Hanoi: Vietnam's Bustling Capital
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | May 9th, 2017
Hanoi is filled with great food, history, and over four million motorbikes. Yes, four million! This bustling city is over one thousand years old and attracts tourists from all over the world. Visitors love to immerse themselves in the fascinating culture and captivating sights of Vietnam's capital. When exploring this vibrant city, be sure not to miss these five incredible attractions.
Wander the Old Quarter
The Old Quarter is located in the Hoan Kiem District of Hanoi, which is by far the most popular area in all the city. Packed with tourists, locals, restaurants, and hotels, this happening location is where you'll find some of the best street food. It is also where you'll want to find accommodations. Hotel options are plentiful, and the best attractions are within walking distance. Wander the winding streets, taste the local cuisine, and enjoy the best area in Hanoi.
Bike or Walk Around Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake is a relaxing area where locals and tourists go to get away from the busy city life. Only a ten minute walk from the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem is a great place to take a bicycle ride or leisure stroll. During the evening hours, colorful lights illuminate the intricate pagodas and surrounding trees, making this beauty a real sight to see.
Take a Cooking Class
Vietnam is known to have delicious bites, such as the ever-popular pho. Since you can't take the food home with you (and you're going to want to), why not learn how to cook it? Taking a cooking class is a great way to lean how to authentically prepare traditional Vietnamese dishes. I loved learning how to masterfully roll a spring roll and make a hot bowl of pho.
Watch a Water Puppet Show
Originating in northern Vietnam, water puppet shows are a unique form of Vietnamese art. Wooden puppets glide, dance, and perform over water while lights and music enhance the show. The most popular theater in Hanoi is the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. They have shows every day, and tickets cost 100,000 VND / $4 USD.
Visit Ha Long Bay
The number one tourist attraction in all of Vietnam is Ha Long Bay. This stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site is a three hour drive from Hanoi, and is definitely worth the trip. Tour companies offer daily tours (and multi-day tours) right from Hanoi's Old Quarter. Prices starts around 700,000 VND / $30 USD for a budget day trip that includes round-trip transportation, lunch, a Ha Long Bay cruise, and kayaking. Check out my article on Ha Long Bay here.
When to go: The best months to visit Hanoi are late September through November and March through April. The days are warm (80°F / 26°C) and the nights are comfortable (70°F / 21°C). May to September can be extremely hot and rainy, and December to March can be a little chilly.
Where to stay: There are so many great hotels to choose from in Hanoi. I suggest checking out TripAdvisor to find one that suits your needs.