Hanoi is Vietnam's compact and charming capital, with a blend of Parisian grace and Asian pace. Home to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hanoi is Vietnam's diplomatic centre and political heart, full of broad, tree-lined boulevards and elegant colonial buildings spread around the surreal calm of Ba Dinh Square. Stop here on your Vietnam holiday to discover the country's cultural heart – ask our specialists to help you plan your trip.
The hectic Old Quarter is the city's constant market place, a hubbub of noise and activity where traders and shoppers joust for the best deals along tiny alleys and on sweaty street corners. It's well worth spending a few days here, walking the streets, visiting the historical sights and getting to grips with Vietnam's intriguing capital. The 36 bustling streets, marked with a certain French colonial style, are lined with lively market stalls and locals sipping coffee as they brood over chess moves. Notably, the area has had a long connection with silk traders, and you'll still find plentiful stocks of this famous fabric today, along with some of Hanoi's best food stalls and kitsch collections of local products.
Streets of Hanoi
A visit to Hanoi means the opportunity to immerse yourself in Vietnam's long and complex history. Ho Chi Minh – the famous father of the Socialist Republic – lies in a grand mausoleum, surrounded by the Presidential Palace, the Ho Chi Minh Museum, and the modest stilt house he lived in while president. One of Vietnam's most iconic temples, the One Pillar Pagoda, is also situated nearby. And, you'll most likely have heard of the so-called Hanoi Hilton, nicknamed by American POWs during the Vietnam War. Despite the controversy, the Hoa Lo Prison museum makes for a fascinating tour, no matter which side of the fence you sit. Then, it's the site of Vietnam's first university – the Temple of Literature – that is perhaps the most important temple in the capital. Its numerous courtyards and grand gateways, quiet temples and smooth marble corridors prove a quiet, thoughtful haven from the busy streets of Hanoi. A city tour is undoubtedly the best way to see these highlights – included on our Best of Cambodia & Vietnam and Highlights of Vietnam itineraries.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
In the heart of Hanoi lies Hoan Kiem Lake, a fresh water lake that attracts both tourists and locals – the latter like to practice T'ai Chi on the lake's shores. Stone gateways and pagodas can be found dotted around the lake, inscribed with ancient Chinese characters, and the iconic Huc Bridge – one of the cities most photographed sites – lies in the lake’s northeast corner. Hanoi is also a city of rivers, from the Red River to the Yen Stream, and during the Spring season tourists flock here to enjoy the Perfume Pagoda festival among the lilies.
Yen Stream, Hanoi