Asia Featured Posts Travel Tips

A guide to visiting Hanoi

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is a city where the echoes of history blend seamlessly with the vibrant pulse of modern life. As you step into this enchanting metropolis, you are greeted by a dynamic tapestry of cultural influences that reflect its thousand-year-old heritage. From the intricate architecture of ancient temples and colonial-era buildings to the bustling energy of its narrow streets, Hanoi offers a captivating journey through time.

Nestled along the banks of the Red River, Hanoi boasts a unique charm characterized by its harmonious fusion of East and West. The city’s rich past is visible in its well-preserved landmarks, such as the Temple of Literature, the One Pillar Pagoda, and the French-inspired Hanoi Opera House. Each corner of Hanoi tells a story, offering glimpses into Vietnam’s dynastic eras, colonial past, and revolutionary struggles.

Beyond its historical allure, Hanoi is a city of contrasts where traditional culture thrives amidst the rhythms of contemporary life. The Old Quarter, with its labyrinthine streets and bustling markets, is a sensory delight where ancient crafts and modern commerce coexist. Here, the aroma of street food wafts through the air, inviting you to sample local delicacies like pho and bun cha, while the sounds of daily life create a symphony of activity.

Hanoi is not just a city to see; it’s a city to experience. Whether you’re sipping egg coffee by Hoan Kiem Lake, watching a water puppet show, or exploring its vibrant neighbourhoods by rickshaw, Hanoi captivates with its authenticity and warmth. It is a destination that promises discovery at every turn, making it an essential stop for any traveller seeking to understand the heart and soul of Vietnam.

Embarking on a week-long journey through Hanoi offers a perfect blend of cultural immersion, historical exploration, and natural beauty. With convenient flights, luxurious accommodations, and a plethora of activities, Hanoi beckons as an ideal destination for the discerning traveller.

Getting There

Vietjet. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is now more accessible than ever, thanks to Vietjet’s new direct flights from Australia launching in June 2024. Whether you’re flying from Sydney or Melbourne, the convenience of a non-stop journey means you can embark on your adventure without the hassle of layovers. Upon landing at Noi Bai International Airport, the city centre is just a 45-minute drive away, allowing you to dive straight into the rich cultural tapestry of Hanoi.

Where to Stay

Movenpick Hanoi Hotel. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi Centre

Located in the heart of Hanoi’s central business district, Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi offers a blend of colonial charm and modern comfort. Just a stone’s throw from the Old Quarter, this hotel provides an ideal base for exploring the city’s historical sites and bustling streets. This 5-star hotel’s sophisticated rooms, excellent service, and amenities such as a fitness centre and spa ensure a relaxing stay. Its proximity to the Hoan Kiem Lake and the Opera House makes it a prime choice for travellers who appreciate convenience and luxury, at a great price too.

Capella Hanoi

This unique property oozes luxury and style. Situated near the iconic Hoan Kiem Lake, Capella Hanoi stands as a beacon of opulence and elegance. Designed by renowned architect Bill Bensley, the hotel boasts an art deco-inspired aesthetic that transports guests to a bygone era of glamour. Each room is a masterpiece, adorned with vintage collectibles and bespoke furnishings. The hotel’s prime location offers easy access to the city’s major attractions, making it perfect for those who wish to immerse themselves in Hanoi’s cultural and historical essence.

Must see and do experiences in Hanoi

Markets. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

While you would need more than a week to see all Hanoi has to offer, here is a list of the must-see sights and experiences. Some of these are free, some will cost you as little as a cup of coffee and others have a fee (which still is very low).

Try Hanoi’s Famous Egg Coffee

Try the coffee. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

A visit to Hanoi wouldn’t be complete without tasting the city’s unique egg coffee (cà phê trứng). This creamy concoction, made with robust Vietnamese coffee, egg yolk, sugar, and condensed milk, was invented in Hanoi during a milk shortage in the 1940s. Head to the iconic Café Giảng or any of the charming coffee houses in the Old Quarter to savour this delightful beverage. The rich, velvety texture and the aromatic blend make it a memorable treat.

Watch the train pass through Train Street

Watch the train pass on Train Street. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Nestled within the heart of the city, Train Street is a narrow alleyway where trains pass just inches from the doorsteps of local homes. This unique spot offers a thrilling experience as you watch the train roll by from a quaint café. The juxtaposition of everyday life and the roaring train is a sight to behold and a photographer’s dream.

