What to Do in Hanoi? 12 of the Best Tips!

Hanoi is the vibrant capital of Vietnam and a great introduction to the country because there are plenty of exciting things to do. You might experience a bit of a culture shock, as Hanoi is quite a chaotic city. Street food stalls line every street corner, scooters zoom all around you, but fortunately, the cheerful locals are an integral part of the cityscape. During your visit to Hanoi, be sure to find tranquility at one of the many temples, like this beautiful Temple of Literature. In this article, you’ll find many more tips for fun things to do in Hanoi!

How to Travel to Hanoi?

Most people travel to Hanoi from Sapa, Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Halong Bay, or Ninh Binh. Below, you can read how to travel from these destinations to Hanoi.

From Sapa to Hanoi

By Bus: The bus is the cheapest way to travel from Sapa to Hanoi. The journey takes about 6 hours in total. Many different bus companies operate on this route. You can choose between a ‘regular’ bus or a luxury bus. Of course, there is a price difference, but it’s still very affordable. Compare all buses and reserve a seat on the bus.

By Night Train: The night train is also a convenient option to travel from Sapa to Hanoi. The train runs at night, saving you the cost of a hotel stay. You’ll spend the night in a sleeper carriage, and you can choose from different classes. The higher the class, the more luxurious. Important: the train departs from Lao Cai train station, which is a 50-minute drive from Sapa. You can book a minivan or taxi for this transfer.

From Ha Giang to Hanoi

By Bus: There are dozens of buses departing from Ha Giang to Hanoi every day. The bus journey takes about 6 hours, and you can travel during the day or at night. Check all departure times and reserve your bus ticket in advance.

From Cao Bang to Hanoi

By Bus: There are multiple daily buses departing from Cao Bang to Hanoi. Both minivans and larger buses operate on this route. Minivans take about 6 hours, while the larger buses take approximately 8 hours. Compare all minivans and buses.

From Halong Bay to Hanoi

By Bus: This is about a 3.5-hour journey. Check the current departure times and book your bus seat in advance.

From Ninh Binh to Hanoi

By Bus: The bus is a fast way to travel from Ninh Binh to Hanoi. Many minivans operate daily and can take you to Hanoi in about 2 hours. The minivans are comfortable and equipped with air conditioning. Check the departure times and reserve your bus ticket in advance.

By Train: You can also travel to Hanoi by train. It’s a 15-minute drive from Tam Coc to the train station. The train takes about half an hour longer than the bus, but you can enjoy beautiful landscapes along the way. Check all train departure times and reserve your train seat in advance.

What to Do in Hanoi?

Hanoi offers a wide range of attractions and has something to offer every type of traveler. Here are some things you shouldn’t miss in Hanoi.

Stroll Through the Streets of Hanoi Old Quarter

Hanoi Old Quarter is the historic center of Hanoi and is an attraction in itself. This part of the city is over 1,000 years old and features numerous winding narrow streets filled with coffee shops, street food stalls, cafes, and restaurants. It’s the perfect place to wander around, visit a lively market, or enjoy delicious Vietnamese cuisine. One famous and bustling street worth visiting is Ta Hien Street. Especially in the evening, it’s lively with live music coming from small cafes, and people dance into the late hours.

Phung Hung Street is a major street on the border of the Hanoi Old Quarter. On this street, you’ll find 19 beautiful colorful murals. These artworks depict the daily life of Vietnamese people using the Trompe-L’oeils technique, creating a three-dimensional illusion, making the murals look incredibly realistic.

Tip: Hanoi is filled with scooters, and it might seem impossible to cross the road as a pedestrian. Make sure to walk at a predictable pace when crossing, and you’ll see that traffic anticipates you. Accidents happen when you do unexpected things like walking back or running, so avoid doing these. Cross the road at a safe pedestrian crossing if possible and try to walk with the locals.

Taste Traditional Vietnamese Egg Coffee in Hanoi

Vietnam is the second-largest coffee producer in the world after Brazil. In Hanoi, be sure to try the famous Vietnamese Egg Coffee. It uses whipped egg yolk for a creamy layer on top of the coffee. Egg Coffee originated in the 1940s when there was a shortage of dairy products. You can find many charming coffee shops in Hanoi Old Quarter where you can try this unique coffee. Below, I’ve listed my tips for the best coffee shops in Hanoi.

