🍜 Hanoi Guide: 14 Great Things To Do, Eat and Skip

A woman holding chopsticks with vegetables and rice noodles.

Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam and centrally located in the northern region, is one of the country’s most visited destinations.

I spent two days in Hanoi during my Vietnam trip, and here, I share the popular things to eat and do that I recommend visiting and skipping. This post covers:

  • 💡 Practical Hanoi tips
  • ⭐️ Top attractions to visit and skip
  • 🍜 Great local places to eat
  • 📍 Hanoi map with key places
  • 🏠 Where to stay

Planning a trip? Here’s what to know about Vietnam.

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Hanoi at a Glance

Before getting into the attractions, here’s some general information on Hanoi to help you plan your trip.

🇻🇳 What Is Hanoi Known For?

Hanoi is known for being the major city of northern Vietnam with historical and cultural significance. It features centuries-old architecture, narrow streets, street food culture, and museums.

Visitors can find Hanoi’s atmosphere chaotic, as it’s notorious for motorbikes honking and zooming along. Several viral videos on social media show how scary it can be to cross the streets of Hanoi.

A man walking through a city street with motorbikes parked around the edge.
A quieter street in Hanoi.

🗓️ How Long To Spend in Hanoi?

Two to four days in Hanoi is sufficient to see its top attractions.

I stayed in Hanoi for two days, which gave me enough time to enjoy the food culture and see many of its top attractions, but it wasn’t long enough for me to get accustomed to how scary it was to cross the streets.

Along with Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi has one of the worst air qualities in Vietnam. After just two days, I was happy to leave the city for the mountains and emerald bay.

📍 Where Is Hanoi Located?

Hanoi is centrally located in northern Vietnam. Here’s how far the city is in relation to other major places:

Significant PlacesWhere is Hanoi?
Ha Long Bay95 miles west
Ninh Bình60 miles north
Ha Giang City182 miles south
Ho Chi Minh City1,055 miles north
Hanoi’s Location in Relation to Major Places

The city is home to No Bai International Airport, the only international airport in the region, making it one of Vietnam’s most visited destinations.

☀️ Best Time To Visit Hanoi

The most popular time to visit Hanoi is from October to April, when humidity is low, and the weather is not too warm. June to October is considered the rainy season.

I visited Hanoi in November and experienced cloudy but warm and humid days.

💰 Is Hoi An Expensive To Visit?

Like the rest of Vietnam, Hanoi is a very affordable and budget-friendly destination. It is a tourist hot spot, so you’ll find prices comparable to Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City.

  • Mid-range budget travelers – expect to spend about $65 a day in Hanoi.
  • Budget travelers – expect to spend about $30 a day in Hanoi.

See my budget breakdown for my trip to Hanoi.

All prices mentioned here are in USD 💵 .

4 Essential Tips for Visiting Hanoi

Here are practical tips when visiting Hanoi:

  • 🧻 Bring toilet paper – Many bathrooms in Hanoi don’t have toilet paper. They also won’t have paper towels to dry your hands.

Many restrooms are squat toilets, so make sure you face towards the toilet hole when using them.

  • 🚶‍♀️ Learn to cross the streets confidently – Crossing the streets of Hanoi was my biggest culture shock. Vehicles don’t stop for pedestrians at all. Step into the street while keeping an eye on traffic and walk straight in a predictable path at a consistent pace so that vehicles can go around you.
Person crossing a street while many cars and motorbikes drive around them.
Crossing streets in Hanoi. (Photo by my friend, AnnaJoy.)

If you want to experience crossing one of the most chaotic places in Hanoi, walk to the Hanoi Opera House, a popular meeting spot for tours. I had to cross this area a few times, which was nerve-wracking.

  • 🏍️ Download the Grab app (iOS, Android) – Grab is the Uber of Southeast Asia. Calling a Grab is usually more affordable than flagging down a taxi. I paid $16 through Grab to get a ride into Hanoi after landing at Noi Bai International Airport.

