Hanoi is the land of a thousand years of civilization with ancient heritage and a peaceful life. Once you put your step on this ground. you will definitely never forget a particular atmosphere here with West Lake (Ho Tay), Hoang Kiem Lake, taciturn but friendly cafeterias and streets with many small lovely stores. Below is 9Vietnam’s guide for travelers and backpackers on what to do, where to visit, how to deal with local and what is the best way to stay away from being ripped off and to enjoy the best experiences of this beautiful city.
Airways are the most convenient ways to get to Hanoi. It is the capital of Vietnam, so there are many national and international flights taking off and arriving. You can consult the price from some popular Vietnamese airlines such as Jetstar Pacific, Vietjet Air and Vietnam Airline.
When you arrive at the Noibai international airport, these are ways that you can get to the city center to start exploring or to reside.
The distance from Noibai to Hanoi’s center is about 30 kilometers. You can take a private taxi to the city center with the price from 350,000 VND to 450,000 VND. There are also public taxis (the one that you may have to share with strangers) or taxis of some unpopular companies. Prices of these types are about 150,000 VND – 250,000 VND. We highly recommend you to choose popular taxi branches, such as Mai Linh or Vinasun.
Hanoi bus has 4 lines which lead to the city center and opposite. 3 of them have a very cheap price per turn or even free. The rest one is high quality but its price ain’t expensive. Here are the details about these lines of the bus.
Number 7: Starts from a station at Cau Giay District. It goes through Nguyen Van Huyen St, Hoang Quoc Viet St, Pham Van Dong st, Thang Long bridge, Vo Van Kiet St, terminal T1 (national terminal) in Noibai and starts over oppositely. The density of passenger of this line is often busy and it stops many times so there wouldn’t be enough seats for all sometimes. Price per turn: 8,000 VND.
Number 17: Starts from Long Bien station (Tran Nhat Duat street), it goes through Chuong Duong bridge, Nguyen Van Cu St, Ngo Gia Tu St, Duong bridge, Dong Anh district, Vo Van Kiet St, Vo Nguyen Giap st, terminal T1 in Noibai and starts over oppositely. The density of passenger of this line is not dense so there are often enough seats. Price per turn: 9,000 VND.
Number 90: Start from milestone number 1 Kim Ma, it goes through Nui Truc St, Lieu Giai st, Thuy Khe st, Lac Long Quan St, Nhat Tan bridge, Vo Nguyen Giap st, terminal T1, terminal T2 (international terminal) and starts over oppositely. The frequency of this line is about 20 – 30 minutes per car, the density of passenger depends on the times of the day so if you avoid the rush hours, you’ll definitely have your seat(s). Price per turn: 9,000 VND.
Number 86: Starts from Hanoi station, it goes through Nguyen Du St, Tran Hung Dao St, Da Tuong st, Ly Thuong Kiet St, Hang Bai st, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hang Tre st, Yen Phu St, Nghi Tam St, Au Co St, Nhat Tan bridge, Vo Nguyen Giap st, terminal T1, terminal T2 and starts over oppositely. This line is the high-quality bus we’ve mentioned above. It has wide space enough for all luggage, the voice system with English and Vietnamese, led screens which show the location and the line to destinations and free high-speed wifi. The density of passenger isn’t crowded at all and a bus only has 25 seats so it is wide. Price per turn: 30,000 VND.
The peaceful Hanoi. Credit: ragazzo813
+ Coaches of the airlines:
Vietnam airline, Vietjet, Jetstar all have coaches to transport their passengers from Noibai airport to the city center. Normally, a coach has about 25 – 45 seats and there is no need to concern about lacking seats because it never leaves with too many commuters. The coaches often park nearby the airport and you can use them even if you didn’t use their airline services. The route of these coaches are often fixed, but it can be flexible depending on the commuters. About the price, you should ask about it first but it is usually 40,000 VND per turn. The last destinations of this couch are 1st Quang Trung street, Hoan Kiem district, 204th Tran Quang Khai street, 69th Tran Nhan Tong (near the center circle).
*In Hanoi, one of the particular features of tourism here is traveling around the old quarters by cyclo (a bicycle connected with a chair for passengers). This feature is so popular that many famous sites about tourism recommend to try it while going to Vietnam. Using cyclo, tourists will experience the ancient past and feel so calm in the middle of busy Hanoi.
