Travel Guide: Hanoi, Vietnam- Sightseeing
First, let’s quickly answer the wondered question: So how is Averie doing? Short answer: I am ok. Just simply “ok”.. or as my students would say “Teacha, I’m normal.” I will spare you the long answer for now— more details to come, in the process of writing up another whole post wrapping up my time here and experience living in Hanoi.
After 12 months living in this city, and in that time the numerous people who have passed through looking for recommendations, I feel I have enough street cred to finally give some insight to you all on what to do and where to visit in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Hanoi is a very complex, confusing, and chaotic city. The culture is so different to what I am comfortable with, making it difficult to fully feel at home. However, I do think it is a must see, must experience city to visit when coming to Vietnam, of course. No other city really can compare to what Hanoi is— love it, or hate it, it is unapologetically itself for sure.
To find some organization in the many spots to see/experience in Hanoi, I will be breaking it down into 3 separate posts— each dedicated to a different category.
(Noted: the Food/Bars link will go live next week, shopping link will go live in 2 weeks)
In this post I will be sharing the sightseeing spots I recommend around Hanoi. That being said, depending on the amount of time you have here, you can visit them all or pick and choose which ones suit your interests most, and follow up on those.
Sightseeing in Hanoi, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is where Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body rests. The grand building is hard to miss. It is free to walk around the grounds and visit the One Pillar Pagoda, The House on Silts, which is where he lived, and the museum are 40,000 VND (~$1.75). The museum and the house are next to the square and open from 08:00-12:00, 14:00-16:30, closed on Monday and Friday.
However, being able to enter the Mausoleum and see his embalmed body is another story, and the odds are not fully pointing in your direction... but it is not out of question. You just need to time it right. It is only accessible to enter in the mornings from 8:00-11:00 and the queue is usually LONG to say the least. If this interests you, read more specifics and details here.
Chùa Trấn Quốc (Tran Quoc Pagoda)
Tran Quoc Pagoda is the oldest buddhist temple in Hanoi. It is free to visit and is located on a small island on the bottom of West Lake. It is about a 20 minute walk from the Mausoleum. Not so appealing in the Southeast Asian humidity, but for reference— it is only ~1 mile/1.5 km. Although it is just the Pagoda and Temple located on the teeny tiny “island”, it is in a nice area. This also closes in the middle of the day, just as the Mausoleum, so make sure you plan accordingly when you want to go. There are various coffee shops along Truc Bach Lake (the smaller lake bordering West Lake) and an ice cream shop across the street incase you need to kill some time.
Do you like shopping? Want to bring home some souvenirs from Vietnam? Check out Where to shop for all your needs in Hanoi
St. Joseph’s Cathedral
The Cathedral is in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. It is… well… it is a cathedral. It is really beautiful at sunset, looking up and seeing the contrast of the colored sky with the granite. There are also a few nice bars around, where you can climb to the top floor to have a drink with a view! The Mad Botanist - The Gin Specialist (45 Lý Quốc Sư) is a fancy one near by, with a nice view to just sit back and relax!
Hoan Kiem Lake
From the Cathedral, you can take a walk further into the Old Quarter and post up around Hoan Kiem Lake. Explore Hanoi like a local, walk around, and just stumble upon one of the many cool places tucked away in the chaos. There is so much to do around the lake, you’re bound to find something you enjoy!
Temple Of Literature
This is one of the temples in Vietnam, dedicated to Confucius. It is also the first national university in Vietnam and another sightseeing spot to visit when in Hanoi. Now, when I say— it is the first national university in Vietnam— I can tell you it is not what you are picturing. If you are into history and interested in learning more about the deep cultural roots of this temple, it is a pace you should visit. The grounds are beautiful and it is a refreshing escape from the busy streets outside of the walls.
Train Street is an experience within itself. It is as the name says: train street. It is a long stretch, but if you type “Train Street Hanoi” into Google Maps, it will give you the location. Cafes, restaurants, or just houses that have turned into a cafe or restaurant run tightly along both sides, spilling out onto the tracks. When the train is approaching, everything on the tracks get frantically stacked up and packed away. Everyone takes cover squished up against the sides or crammed in the doorways to make room and watch the train pass. You can go to Train Street anytime of the day to sit at a cafe and take some cool pictures, but if you want to be there to see the train pass, check out the schedule I attached next.
Hỏa Lò Prison (Hanoi Hilton)
While there are many different museums around Hanoi, Hoa Lo Prison is the one that sparks my interest the most. This cold, eerie place is where the French Colonists held political prisoners during the French colonial period. It was later used by the Vietnamese for prisoners of war during the Vietnam-American war. It shows the gruesome torture endured by the prisoners when ordered to stay at Hoa Lo. For a more in depth post on the prison and it’s history read here.
Enjoy food, especially Vietnamese food? Like going to bars or taking part in the “night scene”? Read about Where to eat in Hanoi
Whether you have 2 days or 10+ in Hanoi, there is a lot to do see, but there is something for everyone! Although I have been living here for a year, and as much as I feel it gets smaller every day, I still haven’t seen it all.