Hanoi Things to Do Tips by ValbyDK
Hanoi Things to Do: 931 reviews and 2,112 photos
Ha Long Bay
I drove up from Hanoi on a day-trip and spent 4 hours in Ha Long Bay (a boat trip around the scenic bay and a visit to a cave). I rented a private van and driver in Hanoi and paid around 100 USD (return). The trip from Hanoi to Ha Long City took about 3 ½ hours in the morning traffic and 3 hours to return to Hanoi in the evening.
Long day, but worth it, Ha Long Bay is a stunning place... Read more here: Ha Long Bay
If you don’t want to stroll around the Old Quarter on your own, you can take a cyclo tour through ‘Quartiér Indigene’ - as it was called by the French. You’ll find a long line of cyclos just in front of the Huc Bridge at the Hoan Kiem Lake, and we went for a very interesting 1½ hour tour through the Old Quarter...
The Old Quarter is a charming place filled with narrow streets, tall houses, and a hectic daily life. The area was once known as 'the 36 streets’ because it originally consisted of 36 streets, each being closely attached to a traditional trade such as silversmiths, potters, bakers, and so on… Today there are bicycles, motorcycles, food stalls, stalls selling all kinds of goods, and people everywhere…
Water Puppet Theatre
Water puppet theatre is a traditional art form in Vietnam, and has existed for more than 1000 years. The Puppeteers use bamboo poles to move their puppets around the small pond that forms the stage. I must admit that they are very skilful, but water puppet theatre never caught my interest. I think it is one of those things that you either love or hate – and I found it pretty boring...
I visited the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre (located at the Hoan Kiem Lake) and paid 40000 dong for a one hour show.
Address: 578 Dinh Tien Hoang Str., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi
Hoa Lo Prison
The Hoa Lo Prison was built by the French colonists in 1896 and was named Maison Centrale (the original sign still hangs over the entrance). Originally used by the French for political prisoners, but later also used by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War for US pilots (U.S. Senator John McCain was one of the most famous inmates). They ironically nick-named the prison the Hanoi Hilton and in 1999, as Vietnam started becoming a more popular tourist destination, Hilton actually built a hotel in Hanoi, but carefully called it the Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel.
Most of the prison complex was demolished in 1997, but a part of the old prison was preserved to create the Hoa Lo Prison Museum. The exhibitions are primarily from the French-colonial period and show the cells, a guillotine, and several torture instruments. Only a smaller section of the museum is devoted to the American period, but still very interesting and absolutely worth a visit.
Address: 1 Hoa Lo, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
On September 2, 1969, Ho Chi Minh died from cardiac failure. He had stated in his will that he wanted to be cremated and to have his ashes buried in the hills of the north, centre and south of Vietnam. But the successor Communist government violated his wish and Ho Chi Minh was embalmed following the tradition upheld by other Communist leaders across the world.
I didn’t go inside the Mausoleum (from 1975), but only had a look at the impressive building from outside...
Address: 5 Pho Ngoc Ha, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
The Presidential Palace
The Presidential Palace, built from 1900 to 1906, is located next to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and used to be the Headquarters for the Governor General of Indochina. After the French were defeated, in 1954, Ho Chi Minh didn't want to live in the Presidential Palace, instead he lived in two humble houses on the Palace’s ground (read my other tips). Nowadays the Palace is used for international meetings, and is not open for public. But you can have a look from outside, and the Palace Garden with the large fishpond is also a nice place for a walk.
Don’t try to take any pictures from outside the front gate. Before I paid the entrance fee I wanted to take a picture from outside, but was stopped by the guards. After I paid the fee I could take as many pictures of the Palace as I wanted...
Address: No. 1 - Bach Thao, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature (Van Mieu) is one of the oldest sights in Hanoi. It was founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Tranh Tong, and is a shrine to the Chinese philosopher Confucius. A very beautiful and tranquil place, and without doubt the most impressive temple we visited in Hanoi.
The Temple of Literature consists of five courtyards. The first two are basically gardens; the third courtyard has a large pond (the Well of Heavenly Clarity) and it is also here you find the stele honouring the university's candidates; the fourth courtyard is home of the Great House of Ceremonies and a large statue of Confucius; finally - the last courtyard is the Thai Hoc, holding the large two stories main hall, and a drum and bell tower.
The fifth courtyard also contained the buildings of the former Quoc Tu Giam (School for the Sons of the Nation), but they were destroyed by a French bombing in 1947. Quoc Tu Giam opened in 1076 as the first university in Vietnam. In the beginning it was only for mandarins, but later for all people. The university was closed in the late 18th century when Emperor Gia Long transferred it functions to the new capital at Hue.
Directions: Pho Van Mieu - at the corner of Pho Quoc Tu Giam.
After the French were defeated, in 1954, Ho Chi Minh denied staying in the Presidential Palace. Instead he lived and worked in two humble houses on the Palace’s ground. First he stayed in “the House of 1954” from 1954 to 1958. Thereafter, he built a Vietnamese house made of stilt ("the House-On-Stilts") and lived there from May 1958 to September 1969.
