Founded over 1000 years ago, Vietnam’s capital city is rich in history, with the streets of its rambling Old Quarter dating back to the 14th century. Wandering these tree-lined lanes past crumbling colonial facades will transport you back in time. However, today’s Hanoi is about much more than the past. The ancient city is being invigorated with modern cafes, world-class restaurants, and cool art galleries. When the sun goes down, you have your pick of watering holes, from sophisticated rooftop bars to buzzing bia hoi.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN HANOI:
Sample the street food
A wander around a morning market provides a tantalising hint of what you can expect to hit your table in Hanoi. For an authentic taste of Hanoi, look no further than the street kitchens of the Old Quarter. Phở noodle soup is king of cuisines here, with steaming pots of its star anise-infused broth simmering on every corner; while every day, the irresistible scent of bún chả fills the air as barbecued pork sizzles over hot coals. In recent years a growing band of superb international dining rooms have emerged, serving everything from contemporary tapas to fusion fare.
Stroll the Old Quarter
Hanoi’s Old Quarter serves up a sensory overload for the eyes, ears and nose. Wisps of incense drift out onto streets from ancient temples painted a riot of reds and oranges, while in a far-flung corner the clang of a blacksmith’s hammer mingles with a mobile fruit seller’s call. To fully immerse yourself, grab a map to explore. Or jump in a cyclo and take a tour of this intoxicating maze of markets, street kitchens, shop houses, and more.
Explore Hanoi’s cafe culture
It is by taking a seat and waiting as your coffee slowly filters that the Vietnamese capital can best be understood. Fast-paced on the surface, the true rhythm of city life is far from hurried. Alongside the thousands of coffee houses selling traditional Vietnamese coffee, an ever-growing band of unique coffee shops serve espressos and macchiatos in surroundings rivaling the world’s coolest caffeine dens.
Check out the art scene
Hanoi has long had a reputation as Vietnam’s art capital, with the elegant Fine Arts Museum housing the country’s foremost collection, including ancient Cham artifacts and impressionist pieces. For something more contemporary, head for Manzi–an art space-cum-cafe–or the Vietnam Art Gallery. Both are top places to take the pulse of the city’s art scene. Smaller gallery spaces include Nha San Collective at the up-and-coming Hanoi Creative City urban project.
Join the locals at Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem lake rests at the heart of Hanoi and embodies the soul of the city. Every morning it comes alive with walkers, aerobics classes, badminton, ballroom dancers, and even a laughing yoga group. It bursts back into life at sunset, and after dark, is again thronged with locals out to take the evening air. A little further north the lesser-visited Truc Bach and West Lake shouldn’t be missed–their calm temples and lakeside cafes provide peaceful enclaves away from the buzz of downtown.
HA NOI ITINERARIES
Begin your day early with a wander around Hoan Kiem and soak up the invigorating rhythm of life, with everything from open air aerobics to laughing yoga ringing across the waters. After a breakfast phở, wander the streets of theOld Quarter before sampling the capital’s staple lunch dish, bún chả. Visit the Women’s Museum in the afternoon, then head to Summit Lounge for the best sunset views in town before crowning the day with dinner at Chim Sao.
Plan an early morning visit to Cong Vien Thong Nhat, then head to the Museum of Fine Arts before refreshing with a drink at Manzi, for a rewarding morning of artistic exploration. In the afternoon go temple-hopping around West Lake, stopping at some of the many coffee and juice bars that surround it. For a Vietnamese dinner, dine at Quan An Ngon. Round out your 48 hours with a nightcap at Hanoi’s coolest bar, Tadioto.
HA NOI WEATHER
The climate is inviting from April to June, but Hanoi is particularly beautiful in May when its many trees come into bloom – orange, white, purple and red flowers elevate the already beguiling street scenes to another level. October and November are also excellent months to visit when temperatures are cooler.
TRANSPORT TO HA NOI