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The traveller’s dozen places to visit in Hanoi

Xin Chao! Welcome to Hanoi! 

In this post, I will give you a quick run-through of 12 places to visit in Hanoi. These are the traveller’s dozen to see while you are in Hanoi. You have such a diverse array of places to see in this city, all of which are fantastic experiences.

Let’s begin with the major attractions, then move to some places that are off the beaten track a bit:

Hoan Kiem Lake

This is the central point for most attractions around Hanoi, and one of the places to visit in Hanoi. It is known as The Lake of the Returned Sword. You can see the Turtle Tower in the middle of the lake. The legendary story goes back to the 13th Century. Vietnam defended herself against the mighty Kublai Khan and the Chinese invaders. Turtles are considered very auspicious, so some were given a habitat here. Seeing one here can bring you success. Have a look and see if you can spot one!

All in all, the weekend is the time to come along to see one of the places to visit in Hanoi. The lake becomes a pedestrianized zone; You’ll see children building life-size Jenga Towers; romance is in the air in the many dancing rings around the lakeside; musicians and craftspeople will charm you with their local delights. Come and visit the Lake of the Returned Sword!

The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Sitting at the side of the lake is an old building, nothing special at all. Yet the magic and energy inside make this one of the places to visit in Hanoi. You’ll see a traditional and local performance that is not available outside of Vietnam. 

The Water Puppet Show is an exciting mix of local instruments, lighting shows and some excellent puppetry skills. It all takes place in a water theatre. It is an unforgettable performance. At $4-5 a ticket, you can go to designated performance slots each afternoon and check out a unique part of Vietnamese culture. Get yourself a souvenir as well. This is not to be missed!

St Joseph’s Cathedral

This Neo-Gothic Marvel is one of the places to visit in Hanoi. This is a Gothic revival Cathedral built in the late 19th Century and is located at the heart of the Old French Old Quarter.

St Joseph’s Cathedral serves as the Archdiocese for the Catholics across Vietnam. It is named after Joseph, the Patron Saint of Vietnam, and was one of the first buildings constructed by the French after they arrived into Indochina. St Joseph’s Cathedral is a must-see and a definite stop while in Hanoi.

The Night Market

When you visit the Old Quarter, you’ll find yourselves walking through small streets. There’ll be a variety of sights, sounds and smells that will awaken the senses. Imagine all these feelings becoming a huge melting pot of senses; welcome to the night market!

It is a truly pulsating experience and one of the places to visit in Hanoi. There’s so much to look at, so much to buy, so much that is cheap. Come and have a look at the vast array of goods on offer. It is a place to check out on the weekends. 

Ta Hien Beer Street

This is one of the places to visit in Hanoi during the evening, when the bars are opening and the entertainers and street sellers are hustling and bustling around the alleyways, selling all kinds of fascinating stuff.

Located close to the night market, it is an area where you can get a range of drinks and snacks while sitting alfresco and watching the world go by. Check to see which places offer the local Bia Hoi; this is a sampling experience to be had in Hanoi.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

This is the resting place of the legendary revolutionary and great leader Ho Chi Minh. Nicknamed Uncle Ho by the locals, this is the place all Vietnamese citizens are expected to visit at least once, to pay their respects. 

It is only open during the morning, 8.30-10.30, so be sure to arrive early. Dress code is a long sleeve, trousers and no hats or sunglasses. It is to show your respect. You’ll see nothing like this Mausoleum in the West. It is one of the places to visit in Hanoi. 

Hoa Lo Prison

Located on the outskirts of the Old Quarter, Ho Loa Prison is a venue with a lot of history; some very dark and troubled history. It was a homestay for Revolutionary Prisoners of War during the French Colonial Period and held US Soldiers Captive during the US Intervention in Vietnam. One famous captive was the late US Senator John McCain.

There are so many sights and stories here that will change your perspective in different ways. You’ll learn how prisoners got food to survive, what happened to the dissident prisoners and the new outcomes and aims of the now Hoa Lo Prison turned Tourist Attraction. It is one of the places to visit in Hanoi.

The Temple of Literature

This place is around 1000 years old and was built by Emperor Ly Tang Thong as a place to worship Confucius. Once a place known as the Imperial Academy, where many scholars and Mandarins graduated before undertaking important civil servant roles in society.

The Temple and Courtyards are what remains as a memory to a distant past. The Fifth Courtyard holds the grounds of the Imperial Academy; be sure to visit all the courtyards here. It is just a 15-20 stroll from the Old Quarter; this is one of the places to visit in Hanoi. 

National History Museum

If you like history, particularly, pre-history, then this is for sure one of the places to visit in Hanoi! Back in those days of French Rule, this place was the archaeological research institution for the French School of the Far East.

Redeveloped in the late 1950s by the Government of Vietnam, this place was expanded to include Eastern Artistic History as well as various sources showing the National History of Vietnam. Some of the artefacts go back as far as the Neolithic and Bronze Age. A great educational afternoon, away from the blistering sun outside. 

Train Street

A popular choice for overseas tourists, this is an amazing photo opportunity. The train street has something unique to most around the world; locomotive trains going through residential neighbourhoods every day! 

You can see the locals hanging out their washing, cooking BBQ and playing games outside their homes. It is like most street life of Hanoi really, except there is a train track right outside their home timetabling a break in their daily activities. This is one of the places to visit in Hanoi, Come and gaze through to the neighbourhoods to see a distinctive view of local life in Hanoi. 

Long Bien Bridge

Completed in 1902 by architects Daydé & Pillé, this cantilever bridge connects Hoan Kiem to Long Bien. At 2.4km long, this was once one of the largest bridges in Asia and opened a significant path for trade, commerce and transportation across the red river in Hanoi.

Although rarely used nowadays, it is one of the places to visit in Hanoi due to its rustic grounds and area for exploration. Some working families still live on boats under the bridge. This is probably because the Long Bien Bridge is in a central part of Hanoi and holds some spectacular views of the Sunset. 

The West Lake

Tay Ho District is a part of Hanoi that remains a little off the beaten track tourism-wise, yet it is one of the places to visit in Hanoi. The West Lake is a beautiful sight on a clear day, especially early evening. 

Vietnam’s oldest temple, the Tran Quoc Pagoda, is located on the West Lake and is a must-see when you visit here. Another place is Quan Thanh Temple, one of Vietnam’s sacred temples built in the 11th Century. Add to this sightseeing experience some nice coffee shops, bars and restaurants and you can have a fantastic afternoon out around here. 

There are so many more attractions in Hanoi, so much more to see and experience. These are just 12 of the places to see in Hanoi. 

Want to know more?  Contact us at Absolute Asia Travel for more information. 

Enjoy your city break!

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