Cyclo trip in Hanoi. Credit: natalia_lavanwa
*If cyclo has ancient aspects, electrical vehicles otherwise contain the modernity of Hanoi “green traveling”. You shall perceive a Hanoi more civilized and more politely while using these vehicles.
Visiting Spots and Entertainment Centers:
The center of Hanoi.
Hoan Kiem Lake
The modest beauty of Hoan Kiem lake. Credit: mcmalynabroad
One of the special points in Hanoi is the geography. There are many lakes inside the animated urban area and a river surrounding the city. Hoan Kiem lake is located right in the city center. The water is naturally green with a small island in the middle of the wide lake. And on the small island, there is an ancient tower. Hoan Kiem lake is inherent in an ancient lore of a turtle deity. Nowadays, if you are lucky you still can see a giant turtle under the lake. Back to the main, around the lake, there are also many remarkable impressive constructions such as But tower, Nghien fountain, The Huc bridge which leads to Dac Nguyet castle, etc. They all have old features of Vietnam’s history and they all are the valuable heritages of all Vietnamese.
One Pillar Pagoda (Chua Mot Cot)
For thousands of year, Hanoi has been the center of religions and knowledge. That’s why there are many temples and pagodas with the age up to hundreds of years. The most famous is One Pillar Pagoda. With the structure of a lotus, this pagoda is the most original and unique one and it is always one of the most popular places for every tourist coming here.
The One Pillar Pagoda. Credit: thienthanh5851
Tran Quoc Temple
Tran Quoc temple is about 1500 years old – the most ancient temple in Hanoi which was built in the 6th century. It is located on an island in the East of the West Lake. The atmosphere here is really quiet, which makes the whole sanctuary solemn and exquisite. It also contains many valuable remnants and Buddhist statues.
The Temple of Literature
This temple worships Khong Tu – a famous learner during the ancient time with many moralities that are still valuable until now. This is also the place that honors many talented students, doctors in the past with turtle-shape headstones with talents’ names on them. According to the lore, if you touch the head of the turtle, you will get the intelligence and luck for your studying career.
Turtle-shape headstones. Credit: sonhuynhh
Hanoi Opera House
This is a remarkable construction of Hanoi. The landscape around here is wide and gentle that can make people forget all about the busy and crowded atmosphere here. During the morning, enjoying a cup of cafes on the street will definitely ease and vitalize everyone. During the evening, uniting with friends or family and drinking a cup of lemon tea will be the best way before lying on the bad and setting yourself free among dreams.
Hanoi old quarter
This is the particular feature. Hanoi has 36 old quarters with ancient houses and the streets which have still kept their shapes and ambiance since the 19th century. You can wander the whole day along the streets without being bored, explore the peacefulness and the modesty which are inherent in Hanoi. Coming to this place, tourist will feel the beautiful features of Hanoi people, who are so approachable and friendly.
Ba Dinh square & Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ba Dinh square is the place that marked the most important event of Vietnam – the day that President Ho Chi Minh declared the independence of Vietnam to the whole world and established The Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Visiting the square, tourist will feel like standing on the horizon and the endless peace. Next to the Ba Dinh square is Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, where he is resting in peace. This is the most solemn sanctuary that there are many strict regulations for visitors such as visitors must not bring cell phone or cameras along, costumes have to be polite, be quiet and stick to the line, etc. Tourists visiting here can also observe president Ho Chi Minh – the greatest person of Vietnam – a luminary of the world.
Ba Dinh Square & Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Credit: viagemcomacris
The presidential palace
Behind the mausoleum is the presidential palace. The palace was first built for French governor during the colonial times in Vietnam. It is now used for treating international guests and no one is allowed to enter. Fortunately, there is a humble wooden house nearby which is called Uncle Ho’s stilt house. It was Ho Chi Minh’s resident in 1960 and has the shape of traditional houses of farmers with verdant garden and a small carp pond. The house contains many remnants of Ho Chi Minh’s life which are displayed and preserved in glass boxes.
The West Lake
Staying not too far from the city center, The West Lake is the widest lake in Hanoi. There are many activities that tourists can do around this lake such as renting a water bike or sightseeing around the lake by ships. The ideal time to visit here is during the sunset. Sunset here includes the red sky, a pack of birds flying into the horizon and the reflection of the sun on the surface of the lake. All those make the whole landscape so romantic and incredible.
