things to do in hanoi vietnam

Heading to Vietnam? We share the best things to do in Hanoi to help you plan your trip.

Often the stopover city for those wanting to see Halong Bay, Hanoi can easily get overlooked as a place of interest in itself. Hanoi is actually the capital of Vietnam, is home to some unique historic sites, a vibrant developing culture and so much amazing food don’t forget to check out this awesome Hanoi Food Guide for those that travel to try the local cuisine.


Reasons to visit Hanoi

Hanoi is known as Vietnam’s cultural capital. It has plenty of historic landmarks and museums, beautiful pagodas and temples as well as a thriving restaurant scene. There are plenty of amazing restaurants in Hanoi to choose from, whether you are looking for local or western food. Plus, the maze of streets in the Old Quarter are home to artisan and boutique stores that offer homemade souvenirs and art work for you to remember your trip. 

Hanoi is a great place to fly into and start your Vietnam Itinerary; many use this as a place to visit before heading to the breathtaking Halong Bay but it also makes a great starting point for a trip along the coast from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. 

How to save money in Vietnam

Eat local – There is no better place that this tip applies to. Eating local food will always save you money and in Vietnam it can make a huge difference. The local street food is delicious so stick to the stalls, vendors and hole-in-the-walls.

Bia Hoi – Beer is cheap in Vietnam but Bia Hoi is said to be the cheapest beer in the world. You can get this for as little as 30 cents (or 10p).

Haggle – When buying items in markets, make sure you haggle the price. We found it easier to buy items from those that advertise their prices but if you want to buy something without a price, make sure you haggle for it.

Get walking – Hanoi offers many attractions to see and do (most of which are free). Save money on taxis by walking everywhere or renting a bike for as little as $1.

Pay in VND – VND and dollar are accepted everywhere but pay in VND. When we first visited Vietnam in 2013, everyone preferred dollars, but now in 2020, we found everyone preferred VND. Some places would accept dollars but would massively overcharge you.

Things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam

things to do in hanoi vietnam

Hoan Kiem Lake

Take a break from the city and head to Hoan Kiem Lake for some lovely views and some giant turtles. In the centre of the lake you will find Ngoc Son Temple, built in the 18th century whilst ‘Turtle Tower’ stands on the edge of the lake in memory of the legend surrounding the lake. The temple is open from 8am to 5pm and the lake can be found in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum 


Found in Ba Dinh Square, the Mausoleum is a popular attraction in Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh was an iconic and loved leader of Vietnam, making his resting place popular for both tourists and Vietnamese residents. Entrance is free for the Mausoleum but is only open from 8am to 11am.

NOTE: A strict dress code is in place at the Mausoleum with no short skirts or tank tops allowed and bags are required to be put in a safe deposit before entering. Photos, talking and finger-pointing is also strictly prohibited whilst you are inside the Mausoleum.

things to do in hanoi vietnam
Things to do in Hanoi Vietnam

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

An impressive Roman Catholic Church found on Nha Chung Street is definitely worth a visit for those interesting in Neo-gothic architecture. Entrance is free and the church is open from 8am to 5pm.

Things to do in Hanoi Vietnam

Tran Quoc Pagoda

Found on Thanh Nien Road, next to West Lake, the Tran Quoc Pagoda is a tower of beauty standing alongside a tranquil backdrop of greenery.

Tran Quoc Pagoda is the oldest of its kind in Hanoi, dating back to the 6th century. The Buddhist shrine can be found on the edge of West Lake, surrounded by lush greenery. The pagoda stands at 15 metres tall with 11 elevens inside. It is surrounded by a burning house, carved statues and a museum of historic relics. Each carved state have unique facial features, daring back to 1639. 

The Pagoda is free to enter all year long and opens at 7.30am every day. Remember to dress appropriately in this place of worship, avoiding short skirts and vest tops.

things to do in hanoi vietnam

Halong Bay

Take a day or overnight trip to Halong Bay, a natural wonder of the world with some fascinating caves and cliffs. Cruises offer various activities and itineraries – we loved our trip on Marguerite Junk. Various trips our available from one day trips to 1, 2 or even 3 night cruises to explore the Bay. The cruise we booked is available from Agoda.

One day in Hanoi?

If you only have one day in Hanoi, you can actually see a lot in the city!

Start your day off by heading to the Tran Quoc Pagoda for 8am whilst enjoying the nearby West Lake. This ancient temple is stunning, free to enter and gives you a taste of the history and religion in the country of Vietnam. 

A short walk from the Pagoda is a cafe called Paris Baguette, which is a great place to get brunch and a coffee before catching a Grab to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. 

NOTE: It is worth noting that the Mausoleum is only open in the morning (until 10.30am) – so, if you aim to be in the Pagoda for only an hour or so, you can still get to the Mausoleum in the morning but, if you think you maybe a little longer, visit the Mausoleum first.

Things to do in Hanoi Vietnam

Next, head down to the Old Quarter. There are lots of restaurants in this area but, if you are getting a Grab, get dropped off at St Joseph’s Cathedral. This Cathedral is stunning and is surrounded by very nice restaurants and cute boutique stores. We loved visiting the art stores, picking up some posters and magnets and some hand crafted pieces too.

