Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam. In 1010, with the Edict on transferring the capital (Chieu doi do), Emperor Ly Thai To moved his capital from Hoa Lu to the confluence of the red river and the To Lich river, the site of Hanoi nowadays, The emperors renamed the capital Thang Long, meaning the Ascending dragon. Legend told us that in the autumn of that year, when emperor Ly Thai To arrived by his royal boat from the former capital of Hoa Lu in the shore of the Red river, Hanoi, a golden dragon approached his boat then flew high into the sky. Believing this to be a good omen, the emperor accordingly named the country’s capital after the image of the ascending dragon. Under the Nguyen Dynasty, Thang Long was renamed Hanoi.
Hanoi, through numerous ups and downs in history, always remains the heart of the homeland. Hanoi has four distinct seasons with characteristic features of each. In spring, its weather is a little cold, charmed with soft drizzles and bright pink peach blossoms in full bloom, its hot summer is the high time for Hanoians to have a good time strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake. Hanoi’s autumn is fascinated with its blue sky and its poetic landscape, the the cold winter in turn comes at last.
Hanoians are remarkably refined and rather discreet. Their culinary art is excellent and well-known. They are also famed for their traditional trades and arts. Hadong, in the south of Hanoi, is known for its quality silk and brocades, rattan and bamboo articles and wood products, Chuyen My village, on the bank of the Nhue river, carries on the centuries old tradition of mother of pearl inlay. Bat Trang village in Gia Lam district has long been famous for its pottery with is rich in patterns and beautiful in forms. The ancient Hanoi’s 36 streets and wads bear the names of the businesses and trades that were once conducted here.
Hanoi is also the gateway to Northern Vietnam. If you plan on visiting the northern rice fields near Sapa, Halong Bay or Ninh Binh Province, it is convenient to travel through Hanoi. Although many travelers simply think of Hanoi as a quick transit, we urge you to stop in Hanoi for at least two days and truly appreciate all that city has to offer.
Hello: xin chào (sin chow)
Goodbye: tạm biệt (dam bee it)
Please: làm ơn (lam earn)
Thank you: cám ơn (kam earn)
Excuse me = Sorry = xin lỗi (sin lõ-ee)
Yes: Vâng (vang), dạ (ya).
No: không (ko)
How are you: bạn khoẻ không (ban kwoir ko)
Fine, thank you: khỏe, cám ơn (kwoir, kam earn)
I don’t understand: tôi không hiểu (doy ko hie-oo)
Top 10 Things To Do in Hanoi, Vietnam
Hoan Kiem Lake (The Lake of the Restored Sword)
Hoan Kiem Lake meaning “Lake of the Returned Sword” or “Lake of the Restored Sword”, is a lake in the historical center of Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. The lake is one of the major scenic spots in the city and serves as a focal point for its public life.
The Old Quarter, near Hoan Kiem lake, has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. At the beginning of the 20th century the city consisted of only about 36 streets, most of which are now part of the old quarter. Each street then had merchants and households specialized in a particular trade, such as silk traders, jeweler, etc. The street names nowadays still reflect these specializations, although few of them remain exclusively in their original commerce.
The area is famous for its small artisans and merchants, including many silk shops. Local cuisine specialties as well as several clubs and bars can be found here also. A night market (near Xuân market) in the heart of the district opens for business every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening with a variety of clothing, souvenirs and food.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a large memorial to the Vietnamese leader in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is located in the center of Ba Ðình Square, which is the place where Ho read the Declaration of Independence on September 2, 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
The Water Puppet Theater
Water puppetry “puppets that dance on water”) is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century CE when it originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. Today’s Vietnamese water puppetry is a unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition.
The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered. The shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other using this form of puppet play. Traditional legends and historical tales are among the enchanting puppet plays performed at this popular theatre.
Temple of Literature & Ancient National University
It is a temple of Confucius in Hanoi, Vietnam. Although several Van Mieu can be found throughout Vietnam, the most prominent and famous is that situated in the city of Hanoi, which also functioned as Vietnam’s first university. It is featured on the back of the one hundred thousand Vietnamese banknote.
