Things to do in Hanoi: Explore the Charms of Vietnam's Capital

Silver Ringvee, Unsplash
October 18
Written by Aisha Chen

Discover the most impressive places and authentic experiences you can have in Hanoi. A comprehensive guide to make the most of your visit to this fascinating city.

Are you a seasoned explorer looking for your next adventure or a casual traveler seeking new experiences? Regardless of your travel expertise, Hanoi, Vietnam is a destination that should not be missed. Sprawling with fascinating historical landmarks, bustling street markets, and delectable cuisine to satiate your gastronomic cravings, Hanoi offers a plethora of memorable experiences and things to do.

Did you know that Hanoi is over 1000 years old? Let this Hanoi guide take you on an unforgettable journey through time and culture. With countless places to visit in Hanoi, your days will be packed with exploration and discovery. There’s definitely more to what to see in Hanoi than meets the eye.

1. Hoan Kiem Lake

Natural Spaces and Parks
a blurry photo of a city at night
Hoan Kiem Lake / menderes kahraman, Unsplash

Hoan Kiem Lake is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hanoi. Located in the heart of the city, this ancient lake offers visitors a haven of tranquility and beauty amidst the hustle and bustle of the Vietnamese capital.

The name 'Hoan Kiem' means 'restored sword'. According to legend, the Vietnamese emperor Lê Lợi received a magical sword from a divine turtle that lived in the lake to help repel Chinese invaders. After the victory, the emperor returned the sword to the turtle in the lake, hence the name.

Today, Hoan Kiem Lake attracts tourists and locals alike. Taking a leisurely stroll along the paths surrounding the lake is a relaxing experience, especially at sunrise or sunset. Additionally, in the center of the lake stands the iconic Rising Sun Bridge, which offers stunning views of the lake and its surroundings.

2. Temple of Literature

Historical Monuments and Architecture
a group of people standing around a red building
Temple of Literature / San Nguyen, Unsplash

The Temple of Literature is an ancient complex of buildings located in the center of Hanoi. Built in the 11th century, it was originally an academy where Vietnamese mandarins were trained in literature, history, and philosophy.

Known as the first national center of education, the Temple of Literature is an important symbol of Vietnamese culture and intellect. Here, visitors can admire traditional Vietnamese architecture, beautiful gardens, and learn about the country's history.

If you're looking for things to do in Hanoi, the Temple of Literature should be on your list. Admire the ancient shrines, explore the exhibition halls, and enjoy the tranquility of the outdoor spaces. Immerse yourself in Vietnam's rich history as you marvel at the beauty of this ancient and sacred place.

3. Hanoi Old Quarter

History and Cultural Heritage
white and brown concrete building
Hanoi Old Quarter / Elliot Andrews, Unsplash

Hanoi Old Quarter is a must-visit in the capital of Vietnam. With its narrow bustling streets, this place is full of life and tradition. Exploring its streets means immersing yourself in authentic Vietnamese culture.

The Old Quarter is known for its French colonial houses, temples, and traditional markets. It is also famous for its endless restaurants and street food stalls, where you can taste typical Vietnamese dishes such as the famous phở or bánh mì.

Strolling through Hanoi Old Quarter is a unique experience full of colors, smells, and flavors. Its narrow streets are filled with souvenir shops, art galleries, and traditional crafts workshops. Don't miss the opportunity to explore this fascinating place that delights travelers from all over the world.

4. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi

Historical Monuments and Architecture
a large building with a bunch of plants in front of it
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi / menderes kahraman, Unsplash

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi is a must-visit stop for anyone traveling to the capital of Vietnam. This imposing monument is the final resting place of the revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, who played a crucial role in the country's independence. Located in a beautiful complex, the Mausoleum is a display of respect and adoration for the father of the Vietnamese nation.

When visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, you will encounter a grey marble building that resembles other famous mausoleums around the world. Admission is free, but be aware that there are strict rules regarding dress code and behavior. Ho Chi Minh's body lies inside a glass sarcophagus, and visitors can silently pass by as a form of tribute.

Aside from the mausoleum itself, the complex also features other points of interest such as the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh's Stilt House, the One Pillar Pagoda, and the Unification Palace. All of these places offer a deeper understanding of Ho Chi Minh's life and legacy, as well as Vietnamese history and culture.

5. Hanoi Opera House

Historical Monuments and Architecture
a group of people standing on top of a stage
Hanoi Opera House / Phuc Thanh Mai Vo, Unsplash

Hanoi Opera House is a magnificent example of 19th-century French architecture in Vietnam. Built during the colonial era, this majestic building stands out with its yellow facade and neoclassical design.

