A trip to Vietnam wouldn’t complete with a visit to the capital of Vietnam which boasting over “a thousand years of culture”, Hanoi is an enticing city of opposites; historical buildings may stand side by side with skyscrapers. In this article, we will give you the ultimate Hanoi travel guide with all the information you need to know for your perfect trip. In addition, you can also check out our Vietnam travel guide to know more interesting information about Vietnam
Overview of Hanoi
Besides the “cannot miss” The Old Quarter without hyperbole, the heart of Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh complex with its historic events of a nation, the beauty of Hanoi has gorgeously developed through the century from the small green streets, falling yellow leaves, the smell of milkwood pine flowers (Alstonia Scholaris), and the smell of “cốm” in season, romantic fall to the cold winter with fragrant incense. Those reasons are enough to be on any bucket list of visitors who make their way to Vietnam. Related Tours: Hanoi Tours (Daily Tour)
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Best time to visit Hanoi
The best time to visit Hanoi is from October to April. The city’s famous autumn begins in October, turning many streets into locations for photo-ops with golden rains of leaves in the crisp, chill air. However, you basically can visit any month of the year without consideration for its epic food and other city’s glorious past such as Old Quarters or the Temple of Literature-Imperial Academy complex.
Hanoi travel guide: Best food in Hanoi
Bun cha- Barbecued pork with rice vermicelli
Among other famous dishes such as Banh Mi or Pho, Bun Cha – a pride of Hanoian cuisine is loved locally and internationally. “Bun Cha” is simple but unforgettable with marinated grilled pork served with rice noodles, Vietnamese herbs, and again, the family secret fish sauce. Do you know that President Obama has tried and complemented Bun Cha?
Bun dau mam tom
First-time diners might balk at the thought of eating fermented shrimp paste, but this noodle dish has become one of the best Vietnamese foods with good reason. This “cheap and cheerful” platter is one of the hallmarks of working-class food. Cooked rice vermicelli is served alongside crispy fried tofu, blood sausage, fried patties, and an array of herbs, surrounding a bowl of dipping sauce made by skillfully combining the paste with lime juice and chili.
Pho Cuon – Phở cuốn
It’s a Hanoian dish that is simply made with only a few ingredients: stir-fried tender beef, Vietnamese lettuce, some mints, and corianders and all wrapped in fresh rice noodle sheets. Nowadays, you could find Pho Cuon in many different restaurants in The Old Quarter but back in the old days, Vietnamese would only come to West Lake and Truc Bach Lake for the dish.
Nem cua be – Crab meat spring rolls
We know that spring rolls are all over the place, you don’t have to be in Vietnam to taste the dish. However, have you tried the Crab meat spring rolls in Hanoi? Instead of using the typical ingredient- pork, this dish is made of crab meat which contributes to the fresh seafood flavor and it goes so well with fresh noodles, Vietnamese herbs and family-recipe fish sauce. It might cost a little more than the classic spring rolls but it is worth trying.
Pho – Phở
Pho is one of Vietnam must try food. Each region has its own way of making pho, and many claim credit for inventing it, but the only thing that they can agree upon is that this iconic Vietnamese food consists of thinly-sliced rice noodles doused in piping-hot broth, topped with protein (beef, chicken, and more), and eaten with herbs. And we are sure that you could find the best bowl of Pho in Hanoi even at any vendor on the streets.
Banh Cuon – steamed rice rolls
These rice crepes are made by spreading thin layers of steamed rice flour and wrapping them around savory fillings. They are then sprinkled with fried shallots and dunked into a sauce before being eaten. These crepes can also be eaten without fillings (banh cuon chay) or swimming in a broth (banh cuon Cao Bang).
Ca phe trung – Egg coffee
How coffee is made could be varied from north to south of Vietnam but when you are in Hanoi, don’t miss out on the signature of Hanoi – Cà phê trứng- Egg coffee. It was created in the early 1950s and inspired by the traditional cappuccino. A standard hot cup of egg coffee possesses a thick and creamy yellow egg layer on top harmoniously married with a solid Robusta flavor on the bottom. Check out our guide to the best egg coffee in town.
