Top tourist attractions in Hanoi

Hanoi can seem very chaotic at first glance but there is much more to it than meets the eye. It’s a city filled with culture, where you can experience so much just by walking along the streets. On one corner you’ll see some chickens roaming around, on the other you’ll see some men playing chess, and on the other you’ll see an outdoor barber shop. There are tranquil lakes, parks and an array of temples to choose from. Here are the top tourist attractions in Hanoi. And once you’ve done them, there are also lots of alternative things to do

Temple of Literature

This temple is dedicated to Confucius and was the first university in Vietnam, built in 1070. It’s a really pretty area to walk around especially on a sunny day and there’s also a nice park next to it.

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Museum of Ethnology

Our favourite museum in Hanoi. This is a really interesting museum where you can learn a lot about Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups and see many artefacts from their traditions. The highlights for us were the traditional stilt houses in the outside area.

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Hoa Lo Prison

Both Vietnamese and American prisoners were held here, including John McCain. This is really interesting for its propaganda factor and is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in learning more about the treatment of prisoners and day-to-day life there.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Located in the centre of Hanoi this is a great place to go when you want to get away from the craziness of the old quarter streets. There are many things you can do here: walk, watch exercise classes (maybe even join in!), enjoy a refreshing ice lolly or visit the Ngoc Son temple. To get to the temple you cross the Huc bridge- a beautiful red wooden bridge which lies over the lake. 

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The Huc bridge: a prime photograph spot

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Visit a temple/pagoda

Hanoi is certainly a city filled with temples and pagodas so take your pick! Our favourites were Tran Quoc pagoda and Quan Thanh temple which are both situated on the causeway between Truc Bach lake and West Lake. If you visit them, make sure you grab an ice cream on the way too and enjoy a walk around Truc Bach island. 

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Visiting Tran Quoc Pagoda with my Dad

Presidential Palace

Situated next to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, this French colonial style palace was where Ho Chi Minh received guests and he lived in a house on the grounds. It’s a pretty impressive building and its colour makes it even more striking. On the grounds, you can visit Ho Chi Minh’s traditional Vietnamese stilt house, see his cars and wander round the gardens. 

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The Presidential Palace with Ryan’s sister
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View from the stilt house

St Joseph’s Cathedral

While we’re on the French theme, this cathedral was built in 1886 and is the oldest church in Hanoi. You can go inside for free, but we found the outside of the building much more impressive than the inside. If you pop by on a Sunday at 6pm you’ll hear the congregation singing Vietnamese hymns. 

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Go to a market

Which you go to depends on your preference, if you want to see a market filled with everything you could possibly think of: clothes, electronics, homeware, baby turtles… then head to Dong Xuan market on the outskirts of the old quarter, it is crazy but also very impressive! And if you want to see a local market there are plenty around. Be prepared for a feast for your senses, if you are squeamish avoid the meat section and be ready to jump quickly out of the way as motorbikes actually enter the market. The one we shopped at was Chau Long market in Truc Bach.

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You can find any type of cloth at Dong Xuan market

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Water puppet shows are very traditional in Vietnam and have been around since the 11th century. When we went to see this water puppet show we found it rather silly and funny. The story is all in Vietnamese so you won’t understand it but it is still worthwhile and quite impressive to watch. The show includes fireworks and some amazing puppets like dragons and snakes. It’s definitely something to do once.

Have you been to Hanoi? How many of these things did you do? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!

Planning a trip to Hanoi? Check out our other posts:

Alternative things to do in Hanoi

Where to eat and drink in Hanoi

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34 Replies to “Top tourist attractions in Hanoi”

  1. Some of these attractions look to peaceful! I was in Hanoi not so long ago and only visited about half the places you listed, will have to do the other half next time.

    1. Yes definitely a reason to go back! And when you do I also have a post about alternative things to do there, some cool cafes etc 🙂 hope you enjoyed Hanoi!

  2. i loved hanoi! it took me like thirty minutes to cross the street the first time!! it was so scary!

    1. Yeah it’s scary to start with but you get used to it! I lived there for over a year so I also drove a scooter 😛

  3. These are definitely must-see attractions in Hanoi. I lived in Hanoi for one year in 2015 and reading your article really reminds me of the amazing (and sometimes crazy) experiences I had there 🙂 The Museum of Ethnology is definitely one of the best (yet underrated) tourist attractions in Hanoi, especially during the Tet holiday when they organised lots of interesting cultural events.

