The best things to do in Hanoi often showcase the Vietnamese capital’s vibrant history and culture. You’ll hardly run out of ideas for something to do in Hanoi. It’s a place where ancient and proudly preserved Vietnamese culture is felt most keenly by visitors, and progress wrestles with tradition throughout the different districts of the city.

    Hanoi is over 1,000 years old, so the wealth of history here is mindboggling: temples, ancient imperial citadels, unique theaters, and stunning wilderness just outside the city all offer fun-filled days in Vietnam’s capital. Make sure to visit as many of these attractions in Hanoi as possible because they all offer entertainment, beauty, and education at different turns. Enjoy our top picks for things to do in Hanoi below.

    What are the best things to do in Hanoi?


    Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

    The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is an intriguing relic of Vietnam’s history and, signifying its historical and cultural importance, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standing 40 meters high, the central flag tower is the most recognizable feature of the Imperial Citadel and is often used as a symbol of Hanoi. 

    This site was the center of ancient Hanoi and served as the political center for 8 centuries. Located in Ba Dinh, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is close to many other of Hanoi's top attractions.

    Location: Quan Thanh, Ba Dinh, Hanoi, Vietnam

    Phone: +84 (0)243 734 5427


    Water Puppet Theater

    Hanoi's Water Puppet Theater celebrates and preserves the ancient art form of Vietnamese water puppetry. Water puppetry itself has a long association with Hanoi and there are several theaters where guests can enjoy this uniquely Vietnamese take on Asia’s puppet tradition. 

    The original – and widely regarded as the best – theater in town is the Thang Long Puppet Theater. Puppets dance and slide elegantly over the liquid stage, controlled by a whole troupe of puppet masters hiding behind a screen. Most shows also feature the famous Legend of the Restored Sword of King Le which tells the tale of Hoan Kiem Lake and the giant tortoise.

    Location: 57B, Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam

    Phone: +84 (0)243 824 9494


    Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

    Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a somber landmark in Hanoi and a tribute to a figure that has left an indelible mark on Vietnamese history. Ho Chi Minh is revered in Hanoi as the country’s greatest leader. Nicknamed ‘Uncle Ho’ by locals, his preserved body is now laid to rest in a glass case in the Ba Dinh area of Hanoi. 

    The mausoleum is more than a mere tourist attraction. It is a part of living history and a visit here stays long in the memory. The building was modeled after Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow.

    Location: 8 Hung Vuong, Dien Bien, Ba Dinh, Hanoi, Vietnam

    Open: Saturday and Monday–Thursday from 8 am to 11.30 am (closed on Fridays and Sundays)


    The Perfume Pagoda

    The Perfume Pagoda is a dramatic temple complex in Hanoi, believed to have been first built in the 15th century. This series of Buddhist temples are built into a mountain range in a maze of alleyways carved into the rock with rich forests and flowing streams all around. 

    The temple is located around 60 km south of Hanoi in the Son Mountains and the journey here is an experience in itself. First, you must take a 2-hour journey by automobile or bus before traveling by boat to the foot of the mountains.

    Location: Huong Son, My Duc, Hanoi, Vietnam


    Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son

    Hoan Kiem Lake (Turtle Lake) is a central feature of Hanoi and is a popular hangout spot throughout the day with locals and visitors. Ngoc Son Temple sits on a small island in the center of the lake and is linked by a bridge, making it a beautiful background for a few photos. 

    Around sunrise and sunset, this area becomes especially busy with joggers, couples enjoying the relaxing views across the lake, and the elderly practicing tai chi and line dancing. You can visit Hoan Kiem Lake free of charge, but there’s a fee to visit Ngoc Son Temple. The temple sits on a small island in the center of the lake.

    Location: Hanoi Old Quarter, Dinh Tien Hoang, Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 6 pm


    Dong Xuan Market

    Dong Xuan Market is the largest of its kind in Hanoi. Housed within a 4-storey Soviet-style building, this sprawling complex offers an extensive collection of fashion, apparel and souvenirs at some of the best prices in the city. 

    Even if you’re not interested in printed T-shirts or cheap sunglasses, it is still fascinating to see the comings and goings of the local traders, and there is a wet market on the first floor where the sights and smells of exotic produce assault the senses.

    Location: Dong Xuan Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 7 pm


    photo by Christophe95 (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Hanoi Old Quarter

    Hanoi Old Quarter is a fascinating area of the city where visitors can enjoy many fine examples of colonial architecture packed along narrow streets. Endless packs of scooters, motorbikes, bicycles and automobiles weave around traders selling fruit and souvenirs and narrow shop houses sell delicious Vietnamese food for pennies. 

    The Old Quarter brings to life what many people imagine Hanoi to be, and exploring this area on foot is highly recommended for all visitors to Vietnam’s capital city.

    Location: Hanoi Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam


    Ba Vi National Park

    Ba Vi National Park is a nature reserve of stunning beauty located around 2 hours (48 km) from downtown Hanoi. Famous for its 3-peaked mountain that juts steeply up into the sky and is often topped by clouds, Ba Vi National Park has dramatic scenery and a diverse range of jungle plants and animals. 

    At the summit of the tallest mountain is an 11th-century temple offering expansive views of the surrounding countryside. There are natural hot springs on the forest floor. The national park is about 58 km west of Hanoi.

    Location: Van Hoa, Ba Vi, Hanoi, Vietnam


    Hanoi Opera House

    Hanoi Opera House, set in the heart of the French Quarter, is arguably one of the most elegant buildings in all of Hanoi. Built in 1911 and modeled after the Paris Opera House, this historical landmark exudes Parisian charm from its ivory-toned columns, ornate balustrades and Gothic domes. 

    At the opera house, visitors can enjoy classical performances ranging from Vietnamese opera and dance performances to sketches and music concerts by world-renowned artists.

    Location: 1 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam

    Phone: +84 (0)43 933 0113


    Temple of Literature

    The Temple of Literature is a charming temple complex in the center of Hanoi. The landmark temple was originally built to be a center of learning dedicated to the Chinese sage and scholar Confucius. The whole place is steeped in Vietnamese history. 

    Over the proceeding 1,000 years, many more buildings have been added and beautified. This large area is now filled with ornate pavilions, shrines, and a rich garden. It has become a rite of passage for graduating physicians to visit The Temple of Literature.

    Location: 58 Quoc Tu Giam, Van Mieu, Dong Da, Hanoi, Vietnam

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 4.30 pm

    Paul Smith | Compulsive Traveler

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