The sunset on the West Lake. Credit: letphuong
Besides, next to the West Lake is Tam Nghi Village, where the old amusements of Hanoi people – bonsai – are still preserved. Nghi Tam is also the village of various flowers. Every spring, this village glows like a lighthouse thanks to anthesis of thousands of flowers. Besides Nghi Tam, there is also Ngu Xa village with the tradition of bronze casting, Yen Phu village with the tradition of making incense, etc. They are all worth visiting, so you can discover more about Vietnam.
Thang Long Marionette Theater
Located near Hoan Kiem Lake, Thang Long Marionette Theater has always been an appealing spot for tourists. Many plays are often performed on the surface of the water with the characters are puppets manipulated by skillful artists. The plays about Vietnamese lore, fairy tales, and culture are especially popular. This place should always be on the top of the visiting list.
Vietnam ethnical museum
In here, tourists are welcome to visit, explore and study about every ethnic of Vietnam. Traditions, special events and every aspect of more than 54 ethnics are all revealed here. The museum has 3 main areas: the first one consists of display room, study room, and library; the second area the outside display; the last area is in order to introduce the culture of other Southeast Asia ethnics.
The perimeter of Hanoi
Bat Trang pottery village
Located 20 km far away from the city center, you can use both bus and motorbike to get there. For generations, Bat Trang village has always been the most famous place for pottery making. The products from Bat Trang have the best quality around the country. Tourists can walk along the original brick wall and the ancient modest house around. There are many pottery workshops in the village that you are welcome to visit and study about pottery. You can colorize the pottery product here or even make one by yourself and give it to friends and families as gifts or save it as souvenirs. The price per one product oscillates from 10,000 VND – 30,000 VND.
A small corner in a pottery workshop. Credit: avyhan
Besides pottery, you can travel around Bat Trang and along the Red River by a unique vehicle: the buffalo truck (a truck pulled by a buffalo), It is so primitive but it can bring many different experiences to the tourists.
Duong Lam old village
This ancient village still keeps the values of both material and immaterial about the old living style. Tourists visiting here can enjoy the modest traditional lunch on some old yard. The most interesting activity here is hiring a bike and explore every single corner of this village. I’m sure you will all have many peaceful feelings through this activity.
Viet Phu Thanh Chuong
Situated on the foot of Soc Son mountain, Viet Phu Thanh Chuong is the place that you can spend fully one day to discover it. This is actually the population of ancient houses and it reviews the ancient atmosphere of Vietnam. This is the opposite world of Hanoi city center. Coming to this place, you will mix yourself into the beautiful nature here, sitting on a long hand-made wooden sofa, sleeping on a swinging bed fixed on the trees. It doesn’t have even the shadow of modern tools but only a journey back to the past of each tourist. Besides, there are also some remarkable places such as Son Tinh tower, Thien Huong tower, etc.
Ba Vi national park
The first extra score of this place is the real wild nature of green forests and pure atmosphere. You can wander around the park, the preserving areas and get yourself something natural. There are also some ancient French constructions near the park that you would not want to miss. In addition, climbing on Vong Canh mountain is also the best way to observe the whole nature here just on one screen.
The wild landscape of Ba Vi park. Credit: thomas_xavier89
Located in Phung Chau village, Chuong My district, 30 km far away from Hanoi, Tram mountain is not too high but the terrain here is so special and impressive with many natural caves, the trails which go through many valleys. You can camp in the valley area and have a barbecue to enjoy the romantic landscape. There are also some temples that you might want to visit and ask for blessing such as Tram temple, Vo Vi temple, Long Tien temple, etc.
The cultural village of Vietnamese ethnic
Getting information from the museum I’ve mentioned above is just the immaterial knowledge. If you want to get some realistic experiences, the cultural village of Vietnamese ethnics in Dong Mo will be the best place for you. With the area of 1.986 square kilometers, various ethnic villages contain many different terrains like mountain, hill, valley, etc. The nature in here is also set to review the ethnical living styles. Visiting this place, you will be guided by different guides from different ethnics in order to show you the most truthful and reliable picture about ethnical traditions of Vietnamese people. You can also realistically experience the living style of the ethnics by activities like cooking, dancing, making stuff, etc.
