You should definitely visit Vietnam! There are a lot of cool things to do in Hanoi even though the busy, bustling city is a little bonkers. Just walking across the street is an experience because of the insane traffic. It doesn’t stop so you have to throw yourself into the sea of scooters and cars. Miraculously, they move around you and somehow you make it to the other side.

It’s also a pretty big city, but we spent most of our time in the Old Quarter. The architecture there is leftover from French Colonial times and we found ourselves drawn to its parks, cafes and street food. You’re going to do a lot of walking in this city and you’re going to want to bring a reusable water bottle to save money (and Earth) since you can’t drink the water here. 

Here is a list of my favorite things to do in Hanoi!

 

Cost Of Living Chart 

Hanoi, Vietnam
Cost of Living Relative to the US (Rent)73% Less Expensive Than US
Cost of Living Relative to the US (Restaurants)71% Less Expensive Than US
Free Workspace With Fastest Wi-Fi(Comment and let us know!)
Cost of AirBnB / Night (Cheapest Private Room)$10 / Night
Cost of AirBnB (Average for Entire Place)$15 / Night
Cost of AirBnB / Month$360 / Month
Cost of Hotel / Night$12 / Night
Cost of Hotel / Month$360 / Month
Co-Working Space / Month$40 / Month
Domestic Beer (Restaurant)$0.67
Domestic Beer (Market)$0.65
Bottle of Wine$8.48
Cup of Coffee$1.75
Meal for One Person (Restaurant)$2.25
Pack of Cigarettes$1.07

 

Ly Thai To Park

Boundless joy!

 

Ok, forget the fact that you’re an adult. Go here and rent one of the little scooters they give the kids. You can’t miss it. There’s a gazebo and all the kids ride around it in their various vehicles. It’s hilarious to watch the little ones put the pedal to the floor while looking directly behind them. More than a few took some parents out at the knees!

Get the one that’s a seat attached to segway wheels and just enjoy. If this doesn’t put a smile on your face, you probably need professional help. (They go much faster than you think they will!) Jon and I each got one and zoomed around the park chasing each other through the crowd of toddlers and laughing maniacally. It was honestly one of my favorite things from the entire trip. 

 

  • My Tip : Go at night. The lights in the trees are nothing short of enchanting.

 

 

Cafe Hop

Cafes on every corner in this city.

 

If you’re a coffee lover, then you’re in luck! Vietnam is a major producer of coffee and because of that, they have a culture around it. You can’t visit Vietnam without drinking an unreasonable amount of coffee.

A typical Vietnamese coffee is strong and comes with condensed milk piled up on the bottom. It’s damn delicious although probably not medically advisable to drink daily. Walk around the Old Quarter and stop in to any coffee shop. You really can’t go wrong, but one place that had drinks I really enjoyed was called Coffee & Chill Station. 

 

  • My Tip: Try the egg coffee. It originated back during the French War when Vietnam had a shortage of milk but didn’t want to sacrifice the creaminess of their coffee so they used egg whites.  I like that story. Not the war part, but the fact that humans are pretty much always just trying to enjoy tasty treats.

 

 

Walk Around Hoan Kiem Lake

It’s pretty! Don’t touch the water, though. But, it’s pretty.

 

Going anywhere in Hanoi is an adventure due to the insanity of the traffic, but the lake has a nice walkway around it and provides a little relief from the unrelenting city-ness of this city! It will make you happy to see all the families, couples and groups of friends enjoying their day in different ways. People bring toys, snacks, books, pets and the vibe is very positive.  

You will definitely want some bug spray around here. 

 

  • My Tip: Go at night. The bridge lights up and reflects off the water beautifully. 

 

 

Get Bún chả

The closer to the street the better.

 

It’s hard to avoid meat in Vietnam and, when it comes to Bun cha, I can’t say I was completely mad about it. It’s grilled pork served with a huge plate of rice noodles and an amazing dipping sauce along with a few vegetables. It’s a delicious treat that started in Hanoi (though some similar things are served elsewhere in the country) so it’s a great culinary experience to have while you’re there!

 

  • My Tip – This is probably technically bad advice and maybe I ought to put a legal disclaimer somewhere, but from my experience it wasn’t as good in the proper restaurants. It was best at the street side stands that are little more than a few tiny plastic chairs and a grill that is questionably low and close to the road. Maybe the car exhaust adds flavor!

 

 

Go To A Water Puppet Show 

Look at those little guys go.

 

Water puppets are an ancient tradition that have a cool origin. Apparently, it all started when rice paddy fields were flooded and the people would entertain themselves by standing in the water and moving the puppets across the top. It’s an interesting story-telling technique that makes for a fun night out. It’s also uniquely Northern Vietnamese, so it’s a perfect thing to do in Hanoi.

 

My Tip – Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is in the Old Quarter and is a great one to go to!

 

 

Visit the “Hanoi Hilton”

This prison was used by the French, then by the North Vietnamese to house U.S. POWs (such as John McCain).

 

The Hoa-Lo Prison was built in the early 1900s, but was used during the war between Vietnam and America to detain American prisoners of war. There are a lot of intriguing relics of that war which are particularly eerie to me because they were used so recently. It was strange to casually stroll past that building on our way to lunch knowing that as recently as the 70s American soldiers were imprisoned there.

 

 

Take A Day Trip To Ha Long Bay

This was at an old military base used during the war with the US. I got lost in the trenches on the way to the bathroom.

 

If you’re already in Hanoi, you really shouldn’t miss Ha Long Bay! It’s not far and there are plenty of options for easy, reasonably priced one-day tours. The bay is an UNESCO world heritage site made up of over 2000 limestone islets. They tower above you as you cruise by in a boat. They sprawl out across the horizon before you if you’re enjoying a beer at one of the many incredible lookout points.

 

  • My Tip: If you have time, it’s actually a pretty great idea to visit the bay for a few days. It’s only about three hours from the city and you’ll want the time to explore it properly.

 

If you’re going to visit Vietnam, make sure you check out all these great things to do in Hanoi! I’m usually the type of person who avoids cities and crowds, but I loved throwing myself into the chaos of Hanoi.

I had fun shuffling through the streets getting coffee and noodles and I know you will too. And seriously, if you do nothing else, do the first thing on this list. I still smile thinking about zooming around the park on that little contraption!

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Are you checking out other places in SE Asia? Read about our experiences on Bali, in Thailand and Malaysia.

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