Best things to do in Hanoi

Best things to do in Hanoi

We started our Asia trip with Hanoi being our very first stop, and it was definitely a shock to the system. We wasn’t even sure if our taxi would make it to the hotel in one piece! Rules of the road and checking your blind spot definitely do not exist (not that they mean much in London either at times…) and crossing the road has become our biggest life challenge to date.

In the 4 days we’ve spent here we’ve really soaked in the culture and feel we’ve already got used to life in Hanoi. We haven’t been run over yet either which is a huge bonus – #winning!

If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam, you’re definitely going to want to check out our list of what to do in Hanoi.


Train Street

This was an easy one to put at the very top of our list. We’d seen so much online about the famous Train Street of Hanoi and never in a million years did we think we would have the opportunity to experience it for ourselves.

It’s just an ordinary day for locals who live life on the line. They sit, eat, play and even dry their clothes on the track in the terrifyingly narrow street. For a brief moment each day, they pack everything off the track to make way for the speeding train which now owns the street. Locals calmly move at the last minute, whilst tourists scatter and panic (like us!).

What an experience – this is a must if you’re in the area and we’ve wrote about our experience in more detail in our post about how to find the Train Street. Here you can find a detailed description, map and photos on how to find it, along with the most up to date timetable, plus a couple of tips on how to prepare for photographing the train.


The Note Coffee Shop

If you haven’t already seen it plastered all over social media, the Note Coffee is a small coffee shop situated at 64 Lương Văn Can, on the North-West corner of Ho Hoàn Kiếm lake. It’s interior is covered top to bottom with post it notes written from people all over the world, and they serve the best coffee and milkshakes in Hanoi!

What actually caught our attention initially was how kind and welcoming the staff were, probably being the nicest people we’ve met on our trip so far! They even speak fluent English which was a slight relief after struggling with the language barrier everywhere else.

Seeing the notes from all corners of the world was so heart-warming. Amazing life quotes, travel inspiration, love notes to partners and family, amazing drawings and even the odd bad joke (which Luke added to).

This is definitely something you don’t want to miss, so pop in and leave your mark!

Google Maps: The Note Coffee


Sword Lake and the Turtle Tower

Sword Lake (Hoàn Kiếm) is a lovely big lake to walk around, which has a small island holding a tower known as the Turtle Tower (Thap Ruá). This tower holds great significance to the Vietnamese as it commemorates the victory of Le Loi, who had freed the Vietnamese from the Chinese forces back in 1425 – the tower has been there since it was originally built in the 17th century.

The lake is surrounded by street food, clothes markets and an endless amount of coffee shops, and for those wanting a break from rice and noodles, you’ll be glad to know there’s a McDonald’s on the South-East corner.

Google Maps: Sword Lake


Street food in the Old Quarter

If you love food and love immersing yourself in different culture, then the Old Quarter is the place for you. This is also known as the backpacker quarter of Hanoi. Along the sides of every street you’ll find countless food stalls and restaurants with small tables and chairs or stools. For us this was all very new and quite daunting, as some places don’t seem too welcoming – we came to the conclusion that some of these places are more for the locals rather than tourists, so it’s just a case of wandering until you find somewhere that suits you.

We found a street called Pho Hang Buom on our first night which we like the most, which is where most of the crowd tended to be, including tourists. The restaurant staff are more welcoming giving out menus to read and there was music blasting from a couple of places which is always fun! Definitely the place for some evening entertainment.

Google Maps: Pho Hang Buom


Egg Coffee at the Giảng Cafe

We were lucky enough to hear about this place whilst we were in Hanoi, so decided to pay it a visit. The initial thought of egg in coffee turned our noses up, but after hearing the story and knowing how popular it was, we thought we’d be open minded and give it a try.

Giảng Café is the historic place egg coffee originated, first invented by owner Mr. Nguyen Giảng in 1946. Milk was scarce back then in Vietnam, so he used egg yolks instead of milk, and we admit it wasn’t a bad idea!

Luke decided not to go with the egg beer so just had a regular Hanoi beer instead, but I tried egg coffee with rum – it was almost like an Irish coffee, with thick velvety foam! I enjoyed my drink but think it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you should definitely give it a go!

The Café itself is a little hard to find, but once you find it, it’s very authentic inside. Old, but authentic. The address is below, and it is located through a small alley way. It has a slightly hidden sign so you just have to look closely for it!

Google Maps: Giảng Café


The Rooftop Bar

This was slightly out of the way just outside the backpackers area in the Old Quarter but we definitely recommend the visit, the views are absolutely stunning. We braved it and walked here, which turned out to be about a 30 minute walk each way from the Old Quarter. We suggest getting a taxi as this part of the city is a lot busier with bigger roads – not the best to cross at night.

Chill with reasonably priced cocktails, ambient music and beautiful panoramic views of the city – we promise you wont be disappointed!

It’s located at the below address and be aware it is closed from 21:00-21:30, and then re-opens until 2:00.

Google Maps: The Rooftop


B-52 Lake

This was a great last minute venture big thanks to Sarah, the Five Foot Traveler! We hadn’t actually heard of this prior to our trip so was an interesting last minute discovery. Once we had heard about it from Sarah, we were so keen to go just for the sheer significance of the lake and its story – we just had to see it.

