Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tips and Tricks : 30 Things to do in Hanoi

Hanoi marked my 6th South East Asian (SEA) country visited, and I'm targeting to complete the SEA leg (namely Laos, Myanmar and Philippines) in 2015. This capital city is probably the most visited city in Vietnam, and it even ranked 8th in Trip Advisor's World Best Destination in 2014.

Free maps available at the airport and hotel for your touristy agenda when you are in Hanoi :)
If you find yourself in Hanoi, for 2 days or so, these are 30 ideas of what you can spend your time on, in Hanoi City that is. The list however is not inclusive of the main destination we came Hanoi for, the Ha Long Bay and tourists favorite of scenic Sapa. 

30. Lunch at Quan An Ngon.
Just arrived in Hanoi or too indecisive to head to a specific area, for a specific meal? This is just a place to be, extensive menu and a taste of Vietnam, all under one roof. (Find it at 18 Phan Boi Chau, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi)

Do come before 12, where the lunch crowd is built and might need to wait for seats.
29. St. Joseph Cathedral
St. Joseph's Cathedral located at Nha Tho (Church) Street in the Hoan Kiem District of Hanoi, Vietnam serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi to nearly 4 million Catholics in the country. Looking similar to Notre Dame in Paris, this oldest church in Hanoi is a significant influence of the French colony in Hanoi.

St. Joseph Cathedral, Hanoi
28. Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton)
The Hỏa Lò Prison - also known as Hanoi Hilton, has nothing to do with Hilton. This museum used to house political and war prisoners by the French colonists and North Vietnam.

The wall color looks nice though for a prison :P
27. Bahn Mi
The bánh mì, also known as the Vietnamese sandwich is another street food to try. This sandwich is good for breakfast or take away on the go!

Bahn Mi and coffee, seems like a complete breakfast (or tea time) :) Taken at Highland Hotel Boathouse, near West Lake
26. Quan Su Temple
Quán Sứ Temple is the headquarters of the Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam. Didn't manage to visit the this Buddhist temple thoroughly since we arrived here late.

Quan Su Temple
25. French Quarter
Ba Đình is an urban district and political center of Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. It was formally called the "French Quarter" and located southeast of Hoan Kiem Lake. During the French occupation, authentic Vietnamese buildings were replaced with French architecture. Most of the 'atas' (read : sophisticated, high class) restaurants and hotels are found here, like the Metropole Hanoi Hotel. Also, expect to find international known brands outlets here (Starbucks anyone?).

Hotel Metropole Hanoi
24. Spring Rolls
When you want to eat one of Vietnam's iconic dishes, where else to have it than Vietnam itself. Eaten either steamed or fried, the spring rolls consists of rice paper wrap with vegetable or meat fix ins. A must try.

I prefer the fresh spring roll compared to its fried counter part, just a preference :)
23. The Conical Hat Hunt
Shutterbugs would understand, it wouldn't exactly be Vietnam if you do not have a typical shot of someone in Vietnam's iconic conical hat. Bear in mind, some of the 'models' may charge you for taking shots of them, so steal some shots if you feel like doing so. They can even loan you their conical hat (and the scales) for a certain fee, just don't get ripped off.

Typical Vietnamese ladies with conical hats. Not exactly a rare sight :)
22. Souvenirs Scavenging
From puppets to conical hats, souvenirs are aplenty especially if you are in the city center. I personally felt that 3D pop up paper art cards are one of Hanoi's better known souvenirs to take away, affordable and light on your luggage. Otherwise, coffee powder or some local biscuits would work too! :)

Puppets anyone?
21. Bia Hoi
Bia hơi, (hơi means gas, bia is from French bière, "beer"), is a type of draft beer popular in Vietnam, and can go as low as US $1 per bottle. Drink at the street for a more authentic, Hanoi experience.

Street beer.
20. Water Puppet Show
Apparently this puppet show is a famous water puppetry show among locals and tourists alike, accompanied with Vietnamese folk lore and orchestra story telling. Also didn't manage to slot a time for this, unless if you can understand the story since the whole show would be in Vietnamese that is.

Tickets tickets tickets. Get your tickets yo!
19. Hanoi Opera House
Hanoi Opera House is an, you guessed it, opera house that was modeled on the Palais Garnier, the older of Paris's two opera houses, and is considered to be one of the architectural landmarks of Hanoi. Spotted here, art students that sketch the building, peeked a few of them and they are good!

Hanoi Opera House on an equally hectic street as the Old Quarter, but easier to navigate along for sure. 
18. City View Cafe
Another one of Hanoi City Center icon, City View Cafe is actually located on the 5th floor, above a few restaurants and Highland Coffee, one of Vietnam's famous coffee franchise. Snag a place up there and view the city from a heighten view, and watch the how the Vietnamese and tourists roam the streets and blend with the traffic.

Korean, Vietnamese, beer and coffee, your one stop for all those (and oh, there's KFC across the street too)
17. Crossing the Streets (Like a Boss)
The trick of crossing the main streets in Hanoi, is that you have to be brave to cross it, regardless if the vehicles is coming your direction or otherwise. Hand gesture DOES NOT work in Hanoi, just cross when the opportunity comes and you should be able to get across safely.

Cross road see vehicle meh la... Just cross like a boss will do!
16. Bún chả
Bún chả is a Vietnamese dish which is thought to have originated from Hanoi. Served with grilled fatty pork (chả) over a plate of white rice noodle (bún) and herbs with dipping sauce, this is one of the other dish you should try when you are here.

Bún chả, I initially thought it has some tea (茶, read : cha) element to it but I was clearly wrong :)

If you have survived thus far and almost bored you to death, check out the next 15 will be at the next post :)


  1. So nice! I'm so gonna ask you to more tips :D

    1. Yeah sure. Just nudge and I'll be more than glad to share the itineraries as well ;)

  2. Awww! The buildings are all pretty with characters. I love their food too esp the rolls!

  3. I know this is a long shot, but I am gonna ask anyway. Do you mind sharing your itineraries? That is if you still have it. :D Thanks a bunch!

    1. Yeah sure, don't mind emailing it to you!