Grab has competitive pricing, so use it as a baseline for negotiations with tuk-tuks.

Getting Around Hanoi

Once you’ve landed at Hanoi’s airport, No Bai International Airport, you can get into the city center by taxi, shuttle, or bus.

Once you are in Hanoi city, you can get around in the following ways:

  • 👟 Walking – Hanoi’s Old Quarter is very walkable; you can get to most attractions on foot. Walking is how I primarily got around.

Remember that crossing the streets in Hanoi is hectic, as cars do not stop for pedestrians. You must walk straight with confidence and let vehicles go around you.

  • 🚙 Ridesharing/Taxi – You can also flag down a taxi or use Grab in Hanoi. Grab is the Uber of Southeast Asia, and it’s usually more convenient and cheaper than riding a taxi. I used Grab several times while traveling around Hanoi and Hoi An.
  • 🏍️ Motorbike rental – The streets of Vietnam are filled with motorbikes (95% of registered vehicles are motorbikes) and renting one is relatively easy. The laws and regulations for rental can be ambiguous or confusing.
A street with over a dozen motorbikes lining the sidewalk.
A motorbike-filled street in Hanoi.
  • 🚗 Driver for hire – In many places in Vietnam, including Hanoi, you’ll find willing drivers ready to drive you to places for cheap (e.g., $30 for several hours). How you hire these drivers can be very casual. For example, my Hoi An tailor connected me to a local driver to take me to several places in Da Nang for $28.
  • 🚌 Bus – If you want to take a day trip outside of Hanoi, know that Vietnam has an extensive and affordable bus system to get around the country. You’ll likely be able to find a bus that takes you from your location to your desired destination. For example, I took a bus from Hanoi to Cát Bà Island that cost $28 round-trip.

Vietnam also has many sleeper buses, which are designed for riders to sleep in and can double as overnight accommodations. I took one when I traveled from Hanoi to Ha Giang.

Hanoi Map

This map has all the recommended places in Hanoi that are mentioned below.

5 Great Things To Do in Hanoi

I did many of the top attractions in Hanoi. I share my recommendations and honest opinions on the top attractions and activities below, listed in rough order of priority.

1. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

🤔 Why: Hanoi’s most famous site, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, houses the preserved body of the revolutionary President Ho Chi Minh, who united Vietnam. The complex also contains other buildings, like the Ho Chi Minh Museum.

A woman standing in front a box-shaped, gray building with columns that says "Ho Chi Minh."
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

📍 Getting There: Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is located a bit outside of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The entrance is located here on the southwest side of the complex.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum enforces a dress code (knees and shoulders must be covered), so dress accordingly. I saw visitors denied entry otherwise.

Cameras are not permitted inside the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, but they are allowed on the surrounding grounds. They stow cameras in a bag and keep them at a station from which you can pick them up when you exit the mausoleum.

💰 Admission Fee: Free. However, other places within the complex, such as the museum, charge an entrance fee.

Suggested Duration: 1 hour. Budget more time if you want to visit other buildings in the complex.

Security and the line can take a bit, and you can only view the body of Ho Chi Minh for about 20 seconds (there’s a line that loops around the display and guards that keep the line moving).

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: Viewing Ho Chi Minh’s preserved body is a brief but interesting and unique experience. Given Ho Chi Minh’s role in Vietnam’s history and the importance of this site, I recommend visiting the mausoleum.

2. Take a Day Trip to Ninh Bình

🤔 Why: Ninh Bình is called “Ha Long Bay on Land” for its green rice paddies and limestone cliffs. Their big attractions include:

  • The Bai Dinh Pagoda – the second largest pagoda in Vietnam.
  • Lying Dragon Mountain – a mountain with a steep climb that offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area.
  • Tràng An and Tam Cốc – rivers that offer popular boat ride tours through limestone karsts. The first river is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A high view of small green mountains surrounded by water fields.
Lying Dragon Mountain in Ninh Bình.