Giang Cafe – This is the most famous cafe in Hanoi to try Vietnamese Egg Coffee. You can order the Egg Coffee hot or cold, and both are delicious.
The Note Coffee – This trendy cafe is a must-visit in Hanoi. The building is covered with handwritten notes from travelers all over the world, both on the outside and inside. It’s fun to peek inside, and it’s even more enjoyable to have a cup of coffee and leave a note!
Hidden Gem Cafe – Hidden Gem Cafe also has a unique interior, as this creative coffee bar is entirely furnished with recycled materials. It’s a visual delight!

Join a Bike Tour of Hanoi

Bicycles are a fun means of transportation to explore the bustling city of Hanoi! The 3.5-hour bike tour by Baja Bikes starts in Hanoi Old Quarter and takes you through beautiful embassy streets to the outskirts of Hanoi. You’ll see different sides of Hanoi, and the enthusiastic guide will share interesting insights about the city. During the bike tour, you’ll make various stops, have the chance to taste local snacks, and admire several landmarks. You’ll visit the historic Long Bien Bridge and Truc Bach Lake, where the world-famous American pilot John McCain was shot down and captured by the Vietnamese in 1967. The guide will take the time to answer your questions and share fascinating facts. For example, did you know that many historic houses are located just outside the city? Some houses are even 300 years old.

Visit Hanoi Train Street

One of the most picturesque places in Hanoi is Hanoi Train Street. Several times a day, a train passes through the narrow streets of Hanoi, creating quite a spectacle. Everyone has to quickly move aside when the train approaches. This is definitely a must-see when you’re in Hanoi! Please note that you can’t just walk onto the tracks and choose a spot to sit. You can sit at one of the terraces, order a drink, and wait for the train to arrive.

Tip: Check with your hotel or hostel for the current train schedules, as they can change.

Stroll Through the Hanoi Weekend Night Market

In Hanoi Old Quarter, there’s a massive weekend market every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening. Be prepared for crowds, as both locals and travelers flock to this market. It’s fun to walk around the market, soak in the atmosphere, and enjoy some delicious food. Besides food, you can also buy souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, and other accessories. Remember that bargaining is part of the experience at markets in Vietnam. Always negotiate with a smile, as this often gets you the best price. The Hanoi Weekend Night Market officially opens at 6:00 PM, but some stalls may not be open yet, so it’s a good idea to visit between 7:00 PM and 8:00 PM.

Admire St. Joseph’s Cathedral

As you walk through Hanoi, you’ll notice many French colonial influences. St. Joseph’s Cathedral is a perfect example and is located in Hanoi Old Quarter. The cathedral was built by the French during their occupation of Hanoi and was inspired by the Notre Dame in Paris. It serves as a meeting place for many Roman Catholics and is a beautiful church to explore from the inside.

Note: Always ensure your shoulders and knees are covered when visiting St. Joseph’s Cathedral.

Taste the Best Street Food in Hanoi with a Food Tour

Is Hanoi the starting point of your journey through Vietnam? Then, it’s extra fun to join the Streetfood Walking Tour. You’ll go on an adventure with a small group and a guide to taste various flavors of Vietnamese cuisine. You’ll learn all about different Vietnamese dishes, snacks, and drinks. This knowledge will come in handy for the rest of your journey through Vietnam! Are you a vegetarian or do you have allergies? Not a problem, just mention it in the ‘comments’ section during the booking process. Make sure you start the tour with a hearty appetite.

Take a Stroll Along Hoan Kiem Lake

In the midst of the bustling Hanoi, you’ll find the large Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s a place where many locals escape the city’s hustle and bustle for a walk or a picnic. Don’t forget to visit the Ngoc Son Temple, which is located in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake and can be reached via a beautiful bright red bridge.

Tip: The best time to visit Hoan Kiem Lake is from Friday to Sunday because the area around the lake is closed to scooters and cars during that time.

