Visit Hanoi to try typical Vietnamese food, see unique art performances and savour some of the most captivating sights in Southeast Asia. Thanks to its rich cultural heritage and tumultuous history there are many interesting attractions to explore in the bustling city, which has 2.6 million people in its urban centre.
Hanoi first became a capital just over 1,000 years ago, when it was still called Thang Long (Rising Dragon). It became Ha Noi (Between Two Rivers) in 1831. The city has since been occupied by the French and the Japanese and bombed by the Americans, events which have clearly left their marks. Through all this, Hanoi has stayed traditional and proud.
The language and cultural differences can be both challenging and interesting. For example, the Vietnamese consider pointing your finger to be rude. You should use your whole hand instead. Bear this in mind while browsing the Dong Xuan Market.
This market is in the Old Quarter, a good place to find souvenirs, traditional merchants and typical Vietnamese and French cuisine. Try pho (rice noodle soup) and sample Vietnam’s favourite brew, Bia Hoi beer, to get a taste of the Orient. At night, visit the nearby Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre with mesmerizing reenactments of dragon-filled legends.
Learn more about Hanoi’s legends in the temples that surround lakes such as Hoan Kiem (Lake of the Restored Sword) and Ho Tay (West Lake).
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum contains the embalmed body of the revered revolutionary leader. Learn about his constant struggle for his country’s freedom at the Ho Chi Minh Museum.
Book a trip on a wooden vessel to Ha Long Bay to cruise the turquoise waters around thousands of limestone islets.
To get around in Hanoi you can rent a bike or pay to ride in a traditional “cyclo”. Public buses are cheap and service the whole city. If you hail a taxi, negotiate a fixed price in dong (the Vietnamese currency), because the metres are often manipulated.