Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is one of the most interesting places to visit in the country. It’s a typical Asian metropolis, with traffic, chaos and noise that can at times be overwhelming. Yet, it can be a lot of fun, not to mention a great place to get at least some understanding of Vietnamese culture, way of life and spirit. The city has a lot to offer to visitors, and there are many incredible things what to see in Hanoi that will keep you entertained for days.

Hanoi is known for its cuisine, silk, buzzing nightlife as well as cultural diversity. Its home to a large community made up of Chinese, French and Russian influences that highlighted what to see in Hanoi with local guide

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Hanoi train street

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Exploring Hanoi at your own pace

Discover the delights of ancient Hanoi with a friendly private guide. Get a local’s perspective on this enchanting city and explore Hanoi at your own pace with a guide who is eager to share his knowledge with you

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street food vendor in small alley Hanoi

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Off the beaten track with local tour guide

What to see in Hanoi has everything an urban adventurer could wish for: ancient history, a colonial legacy and a fresh, modern outlook.

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Hanoi west lake in sunset

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Witness the calm precision of Tai Ch’i performed at daybreak on the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake; meander through Hanoi’s Old Quarter and marvel with your guide at the vibrant medieval commerce quarters – still the heartbeat of this bustling city. Take a day trip to nearby Ninh Binh, where water buffalos, golden-green rice paddies, and majestic limestone formations will fulfill your postcard fantasies of Vietnam or Take a Halong Bay day trip, UNESCO natural site must see at Northern Vietnam

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Ninh Binh boat trip

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Our personal guide invites you to choose from the private Hanoi tours offered, or feel free to suggest alternatives for your tour of the Hanoi area. Our Hanoi guide can customize a private tour just for you.

Here is our bucket lists what to see in Hanoi with locals

Wandering Hanoi’s Old Town and the French Quarter

There are so many things to see in Hanoi’s Old town! Hanoi’s architecture is famous because of its influence from the French colonialists, and this is especially the case with the French Quarter in Hanoi. With its old and decadent style, it has quite a romantic vibe that will make you fall in love with it

FUN FACT: You’ll notice that houses are tall and thin, and this is because of the property taxes, – the more space you take on the ground, the higher your taxes are! This definitely makes for very curious and interesting buildings such as the Music House.

Chill at Hoan Kiem Lake

One of the most famous Hanoi tourist attractions, the Hoan Kiem Lake is a 12-hectare lake located in Hanoi’s city center. It is a great spot to people watch as locals love heading there with their families or even for a run!

Once you are at Hoan Kiem Lake, you’ll be able to spot the Turtle Tower – it is a beautiful ancient tower built in honor of the tale that names the lake and is easily the cutest tower in the country! You will also be able to visit the Temple of Jade Mountain – the tiny temple on the island in the middle of the lake that is connected to land by the very picturesque red Huc Bridge!

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Visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

As soon as you land in Vietnam, you’ll start realizing how much Vietnamese people love their former president, the late Ho Chi Minh, as they even named a city after him!

That’s why visiting Ho Chi Minh Museum and his mausoleum, located in Hanoi, is such an important part of your trip. You can check out the gardens and the outside area for free such as the one pillar pagoda. However, if you’d like to go inside, you’ll have to pay a fee and stand in line, so head there a little before it opens!

PRO TIP: Make sure you wear appropriate clothing, as they won’t let you in if you’re showing your shoulders or knees!

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Visit the Temple of Literature

One of the best what to see in Hanoi is to visit the Temple of Literature, a beautiful temple located in the embassy area of Hanoi. Built a thousand years ago in honor of Confucius, it was Vietnam’s first university and it is now one of the most famous Hanoi attractions!

It is so well preserved you can’t even tell it was built such a long time ago! The gardens are marvelous and it is such a calm and peaceful environment that it’s a wonder they could get so much studying done!

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Explore Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton)

One of my favorite places to visit in Hanoi is Hoa Lo Prison, better known as the Hanoi Hilton (how ironic, huh!)

A former prison during the Vietnam War, it’s been converted to a museum where you can learn about the life (and death) of the Vietnamese and foreign inmates during the war. It is extremely interesting and educational!