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology (Vietnamese: Bao tang dan toc hoc Viett Nam) is a museum in Hanoi, Vietnam, which focuses on the 54 officially recognized ethnic groups in Vietnam. It is located on a 3.27-acre (13,200 m2) property in the Cau giay District, about 8 km from the city center.
It is widely considered to be the finest modern museum in Vietnam and a tourist attraction in Hanoi.
The proposal for the museum was officially approved on December 14, 1987. Construction lasted from 1987 to 1995, and it was opened to the public on November 12, 1997.
The exhibition building was designed by the architect Hà Duc Linh, a member of the Tày ethnic group, in the shape of a Dong Son drum, and the interior architecture was designed by the French architect Véronique Dollfus.
Ho Tay is the largest of all the lakes in Ha Noi. The lake is on the northwest part of the city. Long ago, the lake was a branch of the Red river but later, as the river changed course, the lake remained a body of water just west of the river. There are many legends associated with West Lake. The most popular is the legend of the golden buffalo. As the story goes, there once was a medicine man who was a giant. He is well known in Vietnam for his medicine practice and the king often used him to treat the royal family. His fame reached China and he was invited to China to treat the king. He was successful where others have failed so the king was going to reward him with great wealth.
He refused offerings of gold and only requested that the king give him all the black copper in the king’s vault. The king agreed and the giant left for Vietnam with vast amounts of black copper. In Vietnam the giant molded a giant bell of black copper. The giant rang the bell and the sound resonated all the way to China. In the king’s vault there was a golden buffalo. Upon hearing the sound of the bell, the buffalo came to life (because he thought that his mother was calling him) and charged southward. Upon reaching Ha Noi, the buffalo trampled the land in the area near Red river. Over the years, this area filled with water and became Ho Tay or West Lake.
Hoa Lo Prison
The Hoa Lo Prison, later sarcastically known to American prisoners of war as the “Hanoi Hilton”, was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.
Hanoi night market
This market spreading from Hang Dao Street to Dong Xuan Market creates a busy and crowded walking street. on weekend evenings, a lot of people come here to stroll or go shopping, which becomes a habit.
As a commercial street, you can find everything concerning clothes and recreation. Clothes, sweets, “o mai” (salted dry fruit), decorations, toys, stationeries, sundry goods are respectively sold o¬n Hang Ngang, Hang Dao, Hang Buom, Hang Duong, Luong Van Can, Hang Ma, Ngo Gach and Hang Ca Streets. All goods and facilities can be found from Dong Xuan Market to Hang Giay Street.
People come here for shopping or just strolling in the crowd to feel the atmosphere of the night market and the habit of Hanoians. Children are excited about going shopping with their family, sitting o¬n their father’s shoulders, holding their mother’s hand, walking in a stream of people, playing with sand pictures and painting statues. It is so romantic to see lovers hand in hand walking o¬n the street, smiling, taking pictures, buying some pieces of clothes at weekends. There are lots of foreign tourists who go sight-seeing or shopping. It is easy for them to find Hanoi or Vietnamese style souvenirs at low prices.
Food stalls often sell “banh beo” (bloating fern-shaped cake), bacon, grilled “nem chua”, sausages, Hai Phong bread, Donner Kebap, cakes, sweet porridge of northern provinces or Hue city. At the end of the night market street, next to Dong Xuan market, there is a night eatery with a wide range of food, such as “lau”, grilled food, “banh khuc” and steamed sticky rice.
Bat Trang Ceramic Village
Bat Trang, a small village in the north of Vietnam, is about 13 kilometers south east of Hanoi center, on the other side of Chuong Duong bridge. Why is its name popular to most tourists to northern Vietnam? The answer is its ever famous ceramic and pottery products of high quality. If you have known about Vietnam, you may not be surprised that Bat Trang’s vases, bowls, dishes, and many other kinds of ceramic products have been exported worldwide. Should you would like to contemplate workers making ceramic products by hand, just come here! What’s more, you can also try it yourself!
