The ultimate guide for Hanoi’s best things to do & see

Hanoi, one of the oldest capitals in the world, is an ideal destination with unique and exciting experiences. Here, you will find well-preserved colonial buildings, ancient pagodas, and unique museums right in the city center. Despite the passage of time, Hanoi still maintains its vibrant atmosphere. From early morning until late at night, the streets are bustling with moving motorcycles. There are plenty of things to do in Hanoi. You can indulge in delicious street food, visit colonial-era buildings, and explore local life. Join Jackfruit Adventure to discover Hanoi’s best things to do & travel guide.

hanoi things to do

Reasons to visit Hanoi 

Here are some compelling reasons to visit Hanoi:

  • Explore the charming old city center, known as the Hanoi Old Quarter, with its narrow streets, ancient temples, and bustling markets.
  • Take a leisurely stroll around the picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake, a tranquil oasis amidst the urban chaos, and visit Ngoc Son Temple located on a small island in the lake.
  • Immerse yourself in the history of the Vietnam War by visiting one of the many museums in Hanoi dedicated to this tumultuous period, such as the Vietnam Military History Museum or Hoa Lo Prison.
  • Experience the unique art form of water puppetry, a traditional Vietnamese cultural performance that originated in the Red River Delta region, by attending a show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.
  • Utilize Hanoi as a convenient base for exploring the northern region of Vietnam, including must-visit destinations like the stunning landscapes of Ha Long Bay, the ancient capital of Hoa Lu, and the mountainous Sapa region with its vibrant hill tribe cultures.

Things to take note

  • Recommend days to stay

For a comprehensive exploration of Hanoi’s attractions, plan to stay for 3 to 4 days. However, if your time is limited, 2 full days can still offer a fulfilling experience. Avoid extending your stay too much, as there are many other captivating destinations nearby, such as scenic countryside, majestic mountains, and enchanting islands.

  • ATM’s & money exchange

Searching for the best place to exchange money in Hanoi? Hanoi has a plethora of ATMs conveniently scattered throughout the city. For currency exchange, consider visiting gold and jewelry stores, which often offer favorable rates. These establishments typically provide fair rates without additional fees, making them a reliable option for exchanging currency.

Quoc Trinh Gold Shop

  • Address: 27 Ha Trung, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi (Just a few hundred meters from the Vietnam National Tuong Theater)

Phu Van Jewelry

  • Address: 25 Luong Ngoc Quyen, Hang Buom, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

Best time to visit Hanoi 

Hanoi experiences distinct seasonal changes throughout the year, each offering its own unique charm, allowing you to explore the capital city at any time of the year:

hanoi things to do here

Spring: Springtime in Hanoi spans from February to April. The weather during this period is cool, often marked by sudden drizzles. Locals fondly refer to the early year drizzles as “spring showers.” Traveling to Hanoi during spring, you’ll immerse yourself in the vibrant colors of blooming flowers. A spring excursion to Nhat Tan cherry blossom village, Tay Tuu flower village, or Quang Ba flower market would be an ideal choice.

Summer: Starting from May to July, Hanoi enters the summer season, characterized by intense heat. During these days, Hanoians often gather by the West Lake and enjoy refreshing Trang Tien ice cream. Exploring the city during summer, you can opt for a picnic in Thong Nhat Park, Yen So Park, or visit shopping malls like Times City, Royal City to have fun and escape the heat.

Autumn: The question of when autumn starts in Hanoi is a common inquiry among many travelers planning to visit the capital during this time. Autumn in Hanoi begins from August and lasts until October. It’s also when the city exudes a romantic and dreamy ambiance. Hanoi autumn is filled with the fragrance of milk flowers and the aroma of newly-harvested sticky rice. When visiting the capital during autumn, don’t miss a stroll along Phan Dinh Phung street adorned with golden leaves, a visit to West Lake to admire the sunset, and indulge in the specialties of Hanoi autumn.

Winter: Winter in the capital starts from November and lasts until the end of January. Hanoi’s winter is characterized by piercing cold but still captivates many with its serene beauty. If you’re traveling to Hanoi during early winter days, you can wander around streets like Dinh Le, Phan Dinh Phung to admire vendors selling bundles of pure white daisies.

Best things to do in Hanoi

Explore Hanoi’s things to do in Vietnam’s lively capital, from delving into ancient temples and indulging in street food delicacies to wandering through vibrant markets and savoring scenic views of the city’s iconic landmarks.

