Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam. You should pay a visit to Hanoi even if you have been to Ho Chi Minh city because they are quite different! Over the past few years, we have seen Vietnam opening up and it is also evident that Vietnam did change a lot over the past 10 years!
Its been awhile since I came to Hanoi but this time, I had the chance to revisit Hanoi again thanks to Vietnam Tourism. We revisited the various filming sites of the blockbuster movie, Kong: Skull Island! You can check out the post here after you have finished reading this article!
There’s lots to do in Vietnam and I have managed to shortlist 30 things, featuring our specialty – Food, Shopping, Spa, Stay and Sightseeing / Attractions! My exploration in Hanoi woudn’t have been so smooth if not for my friend, Thanis, and his post! Do check out his Hanoi Guide here!
#1 – Buy a local SIM Card with 5GB of Data for just USD$13
After you clear the immigration, head over to the telco counter to get your Prepaid SIM Card. It comes with at least 5GB data and it costs just less than USD$13! It’s so worth it!
#2 – Drink Egg Coffee at Cafe Giang
The coffee you need to drink in Hanoi is Egg Coffee! Cafe Giang is said to have started the concept of Egg Coffee and so it makes sense to drop by! What’s special is its top layer which is a blend of egg, cheese, condensed milk, sugar and some secret ingredients. It is thick and sweet, sort of like drinking a tiramisu!
The coffee below is bitter and it balances well with the sweetness of the “egg” on top!
39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm | Open Daily from 7am – 10pm | +84 98 989 22 98 |
#3 – Drink Coconut Coffee at Cong Caphe Cafe
Egg or hot coffee not for you? Why not try Coconut Coffee! I’m surprised that the two flavours go well together! A popular place for this is at Cafe Cong, a military style cafe which you can’t miss since their walls are painted in army green! You can easily find their outlets around old quarter!
16 Cầu Gỗ, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm | Open Daily from 8am – 11pm (some branches close early)
#4 – Drink Egg Coffee in an old school Cafe Binh
Like to go back in time? Cafe Dinh seems to be stuck in a time capsule because the whole place seems to be from the previous generation. It’s old and traditional so don’t expect it to be clean and modern. But I know some will love this place. You just want to chill out “in the past” while drinking something “in the present”.
13 Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm | Open Daily from 7am – 9:30pm | +84 4 3824 2960 |
#5 – Drink Vietnamese Coffee with a view at Highlands Coffee
Forget about Starbucks in Hanoi. Head over to Highlands Coffee! If you want to chill out in comfort over some comfortable chairs, sofa and air-conditioning, this is the place to be. I also like the branch at Old Quarter Intersection as you can see the sight and sounds of Hanoi, all at once!
7 Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm | Open Daily from 7am – 11pm | +84 4 3936 3228 |
#6 – Try Banh Mi from Banh Mi 25
One famous Vietnam food is Banh Mi! It’s so simple yet it can be so delicious. I had mine at the famous Banh Mi 25 and was definitely satisfied. It was served warm and the bread wasn’t too crispy so you can bite it off easily. Seriously, one isn’t enough!
25 Hàng Cá, Hàng Đào, Hoàn Kiếm | Open Daily from 7am – 7pm | +84 97 766 88 95 |
#7 – Eat the same meal as Former President Obama!
Remember Obama having his dinner in Hanoi? I told my tour guide that I wanted to visit this place and here I am at Bun Cha Huong Lien! We ordered the Obama set, which is what President Obama had with Anthony Bourdain.
The soup was sweet, the meat was smokey and tender. The meal was just perfect!
24 Lê Văn Hưu, Phạm Đình Hồ, Hai Bà Trưng | Open Daily from 8am – 9pm | +84 4 3943 4106 |
#8 – Eat Cha Ca at Cha Ca Thong Long
This seems to be the “must-eat” food in Hanoi. Everybody kept asking me to visit this place. After eating it, I know why it’s so popular.
Cha Ca basically involves turmeric marinated snakehead fish, dill, Vietnamese vermicelli noodles and condiments such as peanuts, mint, spring onions, parsley, fish sauce and chilli.
You will be served a sizzling pan with the fish and dill and it will be cooked by the staff. The dill flavour will be infused into the fish and once it’s ready, put it into a small bowl with the various condiments. No worries if you don’t know what to do as the staff will assist you.
As I’m not a fan of vegetables, I can only comment on the fish. It’s so soft and tender without the fishy taste and bones! It’s satisfying!
19-21-31 Duong Thanh, Hoan Kiem, Cửa Đông | Open Daily from 8am – 10pm | +84 4 3824 5115 |
#9 – Try the best Pho of Hanoi at Pho Gia Truyen
Pho is the national noodle dish of Vietnam. Due to time limitations, I didn’t had the chance to try the various Pho around Hanoi. But I trust the taste and recommendation of my friend, Thanis, a renowned food blogger from Brunei! If you have time to try more, check out his write-up here!
49 Bát Đàn, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm | Open Daily from 6–10am and 6–8:30pm | +84 4 6683 3535 |
#10 – Try Hanoi’s best Sticky Rice – Xoi Yen
This is just few metres away from Cafe Giang! Be sure to check it out. You can see locals queuing up and getting takeaways from this shop! If you like sticky rice, you need to check this out. You can choose from the various sides to be included and it becomes a meal on its own.
35B Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm | Open Daily from 5am – 1am | +84 4 3926 3427 |
#11 – Treat your friends to quality Vietnamese Cuisine!