📍 Getting There: You can take a bus or train from Hanoi to Ninh Bình. If you don’t want to plan too much, you can also take a Ninh Bình tour like I did.

💰 Expected Cost: Most Ninh Bình day tours will cost $50 per person and include transportation and lunch. I paid $55 for my tour.

⏰ Suggested Duration: A full-day trip. The tour I did lasted three and a half hours, not including the four-hour round-trip transportation time.

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: Ninh Bình is a beautiful day trip away from chaotic Hanoi. As a heads up, visitors generally amass in popular places around the same times (e.g., there were dozens of boats in the water in Tràng An, and the view from Lying Dragon Mountain had a line).

3. Go on an Old Quarter Street Food Tour

🤔 Why: Hanoi is one of Vietnam’s foodie spots. Old Quarter is the main business and tourist hot spot, composed of 36 streets where you can see many historical sights, shops, etc.

Two people sitting at a table eating noodle with a dark broth.
Hanoi food tour.

Going on a Hanoi street food tour was one of the most valuable things I did early in my Vietnam trip. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with authentic Vietnamese food. The tour I did also recommended street vendors that tourists don’t normally know about.

💰 Expected Cost: Expect to spend around $30 for a half-day street food tour. My Old Quarter street food tour cost $26, which I thought was worth it, given the large quantity of food.

Suggested Duration: 3 to 5 hours. The tour I did lasted around four hours, and we ate at seven different locations.

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: Local street food in Vietnam is difficult to navigate, so a tour is likely your best bet to eat very authentic food. The tour combined popular tourist restaurants with local places where no one speaks English.

A woman wearing a straw hat cooking large pots of soup.
Local Hanoi restaurant.

4. Walk Around Hoan Kiem Lake

🤔 Why: The Hoan Kiem Lake is surrounded by pagoda gateways (Ngoc Sơn Temple is the most popular one) and gives visitors a break from the chaotic streets of Hanoi.

One of the most interesting things in the Ngọc Sơn Temple is the giant, preserved turtles on display. Turtles are an important animal in Vietnamese culture.

A woman standing on a bridge in front a decorated Asian gate.
Ngọc Sơn Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake.

If you want to venture out of Hanoi’s city center, you can head north towards Ho Tay (also called West Lake), which has Tran Quoc Pagoda, the most significant Buddhist temple in Hanoi.

📍 Getting there: Hoan Kiem Lake is located in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

💰 Admission Fee: The Ngoc Son Temple has a $1 entrance fee.

⏰ Suggested Duration: 30 to 60 minutes.

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: The Hoan Kiem Lake provides a good place to escape the more chaotic side of Hanoi. That said, it’s not the most beautiful lake you’ve ever seen, in my opinion, since the air quality is poor.

An open temple structure near a lake with trees.
Hoan Kiem Lake.

5. Attend a Water Puppet Theater Show

🤔 Why: Water puppet is a traditional Vietnamese performance that’s difficult to experience elsewhere. The water puppet theater show in Hanoi show consists of a dozen puppeteers controlling puppets while in water, accompanied by traditional instruments.

An indoor theater with an Asian-building prop and ten performers standing in water.
Hanoi’s water puppet show’s stage.

📍 Getting There: There are several theaters in Hanoi. The popular show is in Thang Long on the northeast side of Hoan Kiem Lake.

💰 Admission Fee: The Water Puppet Theater offers different pricing tiers based on seating. I chose the middle tier, which costs about $6. This is a popular show with sometimes long lines; you can pay to skip the line.

Suggested Duration: 50 minutes.

Make sure to get to the show on time. If you’re late, you’ll have to nudge your way through very tight seats. Also, don’t forget to pick up your English translation device before entering the theater.

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: The Water Puppet Theater show doesn’t have a complex plot or dialogue. What made it interesting to me was figuring out how exactly the puppeteers control the puppets, which is not straightforward.

