First Time in Hanoi - What To Do

Hanoi Survival Guide

Planning your first time in Hanoi can be challenging. The capital of Vietnam is known for its two main neighbourhoods, namely the French Quarter and Old Quarter. Both are packed with attractions, but are easily accessible on foot. You can explore shopping streets, colonial buildings, ancient pagodas and unique museums. It’s a lot to take in, but we have narrowed down the choice to just the absolute must-see highlights.

Hanoi is also home to a multi-cultural community that’s made up of Chinese, French and Russian influences, with a wide range of restaurants to match. The nightlife ranges from modern nightclubs and expat-owned bars to night markets and family-friendly traditional shows. With our quick Hanoi survival guide, you can navigate through your first few days in this unique city, getting the most out of your time.

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Hanoi at a Glance

Hanoi is packed with fascinating historical attractions, including beautiful colonial buildings and ancient pagodas, especially in Old Quarter. The iconic Hoan Kiem Lake, in the heart of the Old Quarter, is surrounded by shopping streets and great local eateries. Landmarks like Hanoi Opera House and Hoa Lo Prison are found in French Quarter, along with high-end hotels and restaurants. You can walk between the Old Quarter and French Quarter within 15 minutes, though do take care when crossing roads as traffic in Hanoi can be chaotic throughout the day.

  • Plenty of cheap shopping options
  • Local beers and street food are very cheap, especially in Old Quarter
  • Good choice of restaurants
  • Lively atmosphere
  • Traffic is intense
  • Pickpockets are common in touristy areas
  • It can get really noisy and crowded at night

Things You Can Do in Hanoi

Hanoi may be known for its close proximity to Halong Bay, but the city itself has plenty of sightseeing spots. One of the most popular landmarks in Old Quarter is Hoan Kiem Lake, a peaceful public park where you can see locals jogging, enjoying a coffee, practising Tai Chi and line dancing. There are also several Buddhist temples dating back to the 11th century. In French Quarter, you can find luxury shopping malls, colonial buildings and a war museum. However, if you see nothing else during your first time in Hanoi, we recommend visiting just these three places.

  • Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple

    Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son

    Hanoi tourists and locals alike head to Hoan Kiem Lake when seeking a place to get away from the noise of the city. Read More»

  • Hanoi Opera House

    Hanoi Opera House

    Hanoi Opera House was built in 1911 by the then ruling French. Its neo-classical French architecture features Gothic Read More»

  • Water Puppet Theatre

    Water Puppet Theatre

    The world-famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi has its roots in an art form that dates back to the 11th Read More»

Best Places to Shop in Hanoi

Some of the best places to shop in Hanoi are located in Old Quarter. You’ll find local markets selling coffee beans, handicrafts and street food at affordable prices here. Hang Gai Street is great for quality textiles and custom-made clothes. Shopping malls in French Quarter are stock familiar brands and also offer a cool escape from the afternoon heat. When it comes to getting your shopping fix in Hanoi, be sure to check out these three spots.

  • Hanoi Weekend Night Market

    Held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Hanoi Weekend Night Market is a busy, bustling gathering of roadside stalls and Read More»

  • Hang Gai Street (Silk Street)

    Hang Gai Street is the best place in Hanoi to shop for high quality, fashionable silk materials, traditional Vietnamese Read More»

  • Lotte Center Hanoi

    Lotte Center Hanoi offers a broad range of approximately 250 fashion and lifestyle brands. This one-stop shopping spot Read More»

Best Places to Go at Night in Hanoi

Exploring Hanoi at night, you’ll find that it’s is packed with nightclubs, pubs and bars offering loud music and all sorts of booze. The most iconic nightlife area is Bia Hoi Junction, where you can sit by the road and enjoy Vietnamese draft beer for less than US$1. If you prefer a classier setting, Hanoi French Quarter features jazz lounges and swanky hotel bars. When it comes to planning your evenings for your first time in Hanoi, we recommend you check out the following great places before any others.

  • Bia Hoi Junction

    A must-visit for any first-time visitor to Hanoi, Bia Hoi Junction is widely-regarded as the quintessential nightlife Read More»

  • Binh Minh's Jazz Club

    A legendary nightlife spot in Hanoi French Quarter, Binh Minh’s Jazz Club is the place to catch live music performances Read More»

  • Pharoah’s Bar & Upper Hanoi

    Pharoah’s Bar & Upper Hanoi occupies the 63rd and 64th floors of five-star establishment Lotte Hotel Hanoi, where Read More»

Great Restaurants We Like in Hanoi

Hanoi has a great dining scene, with lots of choice available. Broadly speaking, you’ll find mostly budget local places in the Old Quarter, with more high-end international offerings in French Quarter. Not only can you enjoy authentic Vietnamese dishes like pho and banh mi, but the international tastes available include French, Japanese, Thai and Chinese cuisine as well. We’ve picked out three great places around Hanoi which we consider must-tries. Our selection includes different budget scales and different themes, to give you a bit of variety.

  • Grill 63 Restaurant

    Grill 63 Restaurant at Lotte Hotel Hanoi offers an extensive menu of Western and Vietnamese dishes, as well as some of Read More»

  • La Terrasse Du Metropole

    La Terrasse Du Metropole at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi offers affluent travellers an extensive all-day menu which Read More»

  • Cafe de Paris Hanoi

    Cafe de Paris Hanoi is a stylish French bistro that’s located in the Old Quarter, attracting a steady clientele of Read More»

Hotels in Hanoi We Recommend to Our Friends

Hotels in Hanoi Old Quarter are mostly mid-range options, suiting those who are travelling on a modest budget. As the city centre is relatively small, you’re never more than a few steps away from prominent historical sites, shopping venues, restaurants and nightlife options. Affluent travellers often opt to stay in French Quarter as it contains most of Hanoi’s swanky hotels and shopping malls. The following are the hotels we personally think will guarantee you a comfortable stay, with a budget, a mid-range and a high-end option to pick from.

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi is centrally located in Hanoi, a 4-minute walk from Hanoi Opera House and 10 minutes by foot from Read More...

Hanoi La Siesta Hotel Trendy

Located in Hanoi (Hoan Kiem), Hanoi La Siesta Hotel Trendy is within a 15-minute walk of Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and Hanoi Read More...

The Artisan Lakeview Hotel

With a stay at The Artisan Lakeview Hotel in Hanoi (Hoan Kiem), you'll be a 5-minute walk from Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and Read More...


Best Hotels in Hanoi

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