Guide to getting around Hanoi

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What to Know Before Going to Hanoi

More than 1,000 years old, Hanoi boasts more cultural and historical sights than any city in the country. It’s the perfect destination for those seeking culture, history and a unique travel experience.

Immerse yourself in the intrigue of new experiences in Hanoi. Use this guide and then search for IHG hotels in Hanoi to plan your perfect vacation.

Find Hanoi’s hidden secrets

Whether you have a week to explore the city or just enough time for a day trip, Hanoi’s hidden secrets are worth seeing.

Hanoi Flower Market

hanoi flower market

Photo Credit: David Brewer/Flickr

If you don’t mind waking up early, you’ll be greeted with the sights and smells of thousands of stunning flowers at Hanoi’s Quang Ba Flower Market. Even if you don’t buy anything, observing the hustle and bustle of the market is worth sacrificing a couple hours of shuteye for. And when we said early, we mean it. The market is only open from 3 to 7 a.m. daily.


Hoan Kiem Lake

hoan kiem lake

Photo Credit: Andrew Emerson/Flickr

Another unique sight for early risers is the Hoan Kiem Lake. While the lake is enjoyable anytime of day, early summer mornings are when you can catch the locals practicing Tai Chi, playing chess or badminton and just appreciating everyday life. If you aren’t a morning person, spend time at the lake in the evening enjoying an ice cream cone.


Water Puppetry

water puppetry

Photo Credit: einalem/Flickr

To witness Hanoi’s traditional side, a water puppet show is right up your alley. Water puppetry dates back many centuries to when villagers put on shows in the flooded rice fields. You can catch a performance at the Thang Long Water Puppetry Theater—complete with a live orchestra—to get a true glimpse into Hanoi’s rich past.


Take an architectural tour

For some of the city’s best sightseeing, spend a day marveling Hanoi’s great architecture.

The Temple of Literature

temple of literature

Photo Credit: Andrea Schaffer/Flickr

Vietnam’s oldest university, the Temple of Literature is one of Hanoi’s most well-known attractions. Stone statues, gardens and courtyards adorn the temple that was originally created to honor Confucius but now celebrates high-ranking Vietnam scholars. The Temple of Literature is easily accessible from Hoam Kiem Lake, just 10 minutes away, and you can see the temple in 45 minutes. The entrance fee is 10,000 VND (50 U.S. cents) and is open 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., every day except Mondays.


Co Loa Citadel

co loa citadel

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Another fascinating piece of Vietnamese architecture is the Co Loa Citadel. The Citadel is a free museum and provides visitors with an overview, two temples, ancient walls and tombs. Although not very popular among tourists, it’s a way to study architecture away from the typical touristy crowds. The Citadel is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.


The Hanoi Opera House

hanoi opera house

Photo Credit: Prashant Ram/Flickr

The Hanoi Opera House is a beautiful piece of French influenced architecture and was modeled after the famous Parisian Palais Garnier. The opera house does not offer tours, but you can see it by attending a performance. Performances happen at various days and times of the week, so check their schedule beforehand to see if you can make one while in town.


Hoa Lo Prison

hoa lo prison

Photo Credit: Ronan Crowley/Flickr

One of the most historically interesting buildings in Hanoi is the Hoa Lo Prison. It opened during the Vietnam War and was originally built by the French to hold prisoners of war. Hoa Lo Prison is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and costs 20,000 VND (about 1 U.S. dollar) for entry. Plan on spending one to two hours there.


Eat your way through Old Quarter

One of the best ways to enjoy the many foods and drinks Hanoi has to offer is by eating your way through the boisterous streets of Hanoi Old Quarter. The city is home to a variety of soups, noodles, buns, sandwiches and plenty of other foods that foodies will enjoy.

Street Food

hanoi street food

Photo Credit: Maxime Guilbot/Flickr

The most popular and savory joints among the locals are on the street. Awaken your taste buds with sautéed fish, beef and noodles, grilled pork patties or fried tofu. If you search a little longer, you’ll even come across home-brewed “draft beer.”


Coffee Cafes

moca cafe

Photo Credit: Bex Walton/Flickr

Hanoi is second only to Brazil in producing coffee—so if you need to satisfy your coffee craving, you’ve come to the right place. Moca Cafe is one of the best cafés to enjoy a cup of Joe, while doing some people watching. The exposed brickwork restaurant also serves a mix of Western and Vietnamese dishes in case you need something more substantial. Also try a flavorful Vietnamese coffee blend from the rooftop of Cafe Pho Co and an egg coffee at the locally loved Giang Cafe.


Green Tangerine

green tangerine

Photo Credit: Alpha/Flickr

For a more upscale restaurant, Green Tangerine is a great choice. The restaurant is known for its French specialties and traditional Vietnamese food. Some of the main entrees include spring rolls, fried fish in tamarind sauce and marinated pigeon with cocoa and coffee. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, try the duck with orange candy floss.


Shop in Hanoi

If you enjoy custom-made clothes, bamboo baskets and haggling with foreign vendors, then shopping in Hanoi is your kind of travel activity.

Hanoi Weekend Night Market

hanoi night market

Photo Credit: Richard Perry/Flickr

While you’re the Old Quarter, be sure to stop by the Hanoi weekend night market, open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. During the day, the market route is used for transportation, but from 6 to 11 p.m. the route is closed to traffic and transforms into a fun spot for people to wander and haggle over goods with vendors. Around 2,000 booths are displayed each night, and you can purchase a variety of clothing, textiles and souvenirs.


What to buy in Hanoi

bamboo baskets

Photo Credit: David McKelvey/Flickr

Hanoi is known for a variety of beautiful items made by locals. One thing you can’t miss is the traditional silk, which you can buy printed or patterned. And for the fashionable dressers, you can buy handcrafted, custom-tailored clothes for a bargain here. Other popular items among tourists are lacquerware, embroidery, souvenirs, bamboo, luxury goods and ceramics.

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