Through the years, the fascinating Vietnamese capital has progressed well despite the grim reminders of the 1976 war (2nd Indo china War). Hanoi has carefully preserved the Old Quarter, landmarks, and grand architectures while making space for high rise and modern developments in construction and engineering. Lakes, parks, sheltered avenues and more than 600 sanctuaries and pagodas add to the charm of this city. Tourism and the economy has developed steadily and trading with nearby progressive countries like Singapore and Japan eventually flourished.
When To Go:
Hanoi has four seasons, and as the city is located in the northern half of the globe, that implies the cold winter begins in December and the humid summer floats around July and August. It’s difficult to give firm forecasts of the Hanoi climate every month, or even each one season, as temperatures, rain showers and sunlight can change from normal — and regularly do. In any case, here are some general recommendations.
Temperatures from December to around February can drop to a chilly 10 degrees Celsius and achieve a very nearly mild 20 degrees Celsius. Ten degrees is a lot colder than you may expect; the stickiness, wind chill element and absence of building protection and warming can make it actually feel much colder. It’s essentially an awful time to come, as mugginess is lower than at different times of the year, precipitation is lower and skies are frequently splendid blue — in addition to you may hit a 20-degree day, and that is an ideal temperature for investigating the sights of the city by walking.
April and May are by and large extraordinary months to be in Hanoi. The temperatures are reliably over 20 degrees Celsius and have not yet arrived at the simmering temperatures of summer. Skies are regularly clear and downcast atmosphere is beginning to expand and become intermittent. Acknowledge however that though regularly it rains in this part of Asia, it is described as a short yet overwhelming storm. Rains in the capital are a frequent series of continuous drizzle, so be ready for grey and cloudy days. It is essential to always bring an umbrella. This is the time of year when you can sit in a spot with a scenic view getting a charge out of an espresso without trickling a sweat.
These are the top things to do when in the city of Hanoi.
The Old Quarter is the liveliest area of Hanoi. Here you can see the real life in this city. It’s very busy in terms of traffic, but its great fun to be here to walk with all those shops and the night market around. Also you can enjoy Vietnamese cuisine and a good cup of coffee at the open air restaurants. You can then sit on small chairs that occupy almost half of the street. A very nice experience!
All that honking of thousands of scooters and cars in the narrow streets, the shops, the street vendors and everything else requires your attention. There are no high buildings, but there are a lot of people and motorbikes, noisy, full of cheap shops and cafes. Located in the heart of the city, it offers all the nervousness and restlessness of old Hanoi, surprisingly you can also find corners of tranquility – enough to find a restaurant with a terrace on the second floor and quietly observe the anthill of scurrying people, trading carts, and vehicles. Spend a whole afternoon and after dark, visit the market to buy fresh fruit and snacks with the locals.
Lake of the Restored Sword (Hoan Kiem Lake)
The Lake of the Restored Sword (Hoan Kiem Lake) is a great place to enjoy tranquility and beauty especially in the morning mist. On the shore, you can take a break from the bustling streets of Hanoi. The Lake of the Returned Sword is not the biggest in the city, at the same time, from a few hundred lakes in Hanoi – but it is the most significant. This place is right in the middle of the city, which is associated with many legends, including the appearance of Hanoi. And if you’re lucky, you can really see the turtle-keeper of the sword.
It is a symbol of Hanoi and a romantic place with an interesting story. Some of the guests are interested in the bridge on the island where they see a compelling story, and some prefer to walk. Hoan Kiem Lake is the focal point of Hanoi, and it is impossible to miss because all roads lead to it. There are a lot of cafes, local people engaged in sports, and tourists who take pictures of an old structure that is placed in the middle part of the lake.
Vietnamese Women’s Museum
The Vietnamese Women’s Museum gives a good picture of the position of women in Vietnamese society over the years. It is a well maintained and modern museum that most feminists will love to visit. Take the time for it and go in the morning and avoid the long lines of eager tourists wanting to see what is inside the building.
The museum is very nicely set up, it has about four or five floors and each floor has its own theme like; Vietnamese women in the war, Vietnamese weddings etc. You get a lot of exposure about their culture without having much effort. Every room gives a thorough overview of the role of women in every aspect of Vietnamese life.
The importance of women in ancient and current Vietnam is also clearly explained. There are lots of info on practices around courtship, engagement, marriage, childbirth, women’s rights, and especially highlights the differences between the various minorities living in this nation. This museum for women is really worth a visit.
Hoa Lo Prison
The Hoa Lo Prison was built by the French government mainly to house the political prisoners and undergo various forms of torture. The treatment was not tender and totally inhumane. In the “Vietnam War” American prisoners (mostly pilots) chose this as their official residence. They called it the cynical “Hanoi-Hilton”. This museum gives you a nice view of both the lives of political prisoners during the French colonization (what the Vietnamese people had to endure) and on the American pilots who were shot down during the Vietnam War The story is told from the eyes of the Vietnamese and everything is well explained and clearly depicted.
