Founded over 1000 years ago, Vietnam’s capital city is rich in history, with the streets of its rambling Old Quarter dating back to the 14th century. Wandering these tree-lined lanes past crumbling colonial facades will transport you back in time. However, today’s Hanoi is about much more than the past. The ancient city is being invigorated with modern cafes, world-class restaurants, and cool art galleries. When the sun goes down, you have your pick of watering holes, from sophisticated rooftop bars to buzzing beer in Ta Hien street.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN HANOI:
Sample the street food
A wander around a morning market provides a seduction hint of what you can expect to hit your table in Hanoi. For an authentic taste of Hanoi, look no further than the street kitchens of the Old Quarter. Phở soup is king of cuisines here, with steaming pots of its star anise-infused broth simmering on every corner; while every day, the irresistible scent of bún chả fills the air as barbecued pork sizzles over hot coals.
Stroll the Old Quarter
Hanoi’s Old Quarter serves up a sensory overload for the eyes, ears and nose. Wisps of incense drift out onto streets from ancient temples painted a riot of reds and oranges, while in a far-flung corner the clang of a blacksmith’s hammer mingles with a mobile fruit seller’s call. To fully immerse yourself, grab a map to explore.
Explore Hanoi’s cafe culture
It is by taking a seat and waiting as your coffee slowly filters that the Vietnamese capital can best be understood. Fast-paced on the surface, the true rhythm of city life is far from hurried. Alongside the thousands of coffee houses selling traditional Vietnamese coffee, an ever-growing band of unique coffee shops serve espressos and machiatos in surroundings rivaling the world’s coolest caffeine dens.
Check out the art scene
Hanoi has long had a reputation as Vietnam’s art capital, with the elegant Fine Arts Museum housing the country’s foremost collection, including ancient Cham artifacts and impressionist pieces. For something more contemporary, head for Manzi–an art space-cum-cafe–or the Vietnam Art Gallery. Both are top places to take the pulse of the city’s art scene. Smaller gallery spaces include Nha San Collective at the up-and-coming Hanoi Creative City urban project.
Join the locals at Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem lake rests at the heart of Hanoi and embodies the soul of the city. Every morning it comes alive with walkers, aerobics classes, badminton, ballroom dancers, and even a laughing yoga group. It bursts back into life at sunset, and after dark, is again thronged with locals out to take the evening air. A little further north the lesser-visited Truc Bach and West Lake shouldn’t be missed–their calm temples and lakeside cafes provide peaceful enclaves away from the buzz of downtown.
Copyright by Vietnam Tourism