If you’re into it, it is said that because of all the terrible things that happened there, the prison is haunted, more specifically, the high security ward is! If you’re not into it, no worries, you’ll never find yourself alone in a room, I mean, there’ll be other tourists around for sure!

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Take a walk to Long Bien Bridge

It is a wonderful chance for a picture as this is quite an old and quirky bridge; many people pose in the middle of the railway to take those perfect Instagram photos!

Once you’ve seen the bridge, make sure you head to the Long Bien Market as well! It is the second biggest market in Hanoi to see, the place where all the locals go to buy their produce and fresh veggies!

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Check out Vietnamese Women Museum

One of the most attractive museums that showcases women’s roles in Vietnamese society throughout history is worth to pay your attention

You can learn about the different ethnic people living in Vietnam and how their traditions differ from one another. The museum displays traditional garments, typical clothing and tools!

Finally, you can also educate yourself about the role of Vietnamese women during the war, and learn about some female revolutionaries that helped the country and its people!

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Explore the West Lake Area

This area of Hanoi is quite an overlooked place for visitors to the Vietnam capital city. The West Lake is the biggest freshwater lake in Hanoi City and it makes for a beautiful morning stroll when you are not fully ready to hit the city yet!

It is also quite a trendy area, booming with fine dining restaurants and cute cafés; it’s a favorite spot for all expats to hang out!

A must see in Hanoi when you head to the West Lake area, make sure you check out Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in the city!

Learn about Vietnam history and 54 ethnic groups at the Vietnamese Museum of Ethnology

A great way to learn about Vietnamese history and the history of its different ethnicities, is to visit the Vietnamese Museum of Ethnology.

In a country with 54 different ethnicities, there is definitely a lot to say about Vietnamese society. The way people live, the religion they practice or even how they get along with one another; it is the best way to learn about multicultural Vietnam!

Make sure you don’t miss this hidden gem in Hanoi as it is probably one of the most interesting and informative museums in Vietnam’s capital!

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What to see Day Trips From Hanoi with Locals

As Hanoi based quarter, a good day trip from Hanoi would be awesome and interesting to escape a busy city. There are many beautiful and tranquil to chill out for one day. Our recommended best day trips with locals

1. Halong Bay

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Before you start your trip it might seem quite hard to believe that it is possible to do Halong Bay as a day trip, but it is! And you’ll see in Hanoi that plenty of tour operators offer this day trip! you’ll be able to admire the beautiful views of Halong Bay, explore a limestone cave in one of the islands and have a yummy seafood lunch! Our recommended transfer Hanoi to Halong Bay

Halong Bay is a stunning group of little islands that you typically explore on a cruise. There is literally every type of cruise available, such as one to three-day cruises, party cruises, luxury cruises or adventure cruises! Because each is tailored to a different type of traveller, it is likely that you’ll have the experience of your life! Read more: What to do in Halong Bay Tours from Hanoi

2. Cat Ba Island

If you really want to see how Vietnamese people have fun, head to Cat Ba Island, located next to Halong Bay! It is more of a party spot than a scenic one! Vietnamese love taking their families to this island and enjoying the many restaurants, seafood, alcohol and overall good weather.

Cat Ba Island also has a beautiful National Park, quite easy to get to by public transportation and if you wake up early enough, you’ll have it all to yourself! Do not hesitate to climb to the peak of the mountain, it’s on my top 3 most beautiful views in Vietnam! read more: What to do in Cat Ba Island

3. Hoa Lu & Tam Coc

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Day trip Tam Coc Ninh binh from Hanoi with locals

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It is so easy to explore North Vietnam while based in Hanoi, however many of these day trips would be impossible to do in one day without a tour. The tour operators organise everything and make it run smoothly so you can make the most of the day! read more: Things to do in Ninh Binh

Such is the case of Hoa Lu, which used to be Vietnam’s capital during the X and XI centuries and it’s no wonder why! It is surrounded by rice fields and limestone mountains which make it look like Halong Bay on earth! Very close to it, and one of my favorite places in Vietnam, would be Tam Coc! It is a little village located outside of Ninh Binh that is the perfect spot to start your exploration of the Hoa Lu region! Our recommended transfer to Ninh Binh

