Hanoi is one of Vietnam must-see attractions, that combines the old time beauty with modern living, by day and by night, from picture-postcard lakes to historical buildings, from colorful open markets to rich cultural events. This ultimate checklist of things to do in Hanoi will help visitors make the most out of Hanoi and understand much more about Vietnam’s culture and history.
The Huc Brigde - photo by Tran Gia Tien
1. Walk around Old Quarter and drink the cheapest beer in the world
One of the must - visit places in Hanoi, the Old Quarter with its insane energy and unique character will blown your mind away by just walking around the narrow bustling streets. It rarely sleeps because of a nonstop buzz of activity, variety of delicious eateries, boutique cafes, cool bars and pubs, roadside food carts, motorcycles and pedestrians that might overwhelm first-time visitors.
Hanoi Craft Beer Old Quarter - photo by Tran Gia Tien
When in the Old Quarter, do as the locals do, which is drinking Hanoi's craft beer. Stop by the corner Ta Hien - Luong Ngoc Quyen street, sit on tiny plastic stools and have some incredible cheap home-made craft beer (Bia Hoi) with just 5.000 VND (about 25 cents US dollar) per big glass. Bia Hoi is freshly crafted every night without any preservatives and delivered to the beer shops early in the morning, therefore, it is one of the freshest beers in the world.
Tips: You will need at least four to five hours to experience Old Quarter thoroughly.
2. Learn about the legend
Located in the heart of Hanoi is one of the most legendary attractions: Hoan Kiem Lake and Turtle Tower. The beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake is a Hanoians proud landmark, whose photos appear in many Vietnam's travel guides. An ancient legend has it that Le Loi King used a magical sword of Dragon God to fight against Chinese Ming dynasty, then he returned the sword to the Giant Turtle God in the lake. Vietnamese people still believe the Giant Turtle God exists and had lived for thousand years deep under the water. Therefore, the Turtle Tower was built on a small island in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake to worship him.
Sword Lake - photo from expedia.com.au
Tips: Visit Hoan Kiem lake in the weekends to observe locals gathering for community activities, live music, modern dance.
3. Temple or pagoda?
What are the differences between "temple" and "pagoda" in Vietnam? Temples honor gods, who were real human beings such as mandarins, emperors or national heroes. Pagodas are for worshiping Buddhists.
Temple of Literature - photo by Tran Gia Tien
One of the things to see in Hanoi that cannot skipped is Temple of Literature - a temple dedicated to Confucius that was built in the 11th Century. Under the Ly Dynasty (beginning of 1076), Temple of Literature was home to national gifted students. Inside has many ancient statues and legend stories. Even today, college students still come here and pray to enhance their study. Other interesting temples are Ngoc Son Temple, Quan Thanh Temple, Bach Ma Temple.
One Pillar Pagoda - Photo from mytour.vn
The most famous pagoda in Hanoi is One Pillar Pagoda, which is almost 1000 years old and considered Vietnam's most iconic Buddhism pagoda. The pagoda balances on a single pillar, surrounded by a small flowers pond, and has a beautiful lotus shaped carved wood sitting on its top. Another pagoda worth visiting is Tran Quoc Pagoda, Vietnam's oldest pagoda founded in the 6th century, which connects Hoan Kiem Lake and Truc Bach Lake.
Tips: Show respect by wearing clothing that covers shoulders, chest and legs when visit pagodas and temples. Shorts and tank tops are a no-go.
4. It's museum time
Hanoi is the best place to visit in Vietnam for museums. Vietnam Women Museum, Museum of the Revolution, Vietnam National Museum of History, Vietnam Military History Museum, Vietnam Fine Art Museum, B52 History Museum, Hanoi Cultural Museum, and the list goes on.
The most popular one is Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, which explains the rich history and culture of many different ethnicities in Vietnam. Opening hours: Everyday except for Monday, 8:30-17:30. Entrance fee: 40.000VND/person.
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology - photo from vietnam-touristspots.com
Tips: Ho Chi Minh Museum is also recommended to see not for the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh, but also that's the only place in Hanoi you can take pictures of communist soldiers without a problem.
5. Enjoy the unique cultural shows
Get the best seat at the historic Hanoi Opera House and enjoy an hour-long cultural show called Lang Toi, also known as My Village, a sublime combination of tradition and innovation where what seems to be the humble Vietnamese village life is turned into a noble art. Farming, building activities, traditional games and lifestyle of villagers are recreated by talented artists with their breathtaking circus, juggling and acrobatic techniques. Using the traditional and hero-like iconic bamboo props under the pure sound of folk music. Vietnamese artists have created a contribution from the heart to unveil their love for their motherland.