1. Discover Hanoi Old Quarter 

Explore Hanoi Old Quarter, where ancient cultural traits and old architecture are preserved, offering travelers a fresh perspective on this region. You can wander all day along the ancient streets, discovering the serene and simple places that Hanoi is known for. Visiting here, you will truly feel the beauty of Hanoi’s people, close-knit and familiar.

hanoi things to do

It will be an incredibly wonderful experience for you during your tour of Hanoi. Just like that, 1,000 years of Hanoi’s history flow through these streets like blood circulating through every vein, breathing life into both the past and the present. 

For more to see in Hanoi Old Quater, check our top list of 10 things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter .

2. Admire the oldest school of Vietnam – Temple of Literature hanoi what to do

Hanoi Temple of Literature is also one of the most appealing tourist destinations in Hanoi, attracting many visitors. This complex is listed as a Special National Monument and is a source of pride for the Vietnamese people. Built on a rectangular plot of land, it features unique architecture that bears the imprint of the Nguyen Dynasty. The overall Van Mieu complex is surrounded by four sturdy brick walls, within which lie various large and small structures. Temple of Literature is not only an attractive destination for tourists but also a place where many activities showcasing the nation’s spirit of learning and respect for teachers are organized.

  • Address: 58 Quoc Tu Giam Street, Dong Da District
  • Opening hours: 7:30 AM – 6:00 PM (Monday to Friday), 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM (Saturday, Sunday)

3. Walk around Hoan Kiem lake and the surrounding area

hanoi things to do

  • Address: Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi City

What is Hanoi famous for? – Surely the answer must be Hoan Kiem Lake. Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as Sword Lake, is located right in the center of Hanoi City. Surrounding the lake are significant architectural structures with great spiritual significance to the Vietnamese people, such as the Huc Bridge, Turtle Tower, and Ngoc Son Temple. Besides strolling around the lake and enjoying the fresh air, visitors can also explore the Old Quarter to check in and savor many local specialties. Especially on weekends, Hoan Kiem Lake hosts lively pedestrian streets bustling with activities. This is the perfect time for you to immerse yourself in the crowd, experience various recreational activities, and enjoy many outstanding performances. Check out our guide to visit Hoan Kiem lake.

4. Watching a water puppet show

vietnam water puppet show

Immerse yourself in the world of fantasy and folklore, with colorful characters set on a “liquid stage” as these programs feature lively puppets performed in water. Water puppetry shows, sponsored by the royal court, originated from the Red River Delta in the 11th century and were performed at that time on waterlogged rice fields.

Wooden lacquer puppets are controlled by long bamboo rods and strings, while puppeteers choreograph performances, creating a dramatic and vibrant atmosphere. Visit the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater to watch an impressive performance with five multilingual shows each day.

For the recommend places to see Water Puppet show in Ha Noi check out our full details article about this.

5. Having coffee at Hanoi train street

hanoi things to do

Hanoi’s things to do wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Hanoi Train Street. This unique attraction has garnered global attention for its captivating scenes of shop owners, café proprietors, and locals casually clearing their belongings to make way for passing trains along the narrow, bustling street. Despite safety regulations leading to the closure of many coffee shops along the train street, you can still experience this distinctive railway track weaving through the residential neighborhood. Just remember that real trains operate on this track.

6. Shopping at the historical Dong Xuan market

hanoi things to do

Exploring Dong Xuan Market is one of the must-visit Hanoi’s things to do, offering an authentic glimpse into local life and culture. This bustling marketplace provides a wide range of products including souvenirs, clothes, accessories, and food. Visitors can also sharpen their bargaining skills and find fantastic deals while shopping here. Our ulimate guide to visit Dong Xuan market can help you to navigate the best way to explore this market.

  • Address: Located within the Old Quarter area, you can easily walk to the market from there to explore.
  • Opening hours: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM

7. Explore Hoa Lo prison 

Hoa Lo Prison is one of the famous historical landmarks in the capital city. This site bears witness to the sacrifices, hardships, and fierce spirit of struggle of Vietnamese revolutionaries. Nowadays, the prison regularly organizes recreational activities and showcases artworks to commemorate a glorious past. It is also an attractive tourist destination, educating younger generations about patriotism and national pride.

hoa lo prison hanoi
The front gate of Hoa Lo prison
  • Address: 1 P. Hoa Lo, Tran Hung Dao, Hoan Kiem

8. Ride through Long Bien Bridge and Long Bien market

hanoi things to do

The Long Bien Bridge, an iconic landmark stretching over the Red River in Hanoi, Vietnam, was constructed during the French colonial period. This bridge held significant importance during both the Indochina War and the Vietnam War. Nowadays, it’s a favorite destination for leisurely walks, offering breathtaking views of the river and cityscape. Adjacent to the bridge is the lively Long Bien market, where you can fully immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture and indulge in a diverse array of delectable street foods.