Huu Tiep Lake is renowned for the American B-52 bomber that still lies there today, amongst its original wreckage from when it crashed into the lake in 1972. After the Americans killed over 3,000 locals in the Christmas bombing, the Vietnamese took revenge and shot down the B-52 during Operation “Linebacker II”. Four of the six men on board were taken prisoner, the other two died in the crash.

We felt so overwhelmed to be in this spot which physically portrays so much history – to see it with our own eyes and to be able to imagine what happened here that many years ago was just surreal.

There’s not much else in the area, so may not be worth the visit for some, but you can’t beat a bit of history!

Google Maps: B-52/Huu Tiep Lake


Temple of the Jade Mountain

As you walk around Sword Lake, you will stumble across the Ngoc Son Temple. You’ll be taken back by it’s beauty and if you get there early enough you can witness the locals doing their morning yoga and Tai Chi – the pagoda opens 8am – 5pm.

The name of the temple translates to “Temple of the Jade Mountain” and is mostly dedicated to the war hero General Tran Hung Dao who defeated an armed force of 300,000 who were sent to invade Vietnam by Mongolian Emperor, Kublai Khan, in the 13th century.

Google Maps: Temple of Jade Mountain


Exploring Hanoi and experiencing all of the above definitely left us feeling fulfilled, and that we had really lived the true style of Hanoians and discovered what the beautiful city has to offer.

We promise you these places are really worth the visit, and we hope you love your time in Hanoi 🙂

If you have any more recommendations for Hanoi that we missed, or have more information on your website, please let us know in the comments and share your site!

Enjoy Hanoi, we fell in love with it!

Kelly and Luke

24 Comments

  • Avatar

    Jayde Butcher

    this is so amazing because I would never have discovered Hanoi before reading your website, now this is defo on my travel list, it sounds amazing with all the different things you can do, what a fun packed, exciting hoilday! Thank you for this list, I will defo try the train is I ever go, to see the city properly.

  • Avatar

    Michel

    I wasn’t planning on visiting Vietnam or even Hanoi for that matter, but after reading this post, it all sounds rather exciting. I loved reading about the roof top bar and also Train Street.

    What language do they speak there, and I gather there isn’t a lot of English, so going on your own could be quite a lonely experience.

    The other thing I would definitely like to try is actually going for Yoga and Meditation in a real Temple like the Temple of Jade Mountain. It must be an awesome setting and just so much different to doing your normal yoga class in the gym.

    • Avatar

      Kelly

      We didn’t think twice about Vietnam either! But so far seems to be the country with the most things to do, it’s so beautiful and there’s SO much to see. Now we’ve reached Thailand, we realise they speak English a lot more in Vietnam, we didn’t realise until now – they’re so friendly there too.

      That’s funny you’ve mentioned that as that’s something that’s been on our list too! Just haven’t known how to go about it. Would be an incredible experience. We did our own little meditation outside of a temple whilst listening to them chanting inside, which still worked wonders, but would love to do the real thing.

      Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  • Avatar

    Chris

    Oh I really love the idea of the Note Coffee Shop, I lived near something similar on the outskirts of Amsterdam, when I was studying there (only in Amsterdam, people left cards on the wall). 

    I have heard quite a lot about Hanoi over the years, but I never really picked up on the expense of it all – is it an expensive area to shop/visit in, or is it quite cheap for westerners?

    • Avatar

      Kelly

      Yeah I could imagine Amsterdam doing something similar! We actually visited there, but Luke got really ill so we ended up staying indoors for the 4 days 🙁 we’re planning to go back. What’s the note place called if you remember?

      Hanoi is super cheap! It also has the cheapest beer in the world.. accommodation can range from £3-13 a night, £13 getting you a pretty decent hotel room like we managed to. Meals can be around £2 a meal, so yep super cheap which was amazing haha money goes a long way in Vietnam.

      Thanks for your comment 🙂 

  • Avatar

    TJSchlenker

    Okay, wow… that’s some real different stuff you’re experiencing there!

    So, the train barrels through inches close to buildings and people every day??! Man! I wonder what the “Tourist Injury Stats” are on that street!

    The Post-It note restaurant is such a GREAT idea! Makes ya wanna open a shake shop just to do the gimmick.

    I hear Sword Lake there is the actual place where Arthur found ‘Excalibur’.  lol

    I would give the egg coffee a try. Probably doesn’t taste that different, right? In fact… I think I’ll go make one right now!

    Thanks for sharing your travels. Helps those of us stuck at work today to dream of having a life!!  😉

    • Avatar

      Kelly

      Yep, crazy isn’t it?! I wouldn’t like to think about the accidents that have happened there haha the locals are really caring though and look our for silly tourists like us trying to get photos lol!

      Glad you enjoyed the read, I’d like to say enjoy your day at work, but you probably won’t. We’ll wish you were here instead! There’s always time for adventures, you just gotta make time for it! 🙂

  • Avatar

    Samson Oklobia

    Vietnam was never on my list of countries to go on a leisure trip but reading this article about Hanoi, i am beyond words. The train street i would definitely want to see in comparison to the Maeklog railway market in Bangkok. These are the kind of thrills that makes the trip worth every thing. The nightlife i heard is fascinating and i wouldn’t taking a experiencing the rooftop bar as well. 