Lang Toi - My Village at Hanoi Opera House
Drop in and see a water puppet show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. Water puppetry is Vietnam's unique traditional performance features wooden puppets controlled by puppeteers standing behind a bamboo curtain. The show’s stage is a shallow wading pool.
6. Eat & shop like locals
Egg coffee is a Hanoi’s beverage highlight. Giang Café dated back to 1946 when a former bartender of Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi decided to open his own coffee shop and created this signature drink. It was invented in the days when milk was scarce. The bold flavor of coffee put away the raw egg’s taste, while the yolks increase the creamy flavor.
Photo from youth.ussh.vnu.edu.vn
Hanoians also love drinking tea at sidewalk iced tea shops, which are everywhere, from busy streets to small alleys and pavements. On summer evenings, young people gather at tea vendors around St. Joseph's Cathedral to enjoy tea and chat the entire evening.
Early birds, can come to the authentic Quang Ba flower market - one of Hanoi's places to visit. Surrounded by fresh colorful fragrant flowers with all sorts of varieties, the market is bustling of people coming and going with flowers on motorbikes and cycles. It's not only a place for visitors to pick up some pretty lilies, orchids or daisies, but also a chance to understand how important flowers are in Hanoian's daily life.
Photo by Tran Gia Tien
Last but not least is a thrilling experience on a bike around the city. Vespa Adventures Tour stands out of many typical city tours as they provide a combined viewpoint of both a tourist and a local, and a thrill sitting on the back of vintage Vespas. From the historic St. Joseph’s Cathedral or Old Quarter to Long Bien Bridge or Ngoc Ha Market. The Hanoi After Dark Tour is a gastronomy tour, that Vespa Adventure take travellers to popular local restaurants to enjoy must-try Vietnamese dishes like grilled pork noodles, fried spring rolls, and wraps. The tour also adds in places to enjoy old-school Jazz and traditional Vietnamese music.
Photo from vespaadventures.com
No matter what travellers are looking for, Hanoi has something for everyone. We hope you are spoilt for the brilliant things to do in Hanoi as much as we are. Enjoy!
To book tickets to Lang Toi - My Village, bamboo cirque cultural performance at the Hanoi Opera House or Vietnam Tuong Theater, please follow this link: Lang Toi - My Village, only from 560,000 VND ($23).
A vivid portrait of Vietnam in urbanization time, painted with unique stage visuals and a touch of humor.
The name ‘A O’ derives from ‘Lang Pho’, which means ‘village and city’. The show depicts the charming beauty and cultural richness of Vietnamese life in the countryside, in contrast with the nation’s racing urbanization. The show is a unique mix of bamboo cirque, acrobatic acts, contemporary dance, and theatrical visual art. The live music echoes Vietnamese Southern work songs. All in all, this beautiful blend of genres creates a unique stage language, which well captures the essence of Vietnam’s fascinating culture.
The poetic beauty of Vietnamese village life, recreated using iconic bamboo, breathtaking cirque and exotic live music.
Lang Toi (My Village) is a delicate merge of tradition and innovation, where poetic beauty of Northern Vietnam’s village life is presented under new cirque approach. Farming, building activities, traditional games, lifestyle of Northern villagers are recreated by ancestral bamboo props, breath-taking cirque and acrobatics, rhythmic dance, to distinct folk music from more than 20 musical instruments.
Embodiment of vigorous Vietnamese tribes culture thru cirque, dance, music from tribal instruments.
Teh Dar invites audience on a venture into the enchanting world of Vietnamese highlanders. Wild animal hunts, moonlit romance, jungle's tales of death and reincarnation, are all recreated with stunning bamboo cirque, daring acrobatics, and hypnotizing melody from exotic tribal instruments certified cultural heritage by UNESCO. Meaning ‘going in circle’ in the highland tribe K'ho's tongue, Teh Dar embrace and preserve beautiful and diverse Vietnamese tribal cultures. As the artists keep inspiring, the circle of tribal life keeps going, the cultures shall remain.
The essence of Southern farmers’ life expressed in sensual contemporary dance language.
The Mist tells a story Southern Vietnamese farming life, expressed through neo-classic and contemporary dance by skilled artists. Using rice cultivation as a metaphor to appreciate farmers’ dedication, from their misty dawn on the fields, their hardship and will power to rise up from humble muddy soil, to brace storms, to the moment they arrive joyously like shining pearls at harvest. The Mist is an hour of emotions, with myriad ups and downs, painted by sensational live music, splendid visuals, and colorful lighting effects.
This was an excellent show that depicts Vietnamese life in a most original way. If we had 1 more night in HCMC, we would definitely have seen the show again. It came highly recommended by my niece who had watched the show earlier this year (2016). We...Read more
“A O Show - Brilliant Depiction of Vietnamese life”
This was an excellent show that depicts Vietnamese life in a most original way. If we had 1 more night in HCMC, we would definitely have seen the show again. It came highly recommended by my niece who had watched the show earlier this year (2016). We would highly recommend this show. Only an hour long and very energetic. Well done to the cast.
