What to see in Vietnam
The capital of Vietnam and a city which perfectly fuses the ancient and the modern, Hanoi is situated in the north of the country and acts as a commercial and cultural centre of northern Vietnam. Like any Southeast Asian metropolis, Hanoi comes complete with the ceaseless motorbikes traffic and cacophony of car horns, but with the added warm hospitality which gets travellers hooked on Vietnam and makes it such a charming city to explore.
Capital of Imperial Vietnam for almost 800 years, visiting Hanoi is key to understanding the history of the nation as it’s home to a great number of historic pagodas, temples and monuments, which serve to showcase the traditions and heritage of Vietnam to curious visitors. A truly ‘east-meets-west’ city, here traditional Vietnamese values are blended with a continental French flair. The oldest part of the city, where most tours of Hanoi are based, is composed of four districts: Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Da Dinh and Dong Da, where you’ll find the faded elegance of French colonial architecture, bustling market streets and the majority of the capitals sightseeing attractions.
Arguably the best destination in Vietnam to sample the flavours of the national cuisine, Hanoi is well known for its delicious street food. Search out the most authentic Pho by following the locals or grab a takeaway baguette and have a picnic beside the West Lake whilst watching the local fishermen at sunset.
There are countless things to see in Hanoi, making it one of Vietnam’s most popular tourist destinations. Perhaps the most famous monument in the city is the One Pillar Pagoda, a historic Buddhist temple, built in the 2nd-century. As the name suggests, this ancient pagoda stands on one pillar, surrounded by a picturesque ornamental pond. The second of Hanoi’s most iconic temples is actually located outside of the city but is nonetheless worth visiting if you travel to Hanoi. The perfect destination for a day trip from Hanoi, the Perfume Pagoda is built into the limestone cliffs of Huong Tich. A must-see for anyone interested in Buddhism, visitors and pilgrims alike flock to this unique temple complex in large numbers as it’s thought that visiting the temple brings good luck!
Anyone with an interest in Vietnamese history will surely visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum if they visit Hanoi. The final resting place of the Vietnamese revolutionary leader, this imposing, collonaded mausoleum is located in the centre of Ba Dinh Square. Surrounded by exotic gardens, this poignant monument is one of the most popular things to see in Hanoi and visitors are even able to pay their respects to the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh himself, housed inside a glass box within the central hall of the mausoleum building.
Other highlights of a tour of Hanoi include the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university, which has stood in the same spot for almost 1000 years and Ngoc Son Temple, a charming 18th-century temple, situated on an island in Hoan Kiem Lake. The same lake is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the old town. At the heart of Hanoi, Hoan Kiem Lake is always busy with locals and visitors alike, taking an evening stroll around the lake, practising tai-chi in the morning sunshine or simply spending quality time with their families. The lake is famously home to large softshell turtles, although sightings are very rare. The area around the lake is where you’re likely to see traditional Water Puppet Shows, one of the quintessential things to do in Hanoi. Don’t miss out on your chance to enjoy this age-old traditional Vietnamese art form.