9. Taste the original Hanoi egg coffee 

If you’re a coffee lover, you must visit a café in the Old Quarter and try the famous Egg Coffee created at Café Giang in 1946. Egg Coffee, also known as Egg Yolk Coffee, was invented during wartime when milk was scarce, and whipped egg yolks became popular as a substitute.

For a unique experience, try Coconut Coffee with a splash of coconut milk and condensed milk, or Yogurt Coffee with frozen yogurt. You can also opt for a classic Vietnamese black drip coffee or add some condensed milk and ice if you prefer it cold. Other cafes where you can try Egg Coffee include Note Cafe, Cafe Dinh, Old Quarter Cafe, Cafe Leu, and Bar, among others.

Check our full article of the guide to explore Hanoi best egg coffee.

10. Discover Hanoi on bikes 

hanoi things to do

Experiencing the best of Hanoi is best done on two wheels. The capital city of Hanoi is one of the most ideal cycling destinations in Asia, renowned for its centuries-old architecture, lakes, parks, and hundreds of temples and pagodas, along with an excellent road system that makes it easy for tourists to explore the city by bicycle and motorbike.

Cycling allows tourists to move leisurely at their own pace, breaking away from the hustle and bustle of crowded tourist areas, while venturing deep to discover the hidden beauty of each scenic spot. It’s one of the must-do Hanoi’s things to do for a memorable experience.

11. Tasting street food Bun Cha Hanoi

where to eat bun cha
Streetstyle Bun Cha Bat Su- hard to resist in Hanoi

Bun cha Hanoi is a must-try dish when exploring Hanoi’s culinary scene. This specialty leaves a lasting impression on visitors with its soft and silky rice vermicelli, sweet and tangy fish sauce, and fragrant grilled pork patties. A steaming bowl of bún chả paired with fresh herbs and bean sprouts is truly incomparable. It’s one of the quintessential “Hanoi’s things to do” for food lovers.

12. Tasting yammy Hanoi Pho 

Pho Hanoi is hailed as the “soul of the nation” in Vietnamese cuisine. This dish embodies the essence of Vietnamese culture, blending perfectly aromatic broth, flavorful beef slices, and chewy rice noodles. With a touch of green onions, herbs, lime, and chili, it tantalizes your taste buds with layers of flavor in this traditional phở.

Addresses to try:

  • Phở Thìn – 13 Lò Đúc (known for its rich broth)
  • Phở Bát Đàn – 49 Bát Đàn, Hoàn Kiếm District
  • Phở Sướng – 24B Trung Yên Alley, Hàng Bạc, Hoàng Kiếm District
  • Phở bưng at Hàng Trống Street – 01 Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm District

13. Get lost in West Lake Hanoi and the surrounding area

Having already mentioned Hoan Kiem Lake, it’s essential to include West Lake (Hồ Tây) as well. If you’re seeking an authentic Hanoi travel experience with the most emblematic cultural sites of the capital city, don’t miss out on West Lake.

Surrounding West Lake are ancient villages and traditional craft villages such as flower cultivation and papermaking. And when you’re tired of exploring, take some time for a boat ride on the lake, admiring the magnificent yet serene sunset.

Key spots around West Lake:

  • Nghi Tam ancient village, Nhat Tan village known for flower cultivation and bonsai trees
  • Kẻ Bưởi village renowned for papermaking
  • Tay Ho Palace honoring Princess Lieu Hanh (one of Vietnam’s Four Immortals)
  • Tran Quoc Pagoda: Located on the eastern side of West Lake, this pagoda dates back to the Ly dynasty, featuring ancient statues that are hundreds of years old.