Quan Son Lake
Lying at 50 km far from the city center, Quan Son lake is a place that attracts many tourists and visitors. The area of the lake is 8.5 square kilometers. This place sometimes is called Ha Long on the ground because it’s surrounded by many mountains and hills. You should start your visit right from the morning so you can feel all the specialties here such as the fresh air in the morning, the cool atmosphere with fog on the surface of the lake, the biodiversity here, etc. You can also hire a boat trip around the lake and the boatman shall take you to some interesting spots like Hon Me mountain, Mom Nghe, Da Bac, Hoa Qua Son, etc. On the top of some mountains and hill, you will be able to see the whole wide Quan Son lake just on one screen, to see how spectacular it is.
Hanoi’s Ha Long bay. Credit: veryhanoi.
The Gastronomy of Hanoi is a thing that many tourists have traveled here for as well as the places. Here are some special foods that you cannot ignore while you’re in Hanoi.
Definitely, it is so famous and popular around the whole world not just in Vietnam. But Pho in Hanoi has some features of its own that it cannot be confused with the others.
For instance, Pho Hang Trong is one of the most interesting Pho restaurants. People using Pho here only sit on small chairs with a delicious bold of Pho on their own hands and there is no table. This restaurant only opens in the afternoon and the price has long been unchanged, only 15,000 VND per bold. One other Pho restaurant which can be spoken of is Ly Quoc Su Pho. Pho with beef here is especially appetizing. And speak of Pho with beef, Pho with chicken is cannot be untold. Get to Pho restaurant in Quan Thanh street and you will see the definition of unique Chicken Pho.
The tasty Pho bo in Hanoi. Credit: ljh0418
Besides, there are many variants of Pho around Hanoi such as Pho Hanh restaurant (Lan Ong street) with mixed Pho which has a strange taste of sweet and sour, half-fried Pho in Bat Dan street. After all, it is said that if you don’t taste Hanoi Pho while you’re in there, you will be considered as never put a step on Hanoi ground.
La Vong Grilled Fish
Fishes are fried in a small pan which is set on a charcoal stove of each table. Grilled fish is used with dry pancakes, fermented noodle (bun), peanuts, fresh vegetables and perhaps mam tom. This dish is strongly tasty with the sweet taste and kind of buttery.
Like Pho, speaking of Hanoi also means speaking of Bun Cha here. It is a specialty which has equal famousness as Pho. The insistent feature of Bun Cha is the part that represents the word Cha. It is often pork slices or shredded pork which are grilled on the natural fire from the coals of woods. With the spices used on pork, the smell during baking is extremely irresistible. That makes the taste unlike every other baked pork. Nuoc mam used with Bun cha is also important as well as Cha. It has to be exquisitely made with all the tastes are used enough and the additions are carefully chosen. Normally, additions are papaya slices and carrot slices. Besides, vegetables also comes with Bun cha and Bun also needs to be fresh.
The Former US President Obama even praised this dish. Credit: bibabaka
This dish contains one of the essences of Hanoi Gastronomy. Many ingredients are used to make a bold of Bun Thang such as tearing chicken, fried eggs, shredded sausages, etc. The consommé (bouillon) is the water which used to cook pig bones and shrimp. This is not disgusting at all, it even creates the natural sweet for the water and a good smell. The addition which comes with Bun Thang is mam tom, it makes the taste of Bun Thang more strong and tasty.
Banh Com (Young Green Rice Cake)
it is a traditional cake with the pure green color like the color of rice leaf. Banh Com is very plastic and it contains a core made by sweet beans. The smell of green rice, yellow beans and coconut will excite your sense of taste. The best Banh Com are the ones from Nguyen Ninh store, 11th Hang Than street. For hundreds of year, Banh Com here is still loyal to the hand-make traditional formula.
Who wants to try it right now? Credit: minhngoc252
Banh Cuon (Stuffed Pancake)
Hanoi people love traditional foods with less fat. Banh Cuon is one of those. It is made by rice water (grind rice mixed with water) spreading on a pan into a very thin layer. The maker then quickly takes that layer up when it’s still hot, puts it on a dish, sprinkles fried shredded pork with mushrooms and eventually rolls the layer, adds some shredded shrimp or fried onion on it. Banh Cuon is often used with nuoc mam, grilled pork or sausages.
Bun Dau Mam Tom (Bun with Fried Tofu and Mam Tom)
It is perhaps one of the most modest dishes in Hanoi, but that doesn’t mean it’s ordinary. Everyone can use Bun Dau Mam Tom in every time of the day or every kind of weather. First part is the part Dau (Tofu), it has to be cut into pieces then fried precisely without being carbonized or being done too quickly. Tofu is an important part of this dish, but the first priority is a small cup of Mam Tom. It decides 70% the quality of the dish, though it’s just a small cup. Mam Tom has to be chosen carefully because it is easy to know if Mam Tom is good or not. The additions of Mam Tom can be lemon juice, some fat, sugar, etc depends on the maker. Use Bun and Tofu with mam tom and then you will know nothing is comparable to this dish.
