Hanoi is a unique blend of East meets West. The vibrant capital city of Vietnam and the country’s second largest city, Hanoi invites thousands of visitors every year who are attracted by the city’s warm climate, architecture, museums and temples. Hanoi has remained unscathed after years of warfare and is now undergoing a construction boom, making it a rapidly developing metropolis in Southeast Asia. If you have little time on your hands, you can explore the city in as little as three days, allowing you to experience the best Hanoi has to offer.
Taxis are often the best way to travel if you are visiting Hanoi but pedicabs can bea much cheaper way to get around the city. Catch one of these to the Temple of Literature on Quoc Tu Giam Street in Van Mieu. South of the world famous Mausoleum, the temple was built in 1070 and became Vietnam’s first university in 1076. The temple’s courtyard has numerous stone tablets and each one is fixed onto the back of a stone tortoise, displaying the names of the university’s alumni. Admission is 20,000 dong and the temple is the perfect place to explore Vietnam’s rich cultural history. The Hanoi Emotion Hotel located next to the temple is perfect for a spot of lunch and has a rooftop bar and restaurant with stunning panoramic views across Hanoi.
Spend the morning visiting the city’s Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, one of Vietnam’s most famous attractions. Although photos are only allowed from outside the tomb, visitors can travel inside the mausoleum and view the body of leader Ho Chi Minh. In the afternoon, try the Army Museum located close to the Mausoleum near the city’s numerous foreign embassies. The museum documents the many battles which have taken place throughout Vietnam’s history. At sunset, travel down to Ho Tay situated in the north of the city. This affluent neighbourhood has many restaurants and cafes to cater to every budget, several of which are situated alongside the beautiful lake-front, offering magnificent views of Vietnam’s skyline. The banks are also occupied by numerous fisherman.
For lunch, visit the city’s Hoan Kiem Lake, a beautiful park in the centre of the city where you can picnic or simply watch the world go by. The park is within walking distance from the City’s Old Quarter and is a popular leisure spot for local residents, many of whom practise tai chi during the day or sit and read a book after lunch. Hoan Kiem means “the returned sword” and the park is named after a popular Vietnamese legend where King Le Loi was given a sword with magical powers from the gods to fight the invading Chinese. While you are in the area, visit the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, 1km south of the park. The museum contains exhibits presented in Vietnamese, French, German and English and displays costumes and sculptures which illustrate the fascinating history of Vietnamese women. Entry is 30,000 dong.
Hanoi is a fine capital to explore and with a tropic climate, warm weather can be expected during most of the year. Throughout Hanoi, the local people are friendly and warm and as you visit the sights, you may find strangers trying to strike a conversation with you.