Hanoi – the capital with thousand years of civilization, is really a great tourist center of Vietnam attracting both domestic and international tourists. To have unforgettable experiences in Hanoi, travel guides are really needed especially from a local’s perspective on the city, culture and cuisine. The sharing and recommendations on ‘top things to do in Hanoi’ may be useful if you want to explore Hanoi as a local.
EXPLORING HANOI HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS
History and culture might be one of the first things traveler want to learn about as exploring a new place. Here’s some suggestions from the local who has totally enjoyed Hanoi historical attractions. A tip for you here: Going by yourself to these places below may be difficult, so consider Hanoi Historical Exploring with Buddies.
Hoan Kiem Lake
Hanoi is a city of lakes and Hoan Kiem is one of the most popular hangout spots with locals and tourists. The lake attracts tourists because of the peaceful atmosphere and fresh air here. You can wander around Hoan Kiem Lake area and visit many historical monuments nearby. Ngoc Son Temple, a 19th century temple dedicated to national hero Tran Hung Dao, is located in the heart of the lake and linked by a red bridge – The Huc Bridge.
The best time to give the lake a visit is at any time of the day, around sunrise and sunset, the lake area becomes especially busy with locals exercising, dancing, practicing t’ai chi and couples enjoying the views of the lake. At night, the lake looks attractive as it lights up and people take this as an opportunity for beautiful photos.
Hoan Kiem Lake is free of charge, but there’s a fee of VND 30,000 (USD 1.5) to visit Ngoc Son Temple and its opening hours are 8:00 – 17:00 daily.
Long Bien Bridge
Once coming to the capital you cannot miss Long Bien Bridge – the historical witness of Hanoi. More than 100 years with decades of war, Long Bien Bridge was bombed many times by air attacks by American army and many spans of the bridge were destroyed. The left spans still remaining today remind us of an unforgettable past. The bridge is not only a traffic construction, but also a historical relic with unique historical and cultural values.
Many tourists take a walk on Long Bien Bridge, enjoy breathtaking scenery and take nice photos to keep memories on the bridge.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (Lang Bac Ho)
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square is certainly worth a visit when you travel in Hanoi. The Mausoleum was officially open on August 29, 1975 and it is the final resting place of president Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the place visitors express their admiration for the common father of Vietnamese who has led the country to independence and reunification.
Visiting the Mausoleum is free of charge but there are many types of restrictions by the authority such as following the dress code, depositing bags and cameras before getting in, staying queue and keeping quiet.
Opening hours: Tuesday – Thursday 07:30 – 10:30, Saturday & Sunday 07:30 – 11:00
ocation: 08 Hung Vuong Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Vietnam Temple of Literature (Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam)
Vietnam Temple of Literature – the first university in Vietnam is considered as one of the most famous historical and cultural relics in Hanoi. Built in 1070, the temples is dedicated to Confucius, his followers, sages, scholars and Chu Van An, a moral figure in Vietnamese education. A visit to the first University of Vietnam may help you know more about Hanoi’s culture and have memorable moments.
Temple of Literature is located on Van Mieu Street, 2km west of Hoan Kiem Lake; the entrance fee is VND 30,000 (about USD 1.5) and the opening hours are 8:00 – 17:30 on Monday to Friday and 8:00 – 21:00 on weekend.
If you love to learn deeply about Temple of Literature as well as other historical attractions, a tour around Hanoi city with local guides which is absolutely worth taking.
St. Joseph’s Cathedral (Nha tho lon)
The church is one of the oldest in Hanoi, it was built by the French colonial government in Indochina and it was opened in the year 1886. The St Joseph’s Cathedral has some similarities to the famous architecture of the Parisian cathedrals in the world.
The church is located at 40 Nha Chung Street and is right on the road and quite accessible. The outside of the church is public space and free so you can have a visit at any time but for inside visit, you can only enter the Cathedral in the opening time of ceremonial practice as the following schedule: Weekday 5:30 am and 6:15 pm/ Saturday 6:00 pm/ Sunday 5:00 am, 7:00 am, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 4:00 pm, 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm.
SAVOURING VIETNAMESE TRADITIONAL CUISINE IN HANOI
The next part of exploring Hanoi as a local is to enjoy the Vietnamese traditional cuisine. As a local I would love to share with you must –try Vietnamese authentic dishes once traveling in Hanoi.
Pho (Vietnamese flat noodle soup)
The cuisine symbol of Hanoi, Pho is famous to many tourist over the world. The noodles is made from rice, a familiar ingredient of Vietnamese cuisine. The broth is made from stewed cow bones, cinnamon, anise and other spices. So it’s definite to say that you don’t want to miss out this aromatic soup filled with slices of beef or chicken, rice noodles and a plateful of fresh herbs. It is easy for you to find a Pho restaurant in Hanoi from restaurants equipped with air conditioners to street side stalls with only some plastic chairs.