Take a Rickshaw Ride through the Old Quarter

Ride a rickshaw. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Exploring the Old Quarter by rickshaw allows you to soak in the bustling atmosphere at a leisurely pace. The maze of 36 streets, each named after the goods historically sold there, is a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and scents. From street vendors to ancient temples, this ride offers a window into Hanoi’s vibrant street life.

See a Water Puppet Show

A quintessential Vietnamese experience, the water puppet show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is a must-see. This traditional art form, dating back to the 11th century, features intricately designed puppets dancing on water, accompanied by live music and storytelling that delves into Vietnamese folklore and history.

Visit The Temple of Literature

Visit the famous sights. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

The Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university, is a serene oasis amidst the urban hustle. Dedicated to Confucius, this well-preserved temple complex boasts beautiful courtyards, ancient architecture, and lush gardens. It offers a glimpse into Vietnam’s scholarly past and is a haven of tranquillity.

Take a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake

The famous Red Bridge. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Hoan Kiem Lake, the spiritual heart of Hanoi, is a picturesque spot ideal for a morning stroll or an evening unwind. The iconic red The Huc Bridge leads to Ngoc Son Temple, perched on a small island. This temple is dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao and is surrounded by the legends and myths of the lake itself.

Grab a bargain at Cho Hom Market and Dong Xuan Market

Shop until you drop at the markets then grab a massage. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Cho Hom Market and Dong Xuan Market are vibrant hubs where you can experience Hanoi’s bustling market culture. From fresh produce and local delicacies to handicrafts and textiles, these markets offer a true taste of local life. Bargaining is part of the fun, and you’re sure to find unique souvenirs to take home.

Take a getaway to Halong Bay

Halong Bay. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

A trip to Hanoi wouldn’t be complete without a getaway to the mesmerizing Halong Bay. A three-hour drive from the city will bring you to this UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its emerald waters and thousands of limestone islands. Opt for a day cruise to explore the bay’s enchanting caves, floating villages, and hidden beaches. The surreal landscape, with its towering karsts and tranquil waters, provides a breathtaking contrast to the vibrant energy of Hanoi.

Embrace the Street Food Scene

Try the delicious food. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Hanoi’s street food is legendary, offering an authentic taste of Vietnamese cuisine. Don’t miss out on local favourites like pho (noodle soup), bun cha (grilled pork with noodles), and banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich). For the best experience, join a guided food tour or simply follow the crowds to bustling street vendors and market stalls.

Top tips for visiting Hanoi

Learn some phrases in Vietnamese to talk to the locals. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Go in style: Upgrade your flight with Vietjet to their business class (also known as SkyBOSS). It is one of the most affordable business-class experiences and well worth the extra cost. Check out our flight review of VietJet’s Business Class here.

Learn Basic Vietnamese Phrases: While many people in Hanoi speak some English, knowing a few basic Vietnamese phrases can enhance your travel experience and show respect for the local culture. Simple greetings like “xin chào” (hello), “cảm ơn” (thank you), and “xin lỗi” (excuse me) can go a long way in making connections and navigating the city.

Be Cautious with Traffic: Hanoi’s traffic can be overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors. The streets are often crowded with motorbikes, cars, and bicycles. When crossing the road, move steadily and predictably, making eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you. It might seem daunting at first, but you’ll quickly adapt to the rhythm of the city.

Respect Local Customs and Etiquette: Vietnamese culture places a strong emphasis on respect and etiquette. Dress modestly, especially when visiting temples and pagodas. Remove your shoes before entering someone’s home or a sacred place, and avoid pointing your feet at people or religious objects. Politeness and a smile are universally appreciated and will help you navigate social interactions more smoothly.

Fly to Vietnam with VietJet and discover more about Vietnam through Vietnam Tourism.

Disclosure: The writer Kate travelled as a guest of Vietjet. All images are credited to Kate Webster unless otherwise specified.

Book your travel now

To book your getaway to Hanoi in Vietnam, contact personal travel manager Kate via email on or call +61 0461411444.

Kate Webster

Kate Webster is the founder and owner of Captured Travel Media. She is a world traveller, ocean lover and conservation warrior who is determined to make every moment count for not only herself, but the world around her. An editor and travel journalist, Kate travels the globe in search of vivid imagery and compelling stories that capture the essence of the people and places she visits. She is a passionate conservation advocate, sustainable traveller and always travels with reason and cause.