Beer Street in Hanoi before the crowds show up

Is Hanoi Worth Visiting in 2024? Things to do & Reasons to Visit

Please share:

As Vietnam becomes more popular as a travel destination it is more important than ever to decide where to spend your time once you have made the decision to see what the fuss is about.

With Hanoi being one of the most common entry points to the country it is an obvious choice as a place to get a feel for this amazing country. But is Hanoi worth visiting or should you move on to another town?

We recently had a month in Vietnam, including a week in Hanoi, and are ready to give an honest appraisal of the Capital City to help you decide if it’s the right place for you.

Where is Hanoi?

Vietnam is a part of Southeast Asia which sits on the South China Sea, east of Thailand. It shares borders with Laos, Cambodia and China.

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and is located deep in the north of the country, just below the Chinese border. It is home to the second largest international airport in Vietnam.

Is Hanoi worth visiting in 2024?

We are not usually fans of large cities when we travel, preferring the slower pace and friendlier nature of smaller towns, but there is something about Hanoi that makes it feel smaller than it actually is.

People on the Promenade by the lake in Hanoi

Maybe it’s because there are no ultra-high skyscrapers or thousands of cars and buses, but Hanoi feels welcoming and is an ideal place for your introduction to Vietnam.

Sure the motorbike traffic is still chaotic and the streets are packed with people but there is a flow to Hanoi. After one day we already felt like a trip to Vietnam was the right choice.

How many days do I need in Hanoi?

Depending on how many days you have available for your entire Vietnam trip, anywhere from three days to a week should be allocated to Hanoi.

In three days you will have the time to try a good selection of Vietnamese food and see the highlights of the city. It may be a bit rushed but there are so many other places to visit in Vietnam that something must be left out.

If your travel plans allow more time in Hanoi then you will have the opportunity to not only experience the best of the city, but also have a few days to explore further afield, with options like Ninh Binh or Halong Bay.

How do you get to Hanoi?

The easiest way to get to Hanoi is to fly into the city’s international airport, which has first flights from dozens of destinations across Asia, Europe, and a few more cities, plus domestic flights.

Options to get from the airport to Hanoi city include taking a taxi, airport shuttle bus, or ride-sharing service like Grab. The journey to the city centre typically takes about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic.

If you are already in Vietnam and heading to Hanoi, the most commonly used transport methods are arriving by train or bus. Both of these are long and slow travel methods but can be quite a unique experience and are popular with backpackers.

Vietnam is not a country we would recommend for road trips and renting a car is rarely suggested as a viable option. Motorbikes or scooters can be an intercity travel option for experienced riders.

Best things to see in Hanoi

With Hanoi being the capital of Vietnam you would expect plenty of interesting places to see during your visit, and you would be right. Here we take a look at some of the highlights to look for:

1. Explore the Old Quarter

The Hanoi Old Quarter is located to the north of the lake and is the most popular part of the city for visiting travellers. Here you will find chaotic streets and laneways alive with local merchants.

If you are looking for cheap, authentic street food then this is the place to start your search. Street vendors, hole-in-the-wall local eateries, and family-run restaurants are impossible to miss here.

For anyone whose aim is to experience the heart of this city, the Old Quarter is the place to fulfil your needs. We felt like it summed up Hanoi life in a few square blocks.

2. Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple

In the centre of Hanoi is Hoan Kiem Lake which offers a peaceful oasis in this crazy city. The lake is perfect for an early morning or evening walk with well-maintained gardens, and plenty of benches to sit and take in the scenery.

night view of the bridge on Hoan Kiem Lake leading to the Ngoc Son Temple in hanoi

The lake is a sacred place for the locals and once you cross the bridge to the Ngoc Son Temple on the lake you will begin to understand why it is so. Something is very special about quietly sitting in the middle of the lake surrounded by a thriving city but feeling miles from civilisation.

3. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

This impressive building is the final resting place of Vietnam’s famous revolutionary leader. It showcases the reverence with which he is held by the Vietnamese people.

View of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam

If you are in the area around 9pm on any day you will witness the lowering of the enormous flag that flies over the building. It is a ceremony treated with great respect by the guards and worth going to experience.

4. Temple of Literature

This is a place not to be missed for history or museum buffs. Built in the 11th Century and home to Vietnam’s first national university, the temple is dedicated to Confucius and his teachings.

Among many other impressive exhibits, the museum has a section dedicated to the important role that women have played in Vietnamese history and culture.

5. Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton)

From French political figures to Vietnam war POWs, this infamous prison holds memories of horror and violence. Most of the building has been demolished or crumbled but what stands today houses a museum that exposes the terrible conditions suffered by those prisoners.

6. Dong Xuan Market

This multi-story building is jam packed with everything from food to fabrics and it’s the place where the locals shop. Imagine Chinatown packed into one building and you start to get the idea of what this place looks like.

To be brutally honest we found Dong Xuan Market to be very disappointing. It was untidy and disorganised, and the vendors were quite aggressive. Come for a look but do your shopping back out on the street.