You are not allowed to enter the houses, but they are both quite open and have big windows, so you can still get an impression of Ho Ch Minh’s simple lifestyle.
Address: No. 1 - Bach Thao, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
Museum of Ethnology
The Museum of Ethnology is a great museum, and If you only are going to visit one museum in Hanoi this is the one…! The museum covers the culture of the various ethnic groups in Vietnam and consists of an indoor exhibition and a huge open-air exhibition.
The indoor section has exhibitions of clothes, agricultural tools, fishing instruments, musical instruments, and religious artefacts - belonging to the many ethnic groups of Vietnam. Outside the museum there is a huge open-air exhibition with several houses of ethnic groups: the Tay stilt house, the Bahnar communal house with an impressive height of 19 meters, the Ede longhouse, the Viet house, the Giarai Tomb, and more…
Address: Nguyen Van Huyen Road, Cau Giay Dist., Hanoi
One Pillar Pagoda
The One-Pillar Pagoda (Chua Mot Cot) is located between the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Ho Chi Minh Museum. The pagoda was built in 1049 (uncertain) and resembles a giant lotus blossom. According to a legend, King Ly Thai To was childless and dreamt one night that he met the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Goddess of Compassion), who handed him a baby son while seated on a lotus flower. The King later married a young woman and a son was born to them. As a symbol of gratitude, he had the pagoda built and dedicated it to the Goddess.
The One-Pillar Pagoda is regarded as one of Vietnam's most iconic temples, but is quite small and only took a few minutes to visit. However, it’s free to visit the One-Pillar Pagoda, and if you go you should also visit the Dien Huu Pagoda and take a look at the bo tree, which was a gift to Ho Chi Minh during a visit to India in 1958.
ValbyDK's Related Pages
Hanoi Travel Guide
Member Travel Pages
- "The Adventure Continues in Hanoi ! Hanoi !"
- "Good morning Hanoi !"
- "Hanoi - City of the Soaring Dragon"
- "Hanoi - City of Absorbing Sights and Sounds"
- "MY 1ST STOP IN VIETNAM WAS......................."
- "Ignoring Hanoi"
- See All...
- Things to Do in Hanoi
- Hotels in Hanoi
- Transportation in Hanoi
- Nightlife in Hanoi
- Restaurants in Hanoi
- Shopping in Hanoi
- Warnings and Dangers in Hanoi
- See All...
Explore the World
Badges & Stats in Hanoi
- 17 Reviews
- 36 Photos
- 2 Forum posts
- 3 Comments
- See All Stats
- See All Badges (16)
Have you been to Hanoi?Share Your Travels
Latest Activity in Hanoi
Photos in HanoiSee All Photos (36)
Top 10 Pages
- Top 5 Page for this destination Copenhagen Intro, 102 reviews, 311 photos, 3 travelogues
- Lisbon Intro, 22 reviews, 78 photos, 1 travelogue
- Barcelona Intro, 21 reviews, 72 photos
- Vienna Intro, 19 reviews, 61 photos
- Belgrade Intro, 23 reviews, 57 photos, 1 travelogue
- Vientiane Intro, 22 reviews, 57 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Santo Domingo Intro, 17 reviews, 47 photos, 1 travelogue
- Top 5 Page for this destination Puno Intro, 19 reviews, 44 photos
- Phumi Siem Reab Intro, 14 reviews, 49 photos, 2 travelogues
- Ho Chi Minh City Intro, 20 reviews, 42 photos
FriendsSee All Friends (52)
Latest Hanoi hotel reviews
- Hello Vietnam Hotel
- 11 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Sep 24, 2013
- Hanoi Serenity Hotel
- 386 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Dec 9, 2013
- Hang Nga Hotel
- 1 Review & Opinion
- Sinh Cafe Hotel
- 25 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Sep 23, 2013
- Galaxy Hotel Hanoi
- 41 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Oct 22, 2013
- Holiday Gold Hotel
- 665 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Dec 10, 2013
- Hanoi Value Hotel
- 159 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Dec 5, 2013
- Stars Hotel
- 64 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Dec 3, 2013
- Nam Hai 1 Hotel Hanoi
- 37 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Oct 13, 2011
- Hanoi Lake View Hotel
- 45 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Aug 13, 2013
- Hanoi Venus Hotel
- 5 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Mar 18, 2012
- Sunrise Hotel Hanoi
- 61 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Jan 18, 2013
- Heritage Hotel Hanoi
- 6 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Sep 9, 2011
- Rosaliza Hotel
- 10 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Aug 25, 2012
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum- 79 Reviews, 148 Photos
- Water Puppet Show- 70 Reviews, 120 Photos
- Hoan Kiem Lake- 98 Reviews, 222 Photos
- Temple of Literature- 66 Reviews, 171 Photos
- Ha Long Bay- 40 Reviews, 111 Photos
- The Museum of Ethnology- 38 Reviews, 109 Photos
- One Pillar Pagoda- 43 Reviews, 75 Photos
- Old Quarter- 38 Reviews, 89 Photos
- Army Museum- 19 Reviews, 42 Photos
- West Lake- 15 Reviews, 27 Photos
See All Hanoi Things to Do