Old Town

To get a real feel for Vietnam’s capital, you have to see it at street level and there’s no better place to do that than in the Old Town, where life and traditions have changed very little in the past 2,000 years. It’s a hectic place with lots of scooters and noise but it’s also very colourful thanks to the many flower vendors and balloon sellers. Here you’ll enjoy some amazing Vietnamese for very little and see local life in all its glory.


Hoan Kiem Lake

Located in the centre of the city, this lake and the surrounding park are a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. Ngaoc Son Temple, which sits on an island in the middle of the lake, and the Turtle Tower are landmarks very dear to the people of Hanoi. The cafes that ring the lake are holdovers from the French colonial times and are a great place to spend an afternoon.

Halong Bay

A few hours away from Hanoi is this UNESCO World Heritage Site which is truly one of the most spectacular places in the world to visit. A traditional junk takes you on a tour of the lake where 3,000 limestone karsts rise out of the emerald green water to create a magical spectacle that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. It’s well worth the effort to get to Halong Bay.


Temple of Literature

This Temple is a rare example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture. Founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, the temple is dedicated to Confucius (Khong Tu) and honours Vietnam’s finest scholars and men of literary accomplishment. Vietnam’s first university was established here in 1076.


Ho Chi Minh Museum

This is a special place for many Vietnamese. To the west of the Old Quarter, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex is an important place of pilgrimage. A traffic-free area of botanical gardens, monuments, memorials and pagodas, it’s usually crowded with groups of all ages, from all over the nation, who have come to pay their respects to the man who led Vietnam to victory over the U.S. Within the complex are Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House and the Presidential Palace, and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.


Vietnam Military History Museum

The Military Museum displays Soviet and Chinese equipment alongside French- and U.S.-made weapons captured during years of warfare. The centrepiece is a Soviet-built MiG-21 jet fighter, triumphant amid the wreckage of French aircraft downed at Dien Bien Phu, and a U.S. F-111. Adjacent is the hexagonal Flag Tower, one of the symbols of Hanoi. Access is possible to a terrace overlooking a rusting collection of war matériel (equipment and supplies used by soldiers). Opposite the museum is a small park with a commanding statue of Lenin.


Café Duy Tri

In the same location since 1936, this caffeine-infused labyrinth is a Hanoi classic. You’ll have to climb tiny ladders and stairways to reach the 3rd-floor balcony where you can enjoy a caphe sua chua (iced coffee with yoghurt).



One of the good leftovers from the French occupation of Vietnam is bread – the French taught the locals how to perfect a baguette and you can buy them from roadside vendors for just a few pennies. You’ll think you’re in Paris when you eat one of these crusty morsels that melt in your mouth.


Water Puppet Theatre

The ancient art form of water puppetry has a long association with Hanoi and there are several theatres where guests can enjoy this uniquely Vietnamese take on Asia’s puppet tradition. The original – and widely regarded as the best – theatre in town is the Thang Long Puppet Theatre. Puppets dance and slide elegantly over the liquid stage, controlled by a whole troupe of puppet masters hiding behind a screen.


The Perfume Pagoda

This dramatic temple complex is 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. Located around 60km south of Hanoi in the Son Mountains the journey here is an experience in itself: first you must take a two hour journey by car or bus before travelling by boat to the foot of the mountains.