in the south. Hanoi has retained its appealing sense of the old world. Now this mixes with the influences of tourism, and the old quarter is also now the place to sleep and hang out.
Hanoi is fast becoming one of the most enticing and interesting cities in Asia. As a cultural centre there are traditional water puppet shows, music and dance performances. It is also a good base for excursions to the beautiful Halong Bay, or into the Hoang Lien Mountains inhabited by several hill tribes.
Hanoi is located further north of the Equator, and on a higher sea level, meaning that temperatures are not as humid as other popular Asian cities such as Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. It's more pleasant to walk around with a light sun tan during most of the year, however Winter temperatures (November to April) are between 15-23°C.
The best time to visit Hanoi is from October to April, when doing excursions outside are more pleasant and walking is manageable without the hot temperatures. Also the rainfall is lighter during these months. Summer's (May-September) can get quite humid and sticky, reaching an easy 33°C!
Reaching Hanoi by plane is just the easy step. Getting to the city centre is possible by different means of transport.
First, local busses serve the city but they don't reach right into the heart of the old Quarter. Bus number 17 connects the airport to Long Bien bus station but are not equipped for luggage storage and often services can run at odd hours (finishing in the evening) .Cost 5.000 VNM
The most common transport option is by minibus or van. If you are staying near the old quarter, the most reliable service is the Vietnam Airlines transfer service. They will go directly to the Main office of Vietnam Airlines (Between Tran Thi st and Quang Trung st near the Hoàn Kiếm Lake) from there you can make your own way by foot. Cost is 50.000 VNM per person. These mini buses depart every 30 minutes, but it's not a surprise that you are made waiting until the van is completely full.
If you arrive later at night, private but official vans would be waiting just outside the arrivals level. Price is similar or cheaper to that of the airlines service. But expect a very compacted trip with other travellers, squashing your luggage and making room in any possible way.
Many locals offer cheap rides on their bikes. This being exciting but at the same time be warned you're at your own risk.
❗Attention: Be sure to never pay drivers more than the arranged amount, if you pay with a higher note, chances are that you will not see any change. Drivers don't speak English so it can be quite difficult in arranging directions. These vans promise to take you direct to your hotel, but they will sometimes try to cut corners and drop you off further away. Be firm with the driver and don't get off the van till you are sure you are close to your accommodation.
✔️Tip: Having GPS aid will help you entirely in reaching your destination.
Once in the city you will see that public transport is not exactly visible. As with many cities in Vietnam, the infrastructure is not developed. Therefore local people move by private cars and Motorbikes around the congested city. Small Tuk-tuk style bikes are also available for tourists, as well as, golf cars which make a city tour around the old town.
Hanoi, being the capital has an interesting mix of cultural buildings blended in with the city's highly dense population residential areas. You can find governmental institutions in majestic buildings, art galleries, museums, parks and lakes in the city.
The best area to be able to see everything is staying in the Old Quarter where reaching all the places of interest can easily be done by foot. More details below:
- Old Quarter: This is the heart of Hanoi, and it's the most relevant, popular area for tourists as it hosts many Hotels, Hostels, restaurants, hip cafes, bakeries, boutique shops, art galleries, Buddhist temples and pagodas, markets and night life entertainment. The Old Quarter, located near Hoan Kiem Lake, is Hanoi’s major commercial district.
It's ancient commercial streets which are dating back about 1,000 years. Most of the specialities (cotton, jewellery, herbs, and silk) have changed over time and have been replaced with a variety of modern-day commodities and services, visitors can still appreciate some of the original goods as well as get a feel of rich old Vietnamese customs.
One of Hanoi’s most common sights, is that of streets packed with scooters, bicycles and cars trying to make their way around pedestrians like packed sardines! And not only the streets are narrow, but there are many sidewalk vendors and people simply stopping by, making it very far from circulating peacefully around the streets. Visitors have no choice but to face the traffic in the local style but the experience of exploring the historical area is a must-do and truly well worth it.
- Military History Museum (a must see Museum to understand Vietnam's recent History plus seeing real remains of military and Air force equipment, entrance is 20.000VND).
- Hoàn Kiếm Lake, (next to the Old Quarter),
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (large memorial set in a park background)
- St. Joseph's Cathedral
- Hanoi Opera House
- Ho Chi Minh Museum
- Trấn Quốc Pagoda, (is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi, located on a small island near the southeastern shore of Hanoi's West Lake).
Whilst in Hanoi, don't only limit your stay to the city, as there are many opportunities of exploring the outskirts by organised tours. You can choose tours most likely from your Hotel/Hostel, or from side street travel agents located within the Old Quarter. They offer one day tours or multiple days.
The tour made by the author was the Hoa Lu and Tam Coc Full day Tour, including visiting Ancient Temples, (built in honor of the emperors Dinh Tien Hoang and Le Dai Hanh), boat ride (during 90 min visiting 3 natural caves around the Ngo Dong River), lunch, Bicycle Hire and visiting the tea and rice plantations.
Hanoi is a city with an abundance of choices for night-time entertainment. After dark the Old Quarter takes on a new life, and is where visitors can find crowded sidewalk spots to drink beers sat on stools and watch the chaos go by. Bia Hoi Junction has a mixed patronage of locals and tourists who congregate around drinks for prices as low as 5,000 VND. The Old Quarter is also a prime location to try street food by night, providing a wealth of tasty, quickly prepared options. For more experienced culinary navigation through the countless options, travellers can sign up for a night-time street food tour.
Hanoi has no shortage of nightclubs, trendy bars and live music venues scattered around the West Lake area and Hoan Kiem district.
For a more cultural experience, travellers can head to legendary Binh Minh's Jazz Club, located in the French Quarter or visit the historic Hanoi Opera House, which still hosts live performances every so often.
Hanoi offers a less frenetic and commercialised shopping experience than Ho Chi Minh City in the south of the country. Traditional arts and crafts are more popular here than mass produced goods, and night markets are lively social occasions not to be missed.
The old town is where most of the art galleries are situated. Popular souvenirs also include objects from the communist and war eras, including Chairman Mao branded goods, medals, bullets, and Zippo lighters.
Other souvenirs include silk garments, wooden carvings, shoes from silk or bamboo, ethnic weaving, rice paper notebooks and paintings, and the distinctive conical hats which have been worn for centuries and are still much in evidence today. Visitors should look out for hats made in Hue, which each have a unique poem inside the rim.
Shoppers should avoid buying any gemstones unless they have the skill to tell the difference between jewels and polished glass.
✔️Tip: Any open market and stalls that sell to tourist, will higher the price double. It's expected you negotiate with the sellers and bring prices down to more reasonable figures. Expect to bargain and obtain discounts around 50-70% from the price first told.
For a traveller on a budget, Hanoi is a paradise of Hotels and Hostels offering travellers very competitive rates. A basic Hotel will cost anything between €10-20 a night. However the amenities provided are very limited, Hotel staff might not speak good English and rooms are not in the best of states.
When travelling to Hanoi, don't expect luxury even if you paid higher prices. Specially in the Old Quarter, it can be often dirty and mice and rats are not uncommon to be seen.
To avoid any problems stay in well reviewed Hotels.
✔️Tip: When in Hanoi (and Vietnam) take a printed Copy of your reservation, as sometimes Hotels can overbook and not confirm your booking, therefore creating a problem and refusing to help specially if they don't speak good English.
For a first time traveller Hanoi is worth visiting for at least 4 to 5 nights as there are plenty of tours to take and enjoying the city as well as the outskirts is highly recommend. However if you only staying in the city, 2 or 3 nights would be enough.
Hanoi Photo Slide 📷