Top foods you should not miss while visiting Hanoi
Street Vendors You Cannot Miss Out In Hanoi
Besides being sold on streets, all these places have one thing in common: they are groups of shops selling one type of food. Usually one family starts the business with an innovative idea and the neighbours follow their examples. As time go by, these shops have achieved an almost equal status and gained recognition among street food-lovers. However, one disadvantage they all bear is the absence of English in their menu (sometimes there is no menu at all), even as they all locate right in the heart of the Old Quarter. It may be difficult to communicate since the shops are designed for locals, yet if you desperately want to taste a bit of Hanoi’s life, where food is abundant, tasty and cheap; they are there for you to try.
A list of most popular local foods that should not be missed in Hanoi, take a look and find out what are they…
Phở (Noodle soup)
This universally famous food is best enjoyed in Hanoi, where it was “invented” in the early 20th century. Pho- or rice noodle soup- is omnipresent in Hanoi, appearing anywhere from street vendors to high end restaurant chain Pho 24. Some is served with chicken and some with beef. Each type of meat entails a variety of sub-dish, using from beef tenderloin to beef brisket, chicken wing to chicken thigh. The tip is, look for the place where locals gather the most and you know where you should order and sit down.
Bun Cha (Grilled Pork)
Bun cha is the signature dish of Hanoi. At lunchtime you’ll find just about all of Hanoi sitting on kid-sized stools and slurping down this combination of grilled pork, salty-sweet broth, slices of green papaya, rice noodles, and fresh herbs. Every neighborhood in Hanoi has a bun cha place — just follows your nose to the smoky street side grill.
Xôi xéo (sticky rice)
Chances are you will encounter this dish in almost every outdoors market. There are even two restaurants dedicated fully to this dish in the Old Quarters. Xoi xeo is sticky rice topped with ground de-hulled mung bean and fried onion. Sometimes it can be served with eggs or steamed chicken breast on request. The serving is really filling and it is good for any time of the day but most Vietnamese have it for breakfast or lunch.
If Pho is compatible to linguine in shape, Bun is more like spaghetti. Bun thang is one of the most popular yet hidden fares in Hanoi and one can hardly find it outside of the Old quarters or a few special restaurants scattering across the city. The chicken broth is artistically done and the dish is beautifully served. Bun thang is a harmonious blend of color- the yellow of sliced egg; the white of bun; the off-white of chicken and the green of onions and herbs.
Bun Bo Nam Bo
It is amazing and interesting one kind of traditional Vietnamese food made from beef and herb: a bed of rice noodles is topped by tender grilled beef, chopped cucumbers, lettuce, papaya slivers, fresh herbs, crushed peanuts and heaps of crunchy fried onions. Mix it with fish sauce–spiked nước chấm, take a bite, moan and repeat.
If the French has this famous delicious crepe made of wheat, egg and dairy products; Vietnamese and particularly Hanoian is proud of their steamed crepe from rice flour and water. A savoury meal, the inside stuffing contains ground pork, wood-ear and seasoning. Most street chefs make the dish right at door so look for a place that steams are coming up high. Banh cuon is served with nuoc mam, a mixture of fish sauce, sugar and lime.
Cha ca La Vong
You think you have read about this name somewhere and yes, you are right. Cha ca La Vong is listed as one of the top 100 things you gotta try before you die by many cuisine experts. It is exquisitely grilled fish served with bún, peanut, green onions, dills and shrimp paste. The fish is carefully chosen so that there are not too many bones and fishy smells. A glass of bia hoi or tra da will definitely give your meal more flavour.
Banh My – Vietnamese sandwich
The baguette is one of the enduring symbols of French colonialism. It’s given a Southeast Asian twist by stuffing it with pâté, mayonnaise, pickled carrots and daikon, jalapeños and gobs of cold cuts. But the bánh mỳ is basically a blank slate to which cooks can add whatever they desire. Hanoian spell it “Banh My”, not Banh Mi. And most of the stands we came across only have 2 basic types; Banh My Pate(where you choose your meat), and Banh My Trung(egg). You will feel like you could eat half a dozen before feeling full.