Recommendation: Pho Bat Dan
Address: 49 Bat Dan Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Business hours: 6:00 – 10:00 and 18:00 – 20:30
Bun cha (Hanoi rice vermicelli with grilled pork)
One of my favorite Vietnamese dish is Hanoi rice vermicelli with grilled pork, also known as Bun cha Hanoi. It is a tasty dish made from rice noodle separated from chargrilled pork and sliced fatty pork. Bun cha typically comes with a plate of fresh herbs and a small bowl of sweet fish sauce with pickled slices of carrot and papaya. The way to savour totally the traditional taste of this dish is picking up some noodles with chopsticks, dipping it in the sauce and then eating it with pork and Vietnamese herbs.
There’s a recommendation for Bun cha is Huong Lien Restaurant where President Barack Obama enjoyed the delicious local dish with famous chef Antony Bourdain.
Address: 24 Le Van Huu Street, Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi
Business hours: 8:00 – 21:00
Bun rieu cua (Crab noodle soup)
Bun rieu cua is a popular dish to all locals across Vietnam, but it is believed to originate from the North then spread to Central and South. The northern version of the dish is ‘more simple’ but delicious. A bowl of Bun rieu cua has main components: crab paste, broth, noodle and meatball, which is served with broth, tofu puffs, banana bulb, bean sprouts, etc. If you are a big fan of seafood, don’t forget to try this tasty local delicacy as visiting Hanoi.
Recommendation: Bun rieu cua Hang Bac
Address: 11A Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Business hours: 6:00 – 18:00
Hanoi Shrimp pancake (Banh tom Hanoi)
An essence of Hanoi street food, Banh tom is popularly known as a simple but passionate dish to many locals as well as tourists. The crispy deep fried shrimp pancake is the combination of wheat flour, tapioca flour, turmeric powder, potatoes and fresh shrimps. The plateful of shrimp pancake is usually served with rice paper, herbs and a bowl of sweet fish sauce with pickle slices of papaya and carrot.
Recommendation: Banh tom Ho Tay
Address: 01 Thanh Nien Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Business hours: 9:00 – 21:00
Vietnamese Egg Coffee
Your Hanoi food tour will be not perfect if you miss out Vietnamese Egg coffee – one of the most famous coffee in the north of Vietnam. This Vietnamese Egg Coffee is basically made by whipping raw egg yolks with sweetened condensed milk placed on top of the more traditional strong Vietnam drip coffee. If you want to try this Vietnamese cappuccino, my recommendation is Cafe Giang at 39 Nguyen Huu Huan Street, Hoan Kiem District; the coffee shop’s opening hours are 7:00 to 22:30.
VISITING LOCAL ATTRACTIONS TO FEEL THE PACE OF LIFE IN HANOI
Visiting local attractions to enjoy the Hanoi pace of life is an experience you cannot miss out. With the experiences of a local, these suggestion below will give you unforgettable memories in Vietnam.
Dong Xuan Market
You are looking to shop around in Hanoi, Dong Xuan Market is a nice place to checkout. Located at Dong Xuan Street, Dong Xuan Market is the oldest and largest market in Hanoi. The market offers an array of goods from local foods, souvenirs, clothing, and so on. One tip is you need to bargain here in order to get a good price. There is also a massive dining area within Dong Xuan Market, with food vendors selling Vietnamese coffee and local dishes. Dong Xuan Market is a must-visit if you’re looking to experience the local lifestyle and to discover the traditional activities as well as culture and custom of Hanoi and Vietnam as a whole.
Opening hours: 6:00 – 19:00
Hanoi Old Quarter
The next stop along the local life exploration will be Hanoi Old Quarter. This is an experience of ancient alleys full of antique brick houses and tiled roofs, wild traffic patterns, street vendors, rowdy beer halls and quiet retreats. The Old Quarter is located right at Hanoi’s center and well-known for its history, architecture, local foods or even the daily life of the locals. Formed in the 11th century, it is a great place for you to discover the traditional culture of the Hanoians as well as the city itself.
Bat Trang Pottery Village
Bat Trang – a traditional handcraft village in Hanoi is famous for many kinds of quality ceramic products such as cups, pots, flower vases, etc. Visiting the pottery village, you will have a chance to know how pottery is made, moreover, you can experience in making your own ceramics to bring home. There is a big market area in Bat Trang pottery village so you can visit for tasting some of Hanoi local dishes or buying some meaningful souvenirs for your family and friends.
To get Bat Trang village, you can take the bus number 47 at Long Bien bus station and the bus runs every 20 minutes. Also, you can take your own ride to the village by a rent motorbike, or enjoy a motorbike tour with locals to explore the village thoroughly.
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