5 Things To Maybe Skip in Hanoi

Below are five popular things in Hanoi that I did that I recommend skipping if you’re pressed for time or want to prioritize other things.

1. Temple of Literature

🤔 What Is It: Dating back to 1,000 years and constructed in honor of Confucius, the Temple of Literature is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Hanoi and is a popular place to take photos.

A big pool of green water inside a large complex surrounded by an Asian gate and trees.
Inside the Temple of Literature.

💰 Admission Fee: A little over $1.

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: I found the Temple of Literature underwhelming compared to other buildings and temples I saw in Vietnam. It’s a nice, accessible complex for Hanoi but not for Vietnam overall.

2. Vietnam Military History Museum

🤔 What Is It: A popular museum, the Vietnam Military History Museum showcases the multiple wars, including the Vietnam War, from Vietnam’s perspective. It also has cool artifacts (e.g., planes, tanks).

A set of old trains sitting an at outdoor area.
Vietnam Military History Museum.

💰 Admission Fee: A little over $1.

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: I had high hopes for this museum as I was interested in learning about the war from a non-American perspective, but I found the museum a bit poorly designed and confusing.

3. Train Street

🤔 What Is It: Train Street is a famous, narrow street in Hanoi where a train runs close to a handful of shops and cafes. Many visitors find it to be a unique experience.

Train tracks running through a street of closely-placed buildings.
Closed signs for Train Street.

For many years, Train Street has had a “closed” sign warning visitors not to enter. However, as of 2024, you can still enter the street despite the sign. Locals typically stand near the entrance, offering to take tourists in for a small fee, but you can walk in on your own.

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: Train Street is a unique experience, but many visitors now complain that it’s a poor experience because of the high and aggressive level of solicitation tourists get when approaching the street.

4. Joseph’s Cathedral

🤔 What Is It: Nhà Thờ Lớn Hà Nội Church, also known as Joseph’s Cathedral, is the oldest church in Hanoi.

A dark and tall cathedral.
Joseph’s Cathedral. (Photo by my friend, AnnaJoy.)

💰 Admission Fee: Free

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: Joseph’s Cathedral is located in a touristy area of Hanoi, so it’s easy to walk by it and take a look. I didn’t find the church’s design that impressive or unique, so I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.

5. Dong Xuan Market

🤔 What Is It: Dong Xuan Market is a local market that is often listed as a tourist attraction when researching things to do in Hanoi.

💰 Admission Fee: Free

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: Dong Xuan Market is more of a wholesale market aimed at locals, not visitors. It didn’t seem very inviting to non-locals when I walked by it.

4 Amazing Places To Eat in Hanoi

One of my favorite things in Hanoi was eating authentic Vietnamese cuisine at affordable prices. Here are four local restaurants that stood out to me.

1. Xôi Gia Truyền Bà Thu

🍚 What Is It: Xôi Gia Truyền Bà Thu is a super local place that serves delicious sticky rice (called xôi) with pork belly, sausage, egg, and soy milk. This is a no-frills place that’s great for breakfast. You’ll sit on a small stool by the street if you want to eat on the premises.

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: This is one of the most local and random places I found around Hanoi. The rice bowl is so delicious that I ate it three times.

💰 Expected Cost: I paid about $2 for a bowl and a cup of soy milk.

A bowl of rice with sausage and pork belly.
Xôi Gia Truyền Bà Thu in Hanoi.
A woman sitting on the street next to parked motorbikes.
Eating on premise.

2. Bánh Mì 25

🥖 What Is It: Bánh Mì 25 is a popular restaurant with locals and tourists, serving exceptional bánh mì, a baguette sandwich filled with savory ingredients.

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: This is one of the more tourist-friendly locations I’m recommending, so it’s a bit pricier, but the bánh mì was absolutely worth it.

💰 Expected Cost: I paid about $3 for a watermelon juice and bánh mì.

Two baguette sandwiches with pork belly and vegetables.
Amazing bánh mì at Bánh Mì 25.