    • Avatar

      Kelly

      We thought the same at first, but after seeing so many wonderful photos online we just had to visit for ourselves. We were not disappointed. The Train Street was definitely our highlight, such an insane experience!

      Glad you enjoyed the read, thanks for your comment 🙂

  • Avatar

    Dany

    Hello both,

    Thank you for informative reading. I have never been in that corner of the world, but you presented so many attractions and things to do. I would really love to see the train street and the coffee shop. The people are so inventive, I’m always amazed by their creativity.

    I would like to know about the traditional theater. I was reading about Water puppetry, have you seen it?

    • Avatar

      Kelly

      Hey, thanks for your comment 🙂

      It’s our first time in this corner of the world! Just hitting our 4th week now. It’s crazy how different everything is, but we love it so far.

      We did hear about the water puppet show but didn’t get round to seeing it which is a shame, but glad we managed to squeeze everything else into our 4 days!

      If you’re interested in seeing videos of the Train passing through the street, we have 2 videos up on our Facebook and Instagram which are pretty cool.

  • Avatar

    Julia Kossowska

    Hi 

    Hanoi looks amazing!!  Train Street looks like something from a fantasy film.

    I would love to go to all these different places and try the different types of food and drink.

    I love city lakes as well so I would certainly take a walk round these two.

    I am glad you enjoyed your trip to Hanoi and I am sure you have inspired a number of people – including me – to learn more about the place!

    Thanks!

    Julia

    • Avatar

      Kelly

      Hi Julia,

      Hanoi really was incredible, we wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was!

      We’re really glad we inspired you, this is what travelling and sharing experiences is all about 🙂

      All the best

  • Avatar

    Nadia

    Oh my goodness this is so inspirational! Can’t I just teleport there right now, how cool would that be?! Thank you for sharing your adventure and  all the must-see places to visit in Hanoi. I hope to start my travel adventures next year and I’m not sure where to start – I’ve always been attracted to Asia, would Hanoi be a good place to start, if not then what would your recommendation be to a newbie?

    • Avatar

      Kelly

      Aw thanks Nadia, really glad we could inspire you – this is all we aim to do!

      We’ve actually said that Hanoi was a perfect place to start – it kind of throws you into the deep end, which is a good thing! You get to really soak it all up, and when you reach other destinations afterwards, you feel a sense of calm. If it were the other way round, you’d think Hanoi is too crazy haha! If that makes sense?!

      It’s just so cheap too which is amazing, and they have tonnes of local/traditional clothes too to purchase at the start of your trip (like we did).

      We’d love to follow your travels on Instagram if you have an account? Drop it below 🙂 don’t hesitate to ask anymore questions!

  • Avatar

    Anusuya

    This blog right away landed me at Hanoi, a city I always wanted to visit. The blog describes the center points of attraction of Hanoi. The place and the description as well is captivating. What a lovely place to live in Train Street. Hey, you might be nosing up.  I am from India. I love the cohesion, human interaction, help, poverty keeping people together within the narrow space. A must place to visit.

    I am having my coffee while writing comments for the blog and the world’s best coffee of Hanoi. I am imagining one in my native place right at this moment.Cautious service with fluent English and the best coffee on your table! You write on board your best line and leave the mark for the world. How amazing.

    Now I am tired roaming and enjoying the lake and tower, my mind is blown away with the preserved history.

    Wow! The temple visit at the end and time to thank God for this awesome experience.

    Love this blog and it opens up Hanoi to the world. Many thanks and feel lucky to get this one to comment on.

    • Avatar

      Kelly

      Hey, thanks so much for your comment!

      We’re really glad you enjoyed the post and were able to immerse yourself in the experience! I try to write in a way that allows people to do just that, and for people to be able to picture what it’s like here and feel inspired.

      We hope to keep you inspired through our coming posts!

  • Avatar

    Stephen

    Wow, I could see you must have enjoyed this trip to Hanoi in Vietnam. I love tourist attraction places. They really make you feel refreshed after a change of environment and I think it is something every human should be doing once in a while provided they have the means financially.

    Among the list of places you mentioned, I would really love to visit the Train Street myself to experience it and see how it feels. I just wonder how the local people are able to sit, play and even dry their clothes on the train track. Wow, this will indeed be terrifying. I can’t wait to visit the The Note Coffee Shop and to witness for myself all the writings and marks that tourist have left there.

    I will probably consider Vietnam as part of my next vacation trip with my family. Thanks a lot for sharing with us.

    Stephen.

    • Avatar

      Kelly

      Thanks for your comment Stephen! 

      Adventuring out of your comfort zone and exploring the world is something we feel everyone NEEDS to do, even if it’s local and you have a spare weekend! It just makes you feel incredible doing something new and seeing new places and people.

      The train street was as amazing as we said and hopefully you get to see it one day! Let us know if you visit Vietnam and feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the place 🙂

      All the best!

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