14. Check in at Hanoi famous landmark – The one pillar pagoda

one pillar pagoda hanoi

As the largest Buddhist center in Vietnam, Hanoi boasts numerous ancient temples, but the most famous is undoubtedly the One Pillar Pagoda. This pagoda, located within the grounds of Dien Huu Pagoda, features a small worship hall built on a stone pillar in the middle of a lotus pond, dedicated to Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

  • Address: Doi Can Ward, Ba Dinh District (near the area of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum)
  • Opening hours: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM daily

15. Imperial Citadel of Thang Long 

Hanoi, as the capital of most feudal dynasties, is epitomized by the majestic Thang Long Imperial Citadel. This vast complex spans over 140 hectares and has been constructed over many dynasties.

thang long citadel visiting

Despite the ravages of time and war, many relics still remain and are undergoing restoration to preserve the distinctive space of the ancient imperial court and safeguard the important historical relics of the nation.

  • Address: 18 Hoang Dieu Street, Ba Dinh District
  • Opening hours: 8:00 AM – 11:30 AM, 1:30 PM – 5:00 PM from Tuesday to Sunday
  • Key landmarks: Hanoi Flag Tower, Doan Mon Gate, Kinh Thien Palace, Hau Lau Pavilion, Bac Mon Gate

16. Immerse yourself in Quang Ba flower market 

quang ba flower market night life

The Quan Ba Flower Market is a vibrant hub that springs to life before sunrise, filled with the vibrant hues and sweet scents of flowers and fresh produce. Setting out early to explore the market offers a special glimpse into the local culture and everyday life in Hanoi.

Quang Ba Flower Market is situated at 236 Au Co Street, Quang An Ward, Tay Ho District, Hanoi. The market trades various fresh flowers sourced from well-known areas such as Dong Anh, Gia Lam, Tay Tuu, Da Lat, and operates from 11:00 PM until 5:00 AM the next morning. In recent years, Quang Ba Flower Market has not only been a popular destination for locals but also an attractive tourist spot for many visitors to explore.

How to get around Hanoi 

street of hanoi old quarter
A Corner of Hanoi Old Quarter

Getting around Hanoi offers various options:

  • Taxis: Taxis in Hanoi usually have meters, but some drivers may refuse to use them. Communication can be challenging as not all drivers speak English well. Reliable taxi companies include Hanoi Taxi, Mai Linh Taxi, and Taxi CP. Alternatively, you can use the Grab taxi app for a convenient and reliable service.
  • Metro: Hanoi is actively constructing a metro network, with the first connections expected to be operational by 2021. Keep an eye on developments if you plan to use the metro for commuting.
  • Cyclos: Cyclos are traditional bicycle taxis in Hanoi. Passengers sit in the front cabin while the driver pedals from behind. Cyclos are suitable for short distances in the city center and offer a unique way to explore the streets of Hanoi.
  • Xe Om: Xe Om refers to motorbike taxis commonly found at street corners. Using the Grab app is recommended for a safer and more reliable xe om experience.

Itinerary 2 days in Hanoi thing’s to do

The most recommended activities for a 2-day trip to Hanoi, including where to go and what to eat, are likely the primary concerns for many travelers planning to visit. Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, boasts numerous captivating tourist attractions that appeal to both local and international visitors. Therefore, deciding on the best places to explore within the limited timeframe of two days can be quite challenging. Here are some suggestions to help you plan your itinerary with a focus on Hanoi’s things to do.

Day 1:

  • Explore the Old Quarter and charming small streets, experiencing the vibrant atmosphere of local life.
  • Visit Hoan Kiem Lake and admire the scenery of Sword Lake, an iconic destination in the heart of the city.
  • Indulge in a street food dinner, trying out specialties such as bun cha, pho, nem, cheese bread…
  • Watch a traditional water puppet show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater.

Day 2:

  • Visit St. Joseph’s Cathedral, a famous religious architecture of the city.
  • Explore Hoa Lo Prison, where many important historical relics of Vietnam are preserved.
  • Visit the Temple of Literature – Vietnam’s oldest temple of literature and education.
  • Drop by Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere in Ba Dinh Square garden.
  • Stroll through the Imperial Citadel area and discover the historical relics of the royal palace.

With the above suggestions, you will have an interesting and fulfilling journey when visiting Hanoi for 2 days.


Traveling to Hanoi will surely bring many memorable experiences for visitors. This land of a thousand years of civilization offers attractive tourist destinations, blending ancient charm with modernity and featuring a unique culinary paradise that will make your vacation truly wonderful. Remember the “Hanoi’s things to do” when traveling to Hanoi to explore this beautiful capital city! If you travelling to Ho Chi Minh city, make sure you don’t missed Ho Chi Minh city cycling tour

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