Try a Banh Mi Sandwich

It’s time to get acquainted with traditional Vietnamese cuisine, and that includes the Banh Mi sandwich! Banh Mi is a delicious Vietnamese baguette filled with savory ingredients like meat, eggs, and vegetables. There are also vegetarian Banh Mi sandwiches available, often filled with cheese, avocado, mushrooms, and/or tofu. Banh Mi 25 is the most famous place to grab a delicious sandwich, and they offer a variety of options. Enjoy!

Visit Hoa Lo Prison Relic

It’s fascinating to visit the old Hoa Lo prison if you want to learn more about the events during the Vietnam War. Today, it’s a museum, but during the war, this prison, located in the center of Hanoi, was used to imprison and torture political prisoners. During a visit to the Hoa Lo Prison Relic, you’ll see that the conditions in this overcrowded and grim prison were truly terrible.

Tip: You can take an audio tour through the museum. Inquire about it at the entrance.

Get a Bird’s Eye View of Hanoi at the Sky Lotte Observation Deck

Located 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from Hanoi Old Quarter, you’ll find the Sky Lotte Observation Deck. Step into the elevator and within one minute, you’ll be taken to the 65th floor of this massive skyscraper. Here, you can enjoy a fantastic view of Hanoi. It’s especially enjoyable to have a drink here during sunset when the view becomes even more spectacular!

Note: Upon arrival, take the escalator down. You’ll arrive in a shopping mall, and from there, follow the signs to the elevator that will take you to the Sky Lotte Observation Deck.

Find Serenity at the Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature, also known as Văn Miếu, is located in the midst of bustling Hanoi, yet it feels like an escape from the city. The Temple of Literature is an ancient university built in 1070. The temple, dedicated to science and literature, is now a place where students come to study in peace. Thanks to its beautiful architecture, it’s also one of the most beautiful landmarks in Hanoi. Stroll through the five different courtyards and admire the beautiful prayer spaces.

Tip: After your visit, take a walk to Gò Kim Chàu Lake. It’s located opposite the Temple of Literature and is beautiful with its various walkways over the water.

Best Restaurants in Hanoi

In Hanoi, you can find delicious food at every street corner from street food stalls, but there are also plenty of good restaurants to explore. Here are some of my favorites.

Luk Lak – For delicious authentic Vietnamese cuisine with a modern twist.
Muoi Tieu – Salt n’ Pepper Kitchen – Start your day right at Muoi Tieu because here you can enjoy a nice breakfast or lunch. Think of avocado toast, salads, croissants, and various sandwiches.
Poké Hanoi – Create your own healthy poké bowl. It’s located right by Hoan Kiem Lake, so it’s also a great option for takeaway if you want to picnic by the water.
The Hanoi Social Club – In this trendy and cozy restaurant, you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It has a homely atmosphere and serves delicious dishes rich in vegetables.
Hanoi Food Culture – A charming restaurant with original decor and friendly staff. Here, you’ll experience the best of Vietnamese cuisine!

Where to Stay in Hanoi?

Hanoi is a huge city, so it’s natural to wonder where it’s nice to stay. The answer to this question is undoubtedly Hanoi Old Quarter. Here, you’ll find most of the attractions, as well as all the great restaurants, bars, and hotels. Below, you’ll find tips for the coolest hostels and hotels in Hanoi Old Quarter.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Hanoi

Right in Hanoi Old Quarter, you’ll find the cozy Hanoi Buffalo Hostel, which has everything you need for a great stay. There’s a pool, a friendly atmosphere, plenty of organized activities, and it’s easy to meet other travelers. You can choose between a double room or a dorm. Both have air conditioning, and the dorm beds offer plenty of privacy.

If you’re looking for a small, quiet, and budget-friendly hotel, Maison d’Orient Hotel is perfect. It’s tucked away in a side street near Hoan Kiem Lake, making it centrally located but away from the hustle and bustle. The rooms feature air conditioning, modern bathrooms, and a cozy design.

Hanoi Tirant Hotel is ideal if you’re looking for affordable luxury in Hanoi. Aside from the fantastic rooms, the real highlight of this hotel is the rooftop terrace. You can take a dip in the large pool and enjoy a magnificent view, especially during sunset!