I don't think we completely understood the story line, however the show was very well done! It was organized, well performed and included everything from funny moments, to acrobatics, to dancing. The opera house where it is held is stunning and in a...Read more
I don't think we completely understood the story line, however the show was very well done! It was organized, well performed and included everything from funny moments, to acrobatics, to dancing. The opera house where it is held is stunning and in a very french area of Ho Chi Minh city. I wouldn't call it a must see, but anyone who enjoys performance art will definitely appreciate it and I'm glad we went
This universal Form of art is an overwhelming display of the essence of Vietnam's culture. From the begining in natural atmosphere to the noisy urban-motorcycling. Beautyful poetic and HiPro Performance.
This exceeded my expectations, which were not low. Both my 19-year-old daughter and I really enjoyed this 1-hour show. Though we were certainly impressed by the performers, it was less "Aaahh" and "Ooohh" for us, and more interesting, fun and...Read more
This exceeded my expectations, which were not low. Both my 19-year-old daughter and I really enjoyed this 1-hour show. Though we were certainly impressed by the performers, it was less "Aaahh" and "Ooohh" for us, and more interesting, fun and entertaining.
Go and see the amazing ao show at the opera house in hochi min city. Great venue and amazing show. Lets you in on some Vietnamese traditions with fantastic music and acrobatics. Not to be missed.
It was a decidedly uneven performance: some moments of pure magic and at a very high level artistically, but also some numbers that are not quite so successful. Sometimes considered a Vietnamese version of the Cirque de Soleil, the troupe is not...Read more
A bit uneven, but the moments of magic alone made it worthwhile
It was a decidedly uneven performance: some moments of pure magic and at a very high level artistically, but also some numbers that are not quite so successful. Sometimes considered a Vietnamese version of the Cirque de Soleil, the troupe is not quite there yet in terms of overall technical brilliance and richness of overall experience but it more than holds its own in terms of artistry and substance for the best numbers. A bit pricey (but the Saigon Opera house is pretty small), but worth it just for the best scenes. Free drinks available before the show which is nice, but I would have preferred some program notes that will service as a momento for a memorable evening.
My family and i absolutely loved this show was mesmerized and amazad at the tallents these people possess . "Truly a cut above the rest" Thank you so much for the experience, the only down fall is it had to end. Hope you bring your show to...Read more
Truly a cut above the rest
My family and i absolutely loved this show was mesmerized and amazad at the tallents these people possess . "Truly a cut above the rest" Thank you so much for the experience, the only down fall is it had to end. Hope you bring your show to Australia one day...........from the Bailey family kalgoorlie australia
I went along with no expectations and I was blown away by the talent of the performers and the choreography. A must see for people in the area.
This is a wonderful 1-hour show, that includes modern acrobatics, Vietnam-style. The main theme of the show are traditional Vietnamese baskets and big sticks. The acrobats do an absolutely WONDERFUL job in entertaining the audience, while...Read more
A great show and VERY talented acrobats.
This is a wonderful 1-hour show, that includes modern acrobatics, Vietnam-style. The main theme of the show are traditional Vietnamese baskets and big sticks. The acrobats do an absolutely WONDERFUL job in entertaining the audience, while performing jaw-dropping acrobatic routines. While there is very little connection between the different acts, the enthusiasm of the dancers make up for it. We got seats C1 and C3, which are on the 3rd row of the theater (they are called "Ohh" tickets). The tickets were 840,000 VND (apx. 37US$) and were totally worth it. Notice that photography is not allowed during the show (distractions from the audience might literally endanger the acrobats). Do not miss taking a photo with the performers when the show is over - the entire cast comes down to the entrance of the opera house and is more than happy to take photos and selfies with the audience. Bottom line - an absolute MUST attraction to enjoy while in Ho Chi Minh.
One of the most fascinating shows i have ever seen. Well done!!
Despite some noticeable flaws, this show reflected Vietnam's modern culture with quirky and cheerful atmosphere to it. À Ố has the potential, if not one of the must-watch show if you ever come to Saigon. This show is recommended for families as this...Read more
A "new" type of circus
Despite some noticeable flaws, this show reflected Vietnam's modern culture with quirky and cheerful atmosphere to it. À Ố has the potential, if not one of the must-watch show if you ever come to Saigon. This show is recommended for families as this show have minimal to none verbal context, and at its core, a "new" type of circus
The Saigon show was splendid. It had a meditative quality. Haven't seen such choreography of late in India. The youthful energy was rewarding and inspiring