Inside, you'll find an exquisitely decorated opera house with seating for over 900 spectators. Here, you can enjoy opera performances, ballets, and classical music concerts, which are a true delight for art and culture enthusiasts.

If you're looking for things to do in Hanoi, Hanoi Opera House should definitely be on your list. In addition to its historical and cultural value, it's also an ideal location for stunning photography.

6. Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

Entertainment and Pop Culture$$$

The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is a cultural gem in the heart of Hanoi. This ancient Vietnamese art has been passed down through generations for centuries.

Family gatherings, festivals, and special occasions were celebrated with water puppet performances, a form of entertainment that enchanted both young and old. Today, visitors can experience this unique tradition at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater.

Immerse yourself in the magic of water puppetry as the puppets come to life on the water stage. Traditional Vietnamese music and captivating stories will transport you to a world of Vietnamese legends and traditions.

7. Ho Tay Lake

Natural Spaces and Parks
a large body of water with a city in the distance
Ho Tay Lake / Suâm, Unsplash

Ho Tay Lake, also known as West Lake, is one of the main tourist attractions in Hanoi. Located in the Tay Ho district, this beautiful lake is an oasis of tranquility in the midst of the bustling city.

With its serene waters and picturesque landscapes, Ho Tay Lake is the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature. Take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, rent a paddle boat, or simply sit on a bench and take in the views.

Don't miss the opportunity to climb the Lotus Tower, from where you can get a panoramic view of the lake and its surroundings. Additionally, the lake is home to several restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy local cuisine while admiring the views.

8. West Lake Lotus Palace

Historical Monuments and Architecture

West Lake Lotus Palace is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Hanoi. Located on the shore of West Lake, this beautiful palace offers visitors a unique experience amidst nature.

Surrounded by lush gardens and ponds filled with lotus flowers, this palace is an oasis of peace in the midst of the city. Its traditional Vietnamese architecture and the design of its interior spaces will transport you back in time.

Don't miss the opportunity to visit this impressive palace and enjoy panoramic views of West Lake. It is definitely a must-visit for those who wish to explore the beauty of Hanoi.

9. Hoa Lo Prison

History and Cultural Heritage$$$

Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Prison, is a place of great historical significance in Vietnam. Built in 1896 by the French colonizers, this prison was used to detain and torture Vietnamese political prisoners during the French occupation.

Today, Hoa Lo Prison is a museum that showcases Vietnam's dark past and struggle for independence. Here, you can see small, dark cells where prisoners were held in inhumane conditions. You can also learn about the torture and interrogation methods used by the French.

In addition to the political and military history, Hoa Lo Prison also offers a glimpse into the everyday life of the prisoners. In the exhibition rooms, you can see personal belongings of former prisoners and read their moving stories. Don't forget to visit the execution yard and the guillotine used during the colonial era.

10. Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

Museums and Art Galleries

The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is one of the top things to do in Hanoi. This museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts and exhibits that showcase the rich cultural diversity of Vietnam's different ethnic groups.

In addition to exploring the permanent exhibitions, you will also find temporary exhibitions that address relevant topics to Vietnamese society. The museum is a place of interactive learning and a window into the country's past and present.

Visiting the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the history, traditions, and customs of the different ethnic groups that make up Vietnam's multicultural fabric. Don't miss it during your visit to Hanoi!

11. Ngoc Son Temple

Historical Monuments and Architecture

Ngoc Son Temple is one of the top things to do in Hanoi. Situated in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake, this temple offers a unique cultural and spiritual experience. Built in the 13th century, the temple is an important place of worship for the locals.

The architectural beauty of Ngoc Son Temple is simply stunning. With its traditional Vietnamese design, pointed roofs, and intricate details, the temple showcases Vietnam's traditional architecture. Moreover, the temple provides spectacular views of Hoan Kiem Lake.

Visiting Ngoc Son Temple is like stepping back in time and immersing yourself in Vietnam's history and culture. The temple houses a number of historical relics and cultural artifacts, including a large statue of a sacred turtle. Here, you can learn about local beliefs and traditions as you explore the different halls and pavilions of the temple.

12. Tran Quoc Pagoda

Historical Monuments and Architecture

Tran Quoc Pagoda is one of the most impressive places to visit in Hanoi. Located on the western shore of West Lake, it is the oldest Buddhist temple in the city, dating back to the 6th century.

With its splendid architecture and peaceful surroundings, Tran Quoc Pagoda attracts numerous visitors each year. Its ten-story tower, surrounded by lush natural landscape, offers stunning panoramic views of the surroundings.

Don't miss the opportunity to visit this historical and spiritual treasure on your trip to Hanoi.