It is truly an impressive prison filled with so many war memories. You get a good picture of the jail situated over the years inside a small city. This place is a must if you want to learn a bit of Vietnam’s troubled past. You can hardly grasp what has happened. It is well documented and dramatically presented that a visit will leave you stunned and shocked. The intriguing wall art outside is also fascinating to watch. Unfortunately, a large portion of the prison is already demolished.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was built by Soviet specialists in honor of the liberator from the French colonization of Vietnam. The house and the park does not abandon the idea that in the not too distant past there were really great people with a deep love for their ideology, and Ho Chi Minh is an example. He lived a very modest lifestyle, but it did great things for his people and in the global civilization. It is in this mausoleum that the Vietnamese people honor the memory of their great leader.
It is very exciting to visit the tomb especially in the morning when there are not much crowds. However, photography is prohibited (cameras and other image capturing devices must be deposited in a vault at the entrance. The body of the late ruler is placed in a glass sarcophagus. Be sure to visit this historic landmark of Hanoi. Keep in mind that this attraction is regarded as a temple for the late Ho Chi Minh. Guests with modest and decent clothing are the only ones allowed to enter and once inside, silence must be properly observed.
Ho Chi Minh’s Residence (Nha Bac Ho)
One of the best things to do when in the city of Hanoi is to make a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Residence (Nha Bac Ho). The tour begins with a guide that will take you to his official home during his reign. Do not expect to see something grand and pompous (judging by the name) for there is none of that here. In fact, you will be surprised to find a small modest house with an almost frugal decoration. You will be surprised that such a humble man was the leader of Vietnam and worthy of utmost respect.
To assess the identity of Ho Chi Minh you have to visit his residence where the leader lived very modestly. Even with his home furnishings Uncle Ho is very modest, to the point of being ascetic. Once inside you can see old portraits of Lenin and Marx and a plaster bust of Lenin. Near the house you can see the garage with the vintage vehicles called “Victory” and “Zisom”. The house is surrounded by a lovely shady park with a small pond. Align the inspection of the residence with visiting the mausoleum (the mausoleum can be visited just before 11 am, and if time permits, visit the residence of the leader in the afternoon because at this time there is almost no one, and you can not only see the house – museum, but also a enjoy the pleasure to walk through a beautiful park.
Temple of Literature & National University
The Temple of Literature & National University also serves as a museum dedicated to the teachings of Confucius. It is the oldest university in Hanoi and not very large. Particularly noteworthy are the tombs of the 80 professors who have taught here. It is a great beautiful oasis situated in the middle of Hanoi City.
Take a good guide to explain everything else if you do not get to absorb with what happened here and the meaning of things like turtles with the stones on their backs. The pagoda contains many statues of Confucius and also there is a modest exhibition (in the rear building) with objects and manuscripts of the philosopher. It is a beautiful complex that you really have to see when you are in Hanoi. The buildings, the garden, the art, the atmosphere, everything is nicely aligned and together forms a nice oasis in the chaotic hustle and bustle of Hanoi.
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is a beautiful museum with a large outdoor area. Both the pavilion of the Southeast Asia and the Vietnam Pavilion are interesting and have a nice architecture. If you do not have time in North Vietnam to travel to the various minorities all over the country, then it is a must to visit this museum. Outside there are several original and newly constructed houses and provides useful information about life and habits of different population groups and their national costumes on display. There are separate exhibits for their utensils, handicrafts, and dioramas. The museum gives a clear insight into the many minorities (about 46) of which Vietnam is rich.
Hang Gai Street (Street of Hemp)
Walk through the city center and visit the Hang Gai Street (Street of Hemp) and shop for original souvenirs from Hanoi. If you do not have the opportunity to visit the night market, you run a glimpse of the street as it will be the only chance you have to get all the things that are so prized in Vietnam like; silk robes, stoles, silk painting, mother of pearl jewelry boxes, greeting cards and t-shirts.
The beauty is that you can and you have to haggle. Here it is accepted and you will not believe the price will drop from initial application and sometimes at half the cost.
Thanh Chuong Viet Palace
The Thanh Chuong Viet Palace is a memorable place close to the airport. It is a very unusual and wonderful complex of buildings, a beautiful garden complete with a variety of works of art. Noteworthy are the stunning figurines, sculptures, and unusual paintings are exhibited in different areas of the complex. The complex has a restaurant which serves authentic Vietnamese cuisine. It is good to be in a quiet place away from the noise of the city and where only the noise of the cicadas and birds will keep you company while visiting this magical place in Hanoi.