Hanoi was declared the official capital of Vietnam after the country reunified back in 1976. Today, it is hot on the tourist trail in Southeast Asia. Navigating a dense and claustrophobic city like Hanoi is not for the fainthearted, and every traveler needs some form of Hanoi guide to get the most out of their experience.
Despite imposing globalization, authorities in Hanoi have managed to preserve much of their ancient culture. The popularity of iconic buildings like the Temple of Literature and areas like the Old Quarter are continuing to attract international travelers.
A Hanoi guide: Four historical attractions
Charge your computers and close your apps as this Hanoi guide leads you through the most prominent sites in Vietnam’s captivating capital city.
Our ultimate Hanoi guide filters through endless travel itinerary options and directs you straight to some of the most authentic attractions for a genuine taste of well-preserved Hanoian history.
#1. The Old Quarter
The first stop on our Hanoi tour are the 2000 year-old streets of the Old Quarter, an area that refuses to let Hanoi’s past narrative disappear. This designated section of Hanoi consists of 36 winding streets and alleys featuring prominent ancient Vietnamese architecture.
The unique organization of these streets are dedicated to particular products. For example, Hang Hom street is reserved for lacquerware and bamboo items while Hang Gia street is the place to go for silk products. For the ladies, Cau Go street is flooded with female accessories of many varieties.
However, the deep, narrow shophouses and ancient structural designs lining the Old Quarter are under threat as inevitable changes of a rapidly growing economy have kickstarted modernization
One attraction immune to such change is Hoan Kiem Lake, a site adored by the locals for its connection to Vietnamese folklore, including the Legend of the Turtle Tower.
Sunday – Saturday from 08:30 AM – 9:30 PM (Estimated)
#2. Temple of Literature
Stop two on our digital Hanoi tour takes us to the Temple of Literature. In honor of Vietnam’s most brilliant scholars Emperor Ly Thanh Tong founded the temple n 1070. Six years later in 1076, it became the country’s first official university.Today, the temple is one of the best representations of traditional Vietnamese architecture and culture.
Emperor Ly Thanh Tong also dedicated the temple to Confucius and his teachings. Today, Vietnam’s brightest scholars can be seen praying at the altars for good grades amongst pagodas, five courtyards, ponds, and the masterfully-maintained gardens areas.
Monday – Friday from 07:30 AM – 5:30 PM (April to October)
Monday – Friday from 07:30 AM – 5:30 PM (October to April)
Location: 58 Quoc Tu Giam, Van Mieu, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
#3. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Proceed to stop number three and pay respects to Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh. Vietnam’s most influential figure is embalmed in a glass casing here located at Ba Dinh Square.
Before visiting the mausoleum make sure to wear the proper attire. Shorts, minishirts, and sleeveless shirts are not allowed. Expect tight security, and no time for selfies as guests are not allowed to stop in front of the casing in order to keep the queue moving.
Tuesday – Thursday from 7:30 AM to 10:30 PM
Saturday – Sunday from 10:30 AM to 11:00 PM
Location: 8 Hung Vuong, Dien Bien, Hanoi
#4. B-52 Bomber Wreckage
Stop four take us to see the leftover wreckage from an American B-52 Bomber protruding out of a body of water in the District of Ba Dinh after it was shot down during the war. Today, it serves as an emotional reminder of the atrocities of war.
During the bombing campaign, also referred to as the “Christmas Bombing”, American forces killed 1,318 civilians in the areas between Hanoi and Haiphong. On December 27th, 1972 the B-52 Bomber was shot down and landed where it still remains today in the residential area of Huu Tiep Lake.
No official hours
Location: Huu Tiep Lake. It’s a 20 minute walk through Ba Dinh District from the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This is just west of the Old Quarter. Watch out for signs directing visitors to the bomb site.
Other nearby attractions
Hanoi is a hub or jumping point for many other nearby destinations. Most notably is UNESCO World Heritage Site, Halong Bay. By car or bus it’s a 3-hour haul east from the capital city.
Ninh Binh is also called “Halong Bay on Land” because it has similar geological wonders that can be explored without a cruise ship. Ninh Binh is a straight shot south of Hanoi, just 90 minutes out.
Halong Bay is perhaps Vietnam’s most popular tourist site. Large cruise ships sail the sparkling blue waters weaving between towering limestone karsts. With such a large selection of tour operators to choose from, make sure to do your research and find the right fit.
Make sure to stop-off and explore the monstrous caves before grabbing a cold beer while you bask in the sun of a secluded island. Check out the Cat Ba National Park, paddle around in your kayak, and hike to stunning lookout points for the sunset.
Explore the scenic Trang An grottos or hike to the top of Hang Mua for an unparalleled view of mountains, jungle, caves, and a river system below. Take a boat trip through Tam Coc, and visit 11th century temples like Bich Dong. Think of Ninh Binh as a smaller, cleaner version of Halong Bay without the oversaturated tourist scene.
If you’re a nature lover, Ninh Binh is must more travel-friendly than Halong Bay with roads, motorbikes, and bicycles available to get you to your next destination. Rent a boat for the day and watch the oarswomen steer the boat through dark caves with their feet beneath the stunning karts above.
Two Insider Tips
As always, we provide our readers with a few tips to make their journey smoother. From transportation tips, where to go, and what to eat and drink, we got you covered.
#1. Download the grab app
As a safer alternative to taxis and motorbike drivers, download the Grab application on your phone. It’s faster, more convenient, and holds drivers responsible for poor behavior. Just make sure to check the cost as each mode of transportation has a different fare.
#2. Drink “bia hoi”
CNN even wrote about traditional Vietnamese draft beer called “bia hoi”. In the article the deemed it the “cheapest draft beer in the world.” “Bia hoi” can be found all over northern Vietnam and make for an affordable night out in a local environment. A single glass normally sells anywhere between 25 to 75 cents USD.