Asia Bucket Lists Destinations Vietnam

Hanoi City Guide And Bucket List

photo of ha long bay

Why go to Hanoi?

Back in 2012, I couldn’t have expected for Vietnam to be one of the most visited countries in the world. I loved my experience in Hanoi but I honestly did not assume the influx of people asking me about the city or the big increase of airfare!

Hanoi offers you the opportunity to go back in time, to a war stricken Vietnam and an eager to rise nation. If you’re only focusing on Hanoi, you’ll be greeted with the best museums, artworks, and temples as it is slowly rising to be one of the most culturally rich cities in the world.

Find yourself in Hanoi and you’ll find an assortment of options for backpackers, luxury travellers, and those in between.



collection of photographs about hanoi in 2012

Many things have changed since 2012. For one: I learned to drink coffee. A lot.

Despite it all, I’ve always remembered my trip to Hanoi with the fondness especially because it’s one of the first South East Asian countries I was able to visit outside of the Philippines.

While you try to avoid the fast motorcycles coming your way as you cross the street (picture: streets with no signs and pedestrians), take note of the unique architecture surrounding the city. As Hanoi was previously occupied by the French, many of its charm stems from its mixed Asian and European heritage.

Walk through Old Town and you’ll be greeted by many European-inspired coffee shops with a unique twist. Go take photos over at the French Quarter and be stunned by Vietnamese peddling their way around tight corners with big bags of rice.

Despite articles and posts on the Internet about how some travellers do not like Vietnam (or Hanoi, to be specific) I’m a firm believer that you should go here and see it for yourself before believing anyone else.

And so, if you’re planning to head over here, I bring you my bucket list! Simple tips and recommendations to make your stay in Hanoi even better:

#1. Explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter

I was fortunate to stay at a hotel in the Old Quarter where its considered as the prime location for the best shopping, coffee shops, and museums in the entire city. Stay here and get lost in old Vietnam. Literally.

#2. Watch people do Tai Chi at Hoan Kiem Lake

Wake up at 5:00am or so, to head on over to Hoan Kiem Lake and watch the Vietnamese do Tai Chi. Even better, you can join them for free.

#3. Say a little prayer at One Pillar Pagoda

The One Pillar Pagoda sits on the middle of the Hoan Kiem Lake, which is a reproduction of one of the temples built during the Ly Dynasty. When you offer a prayer in the Pagoda, it symbolises hope for good health and a beautiful life.

#4. Visit the Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts

With Hanoi’s thriving art scene, a visit to their museums and galleries is becoming a must! Check out the Museum of Fine Arts for their eclectic and oriental Vietnamese paintings.

#5. If you’d like it to be a little more interesting yet morbid, tour around Hoa Lo Prison

Hoa Lo may be labeled as a prison but now a days, it’s known as a museum where travellers can learn more about Vietnam’s history and know where US soldiers were imprisoned during the war.

#6. Watch a water puppet show

In Old Town, you can also watch the water puppet show at the Water Puppet Theatre — it’s considered as one of the oldest form of Vietnamese entertainment and can’t be seen anywhere else in South East Asia.

#7. Visit one the oldest building in the country

A visit to the Temple of Literature brings you to centuries ago where famous Vietnamese diplomats and philosophers studied. The temple was built around 1070 and was greatly inspired by Confucius.

fannys ice cream dessert shop in hanoi

Image taken from the Fanny Ice Cream Official Website

#8. Eat sushi ice cream at Fanny’s Ice Cream Parlour

The famous ice cream parlour originated in Singapore but has made a sensation all over Vietnam. Their ice creams are made with all natural ingredients and styled with only the best artisans.

#9. Drink good coffee at any hole in the wall

Okay, I admit I was not an avid coffee drinker back then. But I’ll have you know – I still remember drinking that tall iced caramel latte and thinking it was one of the best drinks I’ve ever had. And yeah, I also have a photo with it!

Admittedly, a few years later, my aunt came back from her recent trip to Hanoi and brought me home a bag of coffee beans. Best. Ones. Ever. Seriously.

#10. Go to the weekly night market

Our hotel was actually located near the Dong Xuan Night market in the Old Quarter. When you go here, you’ll find tons of trinkets, jewellery, and even cheap tourist souvenirs!

#11. Eat Pho

No Vietnamese restaurant in whatever country can ever compare to trying Pho in Hanoi! I don’t think I ever tried eating anything but Vietnamese food for a long while after my trip.

#12. See a show at the Hanoi Opera House

The Hanoi Opera House consists of weekly shows, much like the ones in Vienna with an Asian touch. You’ll have the chance to choose between comedies, local plays, and musicals.

#13. Soak in the history while walking around botanical gardens

If there’s one thing I remember about being in Vietnam (besides the shopping, honestly), it’s the botanical gardens all over the city. There’s going to be a beautiful lake in the middle of it while bride to be’s try to avoid one another while shooting for their nuptial video. Haha.

#14. Take a trip to Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is one of the great natural wonders of the world and therefore, makes your Hanoi trip all the more worth it. As far as I can remember, the entire trip would take you hours as you’ll have to ride a small boat to the Fisherman’s Village.

#15. See the entire city of Hanoi at Lotte Tower Observation Deck

Getting to see a full view of Hanoi at night or in the morning is one of the best things you can experience. It’s when people are most alive whether it would be farmers and restaurant owners or young professionals. Admittedly, the best time to go here would be either the first hour of opening or some time around 7-8:00pm as you also get to avoid the crowd this way.

Over to you:

Have you ever been to Hanoi? Or are you planning a trip going there?

Featured Image taken from Pexels


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  • I visited Vietnam in 2012 as well, and loved it! I have fond memories of joining an aerobics class in the park – good for a laugh! haha

  • Reading this just made me excited for about the fifth time to be leaving this week to tour Asia. I have been awful with researching and this has given me some great insight. You just made me crave sushi ice cream!

    • No problem Petro! Hope you have a great time around Asia!

  • Hanoi was my favourite place in Vietnam, and for all the reasons you list here except the observation deck – that probably wasn’t there in 2003! Sounds great though, time to return to Vietnam!

  • It does sound like a great place. Vietnam is on my bucket list for some time now, but I was also surprised by the amount of travelers to the country nowadays. Few years ago it seemed like a remote place in the world, now – it’s like everybody is going to Vietnam! 🙂 And of course, the country has a lot to offer, so I can only be envious, that is – until I go there myself. 😀 Nice post, thanks!

    • That’s true! Like I didn’t expect tons of people to be booking flights to Vietnam! Hope you make your way over to Vietnam soon Danijela 🙂

  • I love this handy travel guide! Seems like such a great place to unwind and explore <3

    angela | Ohh Angie

  • Soup Pho! I think evry person in Warsaw in Poland ate it at least once as we used to have a lot of migrants from Vietnam 🙂 And they were awesome at cooking and runnig great restaurants!

  • I haven’t been to Vietnam yet but it’s on my ever-growing list! Hanoi intrigues me; there is something about the hustle and bustle of Asian cities that terrifies me and excites me all at once. Great tips for a future trip – will save this post for future reference!

    • Hi Abbi! You definitely should try to find your way around Asia, it’s vastly different from Western countries!

  • Vietnam looks amazing and has been on my list for a while now. My husband loved it there and said he got a fitted suit made for a great price. I’d have to agree that it’s the nicest suit I’ve ever seen 😉

    • You should try going to Vietnam if you can! It’s really worth it, Dominique 🙂

  • I just watched something on TV the other night about Hanoi and it looked beautiful! Bucket list destination for sure!

  • This looks like a wonderful place to visit! Gorgeous scenery!

    x Annabelle

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