Best things to do in Hanoi

If you prefer to be doing things when you travel rather than just seeing places then Hanoi has you well and truly covered. Let’s take a look at some of the most entertaining things to do during your visit.

๐Ÿ‘ Take a Cyclo Ride in the Old Quarter

There are things that may be touristy and overpriced but sometimes you just want to do something because it looks like fun and you may never get the chance again. A cyclo ride is one of those things.

taking a cyclo ride through the Old Quarter of Hanoi

Being peddled through the crazy Hanoi traffic is quite the experience. It is one of those rollercoaster-type moments where you are simultaneously having great fun and being terrified. You will find cyclos everywhere.

๐Ÿ‘ Join a Street Food Tour

This was our priority and an activity we had on our first night in Hanoi. There is no better way to get a feel for a new city than to see how the locals eat and taste the dishes that represent the history and culture of a place.

Hanoi has a long and complex food history which means the local dishes are diverse and interesting. No matter which dishes your guide feeds you, one thing can be certain, you will appreciate what Vietnamese food really is.

๐Ÿ‘ Attend a Water Puppet Show at Thang Long Theatre

Water puppetry is a traditional Vietnamese art form dating back over 1000 years. Shows feature intricately designed wooden puppets dancing on water, accompanied by live folk music and storytelling making it a unique way to learn about Vietnamese culture and history.

๐Ÿ‘ Participate in a Cooking Class

If there is one thing we enjoy more than a street food tour it’s a cooking class, and Hanoi has plenty of options for you to learn how to prepare some of the region’s most popular dishes… and then eat them!

Many of these cooking classes will include extras like a market tour or some other unique local experience.

๐Ÿ‘ Explore the Weekend Night Market

Every weekend in Hanoi, from Friday evening to Sunday night, some of the main streets close to traffic and become pedestrian streets. This is a great time to do some shopping or hunt for street food.

Not only do the streets close to traffic but on each of those nights hundreds of market stalls set up in the middle of the road to create a massive night market. This is a great way to spend an evening.

๐Ÿ‘ Get Your Party on at Beer Street

There is an intersection in the Old Quarter that takes on a whole new life once the sun goes down every day. It transforms from a typical Hanoi neighbourhood into the world-famous Beer Street.

Beer Street in Hanoi before the crowds show up

Thousands of small chairs and tables are brought out to cover the sidewalks and most of the road, and every restaurant and bar does its best to entice the swelling crowds to become a patrons.

Once it becomes Beer Street the neighbourhood turns into one giant party. Food and beer are cheap and plentiful and the atmosphere is amazing. The only turn-off for me is the number of people smoking both inside and outside of the restaurants. It is an essential place to visit at least once in Vietnam.

๐Ÿ‘ Feel the Rush at Train Street

And speaking of places that are essential to visit and unique to Hanoi, Train Street. Sitting with a snack or a beverage waiting for a train may not sound special, but when that train passes within inches of your chair things change.

crowds starting to gather waiting for the show on Train Street in Hanoi

The section of track called Train Street is actually gated and guarded at each end. Officially it is to control the flow of pedestrians but in reality it is more likely to help the local economy.

To gain access to the gated area you must be invited by one of the cafe owners and purchase something from their menu. That being said, it’s not expensive and you will probably want a drink while you wait anyway.

Where to stay in Hanoi

Hanoi has accommodation to suit every traveller, from small boutique hotels to hostels, through to luxury 5-star hotels where you can spoil yourself. Here are our recommendations for your trip:

โœ… Hostel Option: Hanoi City Backpackers Hostel is a highly-rated hostel in a handy location. It includes breakfast and is within walking distance of many restaurants and the best things to do in the city.

โœ… Budget Option: TrangTrang Premium Hotel & Sky Bar is located 2 blocks from the lake in the Old Quarter. The hotel has a rooftop bar with incredible views and offers a 4-star service for a 2-star price.

โœ… Mid-Range Option: Hanoi Calista Hotel is a 4-star hotel located just a couple of minute walk from Train Street and many restaurants. The hotel includes an excellent breakfast.

โœ… Luxury OptionPeridot Grand Luxury Boutique Hotel is a 5-star hotel in the centre of Hanoi. The rooms feature high-end appointments and the hotel has one of the best rooftop restaurants and pool with great views.

How affordable is Hanoi to visit?

Hanoi is considered one of the most affordable travel destinations in Southeast Asia, if not the world, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious travellers.

With a cost of living much lower than most Western cities, you can enjoy a wide range of experiences without breaking the bank. Accommodation, food, transportation and entertainment, all offer great value for money.

Accommodation in Hanoi ranges from budget hostels and guesthouses to mid-range hotels and luxury resorts. Budget travellers can find dormitory beds in hostels for as little as $5-10 USD per night, while decent mid-range hotels with comfortable amenities typically cost around $30-50 per night.

Even high-end hotels and boutique accommodations are incredibly affordable, often priced between $80-150 per night. This ensures that there is something to suit every budget, and may be a chance for you to upgrade cheaply.

