Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and many travelers start their trip in this bubbling city. Hanoi is more than just a strategically placed city in the north of Vietnam. It’s of course the perfect base for excursions to Sapa or Halong Bay, but it also deserves a visit of several days. In Hanoi what are the best things to do? Hanoi is a bubbling city! A city in which there is much to do and see and where you will not get bored even for a second.
Hanoi, what are the 5 best things to do?
Hanoi can appear to be overwhelming and intimidating. The many scooters, the pushy vendors, the human anthill, the noise everywhere, the smells from the many small restaurants, the colors and flags everywhere, the narrow streets…All of this ensures for an enormous stimulation of all your senses. The first day in Hanoi, I also had serious doubts about what I was actually doing here. And about whether Vietnam really was a good choice for me. Luckily, experience teaches that first impressions do not say everything and that is why I chose to give Hanoi an honest chance. I eventually spent a week in this city and cannot reach any other conclusion than my first impression being totally wrong. Hanoi, the 5 best things to do!
1. Hanoi Free Tour Guides
I came across this organization through Tripadvisor. They organize free ”Walking Tours” with local students. A wonderful initiative that makes for a nice win-win situation. The student practices his/her English skills and gets in touch with foreigners. And you speak with a local student and are thus able to learn much about life in Vietnam. I also found a nice secondary benefit in that you don’t have to find your own way.
Actually, it is the ideal tour to take if you have just arrived in Hanoi.
I registered for a day tour by email and the next day, a friendly Vietnamese girl was standing in my hotel at the arranged time. Hanoi Free Tour Guides offers all kinds of tours, varying from half or whole days, a set program or your own choice of what you want to see. The students can visit the museums for free and the only thing that is expected is that you pay for their lunch and drinks. A perfect deal as far as I am concerned!
2. Old Quarter
Old Quarter in Hanoi is the district where most hotels and hostels can be found. It is a real labyrinth of alleys, where you will get lost every time, even with a map in your hand. This is really the charm of this district! Every street has a complicated name and looks like the rest. Crossing the street is a true challenge every time and to do it, you must shut your eyes and just walk. And then you will notice that you arrive safely at the other side of the road every time.
You must spend at least a whole day in this district to see and value its charm.
Shopping and eating are the two main activities here and for both of these, there are very many options. There is something for everyone at all price ranges. In the evening, an evening market takes place in the weekend in a number of streets. In Hanoi, visiting this quarter is for sure one of the best things to do!
3. Lake Hoi Kiem
Next to the old district lies lake Hoi Kiem. You should not skip this lake and a walk here is like a breath of fresh air in this busy city. If you are active, you can participate in an aerobics class every morning. There are also several stalls by the lake, where you can buy delicious, cheap ice cream. Try the “green rice ice cream” once and you will not regret it. There is a temple in the lake and a visit to it feels like an oasis of peace.
Tip: The square in the picture below is located exactly between the old district and lake Hoi Kiem. This picture is taken from the third floor of a small restaurant. I sat there every day for one and a half hours and I was delightfully entertained by looking down and seeing what was happening.
4. Womens’ Museum
This is an interesting museum and it provides information about women in Vietnam. It includes the role of women in everyday life and information about ethnic minorities. Information provision is perfect in this museum. Traditions with regard to giving birth, marriage, dying, etc. are demonstrated in an exciting way. Well-known Vietnamese women are extensively mentioned and it is inspiring to see that women have occupied important positions, primarily in the army. There is also an interesting section about mothers of missing soldiers from the Vietnam War.
5. Hoa Lo Prison
Vietnam has of course a history of several wars and in this museum, you can find more information about it. This prison was originally used by the French for Vietnamese political prisoners and subsequently in the Vietnam War to imprison American soldiers. The nickname of this prison is “Hanoi Hilton”. Through the many pictures and information that is provided, it gives a fascinating impression of life in prison. There are also torture devices and the original guillotine is still standing there.
In Hanoi these are the 5 best things to do! have you been to Hanoi and what do you think are the best things to do?
The Oriental suites Hotel & Spa is a great place to stay. All of the staff is very friendly and customer oriented. The hotel location is perfect. Welcome fruites and snacks are huge plus! The room is very comfortable and clean. The beds were divine and I slept incredibly well and the restaurant is very nice.
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