Draft beer Bia-hoi on a Hanoi street corner
Sitting at a street corner in Hanoi old quarter with a beer glass, chatting with your freshly made friends while watching people pass by might be one the most memorable pages in your travel journal.
It is said that the word “Bia-hoi” is third in importance only after “Xin chao” (Hello) and “Cam on” (Thank you) when one learns Vietnamese. In the severe heat, not many things can beat a glass of cooled draught beer.
A trip to Hanoi, or Vietnam rather, would be incomplete without spending some time sitting on small plastic stools and dringking the cheapest beer in the world (a glass of beer will cost you about $0.15). The beer is quite light, about 3-4 % alcohol, and light in colour as well. This beer is made of 50% rice to keep it nice and clear, and best of all it is preservative free. Throughout the night, you will see the trucks pulling up to night. Otherwise, it has to be disposed since it doesn’t contain preservatives to help it last past 24 hours..
While taking your sip, mind the life evolving around you- of shops selling books and pirate dvds; ; of elderly strolling by in peace and of course different vehicles flowing freely. This seemingly chaotic picture can be both intriguing and entertaining, if you are sitting and watching over a beer glass. Although is at the corner of Luong Ngoc Quyen and Ta Hien streets also known as Bia Hoi corner
* It is customary for Vietnamese to have beer with boiled or roasted peanuts. Try it and love it!
* There is likelihood that street vendors will corner you off to sell postcards, chewing gums and who-knows-what. A determined “no” will do the job if you don’t want to buy anything and get yourself into further trouble.
* Be aware of pickpockets whenever and wherever you are.
Hanoi coffee & special egg-milk coffee
Coffee was introduced into Vietnam by French colonists in the late 19th century. Vietnam quickly became a strong exporter of coffee with many plantations in the central highlands. The beverage was adopted with regional variations. Because of limitations on the availability of fresh milk, the French and Vietnamese began to use sweetened condensed milk with a dark roast coffee. Today, Hanoians like to drink coffee in the morning time. In fact, sitting on small chair in pavement with a glass of coffee become the popular image of Hanoian. Travellers who visit Hanoi also like trying this delicious favours like Hanoians and tenderly recognize that nothing better than a cup of coffee at a modern and luxury or pavement cafes to soak up the rhythms of the street and embrace Hanoi from all of its sides, from old to new ones, and from traditional to modern & quirky ones. Beside a cup of coffee with sweet milk and/or a spoonful of sugar, Hanoians create new ways to enjoy coffee in Hanoi ca phe trung (egg coffee) and ca phe sua chua (yogurt coffee) which you coffee lovers may want to try.
Egg coffee is a Hanoi specialty! A raw egg yolk is whipped furiously (seriously, we heard the beater on for like 5 minutes non-stop) with the famous drip coffee and sweetened condensed milk. This creates a concoction that is so thick and creamy, almost like custard. And the most amazing thing: it tastes like creme brulee! Somehow, the egg takes away almost all the coffee flavor. So delicious! It’s like a dessert and caffeine fix in one. This is a MUST TRY when visiting Hanoi!
Caramel Pudding (Hang Than)
There are about three or four shops selling homemade caramel pudding and yogurt close to the corner of Hang Than and Hoe Nhai. It’s easier for takeout but if you don’t mind a bit squeezing, of course you are welcome to sit down. They are master at mixing yogurt and caramel pudding with fruits, nep cam (violet glutinous rice) and all kinds of yummy jelly.
Hoa quả dầm – Fruit salads (To Tich)
Specific types of fruits vary according to the season, but since you are in a tropical country, the beauty of diversity is a wonder. The general idea is medium sized pieces of different taste are topped with condense milk and served with a separate bowl of ice.