We were hosted a meal here and it was indeed a good introduction to Vietnamese cuisine! The ambiance here also makes it a good place to host your friends for a meal comfortably.
13A Lê Đại Hành – Hai Bà Trưng | Open Daily from 7:30am – 10pm | +84 96 959 69 59 |
#12 – Join the locals to eat Ice Cream while walking along the lake!
While strolling along the lake, I saw locals purchasing these sticks of ice cream! I just had to join them and I got myself a lime ice cream! Delicious indeed.
#13 – Get souvenirs that are Made in Vietnam, not China!
There’s many shop selling souvenirs which are not made in Vietnam but made in China. Be sure to get one from those which says “Made in Vietnam”! This was recommended by my tour guide.
#14 – Talk a stroll at Old Quarter in the morning to see a different sight!
The sight of old quarter really differs from day and night. Be sure to make time to take a stroll in the morning!
#15 – Take a romantic stroll along Hoan Kiem Lake
Hoan Kiem Lake covers quite a distance. It can be a good walk after a heavy meal. It will also be lovely for a romantic stroll with your loved ones.
#16 – Take photos along the lake!
You can take some really beautiful photos along the lake like these two which I shot!
#17 – Sit on stools and have some drinks
In Vietnam, I gave up on comfort because everybody is just sitting on stools! Simplicity!
#18 – Cross Vietnam roads like a boss, but safely!
It’s not easy to cross roads in Vietnam but you have to do it like a boss, or else you won’t be able to cross because nobody will give way to you. Of course, do it with safety. Ensure that the car or bike is far away.
#19 – Take a trishaw before it becomes extinct next time!
Trishaws might be gone soon so you might want to have a try at it while it’s still around?
#20 – Have a beer at Bia Hoi Corner!
This is a happening area! Something like the Khao San of Bangkok! It’s good to get a beer here and watch the world go by.
20 Tạ Hiện, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm
#21 – Get a best view of the intersection of Old Quarter
Get on top of the restaurants and you will enjoy the elevated view of the intersection of old quarter.
#22 – Join the locals for some fun with traditional games during weekends at Old Quarter.
On weekends, the roads around old quarter will be closed to traffic and the public can walk around freely. You can spot many locals playing traditional and simple games around. Something which you don’t get to see in many countries now.
#23 – Pamper yourself with Vietnamese Massage at SF Spa Lakeview!
There are of course many massage parlours around especially the old quarter. But I decided to go for one which is slightly better at SF Spa.
7 Cầu Gỗ, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm | Open Daily from 9am – 11pm | +84 4 3926 2323 |
#24 – Stay at Thang Long Opera Hotel, just walking distance to Old Quarter
I definitely recommend staying near the Old Quarter as it’s the most happening area of Hanoi. I stayed at Thang Long Opera, a 5 minute walk away from the action.
Rooms are also of quality and you can be assured of a good night’s rest.
1C Tông Đản, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm | +84 4 3824 4775 |
#25 – Experience staying in a colonial building at Hoa Binh Hotel
If you want something different, like a more colonial style, check out Hoa Binh Hotel! It is also just 5 minutes away from Hoan Kiem Lake.
27 Lý Thường Kiệt, Hàng Bài, Hoàn Kiế | +84 4 3825 3315 |
Sightseeing / Attractions
#26 – Visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
This is the final resting place of Vietnam leader Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam. Uncle Ho’s (Ho Chi Minh) remains are sent yearly to Russia for maintenance. It is usually in the month of October so be sure to double check before coming.
You can see many locals from all over Vietnam coming here to pay respect to Ho Chi Minh. Expect a few hours of queuing.
8 Hung Vuong, Dien Bien, Ba Dinh | Open Tue-Thu from 7:30am – 10:30am. | Admission: Free.
#27 – Visit the Presidential Palace & Ho Chi Minh Museum
Just next to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the Presidential Palace and Ho Chi Minh museum. Do take some photos of the beautiful yellow building.
We also had a tour of where Ho Chi Minh stayed when he was around. He was indeed a simple man without the need for any luxuries. Just look at his home, everything was so simple!
2 Hùng Vương, Ngọc Hà, Ba Đình | Open Daily from 8am to 4pm. | Admission: VND 25,000.
#28 – Visit the One Pillar Pagoda
The One Pillar Pagoda literally means “long lasting happiness and good luck” in Vietnamese language. It is a historic Buddhist temple in Hanoi and locals belive that if you pray here, it will bless you with well-being and prosperity.
The One-Pillar Pagoda reflects the architectural splendour that the country has grown.
Chùa Một Cột, Đội Cấn, Ba Đình | Open Daily from 8am to 5pm. | Admission: Free.
#29 – Visit Trấn Quốc Pagoda
Trấn Quốc Pagoda is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi, located on a small island near the southeastern shore of Hanoi’s West Lake. This pagoda is visited by many locals since it’s the oldest. Visitors here have to be properly dressed too.
Thanh Niên, Trúc Bạch, Ba Đình | Opens Mon – Sat: 11am – 11:30am and 1:30pm – 6pm; Sun and holidays: 7am – 6pm. | Admission: Free.
#30 – Take a few days out of Hanoi to Halong Bay or Ninh Binh Province
Check out the activities I did at Halong Bay as well as the scenes we revisit for Kong: Skull Island!
We hope you enjoyed our series of Hanoi!