3. Bánh xèo, Nem cuốn

🥞 What Is It: Bánh xèo, Nem cuốn serves bánh xèo, a crispy, stuffed rice pancake.

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: I ate bánh xèo at four different locations, and this local place was by far my favorite. Their vegetable ratios were perfect, and the pancake was crispy.

💰 Expected Cost: A bánh xèo in this local restaurant costs less than $1.

A lettuce wrapped around a crispy pancake with vegetables inside.
Eating bánh xèo at Bánh xèo, Nem cuon.

4. Cafe Giang

☕️ What Is It: Cafe Giang is hardly a secret, but I found it exceptional. Egg coffee is a Vietnamese specialty that is more like a dessert than coffee. It combines egg yolk, coffee, and condensed milk.

🍀 Lukiih’s Take: I had egg coffee at four different places and strongly recommend going to Cafe Giang, which is also said to be the inventor of egg coffee. I tried their egg coffee (hot and iced), egg hot chocolate (hot and iced), and egg beer.

💰 Expected Cost: Each Cafe Giang drink was less than $2.

A cup of coffee with yellow-milky coloring.
Hot egg coffee at Cafe Giang.

Vietnam Destinations to Visit After Hanoi

Hanoi is a great gateway to the rest of northern Vietnam. Where else can you head to after Hanoi? Here are some ideas:

⛰️ Go North to the Ha Giang Loop

From Hanoi, head six hours north for an epic three-day motorbike road trip on the Ha Giang Loop.

A high view of a deep mountain valley with a river running through it.
Ha Giang Loop.

🐉 Go South to Ninh Binh

From Hanoi, head two hours south to Ninh Bính, the “Ha Long Bay on Land.”

River with emerald water with a small temple inside the water and limestone mountains in the background.
Tràng An River in Ninh Bình.

💧 Go East to Lan Ha Bay

From Hanoi, head three hours east to the famous Ha Long Bay or go to the tranquil but equally beautiful Lan Ha Bay.

A limestone cliff jutting out of emerald water.
On a boat in Lan Ha Bay.

👗 Go Central to Hoi An

From Hanoi, take a two-hour flight to Central Vietnam to visit Hoi An, the food capital of Vietnam.

A shop decorated with different plants and lanterns.
A cafe in Hoi An.

Where To Stay in Hanoi

Here’s some guidance on where to stay in Hanoi.

🏠 What To Consider

When choosing accommodation in Hanoi, here are some things to consider:

  • Proximity to Old Quarter – I wanted to be within walking distance of Old Quarter, which has most of the action and tour pickup spots, so I recommend staying in or near it.
  • Busyness – Most areas in the Old Quarter are loud and busy. If you want somewhere more quiet, consider staying a bit outside of it, like I did.
  • Laundry availability – I traveled to Vietnam as part of a longer trip, so I needed access to laundry while in Hanoi.

🏠 Where I Stayed

During my trip to Hanoi, I stayed at Bi Eco Suites Hanoi just outside Old Quarter and paid about $19 per night. Here are my honest thoughts on the accommodation:

  • 👍 Pros – The entryway was tucked away in a nice alley, away from the honking of Old Quarter streetcars. The rooms were modern, huge, and had decent views. The laundry service was fair and flexible.
  • 👎 Cons – I don’t have any complaints about this place, especially given the price. One nitpicky thing was that when I arrived late at night, the concierge wasn’t immediately available to open the gates (I had to wait 10 minutes and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get in at night).
A narrow alleyway surrounded by plants and motorbikes.
Entrance to Bi Eco Suites Hanoi.

Vietnam Trip Planner

To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planner below and use it as a starting point. The planner has country-specific travel information, an itinerary, a packing list, and a map with key places pinned.

The trip planner is built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning (I genuinely love this tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.

Three Notion template screenshots are shown: travel information, itinerary, and map + packing list templates.
Preview of Vietnam trip planner for 2024.

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