4. Trang An and the Bai Dinh Pagoda

The area that covers Tam Coc and Hoa Lu is called the Trang An Landscape Complex. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage list and is quite a popular spot for its incredible nature and unbelievable sights! It also contains the largest and oldest pagoda in Vietnam, the Bai Dinh Pagoda! Our picked tour Bai Dinh Trang an

5. Perfume Pagoda

the Perfume Pagoda or Huong Pagoda – it’s definitely another must on your list of day trips from Hanoi. It’s a beautiful Buddhist temple complex set in a super scenic landscape that makes it the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city!

you’ll get to enjoy the Huong Tich Cave, stunning landscapes and a row boat ride down the stream to the Perfume Pagoda

6. Mai Chau Valley

It’s just a short distance from Hanoi and you can join this 12-hour Mai Chau tour for a great chance to escape the polluted city and get a breath of fresh air from the countryside while enjoying the stunning landscape on a bike ride and getting to meet the local tribe! our tour to Mai Chau

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7. Ba Vi National Park

Ba Vi National Park is a great place to spend the day! Just a couple hours’ motorbike ride from Hanoi, it is centered around a mountain with three peaks.

The lush scenery and gorgeous tropical forest won’t disappoint when you visit it. It is also a famous spot for nearby tribes to find their medicinal plants as there’s a great diversity of plants and trees which is quite obvious when you visit it!

How to get from the airport to the city

You are going to land in Noi Bai International Airport (HAN), which is Hanoi’s biggest and only airport. Below you’ll find several options for you to choose from, if you’d like to know how to get from the Hanoi airport to the city center. Read more: Hanoi Airport to City

By Taxi 

As you leave the airport you will have some taxi drivers that will try to get your business; try to politely decline it, as they will overcharge you.

You can instead head to the taxi counters where different taxi companies offer you their services and the prices are way more reasonable. It should cost around $15 USD per trip, for the whole taxi (4 ppl).

By Public Shuttle

A very popular option among tourists is the public shuttle. The price is around $2 USD. It takes around 1 hour to reach the Old Town and then you can either walk or get a Grab, a South East Asian form of Uber, to your lodging!

You can pick up the shuttle right outside the arrivals gate, there’s no way you can miss it!

By Public Bus

If you’re feeling adventurous you can take the public bus for as little as $0.30 USD! If you’re heading to the French Quartier or Old town, you should get number 7 or 17

Bear in mind that they take around 1h 30 min to get there if the traffic is not too jammed! But it is a very popular option among locals and tourists alike!

By Private Shuttle

You can arrange this with your accommodation; just get in touch with them right after you make your booking and they can arrange it for you! Usually each one of them has their own rates that also depend on where your hotel is located, so feel free to drop them an email with all the info.

On tour with locals MUST try food in Hanoi

Check below list of food to try while in Hanoi:

  • Bun Cha – Probably my favorite Vietnamese dish is this noodle soup with barbecued pork, and fresh veggies and herbs! The taste is just indescribable!
  • Pho – Vietnamese noodle soup that consists of rice noodles and beef, it’s an iconic dish and a must try!
  • Egg Coffee – Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk and whisked egg yolk – delicious!
  • Mien Luon – Eel soup, a local delicacy!
  • Banh Mi – Super affordable baguette sandwich with veggies, meat and pate! A great dish when you just can’t eat another soup!
  • Banh Cuon – Steamed rice rolls filled with minced mushrooms and pork, super soft and perfect for breakfast!
  • Goi Cuon – The classic Vietnamese spring rolls; can’t leave Vietnam without trying them out!
  • Bun Bo Nam Bo – beef noodle salad, really yummy for meat lovers!
  • Get your foodie guided tour in Hanoi

Recommended what to see in Hanoi with locals:

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Questions About Hanoi, Vietnam?

Do you have any questions about traveling to Hanoi? Ask me anything in the comment section below. We’ll do our best to help!

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