13. Quan Thanh Temple

Historical Monuments and Architecture

Quan Thanh Temple is a historical temple located in Hanoi, Vietnam. Built during the Ly Dynasty in the 11th century, the temple is one of the city's most important religious sites.

With its traditional architecture and intricate details, Quan Thanh Temple is an impressive example of ancient Vietnamese architecture. The temple is dedicated to Huyen Thien Tran Vo, a deity revered in Vietnamese culture.

In addition to its architectural beauty, Quan Thanh Temple also houses numerous sculptures and religious art. Visitors can enjoy a tranquil spiritual atmosphere while exploring the temple and learning about Vietnam's history and culture.

14. Bat Trang

History and Cultural Heritage$$$

Bat Trang Ceramic Village is a must-visit destination for art and craft enthusiasts. Located just a short drive from the heart of Hanoi, this pottery village is famous for its high-quality ceramics and clay products.

In Bat Trang, you can visit workshops where skilled craftsmen still use traditional techniques to create beautiful handmade ceramic pieces. You can get up close to the manufacturing process and even participate in a class to learn how to make your own creations.

Additionally, you can explore the numerous stalls and shops that line the streets of Bat Trang, where you'll find a wide selection of ceramics, from plates and vases to cups and decorative sculptures, perfect for taking home a unique memento of your visit to this charming pottery village.

15. Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural

Historical Monuments and Architecture$$$

The Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural is an incredible art piece that spans a large portion of the city. This stunning creation is a true architectural gem that you can't miss if you're looking for things to do in Hanoi.

The mural features thousands of small hand-painted ceramic pieces that form a wide variety of images, from historical and cultural landscapes to scenes of everyday life. Walking along the mural is like taking a journey through Vietnam's history.

In addition to its artistic value, the Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural is also a symbolic representation of the resilience and creative spirit of the Vietnamese people. It was created by local artists and craftsmen as a tribute to the city's culture and history.

16. St. Joseph's Cathedral

Historical Monuments and Architecture

St. Joseph's Cathedral is a magnificent example of Gothic architecture in Hanoi. Built in the 19th century, this tourist attraction is one of the most visited places in the city and represents an important religious influence in the region.

The interior of the cathedral is as impressive as its exterior facade. The high vaulted ceilings, colorful stained glass windows, and beautiful religious sculptures create an atmosphere of peace and devotion.

Don't miss the opportunity to visit St. Joseph's Cathedral during your stay in Hanoi. A unique experience that will transport you to another time!

17. Hanoi Train Street


Hanoi Train Street is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Hanoi. Located in the heart of the city, this narrow and picturesque street is famous for its peculiarity: trains pass by just centimeters away from houses and businesses, creating a unique scene that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It is an unforgettable experience for any visitor.

What to do in Hanoi Train Street? Besides witnessing the impressive proximity of the trains, you can also take the opportunity to enjoy authentic local life. Take a stroll along the street, visit local cafes and shops, and interact with the residents. It is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture.

You cannot miss this prominent tourist attraction in Hanoi and experience the thrill of having a train passing so close. Hanoi Train Street is a must-visit on your trip to Vietnam. Get ready for a unique and unforgettable experience!

18. Ba Vi National Park

Natural Spaces and Parks

Located near Hanoi, Ba Vi National Park is a true natural paradise in Vietnam. Surrounded by lush vegetation and impressive mountains, this park offers a unique experience for nature lovers.

As you explore Ba Vi National Park, you can enjoy beautiful landscapes, hike on various trails, and observe the diverse flora and fauna. Additionally, you can also visit the ancient Temple of Emperor Tran Nhan Tong, located on a hill within the park and considered an important historical site.

With its magnificent panoramic views and peaceful atmosphere, Ba Vi National Park provides visitors with a perfect getaway from the city and an opportunity to connect with nature in Vietnam.

19. Dong Xuan Market

Food and Markets

Things to do in Hanoi: Dong Xuan Market is one of the most popular places in the city and a must-visit for shopping and Vietnamese culture lovers.

Located in the heart of Hanoi, this huge market is home to hundreds of stalls offering everything from clothes and accessories to fresh food and souvenirs.

Immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere of Dong Xuan Market and be amazed by the colors, flavors, and aromas of Vietnam.

20. Women's Museum

Museums and Art Galleries

The Women's Museum is one of the must-visit attractions in Hanoi. With its fascinating exhibitions, you'll dive into the history and legacy of Vietnamese women.

From ancient times to the present day, women have played a crucial role in Vietnamese society. At the Women's Museum, you can explore different aspects of their lives, from their participation in war to their contributions in the arts and culture.

This unique museum offers a profound and emotional perspective on the experiences of Vietnamese women. A visit to the Women's Museum is one of the top things to do in Hanoi, don't miss it!