Hanoi, Capital City of Vietnam

Broom Seller

Some people refer to Hanoi as Saigon's unattractive sister. I think they must have visited Hanoi during some gray winter days. In my opinion Hanoi is one of the most beautiful cities in South-East-Asia. It's a place of culture and a place of tradition. Hanoi has got many faces. French colonial style buildings, the pretty busy, original Vietnamese Old Quarter, wide parks, broad alleys, many lakes and old temples and pagodas form a charming unique ensemble.

Things to see

The following places should definitely be part of your city tour:

Lake Hoan Kiem

Hoan Kiem Lake

The lake is situated in the heart of the city. A small wooden bridge leads to its Island with Ngoc Son Temple

One pillar Pagoda (Chua Mot Cot)

One Pillar Pagoda

The Pagoda stands on a pillar in the middle of a small lotus lake. It was erected in honor of goddess Quan Am. The original Pagoda was build in the 11th century on a massive tree-stem. It got destroyed by the French and was rebuild later on an ugly concrete pillar.

Temple of Literature

Temple of Literature Palace of Literature

The Literature Temple was built to honor Confucius in the 11th century. Vietnams first University was founded here only a few years later.

Ba Dinh Square with Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ba Dinh square and Mausoleum Mausoleum at Night

Uncle Ho's House

Uncle Ho's House

Ho Chi Minh's small wooden house stands in a park with a gold fishpond.

Old Quarter

Old Town of Hanoi

(See next chapter)

Former French Quarter "Ville Francaise"

To date Hanoi still has many French colonial style buildings:

  • Hanoi Opera, which is more or less a copy/replica of the Paris Opera:
    Opera House
  • Former Residency of the Governor of Tonkin, now Guest House of the Government:
    Former residence of the general governor
  • Cathedral St. Jospeph:
    Hanoi Cathedral


There are also many museums in Hanoi, but believe me you don't want to hang out in a museum in a city like Hanoi.

Things to do

Make sure you attend a show at the famous water puppet theater, which is situated near Lake Hoan Kiem. Water puppetry is a typical Vietnamese art and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. I enjoyed the show a lot and I'm sure so will you.

Theatre of Water Puppets


A walk through the Old Quarter is a Must for every Hanoi visitor. Take your time and soak up the impressions. Take a deep breath and let the smell enchant you.

Bird Market Shoe Seller

Silk accessories are a good option to bring for your loved ones at home. I am sure they'll love it, it's absolutely priceless, and the silk material is no extra weight for your backpack or luggage. I bought 2 scarves, one for myself and one for my mother, a tie for my father, and a tailor-made blouse for myself.

Nearby Attractions

Perfume Pagoda


You can find all kind of accommodation in Hanoi that is budget, middle class and even luxury hotels like the Metropole Sofitel.

There are lots of family run mini hotels and guesthouses in Hanoi. I stayed at a mini hotel in the Hang Ga Street in the Old Quarter and I was more than satisfied. The hotel was really clean and tidy. They even changed the bed sheets every day. I told them it wasn't necessary, but they insisted on it. Most mini hotel owners allow you to have a look at the rooms in advance to make your choice to stay easier. What should be mentioned, however, is the noise. The Old Quarter of Hanoi is pretty noisy, it starts around 5am or 6am in the morning when people get up and rush to work, so there is no way to sleep long. I strongly recommend you bring earplugs with you.

When I first went to Hanoi in 1989, I stayed at the Thang Loi Hotel north of the city at the West Lake. It was just before the country opened for tourism, so there was no hotel in the Old Quarter, as far as I remember. Thang Loi Hotel is a nice hotel and above all it is really quiet. If you are noise sensitive, this hotel may be an option. There is just one drawback and that's the 3 to 4 km (a little over two miles) distance to the city center.

How to get there

Noi Bai Airport is situated about 35km (22 miles) north of Hanoi. The most convenient way to get from the airport to Hanoi is by taxi. Don't worry; you'll be able to afford it ;-) If you haven't come round to exchange your currency, you can easily pay the taxi driver in US$. The US$ is sort of an unofficial currency in Vietnam.

Noi Bai Airport has good connections from major Asian cities, such as Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore.

For Travelers from Europe: There is a direct non-stop connection Paris - Hanoi, which is served by Air France and Vietnam Airlines.

Most travelers, however, prefer to go to Saigon first and travel north by plane, bus or train until their journey ends in Hanoi, then they return home via Saigon. That is because Saigon's Tan Son Nhat Airport serves more international destinations than Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport.

When to go there

I guess the best time to go to Hanoi would be October. You don't want to go there in August, when temperatures may rise to 40°C (104F), nor during the winter months when temperatures may fall below 10°C (50F).


