Hanoi will simultaneously surprise, charm and chew you up. Founded along the Red River, Hanoi was named Thang Long (soaring dragon) by Emperor Ly Thai To in 1010. Over a thousand years of war, natural disasters and new administrations, the city grew from swamplands into the charismatic capital it is today. Take in details of the ancient architecture, battle the barrage of millennials on motorbikes and drink fresh bia hơi in the Old Quarter. Here are 11 must-see stops in Hanoi.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Admission: 35,000 VND
Hours: 8am – 11am, Tue-Thu, Sat-Sun (December to September) last entry at 10:15am
Address: So 1, Hung Vuong, Dien Bien, Ba Dinh
One Pillar Pagoda
Admission: 25,000 VND
Hours: 8am – 11:30am everyday, and 2pm – 4pm, Tue-Thu, Sat-Sun
Address: Chua Mot Cot, Doi Can, Ba Dinh
The Old Quarter
Hanoi’s historic Old Quarter is a single square kilometre comprised of 36 streets. Since the 15th century, each street has been home to artisans and craftsmen who traded in the specific merchandise for which their street was named. Today, the charm of these streets still remains. Prepare to marvel as you wander from silver street to bamboo street, silk street to decoration street, all within a stone’s throw of each other.
*TIP: At night, head down to bia hơi corner (the intersection between Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen) to sample sensational street food and bargain brews.
Hours: 7am to midnight
Address: North of Hoan Kiem Lake
Hanoi Opera House
Constructed at the turn of the 20th century, this beautiful colonial building is the largest theater in Vietnam. After nearly 100 years of operation, the Opera House was carefully refurbished in 1997 and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities. Today the venue attracts renowned performers, productions and musicians.
*TIP: Culture lovers should book tickets to see ‘My Village‘ at the Opera House. This impressive showcase combines acrobatics, traditional dance and music.
Admission: 300,000 VND
Hours: Check the website for performances
Address: So 01, Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem
Vietnamese Women’s Museum
Admission: 30,000 VND
Hours: 8am – 5pm, Tue-Sun
Address: 36 Ly Thuong Kiet, Hang Bai Ward, Hoan Kiem
The Water Puppet Theatre
Dating back to the 11th century, water puppet performances are ideal for light entertainment and insight into Vietnamese folklore. Wading around in waist-deep water holding bamboo poles, puppeteers operate the lacquered wooden characters from behind a screen, reenacting scenes from rural village life.
Admission: 100,000 VND
Hours: 3:30pm, 5pm, 6:30pm, 8pm, 9:15pm every day, and an additional performance on Sundays at 9:30pm
Address: 57b Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem
Hoan Kiem Lake
Admission: Free to the general public
Hours: Open all day
Ngoc Son Temple
The Ngoc Son Temple, or The Temple of the Jade Mountain, is situated on a small tree-sheltered island on the north side of Hoan Kiem Lake. Connected by a stunning scarlet bridge, this classic Vietnamese structure was built in honour of the intellectual scholar Saint Van Xuong, and national hero General Tran Hung Dao. In 1884, the Confucian scholar made a series of renovations to the site, including adding parallel sentences (câu đối) or word puzzles to the walls.
Admission: 20,000 VND
Hours: 7:30am – 5:30pm, every day
Address: Hoan Kiem Lake
Temple of Literature
Admission: 30,000 VND
Hours: 8am – 5pm, from November until March; 7:30am – 6pm for the rest of the year, Tue-Sun
Address: 58 Quoc Tu Giam, Dong Da
Museum of Ethnology
Admission: 40,000 VND
Hours: 8:30am – 5:30pm, Tue-Sun
Address: Nguyen Van Huyen, Nghia Do, Cau Giay
Saint Joseph’s Cathedral
Saint Joseph’s Cathedral (also known as Hanoi Cathedral), was built on the site of the Bao Thien Tower, which was the most famous landmark in the capital during the Ly Dynasty. The architect was inspired by the Neo-Gothic style of the Notre Dame de Paris. When visiting, expect to see a multicultural crowd of worshippers and plenty of Vietnamese newlyweds having romantic photo shoots.
Hours: 8am – noon, 2pm – 6pm, every day
Address: 40 Nha Chung, Hoan Kiem