Typical and attractive at Bun Dau. Credit: hoa0301
Those dishes above were just some humble street foods, there are also many special dishes with countless styles in many luxury restaurants. You can try them and give us your experiences.
Now let us see some remarkable spots around Hanoi for devotees of photography – an essential part of our spiritual life now.
Best places for taking photos
Nhat Tan Flower Garden
Located on Au Co Street, Tay Ho District, tourists can visit and observe plenty of types of flowers with various colors glowing every season of the year. Each season has its own special flowers which are different through seasons, but the most beautiful season, of course, is spring. During the spring, almost all flowers are flourish and strongly bloom. With the wide space and spectacular landscape, all corners of the garden can become a good spot for photography. The flower garden always opens so this is a very good place for all the tourists to enjoy the nature and take fantastic photos.
Stone Ground of The Red River (Bai Da Song Hong)
The atmosphere of this place is very cool thanks to the river nearby. Space is wide and the landscape lasts to the horizon. That romantic screen really suits couples who are in love. Photos taken from this ground always have their own poetic features.
The way to enter the stone ground: get to the 264th alley, Au Co street then walk through few gardens.
Ho Tay Lotus Pond
Lying at the end of To Ngoc Van street, Tay Ho district, this lotus pond is a place for every person to get here, enjoy and mix into the beautiful nature here. Especially during the blooming season of lotuses, the landscape here is perfect for every intention of photography. Pictures that are taken here have the modern features of this age, but they also consist of some classic shades.
The Temple of Literature
According to what I’ve mentioned above, this temple is a solemn place. But that doesn’t mean no camera allowed here. Tourists that take photos in this place will surely have many special pictures and all of them will look like a screen of the ancient past and that’s what makes the photos valuable.
The ancient feature of Vietnamese history. Credit: ervida_
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Located on Hoang Dieu street, like the Temple of Literature, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is historical location and it is popular with visitors. The ancient structure coming along with grass carpets of the yards surely will vitalize all the photos that you take.
Tay Tuu Flower Village
Situated in the area of Tu Liem district, Tay Tuu flower village is known as the biggest flower garden in Hanoi. It is not just famous for the great nature but also for the incredible photos that people have taken here. Tourists can stand among the endless field of flowers and create many unforgettable moments here. Besides selfie, you can also just sit and enjoy the landscape and the perfumes here. This place is very good for calming people down and making people miss it after they leave. But don’t forget that taking photos and wandering around here is free unless you destroy flowers of the owners here. The flowers are sold freshly right in the gardens so if you’re interested, you can buy them to decorate your space or just to remember this place.
Which corner would you choose first to take some selfies? Credit: harrysion92
Long Bien Bridge
This bridge is very old and it was all made of iron. It is also a relic of the French colonial time. Long Bien bridge not just connect 2 sides of the Red River but also the quiet countryside and the busy urban side. With the modest but antique appearance, this place is a nice spot for people to take some special photos.
The Middle Ground of The Red River
The middle ground is the name of a small but fat island floating in the middle of the Red River. This is an ideal spot for Hanoi teenagers to release their passion for photography. The middle ground is an opposite picture comparing to the busy urban Hanoi. Nature also treats this place very well while green fields and banana trees are pretty lush. That makes the landscape here wild and it looks like a countryside zone.
Photos taken here are natural, literally. Credit: gnut_ah
Hoan Kiem Lake
It will be such a lack if without mentioning this lake. Hoan Kiem lake is not just a tourist spot with a beautiful walking side surrounding the lake and the facilities around the area. It is also famous for being an incredible landscape inspiring for photography. This is a perfect place in order to get and save nice moments of yours in Hanoi.
The Old Quarter
Like Hoan Kiem Lake, this place doesn’t only have old stores with valuable traditional products, it is also widely known as a heritage for photography. The photos here all look really ancient, nice and modest like you are truly living in Hanoi of the 70s.
Huulala store, Hang Bong (one of the old Quarters), is a popular spot for taking photos. Credit: gregwitherspoon
There is only one thing left for the manual. And it will be written by you after realistically experiencing Hanoi. Have a nice day.