Pedestrian street at the Hanoi night market

Hanoi’s food is both delicious and inexpensive. Street food is a major highlight, with popular dishes like pho, bun cha, and banh mi costing only $1-3 per serving.

Dining at local restaurants is also affordable, with meals typically priced between $3-10. Even upscale restaurants offering fine dining experiences are inexpensive compared to Western prices.

Overall, Hanoi provides an amazing cultural experience at a fraction of the cost of many other travel destinations. Whether you are a backpacker seeking bang for your buck or a traveller seeking luxury on a budget, Hanoi has you covered.

Common questions about Hanoi

What is the best time to visit Hanoi?

The best time to visit Hanoi is during the spring (March to April) and autumn (September to November) when the weather is mild and pleasant.

How do I get around Hanoi?

Common modes of transportation include taxis, motorbike taxis (xe om), cyclos, buses, and ride-hailing services like Grab (Uber is not available). Walking is also a great way to explore the Old Quarter.

Is Hanoi safe for tourists?

Hanoi has a very low reporting of crimes involving tourits. However, itโ€™s important to stay aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas, and be cautious of petty theft and scams.

How is the walkability in Hanoi?

The centre of Hanoi and the Old Quarter are almost perfectly flat making the city an ideal destination for people who enjoy exploring new places on foot. Most attractions are within easy walking distance.

The only issue you may have is getting used to having to walk along busy streets and not on the sidewalks. Sidewalks are mainly used for retail displays, restaurant seating, and parking scooters.

What is the local currency and how do I exchange money?

The local currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). You can exchange money at banks, exchange bureaus, or use ATMs, which are widely available.

We were offered a better exchange rate at an exchange bureau in Hanoi than we were given in Australia. Be wary that they will only accept banknotes in pristine condition, so no rips, creases or defaced notes.

What are the must-try dishes in Hanoi?

Hanoi has access to many regional dishes as well as versions of dishes from the rest of Vietnam. The most popular dishes include Pho, Bun Cha, Banh Mi, Cha Ca, Banh Cuon, Xoi Xeo, Egg Coffee, Nem Ran (spring rolls), Bun Rieu, and Che.

Click the link for more on the best things to eat during your time in Vietnam.

Do people speak English in Hanoi?

English is commonly spoken in tourist areas, hotels, and restaurants. However, we always believe that learning a few basic Vietnamese phrases can be helpful and will be appreciated by locals.

Are there any cultural etiquette tips to be aware of?

Always remove your shoes before entering someoneโ€™s home or a temple and dress with modesty. Avoid public displays of affection, and use both hands when giving or receiving items to show respect.

What is the voltage and plug type used in Hanoi?

Vietnam uses a 220V supply voltage and types A, C, and D plugs. Itโ€™s advisable to bring a universal adapter.

Can I drink tap water in Hanoi?

Itโ€™s recommended to avoid drinking tap water. Use bottled or filtered water, which is widely available. On a side note, beer is sometimes cheaper than water!

What vaccinations do I need for visiting Hanoi?

Generally itโ€™s recommended to be vaccinated for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, and Tetanus. However, you should always consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice based on your travel itinerary.

Is Hanoi Worth Visiting? Our opinion.

During our month in Vietnam, we ended up spending 7 nights in Hanoi, but they were split by overnight trips to Ninh Binh and Halong Bay. So realistically we had about 4 full days to experience the city.

And those 4 or 5 days are probably the ideal amount to time to feel comfortable in the city and be confident that you have seen and done enough to justify coming here at all.

Although we are not big city fans, Hanoi did not feel as closed in as other cities like Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore or even Ho Chi Minh City. It had something of a big country town attitude about it.

Dean and Pauline getting banh mi during a food tour in Hanoi

Starting our trip with a street food tour was a fantastic way to hit the ground running and gave us the confidence to hunt down more street food for the rest of our trip.

The city has so many contrasting faces from the bustling streets in the Old Quarter to the fancy architecture of the French Quarter, and on to the tranquility of the lake in the centre of the city.

So is Hanoi worth visiting? 100% it is! Your travel dollar stretches a very long way in Hanoi and, being a large city, you are not missing out on any of the luxuries you may be used to when you travel.

If you are looking for a new city to visit that offers great food, museums, shopping, unique experiences and underpriced accommodation then Hanoi is a place that ticks all the boxes.

Like this post? Please Pin It!

Why should you visit Hanoi? Get lost in a whirlwind of motorbikes, explore fascinating historical sites, and devour delicious street food. This guide has everything you need to know for an unforgettable trip to Hanoi, Vietnam's captivating capital.
Most of the big cities across Southest Asia have one thing in common, they are hectic places where the flow of trafiic and people never stop. So is Hanoi just another busy city or does it offer something different for travellers?
Why should you visit Hanoi? Get lost in a whirlwind of motorbikes, explore fascinating historical sites, and devour delicious street food. This guide has everything you need to know for an unforgettable trip to Hanoi, Vietnam's captivating capital.
Please share:

Similar Posts