The historic sites, temples, and modern attractions provide a long list of things to do in Hanoi. The city has a hodgepodge of influences, mostly from the Chinese and French occupations of the country.
The architecture, cuisine, and overall atmosphere highlight various features of both cultures. Discover French colonial buildings, interesting museums, and ancient pagodas around the multicultural Old Quarter.
You’ll find a bustling night market, an exciting food scene, and luxurious lodging for very little cost.
It’s a city that embraces change, becoming a major economic hub in the region. As one of the best places to visit in Vietnam, Hanoi offers everything you’d expect from a world-class city.
Not sure where to start? Plan your next trip with this guide to the best Hanoi attractions…
Table of Contents
- What to do in Hanoi: Top attractions and places to visit
- Get lost in the crowd in the Old Quarter
- Meander through the Imperial Citadel
- Take a selfie at the Temple of the Jade Mountain
- Visit the Presidential Palace Historical Site
- Admire the artifacts of Tiny Bach Ma Temple
- Get lost among the stalls inside the sprawling Dong Xuan Market
- Walk down the narrow Train Street
- Where to stay in Hanoi for sightseeing
- Related attractions guides
What to do in Hanoi: Top attractions and places to visit
Get lost in the crowd in the Old Quarter
Don’t know where to go in Hanoi for food, shopping, and authentic local culture? Travel to the Old Quarter. The district is packed with sidewalk vendors, tourists, and locals alike.
Several of the streets feature preserved shophouses. These mixed-use buildings were built over a hundred years ago, with small courtyards and commercial areas on the ground floor and homes on the upper floors.
It’s also where to start your trip if you’ve only got 24 hours in Hanoi, allowing you to see more of the city highlights. Most of the top points of interest in Hanoi are within a short walk of the Old Quarter.
Meander through the Imperial Citadel
The citadel and the surrounding buildings are the most overlooked things to see in Hanoi. Tourists tend to skip the Imperial Citadel after a trip to the more popular Presidential Palace Historical Site.
Located near the Old Quarter, the citadel includes old military bunkers, beautiful gardens, and a tower structure. You’ll need to pay a small entry fee, but it’s worth the cost of admission to stroll around the complex. You can see some interesting sites, including preserved meeting rooms and various artifacts.
The only problem is the lack of maintenance. For an important historical site, the Imperial Citadel doesn’t receive a lot of attention, allowing some of the buildings to fall into further disrepair.
Take a selfie at the Temple of the Jade Mountain
The top tourist attractions in Hanoi are the temples, including the Temple of the Jade Mountain. Located on a scenic lake, you need to cross a pedestrian bridge to reach the temple.
After you cross the bridge, you can tour several buildings, including a tower and a couple of pavilions. Some visitors complain about the relatively high entrance fee, but it’s still one of the most visited landmarks in the Old Quarter.
Depending on when you arrive, you may need to share the space with worshippers. It’s an active temple and locals often bring offerings to the altars.
While you can’t snap photos inside the temple, make sure you get a few shots outside. The temple, gate, and bridge are great backdrops for the scenic lake.
Visit the Presidential Palace Historical Site
When you visit the Presidential Palace Historical Site, you’ll get to see a couple of the top Hanoi points of interest. The site includes the original Presidential Palace constructed for the governor-general of French Indochina and Ho Chi Minh’s presidential house.
The mustard-yellow palace features French colonial architecture and contains 30 rooms. It’s surrounded by gardens, a carp pond, and an orchard. The three-story building is a completely different site compared to Ho Chi Minh’s presidential residence.
Located on the same grounds, Ho Chi Minh built a traditional Vietnamese stilt house. While stilt houses are typically built on water, this one is built on the ground.
Admire the artifacts of Tiny Bach Ma Temple
Bach Ma Temple is the oldest in Hanoi and one of the most decorated. The interior features red-lacquered surfaces and gold-leaf-covered décor. In the main hall, you’ll notice a large counter full of food and other goods. Don’t take them. The pile of items includes offerings.
It’s an active temple and locals often visit to practice their beliefs. Entrance is free and you can explore the buildings, but always remember to be mindful of the worshippers.
As an active temple, Bach Ma Temple is well maintained. It’s always clean and brightly lit, helping to show off the ornate décor and artifacts found inside.
Get lost among the stalls inside the sprawling Dong Xuan Market
If you can’t decide what to do in Hanoi, visit a market. Dong Xuan Market is a crowded marketplace inside a three-story building and one of the best places to visit in Hanoi for shopping. As with other markets in the city, it includes a mixture of everything.
The Soviet-style building is the largest indoor market in the city. You can find a wide selection of souvenirs, clothing, accessories, electronics, and fresh foods. The lower floor tends to contain more meat, veggies, and seafood.
The back of the market often has vendors selling pets or flowers while the upper floors contain various goods. The prices vary and you may not get a great bargain without haggling.
Walk down the narrow Train Street
It would be a shame to miss the train travelling down Train Street during your Hanoi sightseeing tour. It’s one of the most unique experiences the city has to offer and a must-see during any Northern Vietnam itinerary.
The street cuts through part of the Old Quarter. As with other streets in the area, it’s incredibly narrow, with barely enough room for a few people to pass each other. It’s mostly a residential street, with rows of old buildings featuring small courtyards and front porches.
The distinct feature is the train track in the middle of the street. Twice per day, a train travels down the narrow street, taking up almost the entire width, leaving just a foot between the train and the buildings. You’ll know it’s almost time for the train to pass when the locals start gathering up their possessions and going inside.
Where to stay in Hanoi for sightseeing
Although Vietnam’s capital is home to over 8 million people and spreads far and wide, figuring out where to stay in Hanoi isn’t as big of a challenge as in other Asian cities. Prices here are (as in Vietnam in general) quite reasonable. If you do your research, you can find excellent quality accommodations here without breaking the bank.
- Hanoi La Castela Hotel: Located in the historic Old Quarter close to many of the top points of interest in Hanoi, this budget-friendly hotel offers comfortable modern rooms that will make your stay in Hanoi as memorable as any.
- The Oriental Jade Hotel: If you’re looking for a few extra amenities during your stay in Hanoi, this 5-star pick has all the bases covered. Besides the elegant rooms, the hotel features a fitness centre, restaurant, bar, and outdoor pool with views over Hanoi.
- Hanoi La Siesta Central Hotel & Spa: A top luxury pick in Hanoi, this hotel delivers a superb accommodations experience with its sophisticated rooms decked out with rich dark wood grain finishes. You’ll absolutely love retiring to the rooftop bar & terrace after a long day of sightseeing in Hanoi.