A centuries-old city, Hanoi is the cultural and economic centre of the country, steeped in history and influenced by both French and Chinese colonisation. Street life pulses with energy in the Old Quarter as vendors in narrow alleyways hawk everything from housewares to electronics and religious artefacts. Temples, lakes and prestigious museums reflect a more refined side of life in Hanoi.
Things to do in Hanoi
Centuries-old architecture in Hanoi hints at a grand past, juxtaposed against speeding motorbikes and trendy shopping centres. In the heart of the Old Quarter, St Joseph’s Cathedral stands as a shining example of neo-Gothic style from the 1800s, with intact bell towers and elaborate stained glass windows.
The Temple of Literature dates back to the 11th century, honouring the life of Confucius and Vietnamese scholars. Take a stroll through manicured gardens and visit the pagoda with Confucius statues, or experience a unique form of contemporary Hanoi art at the Municipal Water Puppet Theatre.
Multi-faceted museums such as the Vietnamese Women’s Museum reveal the vital role of individuals in Vietnamese society. The Vietnamese Museum of Ethnology highlights the country’s diverse ethnic groups with exhibitions of traditional costumes, artworks and handicrafts.
Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as Lake of the Restored Sword, cradles a major landmark situated on the southern edge of the Old Quarter. Accessible via a picturesque red bridge, Ngoc Son Temple is dedicated to famous Vietnamese heroes. On weekends, you can join locals in practising traditional tai chi at dawn on the lakeshore.
Getting around Hanoi
Hanoi maintains an extensive public bus system, but metered taxis are also common place. Traditional three-wheeled bicycle taxis, known as cyclos, offer transportation throughout the Old Quarter. Electric bus tours hit all the major attractions in the Old Quarter as well as Hoan Kiem Lake.