    1. No way! We also lived there from September 2015- November 2016. I agree, love the Museum of Ethnology, definitely my favourite museum in Hanoi!

  4. I was in Hanoi last year, just for a few days, and really enjoyed it! We were there mostly to visit my boyfriend’s old friends and to head off on a Ha Long Bay cruise, so I’d love to get back to hit up some of these tourist attractions. That cathedral is unreal!

    1. Yes definitely worth a trip back, there is so much to explore! Yes love the cathedral, and it’s so different to the other architecture around Hanoi.

  5. I haven’t been to Hanoi yet but definitely the Temple of literature is something I would definitely love to visit when I am there.

    1. Hanoi is an amazing city, we lived there for over a year! And yes the temple of literature was one of my favourite tourist attractions there.

  6. So many beautiful things to do. Vietnam is still on my to visit list, I’ve visited pretty much all other South East Asian countries. So Hanoi, here we come (I hope soon…) 🙂

    1. Vietnam is so amazing!! Yes that’s a good idea, let me know if you go soon and I can give you more Vietnam tips 🙂 need to work on writing more about it too!

  7. That’s a gorgeous mixture of serene and bustle: great contrasts. I have friends who would adore the fabric stall – such vibrant colours!

    1. Thanks so much! Hanoi really is a great mixture of both 🙂 have you been to Vietnam?

  8. It rained the whole time I was in Hanoi 🙁 But I did get to the puppet theatre which was very interesting! Great tips here! 🙂

    1. Aww no sorry to hear that! Hope you still had a great time 🙂

  9. It’s a pitty I missed the puppet theatre, but I liked the Hoan Kiem Lake too. The locals are so eager to practise their English and it was so easy to make friends! Did you experience the same?

    1. Yes Hoan Kiem is such a nice place to walk around! Yes we did, we made some really good friends after just living there for a few weeks, it’s always nice when that happens 🙂

  10. Totally keeping this bookmarked! I’d love to visit Hanoi one day. That church looks unreal and very unexpected. I can’t wait to see all of these.

    1. Great! So glad you enjoyed it. Hanoi is an amazing city, a great mixture of calm and chaos 🙂

  11. This sounds amazing. I would love to check out the temple of literature to find some peace amidst the chaos. Also love the puppetry in Thailand so I am sure I would love it here!! Thanks for the tips

    1. There are so many great places to get some peace from the chaos, which is one of the things I love most about Hanoi! Thanks for reading 🙂

  12. I’ve still got Hanoi on my ‘to do list’ so I’ll pin this for future reference! I’d love to visit the Temple of Literature, it looks so tranquil!

    1. Great! It’s a city I’ll always hold close to my heart. Thanks for reading 🙂

  13. I’ve never been to Hanoi but your post makes me want to get on a plane now! Such lovely places you’ve included in your list and so peaceful apart from the busy bridge. Would love to visit and see these sights for myself.

    1. Aww so glad you liked it! Yes there are lots of amazing peaceful places to be found amidst the chaos. Hanoi is an incredible city, one of my favourite places!

  14. Great post! I visited most of these places in April this year and I agree that they are really interesting places to visit. The meat sections of the markets also made me gag! …and crossing the road is probably the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done (and I’ve been sky diving!) @backpackingkiwis

    1. Cool, hope you had a great time despite the meat and crossing the road! Haha it is pretty scary at first but you quickly get used to it. Thanks for reading 🙂

  15. I absolutely loved Hanoi and thought it was a great city to wander around and practice street photography in, that is when you can manage to safely cross the road! I especially love the area around the Hoan Kiem Lake. Your photos are beautiful!

    1. Yes there are so many funny and interesting things to photograph as you walk around! Hoan Kiem is so beautiful, such a nice thing to have in the city centre. Thank you very much 🙂 and thanks for reading!

  16. I have heard so many good things about Hanoi, and I would love to visit! I haven’t been to Vietnam yet, but it looks so beautiful!

    1. It’s an amazing place, hope you get the chance to go there soon! Thanks for reading 🙂

  17. Heya!! I’m (hopefully) going to Hanoi in a few months – this guide would be helpful. Thanks so much for sharing with me!

    1. Cool, hope you enjoy it! I also have an alternative guide which I think would be great for you 🙂 thanks for reading!

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