Hanoi is the vibrant capital of Vietnam where you can waltz the streets of the night market or get served a tasty bowl of pho to the tune of cars echoing all around you.

best things to do in Vietnam

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With so much to do in the country’s capital, it’s important to spend a minimum of 3 days in this colorful city.

I’ve rounded up what I think are the very best things to do in Hanoi.

Where to stay in Hanoi

You’ll want to base yourself in the Old Quarter, where you’ll be in close proximity to most main attractions and delicious restaurants.

$ – Buffalo Hanoi Hostel

$$ – Mayflower Hotel Hanoi

$$$ = Peridot Grand Luxury Hotel or The Oriental Jade Hotel & Spa

Don’t Forget Your FREE Hanoi Checklist

Planning your trip to Vietnam? Print this free Hanoi checklist to take with you on your trip so you don’t miss a thing! Also, check out my post on Sapa, Vietnam to help you plan your travels.

Vietnam Essentials

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1. Explore the Old Quarter

Hanoi’s Old Quarter has the most buzzing streets in the city.

Here you will find an eclectic mix of unique architecture, loads of traffic, and sizzling street food.

This is the best area to stay if it’s your first time visiting Hanoi.

best things to do in Vietnam

2. Take a Free Walking Tour

Every capital city I visit always begins with a free walking tour. Typically organized by locals or experienced guides, this is the BEST way to get familiar with a city (especially on your first day).

Find info on free walking tours in Hanoi here. Or simply show up in the lobby of Buffalo Hanoi Hostel at 10 am where free walking tours depart daily.

3. Eat Pho

Pho originated in Hanoi, so you’ll want to eat lots of it while you’re here!

Here’s where you can find fantastic pho in Hanoi:

  • Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su
  • Bep Viet Restaurant
  • Phở Thìn

best things to do in Vietnam

4. Stroll Along Hoan Kiem Lake

In the heart of Hanoi, you’ll find the Hoan Kiem Lake. Surrounded by the lake are luscious parks and walking paths that make for a perfect morning walk.

best things to do in Vietnam

5. Temple of Literature

Built in 1070, this temple is dedicated to Confucious and his disciples. The temple features a lake and gorgeous courtyards throughout the property. Vietnam’s first university, The Imperial Academy, was established within the temple in 1076.

To enter the temple, prepare to wear modest clothing.

6. Ngoc Son Temple

Located along the Hoan Kiem Lake is the Ngoc Son Temple. Constructed to honor a military commander of the Tran Dynasty, it’s also used to worship the God of Prosperity in ancient Chinese culture and philosophy.

Reminder: Women should bring a shawl to cover your chest & shoulders.

7. Go to the Train Street

Hanoi’s train street is one of the most iconic tourist experiences to have in Hanoi.

Buildings are built less than a meter from the train that passes through and it’s quite the rush when it goes by!

8. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

If you’re a lover of history you’ll definitely want to check out the resting place of the preserved body of President Ho Chi Minh.

It can be quite tricky how to navigate getting inside. The hours are a bit odd, it closes often, and there is typically a long line. Just do a quick check the night before and remember – wear respectful clothing or you’ll be denied entry.

Out of respect, there are no photos allowed of the preserved body.

9. Visit the Old Quarter Night Market

To see a city really come to life in Asia, all you have to do is visit a bustling night market.

It’s a guaranteed one-stop shop to buy some souvenirs, try some street food, and embrace the country’s true culture.

best things to do in Vietnam

10. Try Street Food

On the streets of Hanoi is where you’ll find some of the cheapest and tastiest food in the city.

If you’re nervous about getting sick, I usually look for places that have a line – like this guy at the Old Quarter night market. He was swamped and could barely catch up with orders.

Most of the people in line seemed like they come here often, which was a good sign to me.

best things to do in Vietnam

11. Try ALL the Special Coffees

Attention all coffee lovers – Vietnam is the PLACE for you.

I’m talking – Vietnamese iced coffee, egg coffee, and coconut blended coffee. Prepare for your caffeine cravings to be met in the most delicious ways.

One of the coolest cafes in Hanoi to try specialty coffee is Note Cafe.

12. Visit the Women’s Museum

Vietnam is filled with museums dedicated to history and war, but rarely do you see a museum in a country dedicated to just women.

I loved the fact it’s also one of the top museums in Hanoi.

I enjoyed learning about all different kinds of women in Vietnam – present and past. Here, you will learn about Vietnamese women who live and work in the cities or rural areas and all the hardships they can endure each day.

Womens Museum in Hanoi

13. St Joseph’s Cathedral

Even after two devastating wars, St Joseph’s Cathedral still stands tall in the center of Hanoi, serving the local Roman Catholic community. It’s hard to miss as the gothic-style architecture is quite striking and unique to its surroundings.

St Joseph Cathedral - best things to do in Hanoi

14. Party on Beer Street

Beer Street is Hanoi’s most happenin’ party street in the city. Mostly consisting of tourists and expats, while touristy it IS so much fun.

Wondering where the local’s party in Hanoi? While I’m sure there are ‘actual’ bars where locals go, most of the time they gather with their friends at stalls on the side of the street that have mixed meat and loads of beer.

This is a true local bar experience! I was lucky enough to be invited by my local friend who asked me, “do you want to go to my friend’s bar?”

Local Bars in Hanoi

Additional Things to Do in Hanoi

While the list above is what I consider to be the most essential things to do in Hanoi, here are a few more things I enjoyed that you may want to add to your itinerary.

15. Yoga & Lunch at Om Hanoi

Back home I regularly practice yoga, so I was itching to book a class in Hanoi. I discovered Om Hanoi, which is a local yoga studio that can be taught in Vietnamese and English. I was so impressed with the class!

Afterward, I grabbed lunch at their cafe below the yoga studio. I knew the food would be delicious when I walked in and the place was packed for lunch. The food was incredible!

Om Yoga - best things to do in Hanoi

16. Book a Day Trip From Hanoi to Halong Bay

Many people choose to book overnight cruises to Halong Bay. However, I was told by a few travelers that they didn’t think it was worth it. So, I opted for this day trip tour and felt a whole day in Halong Bay was sufficient.

However, if you have a lot of time and spending a couple of nights on Halong Bay is on your bucket list, check out these tours below:

17. Go to a Cocktail Bar

Hanoi has so many beautiful cafes and cocktail bars. If you’re a lover of craft cocktails, consider the splurge!

Here are some great cocktail bars to check out in Hanoi:

  • Polite & Co
  • The Dios
  • Ne Cocktail Bar
The Dios Cocktail Bar in Hanoi
The Dios Cocktail Bar in Hanoi

Hanoi is filled with many unique experiences and hidden gems. I hope this list guides you to discover the best things to do in Hanoi tailored to what you like to do.

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