Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital city and also the second largest city in the country. Having a Chinese influence and French design, the city blends the West and the East and offers visitors a variety of things to do.
Take photos of and around Hoan Kiem Lake
This lake is referred to as the “Lake of the Restored Sword” and is located right in the city center. It’s the sight of many events and you can explore its banks on foot. Take a camera with you because there are loads of opportunities to take photos. The Jade Mountain Temple offers a lovely lookout point.
Visit the One Pillar Pagoda
This Buddhist temple dates from the 1049 and is one of the iconic tourist destinations in Vietnam. It’s made of timber and is perched on a single pillar stone. It is design to resemble a lotus blossom.
Learn about the Temple of Literature
Now it’s a Confucian temple, but it used to be the site of one of the oldest universities in Vietnam. It is one of the few examples of traditional Vietnamese architecture still standing in Hanoi.
Take a stroll in the French Quarter
You can side wide boulevards – just like in Paris – and the architecture also reminds you of France.
Pray at St Joseph’s Cathedral
The Catholic Cathedral was completed in 1887. It was closed in 1975, after the reunification of Vietnam and reopened in 1985. The building seems out of place in the bustling Hanoi, although it is located in the French Quarter.
Explore the Old Quarter
Old Hanoi is a world away from the quiet and relaxed French Quarter. In the Old Quarter the streets are narrow and bustling with activity. Shop for souvenirs and try the local food.
A stay at Hanoi Hilton , anyone?
Actually you wouldn’t want to experience a stay here…..Hanoi Hilton is the sarcastic nickname given by the American prisoners to Hỏa Lò Prison. One of the famous residents (for 5 ½ h) was John McCain, the first US ambassador to Vietnam. But the prison dates back from the French period, when it was called Maison Centrale.
A day trip to Halong Bay
Located just 170 km from Hanoi, Halong Bay is one of the most popular travel destinations in Vietnam. Although you can plan a day trip yourself, you’ll save the hassle if you book a day tour.
>>read more about Getting from Hanoi to Halong Bay
A weekend in Sapa
You can take the train to Lao Cai and then continue by bus to Sapa, a picturesque village in Northern Vietnam , appreciated for its culture and natural beauty.
>>read more about Getting from Hanoi to Sapa
A day trip to the Co Loa Citadel
Located just 16 km from Hanoi, Co Loa Citadel is the easiest day trip from the city. It dates back to the 3rd century BC. You can visit two pagodas and a temple while you are here.
The Am Mi Chau pagoda is now a museum which comprises the archeological findings from the area.
Visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh saw the liberation from the French rule but didn’t make it to the end of the Vietnam War. With the help from the Russians, his body was preserved and now can be seen in the mausoleum. Pictures of the body are not permitted.
When visiting the site, a respectful attitude is obligatory and be careful what you are wearing. And stop that giggling, too!
Of course, Ho Chi Minh didn’t want to be preserved for eternity. He requested his body to be cremated and the ashes spread in three areas in Vietnam.
Learn more about Ho Chi Minh at the Ho Chi Minh Museum
After passing to airport-like security to get in, you’ll see a photo history (with captions in English, French and Vietnamese) of Ho Chi Minh’s life. Then , you’ll find some exhibits which don’t exactly feel they belong in this museum: a human-powered funicular display or a tram line, for example. Opened in 1990, the museum requires serious knowledge in modern art to be properly understood.
Learn history at the Vietnam Military History Museum
If you are passionate about history, this is where you should come. The museum features exhibits starting with the Chinese colonization, continuing to the French period and, of course, going by the American war, as well.
See the panorama from an old viewing point
Near the Vietnam Military History Museum, there’s a 59 m high ancient flag tower, which marks what used to be the tallest place in Hanoi. The tower was once part of the Hanoi Citadel. Enjoy the views of the city.
Photo credits: Hoan Kiem Lake , One Pillar Pagoda , Temple of Literature , St Joseph’s Cathedral , Old Quarter , Hỏa Lò Prison , Halong Bay by Alex Popescu via Facebook, Sapa , Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum , Ho Chi Minh Museum , Vietnam Military History Museum