What to Do in Hanoi
Our Hanoi activities section proves that there’s more to this bustling city than its chaotic traffic, colonial buildings, and ancient pagodas. Hanoi’s countryside is just an hour’s drive from the city, where you can experience the traditional Vietnamese lifestyle by visiting ancient villages, nature reserves, national parks, verdant rainforests, colourful wildlife, and limestone islands.
Downtown Saigon also offers an array of fulfilling activities that are definitely well worth the time and effort. With a city plan almost tailor-made for exploring, you can opt for walking tours, join a cooking class, or even unwind with a pampering spa treatment or two. If you still have time in your hands after visiting all of Hanoi’s attractions, check out our guide on what to do in Hanoi.
Other Activities in Hanoi
Be Active in Halong Bay
Joining a Halong Bay cruise is a must-do for any first-time visitor to Hanoi. Recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, Halong Bay features 1,600 towering limestone islands with naturally crafted grottoes. Approximately a four-hour drive from downtown Hanoi, the area is also home to different kinds of limestone caves such as phreatic caves, karstic foot caves and marine notch caves. Ranging from half-day trips to excursions for up to two nights, guests are chartered on diesel-powered junks or modern cruisers while authentic northern Vietnamese dishes and refreshments are served on-board. Activities include exploring the many cave formations, kayaking around rocky outcrops and watching the wildlife.
Hanoi biking tours give riders a chance to leave the city and visit some of the countryside villages dotted further afield. Sites include rice fields, pagodas dating back to the 12th century, a chance to meet and talk with a host family, a visit to a war memorial and other historic places of interest. One special place worth a bike outing is Duong Lan, an old village that has its roots in the origins of rice farming and includes ancient houses still in use today with fascinating architecture built four centuries ago.
Bike tours are a great way to see how the locals live and explore some of Hanoi beyond the city limits where life gears down to a much slower pace. Prices for bike tours include equipment, lunch and refreshments and can be booked through most tour operators. There are also a handful of biking specialists online offering more adventurous cycling in remote rural parts of northern Vietnam. Read More...
Cooking classes are held in almost every five-star hotel and prominent local restaurants in Hanoi, so finding one that fits your budget and time is relatively easy. Prior to the cooking session, guests are given a brief introduction to Vietnamese cuisine before visiting a local market to shop for fresh produce, meats, herbs and spices. Priced at USD50 onwards, the classes are conducted in English, where you get a hands-on experience in preparing authentic northern Vietnamese dishes such as banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe), pho noodle soup, and cha Ca (turmeric fish with fill).
Hanoi Water Park (Ho Tay Water Park)
A great day out and a great way to cool off when the city gets too hot and dusty, Hanoi Water Park is perfect for a fun family excursion. Located five kilometres north of Hanoi city, the water park features 12 slides and tube rides, a hydrotherapy pool, dive pool and wave machine. Smaller kids will enjoy the lazy river whilst older kids will love the corkscrew roller-coaster at the Moon Park next door. There is even a 3D cinema and mini-golf attached. The water park is best avoided at weekends when its gets really busy with locals.
- Opening Hours: 09:00-21:00
- Location: 614 Pho Lac Long Can, Ho Tay District
- Tel: +844 3753 2757
Hiking at Ba Vi National Park
If you’re a nature lover, try hiking at Ba Vi National Park, which is an hour’s drive from downtown Hanoi. Featuring numerous forest trails and slopes between three mountain summits, the park offers a great escape from the city with fresh air and an atmospheric backdrop of clouds, rainforest, and an array of wildlife. A shrine which dates back the the 11th century stands atop Tan Vien peak, which takes approximately 30 minutes of hard climb to reach. With entry fee of VND 15,000 per person, Ba Vi National Park also hosts the Tan Da Spa Resort where guests can unwind in natural hot springs, mud baths, wet steam baths and herbal baths.
The Megastar Complex centres around an ultra-modern cinema geared towards tourists showing all films in English with Vietnamese subtitles. All the latest films are presented including 3D movies with five-star comforts provided; you can choose a couple’s seat or use the separate VIP cinema. Drinks and snacks are readily available and there is a huge games arcade located on the fifth floor. The complex is a five-minute taxi ride south from the city centre.
- Opening Hours: 09:00-Late
- Location: Level 6 VinCom City Towers, 191 Ba Trieu Street, Hai Ba Trung District
- Tel: +844 3 974 3333
Trekking in and around Hanoi
There are quite a number of trekking tours, ranging from half-day walks to more challenging trekking lasting a number of days. Options include Mai Chau valley, Pu Luong nature reserve, and Tam Do and Cat Ba national parks. The most popular trek is Pu Luong nature reserve which usually takes four days and will take you to Thai hamlets nestled in mountain foothills. Despite its length, this trip does not require too much exertion or skill. Alternatively, Mai Chau valley is a great option if you are short on time and it will offer a rare chance to see rural Vietnamese villages. Additionally, there are an array of jungle treks designed to test more advanced trekkers, including a seven-day challenging trek to Ha Giang and Bac Ha in Northern Vietnam.
With plenty of five-star hotels with onsite spa centres as well as standalone outlets found within the city, a spa treatment is just the right remedy after a long day of exploring Hanoi. Catering to almost any budget and preference, Hanoi spas offer Vietnamese, Thai, and Swedish-style body massages and reflexology in addition to the usual offerings of facials, body wraps and scrubs. Some of the most popular spa centres in Hanoi include Omamori Spa, La Siesta Spa, and Le Spa du Metropole.