Spend the afternoon wandering the streets of Old Quarter; visiting the Ngoc Son temple on the Hoan Kiem Lake and trying some of the local food in the area.

What to pack for Vietnam?

Helpful resources

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  1. Thank you; definitely somewhere I’d like to visit, and your suggestions sound great! (happy travelling! :))

  2. I loved visiting Ha long Bay when I was there, so I’ll go with this. I didn’t get to see Hoan Kiem Lake, so I’ll remember this for next time. Pinned this so I’ll remember!

  3. Katie! I’m so glad that you wrote this, because I’m planning on going to SEA for my birthday this next year and need all of the recommendations that I can get! I already pinned this so I can reference back when it comes time to actually nail out my itinerary. I’ll definitely need to check out that cruise in Ha Long Bay!

  4. Out of all these, Hoan Kiem Lake was the most vibrant one. We went there over the weekend and saw it transform into a walking zone full of activities and fun things to do. We loved Vietnam. Cheers!!

  5. Great list of top things to do in Hanoi. Sunset along Halong Bay is stunning and this would be my first choice. Watching giant turtles at Hoan Kiem lake must be a beautiful experience and also visiting the temple besides it.

  6. These sound like 5 wonderful things to do in Hanoi. I’d heard of Halong Bay but not the others. I’d love to check out Hoan Kiem Lake, does this lake reflect the scenery?

  7. I’ve never heard of Halong Bay, but it looks like a beautiful place. Oh that sunset is so mesmerising with all those hues of orange. Quite a nice collection of the places to visit with helpful tips. I would definitely want to see the giant turtles, the Pagoda and the architecture of the Roman Catholic Church. Thanks for sharing this lovely post. 🙂

  8. Oh no I missed the Tran Quoc Pagoda on my trip to Hanoi. Hoan Kiem lake is definitely a great place to chill and hang out. On the weekend the area becomes a walking street, so it’s really nice!

  9. My husband and I have been talking about visiting Hanoi when we go to Vietnam! I didn’t know that you can go on overnight cruise in Halong Bay. I will have to look into that!

  10. […] Now you have your bellies full, here are some things to keep you busy in Hanoi. […]

  11. Great ideas for Hanoi! I hope when I go back again I have time to do Halong Bay, your photo is amazing of there!

  12. There is so much to do at Hanoi, especially when it comes to street food and exploring the old quarter charm. We managed to head to Halong Bay too. However, Hoan Kiem Lake took us by surprise over the weekend when it gets shut for traffic and transforms into a walking zone with so many activities lined up. Cheers!!

  13. Loved reading your blog! Great pictures and Vietnam is definitely on my list sometime soon! This should be helpful.

  14. We are planning a trip to Hanoi in December and will be sure to include a few of the activities, thanks for the tips.

  15. Ahh you post brings back so many memories of my trip to Vietnam! Such a wonderful destination with rich history and landscape that will make you heart skip a beat. Halon Bay is what I loved the most! Nothing compares to the beauty that this place has to offer. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Great to know that there are a lot of sites to see in Hanoi aside from the Halong Bay.. 🙂 The tranquil beauty of the Tran Quoc Pagoda and a glimpse of those giant turtles at the Hoan Kiem Lake is definitely going to my bucketlist.. Thank you for this, Katie! 🙂

  17. My top 1 would be – just walk around the streets and try different type of street food. Hanoi is definitely my fave Asian city, it’s buzzing!! We also did 3 days in Halong Bay and I think this is the only right thing to do to get the most of it as you can see more isolated parts of the bay. Great post Katie!

  18. Halong bay is one of the places that I’m looking forward to visit. This is a very useful guide. Thanks!

  19. Hi Katie,

    I have never been to Vietnam, but it seems to be so that I should put it to our bucket list. Your post is really detailed and I am quite interest to see the country by myself.

    Best regards


  20. Good suggestions for Hanoi. Sunsets at shoreside is something you can look on forever.

  21. Vietnam will be put next destination in South East Asia and your guide is perfect for us when we will be planning our trip there. Picture of Sunset at Halong bay looks so beautiful

  22. Looks perfect for my incoming trip to hanoi next month. Will definitely try everything on the list. Halong Bay is one of the places in my bucket list to tick off.

  23. Thanks for shortlisting the top 5 things to do and I love that the post was easy to read and short, not too detailed and descriptive 🙂 It gives a nice overview of what all is there to do in Hanoi. Do you think 2 days would be enough?

    • I would recommend a one night boat cruise on the Halong Bay which will take the whole two days – maybe you can go for the cruise and then two nights in the city to see as much as possible? 🙂

  24. oh my favourite thing in Hanoi was to find a walk up cafe and have as many egg coffees as wouldnt make me sick! highly reccomended hahah

  25. It was great to find your blog; nice pictures & helpful tips! This is really useful. Hope that you will provide us with the more interesting articles about this beautiful country. Thank you so much!!

    • Thank you for your lovely comment!

  26. Thank you for the tips at the start and for your 5 things to do!
    Hoan Kiem Lake really is breathtaking isn’t it!

    I can’t wait to go back one day and explore more of this amazing city!

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