Best place to visit in Hanoi
Hanoi Old Town Quarter
The Old Quarter is, without hyperbole, the heart of Hanoi. From the 11th century, the city then known as Thăng Long, the City of the Ascending Dragon grew and expanded around the Old Quarter, where merchants and craftspeople from all over the country gathered to ply their trades. The names of the Quarter’s 36 streets pay homage to the people who once lived and worked there; you can still purchase jewelry on Hàng Bạc (Silver Street), and headgear on Hàng Nón (Hat Street). Even as Vietnam increasingly modernizes and reaches out to the world, Hanoi does not forget her roots. The Old Quarter still contains over 100 historical buildings and places of worship. The most notable example of these is Bạch Mã (White Horse) Temple, the oldest of the Four Sacred Temples, which has kept watch over Thăng Long since 1010 and still throngs with the faithful.
The Old Quarter is not only among the best hotspots for food and entertainment in the city but also preserves over a thousand years of culture and history. When you visit Hanoi, don’t miss out on a trip to the famous 36 streets!
Hoan Kiem Lake
If the Quarter is a heart-shaped pendant, then Hoàn Kiếm Lake (Lake of the Returned Sword, or simply Sword Lake) is its glittering jewel. Let your gaze sweep over the scenery, and perhaps you too can see a golden turtle rising from emerald waters to retrieve a sacred sword from an Emperor, the myth that gave the lake its current name. You can take a stroll around the lake with ice cream from Tràng Tiền, or sit on any of the stone benches on the paved path and watch willow trees swaying in the breeze.
The Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature complex in Hanoi has two components: the actual Temple for worshiping Confucius and other sages and scholars, and the Imperial Academy for the education of royalty, later expanding to excellent students nationwide. The Temple was built in 1070. The Academy followed six years later, becoming the first national university in Vietnam. Before exams, students often visit the Temple to pray. It’s believed that touching the heads of the stone turtles bearing the name of past graduates would bring luck, though barriers have been put up because the heads were being worn down over centuries.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Another educated historical figure is memorialized in the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum complex. “Uncle Hồ”, as he is affectionately known, was the statesman, writer, poet, and journalist who led Vietnam toward reunification and peace. This complex also has two parts: the Mausoleum for housing the preserved remains of the leader, and the Museum for chronicling his life from carefree childhood to revolutionary adulthood. Like the Temple, it’s a common destination for school trips, so children can learn about their life and deeds. Veterans and civilian survivors of the war also visit to pay homage, as one would to a deceased family member
Hoa Lo Prison
Located in the heart of Hanoi, just a few minutes walk from the Silk Path Hotel Hanoi, Hoa Lo prison is known for being one of the most inhumane prisons with many terrifying punishments during the French colonization of Indochinese countries for political prisoners and then later used for The United State prisoners in northern Vietnam during Vietnamese- American War. The place currently runs both day and night tours so don’t miss out on the full experience of Hanoi’s highlights.
Hanoi travel guide: Traveling around Hanoi
Getting around Hanoi is quite easy to handle compared to other cities around Vietnam. If you are already in the Old Quarter, it is walkable everywhere from Hoan Kiem lake to 36 small streets or even from the Old Town to West Lake to check out the Ho Chi Minh complex. However, if your feet demand rest and feel more adventurous about experiencing motorbiking in this bustling city, you could easily rent a bike in any rental bike shop that normally costs around 150.000 VND/ day. Indeed, for most visitors, riding a bike in Hanoi is extremely crazy and difficult with the heavy traffic.
We recommend you take a taxi or use transportation apps such as Grab/ Gojek or Bee to order your rides. They offer both motorbike and car service. With the popularity of taxi and all the transportation apps, we might forget that exploring the city by local bus is also a great idea. With only 9.000 VND/ journey, it’s way affordable, giving you a chance to observe local people and get you away from the madness of bikes on the road, why don’t we give it a try?
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As a local expert of Hanoi, we share with you our experience as a “daughter” of the city where we grew up and loved, learn to love it every day and we hope this article about Hanoi travel guide is helpful for your visit to Hanoi.