Nem ran – Fried pork roll (Ngo Tam Thuong)
The whole alley is devoted to this food. Pork roll wrapped in banana leaves are either fried or BBQ at your request. A small portion of hot sauce is served together with a plate of either cu dau (pachyrrhizus) or mango. You can always ask for soya sauce if the sauce is too hot to bear! French fries and sometimes chicken wings are available as well.
Mon nuong-Ly Van Phuc
Tucked away in the middle of the lengthy Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Ly Van Phuc easily stands out for its rising smoke from the many BBQs standing next to each other. Local specialty of the BBQ here is chicken feet, though if the idea of trying one is too intimidating, you can always get chicken drumsticks or ribs, which are equally delicious. These exquisites are often served with a plate of fresh vegetables and chilly-based dipping sauce. In cold nights, what can be better than 2 grilled chicken skewers and 1 cup of rice wine? Try it and love it.
All shops mentioned above open all day, 7 days a week, but don’t try your luck after 10pm.
Shopping centers in Hanoi
In the center of Hanoi are not many shopping centers and zoning laws are not allowed to build tall buildings.
The opening hours of the shopping malls in Hanoi is generally from 9:00 am to 22:00 pm without interruption every day of the week.
With regard to prices, in a shopping center you do not haggle, and tends to be quite high since only the Vietnamese jetset attends this kind of stores. If we want to buy branded items, the only way to be sure that is not a forgery is buying at a mall or in any of the official shops which you will find inside.
Shopping center in Hanoi
Most of the malls of Hanoi found in the southwest of the city, on the way to the skyscraper and tallest of all Vietnam, the Keangnam Tower. The largest shopping center in all of Vietnam, the mall Savico Megamall is at the opposite end. Finally we emphasize that only a mall in the heart of Hanoi, Trang Tien Plaza mall.
Trang Tien Plaza Mall
It’s more downtown Hanoi shopping centre, located south of Hoan Kiem Lake. This Mall has mostly clothing stores and fashion, focused mostly on the latest fashion fad. On the upper floors of the Mall we have restaurants.
It Trang Tien Plaza shopping centre has many shops, but we can consider it small to be a mall, especially if we compare it with the rest of malls that has the city of Hanoi.
Without emabargo is a good place to shop for leisurely strolls and forget the atmosphere of Hanoi markets if we want to take a taxi and go further.
It is a chain of shopping malls with stores in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Haiphong. There are 2 Parkson shopping centres in Hanoi, the two somewhat away from the Center making it necessary to take a taxi. The Parkson shopping center nearest is located at 198 Street Tây Sơn and the other to the foot of the skyscraper in Hanoi, Keangnam Tower.
Parkson is a luxury shopping center where we can find mostly Spanish and some foreign brands such as Zara.
Savico Mall Megamall
The largest of Vietnam shopping centre is called Savico Megamall, situated in the area of expansion of Hanoi, 7 kilometroas on the outskirts, on the East side of the city.
These two buildings 30.000m2 each have many shops where top brand, as well as supermarkets, restaurants and entertainment area.
Inside this shopping mall officials have almost all international brands: Levi’s, Lacoste, Adidas, Nike, Prada, Burberry, Cartier, etc… addition also has many electronics stores, computer and technology.
Pico Square Mall
On the way to the skyscraper in Hanoi we have the peak Plaza shopping center where his strong point are stores of computer science, electronics and technology. The entertainment area, as well as restaurants and international chains such as KFC, also has movie theaters.
Grand Plaza Shopping Centre
We have a couple of streets before reaching the peak Plaza Mall Grand Plaza shopping centre with more than 200 shops of luxury. Before the opening of the Mall Savico, Grand Plaza was Hanoi’s largest mall.
Mall Big C
A few meters from the Grand Plaza Mall we have another great point of shopping called Big C shopping center withmore than 100 stores in its interior.
Vincom City Towers Mall
VinCom shopping center belongs to the same corporate group as the waterpark Vinpearl Nha Trang. In its interior we have stores brands (Lacoste, Burberry, Ralph Lauren baby, etc.) but unfortunately the prices are not as advantageous as in any of the city’s markets.