Top 7 Places To Visit In Hanoi
Hanoi is the vibrant capital of Vietnam and one of the most interesting cities in Southeast Asia (in my humble opinion). If you're looking for the cultural and historic heart of Vietnam, you'll find it in Hanoi, although the city is rapidly modernizing.
In addition to the gorgeous architecture, you'll also find an engaging collection of museums that will fill you in on all the history of this part of the country. You can also visit traditional Vietnamese monuments such as temples and pagodas, and if you like photography, then you’ll be spoiled for choice here.
Hanoi is also known for its delicious food scene and local dishes include big bowls of noodles and packed full of Banh Mi. In addition to the food, Hanoi also has some beautiful hang-out spots like the Old Quarter, as well as pretty lakes and lush parks.
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1. Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake (Return Sword Lake) is the heart of Hanoi. Not only is it a great place to wander, but it also has great historical and cultural significance for the people of Vietnam.
Hoan Kiem Lake is perhaps the most famous spot in Hanoi and is also believed to be a mystical body of water. The lake is said to have a mythical resident turtle who is the hero of a Vietnamese legend. Locals will tell you the turtle still swims in the lake, although you will also spot many other real-life turtles here when you go to visit.
This is the perfect place to go for an afternoon stroll and get some great vacation shots for the ‘gram.
2. National Museum of Vietnamese History
The National Museum of Vietnamese History is home to many artifacts reflecting the country's culture and developing history and people in Vietnam. The museum dates back to 1925, when it was built.
Used as a school during the French colonial period in Vietnam, the building is an elegant mix of Chinese and French design and it is intricately decorated. Pieces range from the ancient to the fairly modern. Be sure to look out for the bronze pieces that date back to the 3rd century BC and are part of the Dong Son culture.
You’ll also find a number of Hindu statues from the Champa and Khmer kingdoms and galleries of ornate Vietnamese jewelry. You can also tour the galleries dedicated to the French colonial period and the Vietnam War.
With an entrance priced at less than $1.50, this is well worth a visit when you come to Hanoi.
3. Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
You mustn’t miss a trip to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi. This theatre features a waist-high pool of water that the puppeteers stand in while they perform. They operate puppets fixed to long bamboo canes to look as if dancing on the surface of the water. The shows here usually tell the stories of local legends and farming stories or Vietnamese myths are also common.
This kind of performance is said to have started in rural Vietnam when the rice fields flooded in the rainy season and locals would dance with the puppets on the water to entertain themselves. It’s sure to be a beautiful performance that the whole family will enjoy!
4. Imperial Citadel
The Imperial Citadel in Hanoi used to be the seat of military power in Vietnam and would have been an important spot during the Vietnam War. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can enjoy over 1,000 years of history here.
One of the citadel's signature elements is the uncovered archaeological treasures, such as the foundations of ancient palaces.
You’ll also find bunkers here that date back to the Vietnam War, and you can browse collections of weaponry and even see military maps from this time.
5. Hanoi Old Quarter
Walk north from Hoan Kiem Lake, across Cau Go, and suddenly you’re in the busy streets of the Old Quarter, a bustling square kilometer that was closed to the public well into the nineteenth century. Now one of the city’s hot spots, Hanoi’s Old Quarter is considered the main business hub and the best tourist spot in the city.
Many visitors say that Hanoi is the prettiest and most traditional city in Vietnam; much of this is down to the presence of the Old Quarter. Here you’ll find densely packed streets that still retain all the charm of a small local neighborhood. The names of the streets will tell you which shops you’ll find there. For example, ‘Hang Gai’ means you’ll find Silk Shops all along that road.
If you’re looking to pick up local souvenirs or gifts, this is the best place to do it. There is also a wealth of delicious local eateries here and a night market held in the Old Quarter every night from Friday to Sunday.
6. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square is one of the most visited attractions in Hanoi. It is the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh, the most iconic and popular leader of Vietnam, known to his people as ‘Uncle Ho’. His body is preserved here in a glass case at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in central Hanoi (albeit against his wishes).
For many visitors, a trip to Uncle Ho’s final resting place can be an extraordinary experience as it is not just an average attraction. It’s a part of a unique history.
Security is tight and visitors should dress with respect (no shorts, sleeveless shirts or miniskirts) and everyone has to deposit their bags and cameras before getting in. Visitors cannot stop and hold the constant queue up as the place is constantly busy, but it's worth it! Admission is free but donations are accepted.
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7. Long Bien Bridge
With a history of over 100 years, Long Bien Bridge is a historical and cultural symbol of Hanoi. Not only that, Long Bien Bridge is the ideal place to admire a panoramic view of Hanoi from above. Come here to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the city center.
Long Bien Bridge is the first steel bridge to cross the Red River, linking Long Bien and Hoan Kiem District of Hanoi. Built from 1899 to 1902, the Long Bien Bridge was designed by architects who came over from Paris.
It would have played an important strategic role during the Vietnam War and is a spot of historical importance in the city. If possible, visit the bridge in the evening when it is lit up against the night sky. There is a pedestrian path that lets you walk over the bridge and street food carts are always around selling tasty drinks and snacks.
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