Texts and Pictures by Janine Sunflower

something more to say about hanoi.

It's a real pleasure to read about your hometown from such a great viewpoint of a foreigner.

Hanoi, in fact, cannot be experienced through reading or watching, but living. Come to hanoi and you will be able to live in all highways of today.

a cultural life in the old quarter.

a quiet life in the outskirt.

a busy life in the mid-area.

anything you like, just soak up in Hanoi!

Ha Noi-here is Viet Nam

A very thorough picture of Ha Noi. Congrats. You may have missed the food unique to Ha Noi- cha ca la vong(fish for royalty), tit be chanh(meat of calf w/ lemon flavor), oc(best escargot: chopped w/ ginger), and of course, street pho, a steal at Dong5000 per bowl, available 24/7. Yes, October is best time to visit- cool weather and blue skies. Coincidentally, my first hotel in 1992 Ha Noi was also Thang Loi- by the lake, friendly staff, great food and local music.

Ha Noi is Vietnam; Viet Nam is Ha Noi. Tree-lined avenues, ocre-colored french colonial buildings, 7 lakes w/in the city.

Just beautiful. Have to go back!

For vietnambusiness, have not had a chance to go to Ha Noi capital. So far, vietnambusiness since 2005 just in Sai gon.

Promise myself to see Ha Noi w/ my wife this year. Hopefully autumn. 

Ha Noi

I thought if someone feels bored with Ha Noi, then he/she might have been visiting the city during its wettest time of Nov-Feb every 2-3 years. But in autumn or winter, you just have to get lost in the Old Quarter surrounded by crowds of all traffic species or sipp hot coffee amid the Old Town; you'll feel the most exotic and charming atmosphere. I do it every day since I could walk...Cheers and beers!

One day wondering into the Old Quarter I felt the pervasive hidden charm of these ladies selling flowers on the street...I bet they got me!

vietnam travel

Hanoi – the antique & dynamic capital of Vietnam


beautiful capital strategically lies at the center of the triangular
basin of the Red River. With around 3.5 million people, and an area of
920 square km, Hanoi is now the country’s center of economy, politics,
culture, and society.

Natural conditions

is famous for numerous rivers, lakes, and mountains alongside and in
the surroundings. Scattered around are places of sight-seeing, which
are so much attractive thanks to green lands full of streams, rivers,
and mountain, such as Tam Dao, Con Son, Kiep Bac,
etc. Hanoi is also well known for typical tropical seasoned place of
South East Asia with four seasons: fresh, green and cool in Spring, a
bit hot in Summer, fine in Autumn, and cold in Winter. Yet the most
interesting thing is that all those take place in most sites of the
capital. “Leisuring around the rivers in the suburbs or walking
down the green mountains like Soc Temple in Soc Mount, Ve Linh Mount,
Phuc Tuong Mount, etc, in autumn brings in such a great feeling.
Believe me, you will taste the cool and fresh air as if the most
delicious desert after such a busy time
”, said a busy trader during her stay in Hanoi.


Before being named “Hanoi” as present, the capital had had several names throughout history. In 1010, Ly Thai To, the first ruler of the Ly Dynasty, moved
the capital of Đại Việt (the Great Viet) to the site of the Đại La
Citadel. Claiming to have seen a dragon ascending the Red River, he
renamed it Thăng Long (Ascending Dragon) - a name still used poetically
to this day with the belief that this was good omen of the country’s
future. It remained the capital of Vietnam until 1397, when the capital was moved to Thanh Hoa, also known as Tây Đô (Western Capital). Thăng Long then became Đông Đô (Eastern Capital). King
Minh Mang, under the Nguyen Dynasty, has laid the name “Hanoi” on the
capital since 1831. This means “a city lying Between Rivers or River
Interior”, which are Red and Day rivers. Hanoi became the capital of
Vietnam when North and South Vietnam were reunited on July 2, 1976.

historians reckon that the city was established more than 1,500 years
ago. Therefore, with the length of living, Hanoi is very rich of
cultural, historical and traditional values.

Hanoi Vietnam is full of

Hanoi Vietnam is full of interesting things to do, and the friendly people here help to make a Hanoi vacation a wonderful experience for most. Since the city is the cultural hub of the country, it is a great center for the arts, so when you're not moving about town seeking out attractions, you might take in a show at the Hanoi Opera House, or take in a water puppets performance, which is truly something to behold

As I'm usually on holidays

As I'm usually on holidays in the UK, I long to have a different experience. That made me turn to places in South east asia. I have long heard of the beauty in Hanoi, but never got the courage to explore the place. I think you did Hanoi great justice with your recommendations and activities to do. Guess I am going to plan my next vacation there soon! 

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